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You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
The Substance of Faith.com 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 on that phrase bring readers to this site than any other search. If that’s why you came, here is a simple summary:
The phrase comes from the King James Bible’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. 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 the Greek New Testament, the verb is more common than the noun). If you hope for something, you live for it, even if you can’t see the outcome. Faith (living our convictions) makes our hope concrete. Hope is ephemeral until we give it genuine substance through our actions.
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.
(Pronounced with a long “I.”)
Lucy was born March 9 at 9:02.
At 5 pounds 14 ounces and 20 inches long, she is lighter and 3 inches longer than her sister. She may be a tall one.
It is an old preachers joke.: On a snowy Sunday only one man shows up in a rural church. The pastor is elated when she sees who it is: the resident church hypocrite. The two exchange pleasantries and decide the pastor should proceed to the message, which the man will be glad to hear. What a captive audience, the pastor gives it her best, taking direct aim at the man’s very public sins. He was known for vulgar language, so the pastor started the sermon preaching about the dangers of profanity. Because the man was also known to be stingy beyond compare, the second point of her message spoke to the blessings of generosity. And so it went for 45 minutes as the preacher addressed the known hypocrisies of the man in the pew. The sermon and service finally over, the pastor went to the back door to greet the man as he left the building. She was full of hope that the message had hit the man in the heart and that he might repent of his evil ways in that tiny vestibule. The man shook the pastor’s hand and with deep sincerity said, “You really gave it to them this week pastor. I’m just sorry they weren’t here to listen.”
Those who preach know the experience. Preach about generosity and the widow who gives a mite will express sorrow she can’t get give more. Preach about fidelity, and the couple with a 60 year marriage will thank you for challenging them to love each other more. The people you hoped might listen have gone into a protective shell, guaranteeing your message will bounce harmlessly off them toward people in the next pew. And if we pastors are honest enough to admit, we don’t always hear the Word of God that would speak to us. We all assume the challenge of the gospel –the claim of the gospel on the way we live — is meant for someone else. We think we are doing well; it’s the other people who need to change. We are faithful; its’ the other people who need to repent.
So here we are at Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. This is the time of year when we “give up” something until Easter. Some give up alcohol, others give up sweets. the very brave give up Facebook or video games. Often the act of giving up is described as a “fast.” Of course fasting originally applies to giving up all food for a period of time to heighten the attention on prayer (fasting by itself is not common in the Bible). Now we speak of removing something from our life for a temporary period of time as a fast — as in “I’m fasting from TV,” or I’m fasting from my iPad.” These are the modern observances of Lent.
In the Old testament passage for Ash Wednesday, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the fasting performed by the people in Jerusalem. They have fasted and seem to find little spiritual blessing in their many sacrifices: “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” (v.3).
Isaiah responds with God’s assessment: ”Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.”
In other words, all thier worship has produced no change of heart. It has made no difference in their lives. Isaiah goes on to tell them how their actions need to match the profession of their faith. When justice, generosity, and kindness toward the poor becomes part of their lives, then it will be clear their beliefs about God are real and their practice of fasting effective.
How had they missed the inconsistency in their lives when it seems so obvious? The are a lot like the man in the joke: they thought the word of scripture was for someone else. heir protective shells were up, deflecting the Word at others. It seems they were a lot like us, always thinking it is someone else whose life is not consistent and never noticing our own lives lack justice, generosity, and kindness toward the poor. We bear the same grudges, continue the same quarrels, and show the same rigid spirit to those around us and wonder why others never change.
Why are we like this? Pride. It is the basic sin of pride that will not allow us to imagine or admit that we might – might – be wrong. To paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr:
There is a pride of power in which we assume our own self-sufficiency and self mastery and imagine ourselves secure against all possible changes. We refuse to admit the dependent character of our lives and believe ourselves to be the author of our own existence, the judge of our own values and the master of our own destinies.
Our pride just won’t allow us to imagine our need for repentance, change, or for God’s forgiveness. We see it in everyone around us, but not in ourselves.
If we are to fast this Lenten season, let us take a fast from our pride. Let’s put pride on the shelf for 40 days and allow God’s spirit to speak to our hearts. Not for the sake of feeling bad or guilty, but for the sake of realizing our dependence on God’s grace, so that we might turn and be healed. So that we might receive the gift of forgiveness that remains unused because we thought we had no need of it. Let us fast from pride in thinking we are already everything God wants us to be so that God’s spirit might work and move us toward all we can be.
I close with this prayer by Eric Milner-White (1884-1964):
Suffer me never to think that I have knowledge enough to need no teaching, wisdom enough to need no correction, talents enough to need no grace, goodness enough to need no progress, humility enough to need no repentance, devotion enough to need no quickening, strength sufficient without thy spirit; lest, standing still, I fall back for evermore. The Oxford Book of Prayer, P. 121
Meditation Text for the order of worship:
“Christianity…does not say that, in spite of appearances, we are all murderers or burglars or crooks or sexual perverts at heart; it does not say that we are totally depraved, in the sense that we are incapable of feeling or responding to any good impulses whatever. The truth is much deeper and more subtle than that. It is precisely when you consider the best in man that you see there is in each of us a hard core of pride or self-centeredness which corrupts our best achievements and blights our best experiences. It comes out in all sorts of ways—in the jealousy which spoils our friendships, in the vanity we feel when we have done something pretty good, in the easy conversion of love into lust, in the meanness which makes us depreciate the efforts of other people, in the distortion of our own judgment by our own self-interest, in our fondness for flattery and our resentment of blame, in our self-assertive profession of fine ideals which we never begin to practice.
Malcolm Muggerridge, quoted by Philip Yancey, in Rumors of Another World, p. 123 f
What do the following scenarios have in common: repairing a car, gambling, a bad relationship, a poor book or movie, a war, an economic investment, a career choice? Each of these situations have the potential to capture us in position of ”too much to quit.”
Once you’ve invested $2000 in a new transmission for a older car, what do you do if the AC system goes and needs $2000 to make it work? Another $2000 is a huge amount, but you just spent $2000 on the transmission. Do you cut your loss and purchase a new car for $30,000, or do you have too much invested to quit and pay the second $2000? What happens when the alternator goes out a month later? You get the idea.
The same phenomenon occurs when a poker player has lost money, but feels he/she can recoup the time and money sent with just one more hand. Also similar is watching a movie for two hours, only to have the network increase the frequency and duration of commercials. The last hour you are watching more commercials than movie, but you have too much time invested to turn it off and not see how it turns out.
Allan Teger’s 1980 book, Too Much Invested to Quit, explores the psychology of such situations, particularly as they pertain to explaining escalation of conflict. Teger’s insights reveal that we participate in TMITQ (my own abbreviation) situations, even when we recognize them for what they are. And, there are times where the tendency to do so is used against us in sales and marketing. Teger admits falling prey to the temptation to invest too much even during his study of particular instances where he knew he was being targeted by TMITQ tactics. It is a powerful paradigm.
The most intriguing part of the book is the $1.00 auction game, which was developed to reveal the TMITQ paradigm in a setting where psychologists could study behavior.
The game consists of an auction in which a dollar bill is the item offered for sale. As in all auctions, the person with the highest bid pays his/her last bid and receives the prize, in this case the dollar. The auction proceeds as a normal auction except for one additional rule. The second highest bidder is required to pay his/her last bid, although the second highest bidder receives no prize….The two highest bidders are both reluctant to quit the auction once they have made bids, for that would mean the loss of all previous investments. Once the bidding reaches one dollar, the parties are bidding on the dollar to win a dollar. From that point on, neither bidder can make a profit, even if they win….Now the contest is to see which party will lose the least.(p. 12f)
In the majority of cases, the dollar sells for more than $1, in some instances going for as much as $20. The book analyzes motives for starting a bid and for continuing to bid. Several chapters examine group studies and statistics about participation. The later chapters will be more important to psychologists interested in the empirical data.
The book makes my bucket list of books because it revealed to me the TMITQ paradigm. Many times across the years, from repairing a car, to reading a book, to personnel administration, I have made decisions based on the self awareness this book allowed. The background knowledge forced me to decide if I was making a good decision or just following a default path toward more and deeper investment in a losing situation. The book has no formulas for making these decisions, is simply allows individuals to see a TMITQ situation for what it is, instead of blindly following the present course of action.
This book has been long out of print. I have seen copies advertised on the internet for upwards of $100, indicating its insightfulness. The typeface is dated and hard to read by current standards. Obviously, some details are out of date, such as the attractiveness of winning $1 in an auction. Experimenters may want to try $10 or $20 bills to achieve the same participation today.
If you run a business, manage personnel, or ever read a bad book or engage in conflict, having read Too Much Invested to Quit, will encourage you to make a conscious decision about future actions, instead of rushing headlong toward potentially greater losses. I would encourage those who write government policy (on both sides the aisle) to read this book.
Here are some of my favorite leadership quotes. I’ll resist the urge to annotate and trust the quotations stand on their own.
James Kouses and Barry Posner, in The Leadership Challenge, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1995
Leaders enable others to act. Leaders know that no one does his or her best when feeling weak, incompetent, or alienated; they know that those who are expected to produce the results must feel a sense of ownership. p. 12
To get a feel for the true essence of leadership, assume that everyone who works with you is a volunteer. Assume that your employees are there because they want to be, not because they have to be. In fact, they really are volunteers—especially those upon whom you depend the most. p. 31
Kouses and Posner found in their research that inspiring a shared vision is the least frequently applied of the five fundamental practices of exemplary leadership. p. 124
Always say “we.” p. 170
People volunteer when they expect to succeed! p. 272
Stephen Covey, Principle-Centered Leadership, Summit Books, New York, 1990
Quoting Goethe: “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is; treat a man as he can and should be, and he will become as he can and should be.” p. 59
Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader, Perseus Books Group, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003
Accept responsibility. Blame no one. p. 51
Quoting Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” p. 183
Jim Collins, Good to Great, Harper Business Publications, New York, 2001
Quoting Harry Truman: “You can accomplish anything in life provided you do not mind who gets the credit.” p. 15
Several months ago I saw a commercial that mentioned “the soundtrack of my life.” I had not heard of the idea, but once I started looking on the internet, I found books, videos, songs, and articles on websites from www.theguardian.com to www.forbes.com. Much to my surprise I had once owned about half of the records on Boy George’s chosen soundtrack. You can also find apps for mobile devises that help you compile your own list. I began to think what music would make up my life’s playlist, but never made any specific decisions.
Then, on Sunday, February 9, our music ministry hosted Mary McDonald for, what we call Composer Day. Listening to Mary on Saturday night I began to think about the “Soundtrack to my faith.” What music meant the most to me? What music represented different time periods and events in my life? A quick late night call to Mary about the idea produced a replacement to the already-written sermon for the next day. Here is a link to a video of our worship for that day. The sermon comes very late in the recording.
“The Soundtrack of My Faith” has produced as many comments from members of our congregation as any sermon I can remember. In the message I mentioned five hymns:
From childhood, “We Gather Together.” The tune, St. George’s Windsor, is very recognizable and reminds most people of Thanksgiving as quickly as the smell of roast turkey. To me the song demonstrates the importance of music in teaching the backdrop of faith to children. What I sang, I believed. Here is the reason our congregation has choir opportunities for children and youth.
From college days, “I Know Whom I Have Believed.” This hymn taught me I did not have to know the answers to all of the questions about God. I trust my experience even when I can’t explain all of it.
“There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” is a hymn I can’t explain. I don’t know why this hymn pulls on my heart as it does.
Amidst all the distractions of the world in which we live, “I’d Rather Have Jesus” reminds me that nothing else compares to knowing Jesus. In Philippians 3:7-10 The Apostle Paul counts the best things in his life as sewage compared to knowing Christ. We are all tempted to spend our affections, money, and energy on other things. This hymn keeps me grounded in what is important.
Finally, “God of Grace and God of Glory.” This hymn inspires me to service of God and humanity. It’s the same tune as “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” which I also love.
Time constraints limited me to five songs. I chose all hymns for Sunday morning because Mary McDonald could help me engage the congregation with those songs. But I have more hymns that gird my faith, along with some songs that are not hymns. Here are a few of the ones you may find more surprising:
Lost Dogs – “Breathe Deep” – a challenging song of grace.
Bob Dylan – “Every Grain of Sand” – speaks of the omnipotent love of God. A secular “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”
U2 – “When Love Comes to Town” – with BB King and Lucille, a song about conversion. “I did what I did before Love came to town…” Christian references abound in the music of U2.
Bruce Springsteen - “Land of Hope and Dreams” – I’ve thought about writing about Springsteen here on this site. I think of him as the blue collar prophet of hope. It is amazing how many of his songs are about the hope of love, the hope a better life, or the hope of grace. “Land of Hope and Dreams” is not the gospel, but you can hear the echoes of the world’s longing for it in this song.
So those are some of the songs on my soundtrack of faith. What’s on yours?
Both of my daughters are now wives and mothers. One of them recently sent me this link, referenced in the title above. We had a short ( but for me – rewarding) email exchange about things I tried to teach my daughters when they were young.
To the list mentioned in the article, I add one more principle I believe fathers should know about raising girls: the way a father treats their mother is the way they will expect to be treated by their husbands. Treat their mother with respect and dignity and they will expect to be treated the same way. Demean their mother and they will believe disrespect is the accepted standard of male-female relationships. Be faithful to their mother and they will expect fidelity. Cheat on your wife and….you get the picture.
The principle actually works for either gender. Boys will reflect their father’s treatment of women in the way they relate to future spouses. We are all familiar with the principle that abusers are likely to raise abusers. Children observe behavior in the home and assume what they have seen is normal. Kids are great observers.
I couch the principle from the perspective of fathers and daughters because men are more likely to understand the principle as it relates to their own daughters. Men are also more likely to see the consequences of the way they treat their own spouse by imagining their reaction to someone treating their daughter the same way.
So fathers, how many items on the list of 25 did you know? It’s time to learn.
How do you expect your daughter’s future husband to treat her? Then make sure you treat your wife the same way. Your daughter’s expectations about a husband are forming right now.
Enjoying our grandson in Rota, Spain.
Jace was born today in Rota, Spain. He’s three weeks early. Mother, son, and father all doing great.
Watch the commercials on TV this month. Weight loss programs, gyms, online dating services, closet organizers, and nicotine substitutes sponsor nearly every type of show during January. I call these “resolutions businesses.” They are the ones taking advantage of New Year’s resolutions in order to sell their products. I’ve never seen a statistic, but I can imagine this week is the equivalent of the retail industry’s “Black Friday.” On New Year’s Day, nearly all of Amazon.com’s Daily Deal books addressed common resolutions.
Typical resolutions change little from year to year as lack of success in reaching goals brings individuals back to try again and again at some of the same commitments. Statistics show that 62% of Americans make some level of commitment to a resolution and only 8% claim success in reaching their goals. the numbers are significantly worse for people over 50. Many people want to change, but few do.
So if you are among the numbers of people who want to change something about their lives in 2014, what steps can improve your odds of success? Here are five you may find helpful.
1. Write down your goal or tell a friend. Notice your immediate resistance to this suggestion. Instinctively we know that these steps increase accountability. People who continuously postpone an action that adds accountability often plan to fail. Your willingness to complete this step will tell you whether or not you are really serious about your resolution.
2. Be specific. ”I will lose 20 pounds” is much easier to target and track than “I will lose weight.”
3. Break your resolution into a series of smaller goals. “I will go to the gym 3 days a week” is much easier to monitor than “I will exercise more.” Plus, if you have an interruption in your workout plans, you can pick up the resolution next week and still feel satisfaction. Losing 2 pounds a month is less daunting than “I will lose 25 pounds this year.” If your weight stays flat one month, you can stage a rebound the next month and loose two pounds.
4. Do the one thing…. Inertia is your initial enemy. Be smart about what you do at first by making sure you accomplish the one step that simply must be done to accomplish your goals. If you want to work on another degree, find out what schools in your area offer the course work you need. Make a checklist of what you will need to apply. If you plan to start running again, get new shoes or replace your old cotton sweat pants so that you have no excuse not to get up and go. Leverage that first step by making sure you have no excuse for taking the step that follows. Make a short list of anything that prohibits you getting started and work that list – hard.
5. No matter what happens…. Along the way you will have mini failures. You will binge on Rocky Road or pizza when you intended to have a salad. You will have too much to drink when you pledged not to. You can’t change yesterday, but you can say, “No matter what happens today, I will eat right.” “No matter what happens tonight, I will not have too much to drink.” Instead of worrying about yesterday’s failure, commit to today’s success.
This step also helps you in long range accomplishments. Just as you can’t change yesterday, you can’t accomplish your entire goal in one day. Don’t let the burden of all future days overwhelm today. Just do the right thing today and then work on tomorrow when it gets here. This approach is one of the reasons why 12-step programs succeed. Remember “one day at a time?” Today is all you have, so focus on accomplishing your resolution just for today.
Individuals of faith will hear echoes of Jesus in these words. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34). No matter what happens, keep your commitment today. Your faith can help.
Simple steps, but if you will work at them, you can be among the 8% who make positive changes.