The Substance and Evidence That is True Faith

What is faith?

A direct answer has been provided for us in the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews. This one book of the Bible provides in its forty relatively short verses an exact meaning, and some definitive examples of this often misunderstood and often undervalued spiritual principle.

Hebrews begins with the definition, that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It does not leave us there with no direction as to where this quality originated, or with no practical examples that highlight the simple definition of faith.

It is the ‘substance’ of things hoped, their very essence or foundation. Without a solid foundation, a structure or a system, or a person, will crumble.

Faith is the substance of every good thing that we wish for ourselves and those we love. With faith, the achievement of all our dreams and goals is made possible.

It is the ‘evidence’ of things not seen. We cannot ‘see’ the being of God. We cannot look into His eyes. His arms do not wrap around us in a hug that we can feel. But when we have faith, we are actually aware of His loving presence in our daily lives.

During our best of good times, our most difficult periods of challenge, and during our most awful of tragedies we experience that we are never alone.

In the book of Hebrews we receive numerous examples of men and women who entrusted their faith in God and were rewarded. We find it in the example of Noah, preparing the ark and its inhabitants while the sun shone.

In another example, we find Abraham and his willingness to offer up his only son as a sacrifice in the belief that God would raise him or have a greater plan. Moses in choosing the truth of his Hebrew background over an adopted Roman one when confronted with a future filled with likely persecution.

Faith, it turns out, comes directly from God.

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

God created everything that is now, ever has been, and ever will be in existence. We can know this intellectually, without recourse to blind faith. Common sense in understanding visible and theoretical science points us to the signature of our Creator. Faith helps fill in the blanks and answer the questions.

God did not leave us photographs or video of his creation, but He did inspire our ancestors’ words and visions to be left to us in the Bible. He did impart in us an intellect and critical thinking ability.

Most importantly, God sent His Son to teach us directly and personally.

Jesus Christ let us know through His teaching that we “need only have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, and we can say to a mountain “move from here to there”, and it will move.”

In Romans 10:17, Paul imparts to us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

This gives us practical instruction that we can gain and strengthen our faith by listening to God and the teaching of Jesus Christ, who emphasized this act of listening many times during his public ministry.

Read up on God’s word, on Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps just as importantly, listen to them. Go to church and hear His words spoken, His lessons taught, and share the experience with others.

Remember what Jesus said, that “wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Your faith will be affirmed in His truth, the truth which truly shall set you free.

Up with hope, down with dopes

No matter what our specific backgrounds, we all pretty much have at least one thing in common: we were all once young and dumb. As teenagers we began to become aware of the larger world outside of ourselves and to develop our own opinions on the matters involving that world. Then we develop further into young adults, and begin to make decisions that affect our lives in vitally important ways.

Unfortunately for many young people those opinions are developed, and those decisions made, with incomplete or downright bad information. Teachers who indoctrinate students in their own social values rather than actually teach subject matter, culturally biased news and entertainment media, and parents who are either unplugged or not there at all all contribute to this phenomenon.

The one person who has most importantly been removed from many youths lives these days is the single most important person that they actually need to be influenced by: Jesus Christ.

Some young people are so turned off by Christian influence that they cringe at the very name of Christ. It becomes an immediate wall-builder and conversation-killer to even raise His name.

The reason is very easy to understand. You may not have been properly raised in the Truth of Jesus Christ and His teachings, and are not strongly guided through those key developmental years by parents who are believers.

When you are not surrounded by family, friends, and teachers who are also raised with a Christian influence, this often leads to a me-first attitude.

I know best. I can figure it out for myself. I am my own rock. I don’t have to answer to anyone but my own conscience. In the lives of people who do not operate from a Christ-centered base, there is a lot of “I”, “me” and “my” in their thinking and their conversations. This ego-driven approach then dominates their opinions and decisions.

So many people wander through life from one personal tragedy to another, always finding themselves involved in yet another negative drama, some so bad that they find themselves immersed deeply and constantly in states of depression and despair. They always seem to make the wrong decisions when surrounding themselves with other people as well, a sort of magnet for bad influences.

This is all for one simple reason: they refuse to open themselves to the love and hope that can ultimately only be found in Jesus Christ. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” as it was said by Christ Himself. There truly is someone out there who is available to everyone who wishes to embrace Him as brother and friend, and who will never, ever let you down.

Find that you just aren’t getting ahead? That you keep getting hurt by the people around you? That you find a lack of overall purpose in your life? You’re not alone, there are many of you out there.

You can eliminate the negative people, music, and other influences. eliminate these dopes to raise your hope level. To paraphrase from one of my favorite songs, you can call His name every day, and rise above this now.

NOTE: This post is the continuation of the ‘Sunday Sermon’ series, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on that below label.

R.I.P. Michael Jackson (and Farrah)

I’m going to start this post with a plain statement: I don’t believe that Michael Jackson was a pedophile at all. I don’t believe that he ever had any type of inappropriate sexual relations with any child whatsoever.

And I hope that the man, who I do believe was a tortured soul thanks to a traumatic upbringing, is finally at peace now in God’s glorious heaven.

Michael Jackson, the ‘King of Pop’ and a true American cultural icon, died yesterday at the age of 50 of what is believed to have been cardiac arrest.

Those who saw him in recent months have reported that he looked skeletal, emaciated, and unhealthy. A fan who got to watch him on Monday in training for a hoped-for comeback tour said that she thought “he could die.”

Michael lived a life mixed with blessings and curses. He was blessed with phenomenal gifts in his natural talents for singing and dancing. Unfortunately, these very gifts led to the curse of his father’s abuse.

The elder Jackson unmercifully whipped and beat him as a young boy in a misguided effort to push him to stardom. His father’s abuse, emotional and verbal as well as physical, would reverberate through the entirety of his life.

I remember as a young boy watching television cartoons of Michael and his brothers, their singing and dancing, and hearing their songs performed as the ‘Jackson Five’. Hits that he recorded both with the group and in his solo efforts in those 1970’s days included “ABC”, “I Want You Back”, “Rockin’ Robin”, “Ben”, “Dancin’ Machine”, and the gorgeous “Got to be There” as AM radio staples of my youth.

In the 1980’s, Jackson’s solo career truly took off into another stratosphere.
His emergence as a young adult solo artist, combined with his talents for dancing, made him a natural leader in the emerging video music industry being pioneered by the folks at MTV. His albums “Off the Wall”, “Thriller”, and “Bad” made him the biggest act on earth. “Thriller” remains the biggest-selling record in history to this date.

Jackson was involved in charitable efforts far too numerous to completely mention, but one of the highlights was his leadership along with Lionel Richie in the “We Are the World” song and video to raise money for battling hunger in Africa.

He moved into the 90’s still on top of the world with a Super Bowl performance, and recognition from President George H.W. Bush as the “Entertainer of the Decade” for the 80’s. But he also began to come under increased scrutiny from tabloid newspapers who reported on the bizarre (buying the bones of the ‘Elephant Man’) to the sublime (he slept in a hyperbolic chamber) to the ridiculous (a marriage to Priscilla Presley) to the criminal (child molestation charges.)

The scandalous child sex charges were either settled out of or dismissed in court, with the father of one 13-year old boy being caught on tape saying “If I go through with this, I win big-time. There’s no way I lose. I will get everything I want and they will be destroyed forever…Michael’s career will be over.” 

At every court proceeding he ever attended, Michael’s friends and family members were there fully supporting him, and he was never convicted on any of these charges in any incident. But as with most anyone who ever faces these types of charges publicly, he was never able to overcome their stigma.

Michael’s life began to deteriorate as he battled physical ailments with vitilio and lupus, the eating disorder anorexia, and body dismporphic disorder. Through all this, he was able to become the father of three children: Michael Joseph ‘Prince’ Jackson, Jr (son) and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson (daughter) with Debbie Rowe, and Prince Michael ‘Blanket’ Jackson II who he said was conceived through a surrogate via artificial insemination.

Michael Jackson was absolutely a lightening rod for controversy, some of it of his own doing, as when he hung ‘Blanket’ by one arm from a hotel balcony, and some of it imagined or exaggerated by the media. He was also a victim of child abuse, and of a lifetime of physical ailments that not only contributed to, but directly caused his personal deterioration.

Michael Jackson was also one of the greatest entertainment talents in human history. His dance movements such as the “Moonwalk” are legendary, the stuff that has been admired and copied by professionals and amateurs for decades now. His alternating strong and sensitive voice has recorded dozens and dozens of hit songs, including peak-of-career hits like “Billie Jean”, “Black and White”, “Man in the Mirror”, “Smooth Criminal”, “I Wanna Rock With You”, “You Are Not Alone”, “Beat It”, “Rock With You”, and many others.

Jackson will be remembered for generations to come as one of the greatest entertainers of all-time, but amazingly he was not the only big celebrity to pass away yesterday.

Farrah Fawcett, the beautiful blond bombshell who burst onto the scene in the mid-1970’s with the original television series “Charlie’s Angels”, passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was just 62 years of age, joining the 50-year old Jackson as stars taken long before their time. May they both rest in peace.

Where Will You Be When the Missiles Drop?

During his State of the Union address back in January of 2002, President George W. Bush famously called the nations of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “Axis of Evil”, criticizing nations that sponsored terrorism and were seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Liberals everywhere, and especially their cheer leading media, called Bush a war monger and a liar, among other choice names.

Sitting here over seven years later, we understand far better that President Bush was in actuality simply a truth teller.

At the time of Bush’s speech, former Iraqi leader Sadaam Hussein was still in power. He had already shown his propensity for evil and terror by using weapons of mass destruction on his own people.

He tortured political enemies, and his sons used ‘rape rooms’ to satisfy their own lusts and to further punish political enemies. Thankfully, the United States acted to rid the world of this evil power structure.

In Iran, a crazed President came to power under with the blessing of the Islamic religious leadership. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to assail the United States with threats of destruction and domination by Islam and accelerated Iranian efforts to develop or otherwise obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapon in the hands of a fundamentalist Islamic regime will mean devastating war at some point in the near future. They are simply that crazy.

For years, as the U.S. took the first steps against that ‘Axis of Evil’ by destroying and dismantling the repressive Iraqi power structure and installing the beginnings of a nascent democracy, and while we kept up pressure on Iran to change course of its own volition, we pretty much turned a blind eye towards North Korea. Oh, there were statements made, and back channel discussions held, but nothing concrete.

So what have the North Koreans done during that time under the direction of their crazed, despotic ruler Kim Jong Il? They have aggressively pursued a nuclear weapons and missile strategy, warning western nations not to interfere, and now have nuclear weapons and are developing the missile systems necessary to deliver them against their enemies.

For the past few days, the USS John McCain, a Navy destroyer, has been tailing a Korean ship named the Kang Nam, off the Chinese coast. The reason is that this ship has been found to transport illegal goods in the past. Korea stated on Wednesday that if the U.S. intercepted the ship, they would consider it an act of war: “If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will…wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all.”

Very soon, the U.S. leadership under President Barack Obama is going to be faced with the choice of confronting North Korea militarily, or facing a world where a hostile dictatorial regime has nuclear weapons capable of wiping out American cities.

Will Obama try to talk while the North Koreans build missiles and bombs? Will America become like Europe, issuing strongly worded statements, with nothing to back them up? Will he fiddle while Rome burns?

It turns out that President Bush was not lying about these aggressive regimes after all. Maybe we can just allow as many nations that wish to do so to build nuclear bombs and missiles, right? After all, who are we to tell other countries what they can and cannot do? How arrogant, right? As long as we are nice to them, they won’t bother us, right? If only the world had been nicer to Adolf Hitler, right?

Peace comes through one thing, and one thing only: strength. If you have it, but show that you are unwilling to use it, then you may as well not have it at all. Now many have voted for Obama to get us out and keep us out of military conflict.

Perhaps if you’re a liberal who voted for him, the more important question that you should be asking yourself is, where will you be when the missiles drop?

Express ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

There is an old saying that usually comes into play when some group, often a military platoon, is about to take advantage of a brief lull before some important, heated, restrictive battle: “Smoke ’em if you got ’em” is how it goes. It relates to cigarettes, and the idea that if you are going to want one, now is the time to light up, because you may not get another chance for awhile.

Today’s online edition of the Washington Times (www.washingtontimes.com) features a poll asking whether the Obama administration should have contacted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Iran’s supreme religious leader) before the Iranian elections.

The poll is in response to a lead article at the paper’s website which reports that the Obama administration sent a letter to Khamenei calling for an improvement in relations between the U.S and Iran. Khamenei referenced the letter last week during a sermon in which he accused the U.S. of fomenting dissent following the Iranian elections.

My problem or point here is not the article itself, the poll, or even the issues of Iran and the so-far feeble Obama administration response to Iran. Our new President is mad. Really, really mad, darn it.

You can tell, because yesterday he “strongly” condemned the Iranian regimes unjust actions towards the street protesters of the rigged elections. Strongly.

No, my problem is with the supporters of America’s first socialist President.
When you answer the poll question, it takes you to the updated poll results and a commentary page. Anyone who is registered with the site can make comments about the poll, and anyone at all can read these comments, even if not registered.

There is one answer that encapsulates the liberal, progressive, socialist mindset towards anyone who expresses Obama-dissent. Here a poster calling themselves ‘TheProgressiveTruth’ says that “conservative ideas are discredited and are not taken seriously by serious people.”

Fair enough. That’s showing political bias, but this is America, and they are free to express their political views. The problem comes with his next statement: “My advice, again: shut up!” Here they show their true stripes. Those with differing opinions need to be silenced.

There are many liberal politicians and partisans who subscribe to this line of thinking. They call for a radio ‘Fairness Doctrine’ (sic) that would silence conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Bill Bennett, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck and others, simply because they disagree with these conservative commentators but cannot come up with liberal commentators to draw a sustainable audience.

Bottom line is, liberals and progressives cannot win the battle of ideas in the public square, just as they cannot win at the polling booth on social ideas such as the farcical gay marriage issue. They lose every time one of these issues is balloted and put directly to the voters. Instead, they seek to “shut up” conservatives and force their views through controlled media and through the courts.

Barack Obama, his administration, and his colleagues in Congress have been seriously over-reaching in their valuation of their recent electoral victories. The American people voted for a change, but absolutely did not vote for the type of change that weakens or cheapens democracy and capitalism, or that calls for silence from its opponents.

Have some opinions on the issues that matter to you and your family, opinions that are different than the Obama administration and the former mainstream media try to force down the throat of the public. Then I have just one message for you: express ’em if you got ’em!