Faith vs. Doubt

From “Prayer” by Philip Yancey:

These things feed my faith: epiphanies of beauty in nature, sunbursts of grace and forgiveness, the portrait of God I get in Jesus, stirring encounters with people who truly live out their faith. And these feed my doubts: God’s baffling tolerance of history’s atrocities, my unanswered prayers, sustained periods of God’s seeming absence.

Yancey, Philip (2008). Prayer (Kindle Locations 1055-1057). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

What are the things in life that spur on your faith and what are the things that feed your doubts?  For me, I have much in common with the author above.  Beauty in nature from the rising of the sun to the incredible formation of clouds to the amazing grandeur of the Rocky Mountains.  When I stare at God’s creation my heart is warmed by the Creator’s glow. Even the cycle of life which embodies the challenges for survival within nature is fascinating as it forever moves on.  Complicated. Intricate. Yes, even sometimes messy.  But always glorifying the Creator.

Humanity is what complicates the system. Within us, we have the image of the Creator that allows us to sense the justice and mercy of our God. We also have a human nature bent on usurping God’s rightful place in our lives.  In the end this means there is much evil in the world. It also means that we sense injustice where there is none. How can we know the mind of God that creates a world in which rain brings for life but weather patterns that bring rain often bring floods?  How can we understand why seemingly random events like tornadoes or hurricanes strike a populated area one time and dissipate across a barren landscape another?  In fact, for me, often the most challenging thing to my faith is just how random it is. I really don’t struggle with why a good God would allow catastrophes to occur and affect good people.  I struggle with just how random these events seem to be.  And yet, God fully admits this in his own word.

So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.   Matthew 5:45 (NASB)


Everything Skit


I was in tears by the end.  Very powerful and moving

The Bible in 50 words

God made
Adam bit
Noah arked
Abraham split
Jacob fooled
Joseph ruled
Bush talked
Pharaoh plagued
Sea divided
Tablets guided
Promise landed
Judges led
Saul freaked
David peeked
Kingdom divided
Prophets warned
People exiled
Hope rose
Jesus born
God walked
Anger crucified
Love rose
Spirit flamed
Word spread
God remained.

Revised from the original by Dana Livesay, Wanganui, New Zealand. Source: ‘Top of the Morning’ Book of Incredibly Short Stories compiled by Brian Edwards. Auckland, New Zealand: Tandem Press, 1997.
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Cliffs Notes on the Bible: The Bible in 50 words

The Lord's Supper

image This morning our church conducted it’s first Lord’s Supper service of the year.  I prefer when communion is celebrated during the morning worship service as opposed to evening services.  The different churches I’ve attended over the years have varied enormously in this respect, selecting different times and different types of services.  This morning’s version was a very traditional Baptist communion service with the tiny little crackers being passed around followed by the passing around of small plastic cups of grape juice.  The pastor’s sermon was relatively typical, teaching us to remember what Christ has done and to prepare ourselves for the taking of the Lord’s Supper by confessing and “righting” our hearts for the ordinance.

The passage was from I Corinthians 11 where Paul discusses some of these points.  For me, the most special part of today’s service was having Emily join us.  Even though she’s been part of one communion service before at this church (Indiana Avenue Baptist), I think I cherish it a little more each time. 

We actually didn’t know we were having this service this morning. 

Each Sunday morning, we’ll arrive around 9:25 or 9:30 and drop the kids off at Sunday School and then head to the worship service.  We’ve chosen to join a Sunday School class that takes place at the later hour so we go to worship first, followed by Sunday School.  Today, once we dropped the kids off and entered the sanctuary I noticed the setup for the Lord’s Supper at the front of the auditorium.  I double checked the bulletin and, sure enough, it was on the program. 

I decided that it was proper to go get Emily about halfway through the service so that she could join us for communion.  I was very proud of her because once I told her the reason for excusing her from Sunday School, she was very excited. I made sure to ask her to tell me what it means when we take of the bread and the grape juice.  She quickly answered that we are remembering Jesus’ body and blood on the Cross.

It was really special to have my Christian family, including my little “sister” Emily taking the Lord’s Supper together.  It is one of those events for which I am appreciating the communal nature more and more each time.

By the way, I still make it a point to “crush” my cracker before eating it.  I think we miss some of the effect of the picture painted by the Lord’s Supper in this mass-produced form of crackers and grape juice.  I picture in my mind Jesus tearing the bread apart in front of his disciples as he says that this is His body, broken for them.  I picture him pouring slowly the wine into a cup, hearing the sound of it splatter into the vessel, while he tells them that this is His blood poured out for them.  So, like I said, I have to “break” my cracker before I eat it.  Don’t worry though, I don’t spill my juice before I drink it.  I use my imagination for that one.

Theme for the New Year

Be considerate and be faithful.

I’m always been one for New Year’s resolutions and this year will be no different but I prefer to think in terms of goals with measurable outcomes (SACS* has ruined me).  In looking back over the last year (and more) of my life, I have two main critiques  of myself.  The first is that I am far too concerned with my own comfort and happiness and I put it before the needs of others.  When I was talking about this with my family, Emily reminded me of the acronym, J-O-Y = Jesus, Others, Yourself.  It reminds us of the proper ordering of life’s priorities.  We should always put Jesus first and then put others before ourselves.  Thus my first motto or mantra or theme for the year is to be considerate.  I want to be always aware of how other people are feeling, what they need and how I might be able help. I want to choose my words much more carefully.  Things that tear down and hurt should be avoided and I should look for positive ways to handle negative situations.  That doesn’t mean my kids get a pass now that I am Mr. Nice Guy.  Bad behavior still warrants consequences.  I just have a knack, especially when I’m exhausted to let loose my tongue without considering the feelings of others.  So there it is: Be Considerate.

Secondly, I am very GOOD at starting new projects.  I am very BAD at finishing them.  I am very GOOD at planning strategies for implementing my new projects.  I am very BAD at following through.  After my recent reading of “The Year of Living Biblically”, I was impressed on the author’s ability to commit one year of consistent effort in following as much of the Bible as possible.  He dedicated himself to reading the entire Bible through in a few days to document all the commands he could find.  He read as many commentaries and Bible for Dummies-like books as he could throughout the year.  He was dedicated to his project.  On top of all of that, it wasn’t out of commitment to his faith, it wasn’t motivated by faith.  I should be able to accomplish even a portion of that sort of faithfulness, especially since I am motivated by my faith in Christ and since I am strengthened by him to accomplish these things that he has called me to do.  In the end, the second theme of the year is to be faithful.  I will commit to fewer projects but make it a priority to complete these projects. Be Faithful.

Below is the the standard set of goals (little changes from year to year).  They are a little lengthy and they need to be refined but they are doable. 

  1. Physical
  1. Diet & Exercise (weight): By eating healthier, counting calories and following recommended servings in the “food pyramid”
  1. Lose 2 pounds per week – January-March
  2. Lose 1 pound per week rest of year
  • Diet & Exercise (completion) – minimum 80% days under calorie limit
    1. Exercise 2 out of every 3 days
    2. Eating Journal 2 out of every 3 days
  • Spiritual
    1. Desire to meet with God strong on 2 out of 3 days by end of year.
    2. Complete reading through the Bible (hit landmarks of Torah, History, Wisdom, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles)
    3. Complete Study of fasting, journal experience.
    4. Successfully complete 1 spiritual discipline exercise per month.
  • Mental
    1. Memorize one major passage per month
    2. Memorize poem or literature piece per month
    3. Reading goal (one book per month)
    4. Writing goal: weekly blog article, daily family blog (80% success rate)
  • Social (Family)
    1. Monthly dates with family. Lori has made a wonderful schedule where we have regularly scheduled dates (she and I, as well as, each of us with each of the kids).
    2. Game night most weeks. (Usually Tuesdays for the Spring)
    3. Chores (faithful to complete scheduled chores, also by Lori, at least 2 out of every 3 days)

    why we must think rightly about god

    The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life
    by A. W. Tozer

    Read more about this title…

    One of my favorite books of all time is The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.  I first read it as a freshman in college.  It was a gift from a youth worker at my home church in Canadian, TX.  Tod Meek gave it to me as a graduate gift and as soon as I began reading it, I was hooked.

    As a high schooler, and actually for most of my life, I was the kind of kid who loved to "philosophize", coming up with deep thoughts to enlighten my friends.  I can recall the development of a metaphysical doctrine centered on a substance of which all matter and energy in the universe consisted.  My friends and I scanned through the Old Testament hunting for a "cool" sounding name for this essence and finally settled on arphaxad.  Arphaxad, also, happens to be the first person who was born in the new world after the flood.  Since I can’t recall many of the details of this fabricated doctrine, I’ll spare you and simply say that the above mentioned book provided substance to an eager mind to think deeply.

    I’ve chosen to go back and reexamine it from my current perspective having become a mathematician, professor, bioinformacist and researcher.  I’ve not meditated on the attributes of God with any real focus since my days as a student at Wayland so I hope to experience the joy of contemplating His character as I did when I first read this text but also in a new way with 10 more years of life experience informing my thought process.

    Chapter 1: Why We Must Think Rightly About God

    Tozer begins with the essential question of the book: What is so important about thinking of God as He truly is?  Why ponder the attributes of God at all? 

    Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.

    Our faith and, particularly, its expression is directly correlated to our idea of God. Tozer identifies the source of idolatry is to "[entertain] thoughts about God that are unworthy of him." It is Paul who said, "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." (Romans 1:21 KJV)

    We are given the opportunity to see God’s character because He has revealed himself to us in Scripture and in His interactions with mankind throughout history. If we misconstrue God’s character, we make Him less than God and become guilty of idolatry in our hearts.

    Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous.  The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

    The first consideration in elucidating God’s attributes is to recognize that any attempt to exactly describe him will fail since we are creatures with a finite consciousness and we cannot comprehend the incomprehensible.

    Bible Reading Day 6: Abraham

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Day 6 Abraham

    Genesis 15, 17, 22; Romans 4:1-5, 9-25

    Abraham is such an interesting guy. What struck me most about today’s reading, and I think it is something I’ve missed in the past, is that Abraham did not ask for descendants as numerous as the sand. Abraham didn’t ask for worldwide and timeless fame. We don’t enter into a story about a God answering Abraham’s petition for blessings. Nope. God wants to bless Abraham. God has the blessings prepared for Abraham. He just asks Abraham to follow and obey.

    It gives me a bit of a warm feeling inside to know that God already has blessings in store for us. I too often picture prayer life as petition only. I know it is a valid form of prayer. After all, Jesus himself said to “seek”, “knock” and “ask”. But that is one dimensional prayer, or even more accurately, one directional prayer. In Abraham, we see a deep and intimate relationship between a man and God. In order to receive the blessings, Abraham is asked to follow and obey. He does and what a difference it makes. Sounds easy, but what does God ask us to do? Build an ark, leave our country, cut some skin off a very sensitive body part. God’s will is crazy to the human mind, but if we are his, we trust it.

    Another thing jumped out at me, especially in the readings from Romans: Doing the will of God is not what saves you. Doing the will of God is evidence of your faith in his will. That faith is the first step toward salvation. The act of circumcision was only a way of marking Abraham and his people as faithful, but the act was not what made them God’s chosen people. They are God’s chosen people because God chose them (isn’t that an intelligent statement). However, their faith is evidenced by their willingness to do God’s commands.

    I can’t say it much better that this:

    So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.” – Romans 4:1-3 (The Message)

    My response to this reading is to trust in the crazy will of God. Seems like Genesis is all about that crazy will. What God really wants from his people is a willingness to follow his lead.