Tag Archives: Noah

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.

April Fool’s

You pick up the receiver at work to answer a call to your business, and find no answer. The phone line sounds like it is dead in fact. And yet even though you answered the call, the phone just keeps on ringing.

Then you finally notice it…someone has taped down the ‘plunger’ on your telephone’s main box. When you picked up the handset to answer, the plunger stayed down, so you were in fact talking to no one when you answered the call. April Fool’s! Someone just got you with one of the oldest office pranks in the world.

Today is that day, April Fools Day, and all around the world there are people playing practical jokes on one another. The exact origins of this day are unclear, but there are a few stories that make sense down through history.

One traces all the way back to the Biblical story of Noah, when after the flood he sent a raven off in search of dry land too early. Tradition says that he did this on the first day of the Hebrew month corresponding with April.

Another story traces it’s origin back to the 16th century and King Charles IX of France, who changed the beginning of the year there from April 1st to January 1st. Those who continued to celebrate the old April 1st date were called ‘April Fools’.

A similar story comes again from that 16th century and the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, which replaced the centuries-old Julian calendar as the still utilized standard around the world, and referred to those who continued to follow that Julian calendar as ‘April Fools’.

Also, many pre-Christian cultures are said to have celebrated May 1st, or ‘May Day’, as the first day of the summer planting season. Those who jumped the gun and planted in April were called ‘April Fools’.

There have been some well-known public April Fools jokes played over the years on a large scale.
One in 1996 had the folks at Taco Ball claiming that they had purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the ‘Taco Liberty Bell’. White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the purchase in a press conference, and dead-panned that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and renamed the ‘Lincoln Mercury Memorial’.

Not to be outdone by their fast-food rivals, Burger King revealed in 1998 the ‘left-handed Whopper’, which was designed that the condiments would drip out of the right side. The campaign was so sincere that day that people actually ordered the product at many stores, and some others even specified that they wanted the old ‘right-hand Whopper’ instead.

That same year of 1998, radio DJ’s Opie & Anthony were on the air in Boston, and issued an alert claiming that Boston mayor Thomas Menino had been killed in a tragic car accident. The rumor spread like wildfire and was excacerbated by the fact that Menino was on a plane flight and could not be reached. The pair was fired in the aftermath when numerous news stations had to issue alerts regarding the hoax.

In the 1950’s, Dutch television news reported that the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ had finally fallen over, and the station was bombarded with telephone calls for more information. In 1957, early gullible television viewers in Britain bombarded the BBC with calls after a program showing the harvesting of spaghetti from trees, wondering how these trees could be purchased.

In 2003, the producers of the television game show ‘Hollywood Squares’ played a prank on host Tom Bergeron by inserting two actors as the contestants, and instructing them to be ‘difficult’. The actors proceeded to give horrid answers and act in otherwise annoying fashion.

One of the most famous modern April Fools jokes was perpetrated by Sports Illustrated and legendary writer George Plimpton, who penned a 1985 article about a young New York Mets pitching prospect named Sid Finch who possessed a fastball that had been clocked at 168 miles per hour, and who had pinpoint accuracy.

On the web in 2003, numerous Chinese and South Korean sites ran with a story that claimed CNN was reporting the assassination of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, which resulted in a 1.5% drop in the Korean stock markets.

In 2005, the official NASA website had a link to what they said was a photo that revealed ‘water on mars’. When visitors clicked on the link, it took them to a picture of a glass of water sitting atop a Mars candy bar.

Whether it is done the old fashioned way in person, or over the phone, or on television or radio, or here on the internet, April Fools Day remains a favored day in the hearts of pranksters everywhere.

Watch out, because today you never know from where the next one may come.

He who sows discord among brothers

For the past six weeks this regular ‘Sunday Sermon’ series has covered Proverbs 6:16-19 in which the Bible speaks of “6 Things the Lord Hates (7 an Abomination)”, and today we wrap the discussion with that 7th and final item.

This item speaks particularly to families, and serves as both a calling and a warning not only to brothers and sisters, but to anyone who would sow discord within a family situation.

In past weeks we have spoken of people with ‘Haughty Eyes’, basically those who think they are better than others. We have spoken of ‘A Lying Tongue’, but the seventh item addresses not only liars but also those who use truthful situations to sow discord.

We have spoken of ‘Hands That Shed Innocent Blood’, but the seventh need not lead necessarily to physical bloodshed in accomplishing what is still its own brand of violence. In ‘A Heart That Plots Wicked Schemes’ we spoke very much of the person in this seventh item and the intentional nature of their actions.

In ‘Feet That Run Swiftly to Evil’ we spoke of how some just can’t wait to pounce on an other’s misfortune and also who seem almost joyful when approaching evil. Last week we spoke of ‘The False Witness’, the gossiper among man and he who not only will lie among friends, but who also is willing to take his lie all the way into an official proceeding or on to an official document.

It is all of these six things which the Bible says that the Lord hates which together lead to perhaps the worst of them all, the seventh which is an abomination in his eyes.

In the earliest book of the Bible, ‘Genesis’, God teaches us that the family is of utmost importance, and warns against turning against your family. He begins to teach the lesson in the story of the very first brothers, Cain and Abel.

When Cain becomes jealous of Abel, God says to Cain “If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door; his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.” 

When God becomes aggrieved and tired of early man’s wickedness He decides to wipe man from the earth in a great flood. He finds one man and his family worthy of saving, worthy of starting mankind anew. Not a group of friends. Not a town of neighbors. Not some tribal leaders and elders. One family is chosen, the family of a man named Noah to whom God said “With you I will establish my covenant; you and your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives…” 

Later when the flood was over and the land had dried, and Noah and his family exited the ark, God blessed them and said to them “Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.” But he also admonished them saying “..from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life.” 

God shows here that he not only wants the family of man to exist, but he demands from us that we care for one another.

The further Genesis story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is all about family and its import. God sets this family as his chosen people, those whom he will particularly bless, as well as all those who align themselves with this family. Jacob has his name changed to ‘Israel’ and produces twelves sons, the ‘Twelve Tribes of Israel’, down through time the Jewish people.

The story of the beginnings of God’s chosen people in its very first family, particularly in the story of the relationship between Joseph and his eleven brothers, talks about how we should and should not treat our own families. It shows the dangers in that very act of sowing discord among brothers, as well as provides the redemptive faculties that come with love and forgiveness. Throughout the Bible we hear of the importance of family.

In Proverbs 12:4 we learn that “A worthy wife is the crown of her husband.” In Deuteronomy 12:12 we learn that we shall “make merry before the Lord, your God, with your sons and daughters.” In the fourth of the Ten Commandments the Lord orders us to “Honor your father and mother.” 

God through Shemaiah in the Bible’s 2nd book of Chronicles 11:4 says “You must not march out to fight against your brothers” and in Nehemiah 4:8 commands “Fight for your brethren, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” 

In Psalm 127:3 we are told that “Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.” In Proverbs 17:6 that “Grandchildren are the crown of old men.” 

In Sirach 3:3 we are taught that “He who honors his father atones for sins” and in 3:9 that “A father’s blessing gives a family firm roots.” The Book of Sirach is particularly helpful in its warnings as well, telling us in 16:3 “Rather die childless than have Godless children” as well as in 25:15 that “With a dragon or a lion I would rather dwell than live with an evil woman.”

There is the lesson of Mary herself, the humble mother of Jesus, the earthly mother of God Himself who gave birth to, raised, taught, suffered with, and has been exalted with the Lord. And then there is the lesson of her husband, Joseph, the stepfather to Jesus Christ who stood by Mary and who helped raise the Son of God.

During our lives God gives all of us two families; the one into which we are born, and the one which we create ourselves.

The first points to our ancestry and our family roots; our fathers and mothers, our grandparents and older forefathers, and our brothers and sisters. The second is formed with our husbands and wives, leading to our children and grandchildren and our descendants.

God gives this first group to us as gifts to cherish, but this gift is of human beings. They, like you, will have faults and sins and will be imperfect. They may not have the faculty to comprehend the loving nature that they have been called to in the family, or may have been so damaged by the traumas of their lives that they have lost this capacity.

It is up to you the learned, you who understand what it is that God wants from your familial relationships, to be the glue that keeps your family together as best you can. It is also directly on you to see to it that your own descendants learn directly from you this importance of family that God himself has established.

Do not give in to the gossip and the discord, to things as vile as abuse and hatred, that you may find lurking within your family. You can only control where your family goes from here, not where it has been in the past.

Do not become one who sows discord among brothers and sisters, parents and children, one whom the Lord actually hates. Instead draw closer to God, and in doing so become the rock upon which a foundation of love and support can allow your family to flourish.

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

The Baptism of the Lord

Today we bring the official Church season of Christmas to a close by celebrating another important moment in the life of Jesus Christ, his baptism.

As preparation for His coming, Jesus’ cousin who is known to us as John the Baptist has emerged from the wilderness and is preaching that change is coming. John is telling people that they must turn from their evil ways, repent, and be baptized as new children of God.

John was so charismatic that many were asking if indeed he were the awaited Messiah. These questions became so regular and consistent that John eventually felt he had to answer, and so he did most forcefully:

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy of loosening the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 

Jesus knew that the time had come for his public ministry to begin, and felt that the most important symbolic measure that he could take in beginning was to be baptized publicly by the most famous baptizer in John.

Jesus had, of course, no need to be baptized. As we have discussed in previous Sunday Sermon entries, the sacrament of Baptism cleanses us from the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Jesus was the second human being ever, following his own mother Mary, to be born free of sin. But even having no personal need, Christ wished to provide an example of just how important this sacrament was for human beings.

When he showed up in front of John asking to be baptized, John stated that it was Christ who should be baptizing him. But Jesus insisted, and John performed the baptism.

As Christ rose from the waters a dove descended upon him, and a voice from heaven above was heard clearly by all those in attendance: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!”

Jesus went forward and began his public preaching ministry, calling his disciples to him, teaching the Word of God, and ultimately dying on the cross to save you and all of us from having to pay the penalty for our sins.

All we need to do is to accept this great gift of sacrificial suffering on Christ’s part on our behalf. But speaking of that gift is for another day. Today is for celebrating the baptism of Jesus Christ, and anticipating the beginning of his mission.

Jesus was 30 years old. The man who had raised him, his human father Joseph, Mary’s husband, was a direct descendant in the line of King David, which traced itself back through Jacob and Isaac to Abraham himself, the grandfather of all the world’s great religions.

This line then traced further back to Noah, surviving the flood through Noah’s son Shem. Finally, the line traces it’s ultimate origins back through Seth to Adam, and ultimately to God.

Jesus Christ healed the sin of his direct family line, which ran back through 75 recorded generations of humanity. As importantly, he healed the sins of every generation to come, including yours and mine, and those of our children and grandchildren and on into the future until he should return one day in glory.

It all begins with the event we celebrate today, the readings that you will hear if you are in church, as you should be. It all begins with the baptism of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

NOTE: This entry is the continuation of the regular ‘Sunday Sermon’ series. You can read all of the articles in the series by clicking on to that label at the bottom of the entry.