The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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About – The Substance of Faith

 sub·stance  [suhb’- stuhns] n. that of which a thing consists; the actual matter of a thing


The Substance of hosts the reflections, insights, and study of  Joel Snider, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Rome Georgia.

Are you searching for information on the “the substance of faith?”  More searches for that phrase bring readers to this site than any other.  If that’s why you came, here is a simple summary:

The phrase comes from the King James Version’s translation of Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   J. B. Phillips translation clarifies the idea: “Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for…”

Clarence Jordan has a famous sermon using the phrase “the substance of faith.” .  When Jordan’s sermons were gathered and published, the editor took the title from that particular sermon.

Clarence always made this point: faith is a verb, not a noun.  In fact, the Greek New Testament contains both a noun and a verb but, the verb is more common than the noun.

So here is the idea: If you hope for something, you live for it, even if you can’t see the outcome.  Living our convictions (faith in action – faith as a verb) makes our hope concrete.  Hope is just an idea – it is simply a wish – until we give it genuine substance through our actions. Living for the convictions we cannot see is the substance of our faith.   As Clarence Jordan said, “Now faith is the turning of dreams into deeds; it is betting your life on the unseen realities.”

I wrote my dissertation on the preaching of Clarence Jordan and his theology still has a major impact on what I believe.  Thus, I took The Substance of Faith as the name for this website.  I hope that you will find concrete expressions of faith in my posts.  My goal is to apply real faith for the real lives we live.

The menu headings above are:

Bucket Books are the 50 books that have had a significant impact on my life.  They include literature, fiction, business, theology and more.  What books have been most influential in your life?

Other Reads are any other book I’ve been reading.

Observations are comments on life, culture, and faith.

Prayers –  I’ve written some of these prayers.  I’ve found the prayers written by others helpful.

Meditation Texts are printed in our order of worship every Sunday.  They are printed to encourage engagement beyond the worship service.

Quotes – I’ve collected thousands over the years.  Here is a place for some of the best ones to see the light of day.

Elsewhere contains anything I’ve found on the internet that I want to highlight.

Life is my place for travel, hobbies, or anything that doesn’t fit the rest of the categories.

To continue the conversation for any post, click on the title of the post and a comment section will appear.



A Prayer to Forgive

O, God, you know our rising up and our sitting down. You are acquainted with all our ways.  We do not need to tell you that we fail daily, yet we acknowledge that each new days finds our commitments weakened and our will to do what is right has diminished during the night.  We trust in your grace to sustain and forgive us even though we confess the same sin for the hundredth time.  Forgive us still.

And may your grace take root in us in such a way that we are ready to forgive sins that have been commuted repeatedly against us.  Even if family members take us for granted again in a way that pierces our hearts, even if co-workers or fellow students disrespect our abilities or our contributions again, may we forgive them as often as you forgive us.

We acknowledge before you now what price it cost you to forgive us so often, for we know how dearly our hearts pay to forgive the repeated sins of others.  Change us.  Change our hearts and our minds so that we no longer see forgiving others as out loss — but as our gain.  Help us to see what you have meant forgiveness to be  — freedom from past hurts, a path to a new day and a new relationship with others, an unexpected way to receive blessing beyond measure from your very hand.

Forgive us and we commit anew to forgive those who have sinned against us.

In Christ’s name


Quotes on Worry and Anxiety

  • Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.

Corrie Ten Boom

  • Free your heart from hatred.
    Free your mind from worry.
    Live simply.
    Give more.
    Expect less.


  • Trust does not eliminate the bad things that may happen, whatever sparked our fear in the first place. Trust simply finds a new outlet for anxiety and a new grounding for confidence: God.  Let God worry about the worrisome details of life, most of which are out of my control anyway.

Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World, p. 218


  • … anxiety is temptation’s shrewdest servant…

Soren Kierkegaard in Christian Discourses




Learned While Cycling

Three trips with Lizardhead Cycling have taught me some valuable  lessons.  The first comes from Lizardhead’s owner, John Humphries, pregame speech – the advice he gives to a group as they set out on a tour.  “The greatest accomplishments,” he says, “arise from overcoming adversity.”  According to John, the easiest days on a Lizardhead tour are rarely the most rewarding.  He says that our favorite memories come from the days we rise above difficulties and trials.

He’s right.  My most memorable days include day two of the Redrocks trip – the day which John says is the hardest on any Lizardhead tour.  For me, Redrocks II was the second time I ever rode more than a hundred miles in a day.  Others may ride 100 miles once a week; I don’t.  Additionally, Redrocks II came eight months after prostate surgery (seven moths after being able to sit on a bike) and three weeks after a blood clot behind my left knee.  I’m proud of that day.

Another favorite memory was getting back on the bike after a crash while descending Middlebury Gap in New Hampshire on day two of that vacation.  Of the three people who crashed that day, I was the only one able to ride again that week.  I missed day three of that trip, per doctor’s orders, but I rolled out with the group on day four.

My most memorable day from this year’s Willamette Valley tour was the last day, climbing McKenzie Pass.  I hate to climb.  My heart might as well have a governor on it; I can’t beat much over 140/minute, which is a real handicap on hills. McKenzie Pass was a 22 mile climb.   It’s not near as steep as the New Hampshire Gaps, but it is uphill all the way and a challenge for me.   There were no flat spots for the first 14 miles that I can recall.  Others may find it easy, but for me it was a  three hour slog at maximum heart rate.  And I did it, finishing strong at the top.  The big challenges produced the best memories.

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John Humphries comments about adversity remind me of a similar statement by Clayton Christensen in his book, “How Will you Measure Your Life?  “Self esteem,” says Christensen, ” comes from achieving something important when it’s hard to do.”   Christensen makes this statement in the context of parenting: “By sheltering children from the problems that arise in life, we have inadvertently denied this generation the ability to develop processes and priorities it needs to succeed….As I look back on my own life, I recognize that some of the greatest gifts I received from my parents stemmed not from what they did for me -but rather from what they didn’t do for me.”  [both quotes on p. 134]

As with many of my posts, the moral of the story is about parenting.  Children need challenges.  They need to solve hard problems.  Yet, this generation of helicopter parents thinks they are doing their children a favor by rescuing them from adversity. Today’s parents want to remove all obstacles from the paths of their sons and daughters.  They cajole extra time for a school project instead of allowing a child to complete a difficult project in the time allotted.  The allow children to watch while completing a science fair project for them, instead of requiring them to stay up late to finish it on their own.  They do their children no favors.

The Apostle Paul says, “…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-5).  There are no shortcuts to character and hope.  They are qualities only derived from overcoming challenges and adversity.  A person can only overcome adversity by facing it. A person can only accomplish great things by attempting difficult things.    

Check your own memory.  What are some of your best memories of accomplishments?  I imagine they include overcoming a hardship or trial.  What adversity have you let your children handle by themselves?  As much as you want to whiled them from pain, you cripple them by swooping in for the rescue.  It may make you feel better about parenting, but it teaches children that they probably couldn’t have done it on their own.  It’s not the path to character or self esteem.



Lord’ Payer ….Daily Bread

  • Nicolai Berdyaev has said:  “Bread for others is always a spiritual question.”  It is always a question of love.  Most of us are sure we love.  In James’ letter to his community, he warns that there is no meaning in love for the hungry person which leaves that person hungry, no meaning in love for one who is cold and without shelter that does not supply the necessary clothing, fuel, and housing.  Jesus’ message is good news, hope for the poor that their suffering is to be alleviated.  It is to be alleviated in the kingdom, by those who follow his ways and share.  Megan McKenna, in Send My Roots Rain, p. 250


  • Any church, any preacher, anybody can sell a religion or a God who delivers the goods on time, who pays the bills, gives you pleasure, peace, and security, and who is at the other end of the dial or prayer wheel, or mouse: there is no problem with filling TV studios or crystal cathedrals.  Who would not be satisfied with a God who, when asked for a car, gave one; who, when prayed to for peace, delivered it; who, when asked for peace of mind or strength of will, gave it?  This reminds one of the African proverb that says, “When I pray for bread and get it, I think about bread and forget God.  When I pray for bread and don’t get it, I think about God a great deal.”   Peter Gomes, in Strength for the Journey, p. 43


Willamette Cycling – Friday

We started the day with a shuttle to breakfast at the Rustic Skillet restaurant, with its dinosaur theme at several of the tables.  There was only one server on duty, but she was very engaging and capable.  She challenged my order of two English muffins and peanut butter, saying “That’s not enough if you are climbing McKenzie Pass.”  I stuck to my order, preferring to eat constantly on the ride over too much on the stomach.  After eating, we arrived back at the Belknap Springs Lodge where we brought luggage to the van and loaded our pockets with food for the morning, before  heading out.

From the Lodge we rode a mile and a half to the road leading up the pass – with the summit 22 miles up from the intersection where we turned.  The landscape was temperate rain forest at the bottom of the climb.  For our last time in Oregon we cycled past ferns and moss-covered trees.  Right on schedule, between 40 and 50 minutes out, faster riders began to pass us, but when we stopped for a break after the first hour, we counted 8 riders still behind us.  The terrain turned more to a forest of Douglas Fir  by the time Steve and Wayne (among the Texans) pulled along side and rode with us for three or four miles.  A little over half way to the top, they left us and Tom joined us for much of the remainder of the climb.  We stopped a couple of more times to eat and drink without the concentration or effort of the  climbs which was at a steady 6% grade.  The road was full of switch backs and “S” curves as we wound our way, ever upward.

Volcanic rocks in Deschutes National Forest

Volcanic rocks in Deschutes National Forest

Emily, our guide, had told us we would come upon a lava field, but when we did, we were not prepared for the startling change in scenery.  We went from green forests to a wasteland of volcanic rock in just a short distance.  Among the rocks the only life visible life consisted of the rare volunteer evergreens that had found a toehold of soil from which to sprout. Many of the trees were dead, looking like tall gray fingers pointing out of the rocks.  We dropped briefly back into the tree line, then out again into an extension of the lava field.  Off to our right, almost lost in the glare were two beautiful snow-peaked mountains.  It was an amazing sight.

Mountains to our right.

Mountains to our right.

A couple more miles and we caught a glimpse of the van, ahead and above us, parked at the summit.  As we approached Emily starting ringing the cowbell, as if we were racing for King of the Mountain points in the Tour de France.   She made the summit experience fun.

Tamara approaches the summit of McKenzie Pass. Ed Watters is in the UGA jersey.

Tamara approaches the summit of McKenzie Pass. Ed Watters is in the UGA jersey.

After spending some time at the summit, taking in the view, we began the 18 mile descent into Sisters, Oregon.  The first five miles included sharp turns, but with 12 miles to go, the road turned straight as an arrow and the grade decreased to about 3%, allowing for fun, fast riding toward the Sandwich Depot, were we ate and ate prior to the shuttle back to Portland.

Friday was my favorite day on the tour.  The changes in scenery along with the continuous climb and fast descent provided much variety and fun.



Willamette Cycling Trip – Thursday

Thursday was our most challenging, and my least favorite day.  The challenge was not the length or the grade.  It was traffic and route.  Again, this was a day where we were forced to detour because of the fires.  After shuttling back to Dexter Reservoir (except Ed Watters and Tony, who rode from Oak Ridge) we started off on some nice back roads that included a beautiful covered bridge.

After pedaling briefly on some good roads, we turned onto highway 126.  With the exception of short periods were parallel roads allowed us off the highway, this was our route for the rest of the day.  It was a steady, shallow uphill grade, often in the sun, with a narrow shoulder.

Before the break I picked up my second flat of the trip.  Again, John was nearby and because we were near the morning break stop, he threw my bike in the car and we drove the short distance to where the others had stopped.  After snacking while John repaired the tire, we set off again on highway 126.  It was more of the same.  Drivers were mostly courteous, but it was unnerving sharing the lane with semi’s and logging trucks.  After lunch I packed it in for the day and rode in the van to our destination at Belknap Springs.

The lodge at Belknap was the wonderful.  The pool outside the lobby was fed by natural, hot springs.  How good it was to relax in the pool after 6 days of riding.

The day did not offer much opportunity pictures or sight seeing. We all wish we could have seen the original route which was closed due to the fire.

Willamette Cycling Trip – Wednesday

Today is Saturday and the trip is all over, except for the flight home.  We’ve been without usable internet service since we departed Tuesday morning; thus, I am backtracking to catch up on each days.

These two days were effected by the fires around Oak Ridge.  Wednesday morning started with a breif wake-up climb and then settled down into many long flats, winding through Oregon farm land.

There's a a big John Deere tractor in that cloud of dust.

There’s a a big John Deere tractor in that cloud of dust.

As a group, we had an abnormal number of flat tires.  I had my first just before lunch.  John Humphries was driving the support vehicle and showed up within 2 minutes after I pulled over.

The rest of the day was spent detouring to the Dexter Reservoir and then riding an “out and back” along the lake.  The scenery was pretty, but this was our longest day and I was glad to be finished.   We gathered by the reservoir and waited for each rider to come in before shuttling 23 miles to Oak Ridge where we stayed at the Cascade Motel.  From the picture at the top of the post, yo can see they were waiting for us.  John always picks first class places to stay wherever he can.  Some legs of the ride, however, put the group in a small town with limited accommodations.  Such was the case with the Cascade Motel: simple and clean – gracious owners, and limited amenities.  We slept great and that is all that matters.


Picture 285

Willamette Cycling – Tuesday

Above:  Jeff and Tamara walk through the Douglas Fir of Silver Falls State Park

Every day we fall in love with Oregon for new reasons.  Today was no different. This was our “bike and hike” day and the hike did not disappoint.

We started out of Silverton and immediately started the 18 mile climb to Silver Falls State Park.  The first tenth of a mile was 11%, but then settled in to a steady 3-6% grade.  Ed and I spent two and a half hours getting to the park.  The last 5 miles tour owner, John Humphries, rode with us and we enjoyed John’s infectious love of life and cycling.  John has become a good friend and I was humbled to find that he often watches our worship services on the internet.

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Once we arrived at the state park we set off on our hike, viewing waterfalls and incredible plant life.

Shamrocks in bloom

Shamrocks in bloom

Joe and Cheryl walk under one of the falls

Joe and Cheryl walk under one of the falls

Picture 307

Ed Watters sits under the falls, eating lunch. Becky Pratt of Iowa in the background.

Following 3 hours of hiking, we put our cycling shoes back on and rode back to Silverton, making a big loop for the day.

The views, the fields, the landscape, both on the  way up and on the way down were spectacular.  The ride was just challenging enough and the hike put a whole new perspective on our experience.

Things are a bit up in the air for tomorrow.  We know where we will end up, but not where we start.  The fires I mentioned in the post of Crater Lake are playing havoc with our route.  Our guide, Steve, has spent the day scouting alternatives.  We eat at 6:30 Am and then shuttle to wherever he has found for us to begin.  The adventure continues.

Picture 165

Willamette Cycling – Monday


Joe and Cheryl Burch arrive at today’s lunch stop.

In the grocery store I’ve seen Oregon Blueberry’s.  In the hardware store I’ve seen Oregon grass seed.  Until today I never realized the diversity of Oregon’s agriculture industry.

Ed, Norris Broyles, and I started a few minutes early today, as slower riders are encouraged to do.  As soon as we passed out of McMinnville, we began to ride through a fertile countryside – every square in of which – appeared to be under cultivation.  The entire 48 miles today passed through fields of corn, fescue, and rye grass being grown for seed.  Or acres of onions, orchards of apples and pears, or interesting trellises of hops.  Several people stopped to pick blackberries on the side of the road.  And, of course, there were many, many vineyards.

The Texans passed us about an hour into the morning.

The Texans passed us about an hour into the morning.

After arriving in Silverton, several of us tried to recount all the crops we had seen.  Each one was able to remember an additional plants that others had forgotten.


On the road with Norris Broyles.  Norris rode with us last year in Vermont.

On the road with Norris Broyles. Norris rode with us last year in Vermont.

On paper, today’s  distance did not seem long, but at the end of the day, with a headwind picking up, it was enough.  The only climb of the day started with a testy little grade and turned into four miles of grinding out the pedal strokes.

Today’s ride was one of my favorite days on a Lizardhead trip.  The landscape was interesting, the weather was wonderful, and the view at lunch amazing.  Now we look forward to tomorrow’s “bike and hike.”