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.


Quotes on Gratitude and Thanksgiving – 2014

  • Gratitude is always a “could” and never a “should.”  The difference between you should practice gratitude and you could practice gratitude is comparable to the difference between you must eat ice cream and you may eat ice cream.  If you somehow become obligated to eat large quantities of your favorite flavor of ice cream every day, you would soon detest it.  Gratitude freely chosen is an experience, fundamentally different from gratitude simulated to satisfy someone else or to take care of your guilt.    Timothy Miller in How to Want What You Have, p. 166


  • The giving of thanks is not just an activity to be taken up at certain times and set aside for others.  It is a whole way of life.    Fleming Rutledge in The Bible and the New York Times, p. 22


  • And yet, if we wait for every beggar to have his horse, we shall never be grateful for a ride.  If we wait for every person to be fed, we shall never be grateful for our daily bread.  If we wait for every present he world to have a roof , we shall never be grateful for the roof that covers us while we sleep.  If we wait until no one ever dies, we shall never feel grateful for life.    Lewis Smedes in A Pretty Good Person, p. 21

Quotes on Generosity and Giving – 2014

Photo By bosela - Courtesy Morgue

Photo By bosela – Courtesy

Here are some of my favorites for the Stewardship Season.   Be sure to check the Archives for more on Generosity and Gratitude.


  • Greed has two opposites: (1) contentment, voluntary poverty, and (2) liberality, generosity, having mercy on others.                    Peter Kreft in Back to Virtue, p. 110


  • Both the cars Oprah Winfrey gives away on her show and the overseas schools established in her name serve to attract viewers and further her business interests, in addition to helping others….Call it narcithropy rather than philanthropy, giving something today usually comes with getting something, whether access, influence, or recognition.              James Gilmore and Joseph Pine in Authenticity, p. 27


  • Affluent kids are less altruistic than kids with fewer financial resources and they become even more so as they get older.               Madeline Levine in The Price of Privilege, p. 174


  • Every time I move step in the direction of generosity, I know I am moving from fear to love.              Henri Nouwen  Quoted by Thomas Jeavons in Growing Givers” Hearts, p. 27


  • A Man there was, though some did count him mad, The more he cast away, the more he had.        John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress


  • What I always say to people is that if you take the standard of (giving) 10 percent and say God required it of the poorest people in Old Testament Israel, and now that we’re under the grace of Jesus and we have the indwelling Holy Spirit and we live in this incredibly affluent culture, do you think he would expect less of us?                  Douglas LeBlanc in Tithing – Test Me in This, p. 64


  • Paul Harvey reported that a woman called the Butterball Turkey Company consumer hotline and asked about the advisability of cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years.  The customer service representative told her it might be okay to eat if the freezer had maintained a below zero temperature the entire time.  But, even so, the flavor would have deteriorated so much that it wouldn’t be very tasty.  Said the caller, That’s okay, we’ll just donate it to the church.                                      Homiletics, July, 1997




A Veterans Day Tribute

Thanks to LCDR Hernandez and LCDR Hernandez for their service.

This picture is a couple years old, but it's hard to get them in uniform at the same time.

This picture is a couple years old, but it’s hard to get them in uniform at the same time.



Quotes on Preaching

  • Once when Laurence Chaderton, Master of Immanuel College, Cambridge, the town’s preacher for a half a century, had preached for only two hours, the disappointed congregation cried out, ‘For God’s sake, man, go on.  We beg you, go on.'”                                                                      Daniel Boorstin in The Creators, p. 313


  • In many respects, an ignorant clergy, however pous it may be, is worse than none at all.  The more the empty head glows and burns, the more hollow and thin and dry it grows. “The knowledge of the priest, said St, Francis DeSalles, “is the eighth sacrament of the Church.”                 Phillips Brooks in Lectures on Preaching, p. 45


  • Just as the world came forth from the Holy, our words either create or kill.  There are no neutral words or stories.  There are words and stories that glorify, evil, war, violence, hatred, nationalism, racism, oppression, injustice, or insensitivity toward the suffering of others; such words must be shunner and exiled.  There are stories worth telling over and over again and stories that should be heard put into the air, and it is in the telling that the difference is learned.                          Megan McKenna in Send My Roots Rain, p. 283


  • Much of our preaching is like delivering lectures on medicine to sick people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Phillips Brooks,  source unknown


  • When people asked Wesley why thousands came to hear him preach, he responded, “I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.”                                                                                                                                                                  Leonard Sweet in Quantum Spirituality, p. 82  ( I used this quote in a sermon once and people laughed.  Perhaps one has to preach to understand.)


  • The purpose of preaching is not to make people see reasons, but visions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Halford Luccock from  In The Minister’s Workshop, p. 112   (Worth finding and buying, despite its age.)


  • In practice, many preachers have tried to resolve the dilemma by resorting to language that substitutes explanation for experience.  They teach from the pulpit, explaining that grace means this and salvation means that, that people of faith have traditionally done this but not that.  They clarify biblical texts, distilling their main points and suggesting appropriate congregational responses to them.  In doing so they do valuable work, orienting their listeners to the wisdom of the church, but the result is often beliefs and not belief – mental assent to the information that has been given them and not a vital experience of the living God.                                                                                                                                    Gail O’Day and Thomas Long in Listening to the Word, p. 209

Praying for the Dead – A Baptist Look at “All Saints”

One of the Civil War dead buried at Rome's Myrtle Hill Cemetery © Joel Snider

One of the Civil War dead buried at Rome’s Myrtle Hill Cemetery
© Joel Snider


I inherited a tradition at First Baptist that recognized recently deceased church members each year on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.  A couple of years ago Keith Reaves,  our Minister of Worship, began to make the case that the Christian Year already had a Sunday designated for the observations: All Saints Sunday. We already observe, what I call, “a modified Christian year,” including Advent, Lent, Holy Week, and Pentecost.  Adding All Saints Sunday would allow us another point of contact with Christians around the world who also honor sisters and brothers in Christ who have died.

As a life-long Baptist I had never participated in an All Saints worship service.  I had a general awareness of the day, but knew I needed a more complete understanding if I was to lead in worship that day.  Quickly I discovered the difference between All Saints and All Souls Days.  All Saints honors those who have died in Christ.  All Souls is more of a  Roman Catholic emphasis and focuses on concern for those in purgatory, awaiting full status in heaven.  All Saints Day is actually November 1, no matter what day of the week on which it may fall.  Since many protestant and other mainstream churches like ours do not worship on weekdays, we followed the practice of using the first Sunday in November as “All Saints Sunday.”

From my role as worship leader, the most significant responsibility I felt was how to design a morning prayer which was pastoral in spirit and theologically sound.  Across the years I’ve heard people pray aloud for and to deceased relatives. The easiest solution would simply be to correct people and remind them we pray to God and that without a purgatory in our theology, there is nothing we can intercede for on behalf of the dead. But…. such an approach is not very pastoral and does little to address the deep human need that expresses itself in such prayers.

I’ve heard prayers of thanksgiving for deceased loved ones – thanks that is completely third person and thanks that calls for God to remind the deceased that they are loved and missed. I’ve heard prayers requesting that the family on earth would not be forgotten.  Children ask God to “bless” deceased parents and siblings with the same language they use for living family members.  I imagine some parents who have lost children privately ask the same.

I performed some internet searches in order to gain a theological perspective.  Clearly, opinions fall into two camps: Roman Catholics\Mormons (who pray for the dead)  versus protestants and everyone else (who don’t).

I do not have a complete theology for an All Saints Sunday that incudes prayer for the dead, but I tried to address the human-need side honestly and theological concerns soundly.  Here is the pastoral prayer I offered during our observance of All Saints Sunday.  I hope it is helpful to any who express grief and hope through prayer for deceased loved ones:

Eternal God, we, your children living our days measured by clocks and calendars, confess that we are anxious about death.  We still fear our own deaths for we find it hard to conceive of a life not measured, not constrained as the life we enjoy now.  We fear what we cannot imagine.  Place Your Spirit upon us.  Remind us of the promises You’ve kept throughout our years and lead us to hold fast to the promises we have not yet seen fulfilled.  How foolish we feel to think your promises are good for this life, yet might not hold true for life beyond the grave.


Help us not to fear death for sake of those we love who rapidly approach that door.  May they find comfort, courage, and sustaining faith in our presence as we minister Your presence to them.  May our faith be an asset to them as they prepare for their journey.  Let us not add worry to any soul because of our own anxiety.


While we give no thought that our prayers for the dead change a thing – our love for those gone from our sight causes us to lay them before you: children gone too soon, spouses missed much, parents honored still, friends and family with whom we had unfinished business.  We ask that by your hand, our love might reach across eternity to them.

Through Christ our Lord…

A Prayer to Forgive

Overlooking Mulberry Harbor at Arromanches, Normandy, France © Joel Snider

Overlooking Mulberry Harbor at Arromanches, Normandy, France
© Joel Snider

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.

2014-09-12 13.11.26

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