The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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Pictures from Barcelona

Jace was always happy.  And photogenic.

Jace was always happy. And photogenic.

It was rainy enough for cyclists to carry umbrellas.

It was rainy enough for cyclists to carry umbrellas.

Paulo, Rachel, and Jace

Paulo, Rachel, and Jace

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Happy Thanksgiving from Barcelona

From our family gathered in Spain to the rest of our family and friends everywhere.  More photos later.

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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 peasant in the 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
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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




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A Veterans Day Tribute

Thanks to LCDR Hernandez and LCDR Hernandez for their service.

<img class="size-full wp-image-1517" src="https://i1 cymbalta″ alt=”This picture is a couple years old, but it’s hard to get them in uniform at the same time.” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />

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



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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
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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

This was the post most often read on this site in 2017.  I’ve updated it slightly due to it’s popularity.  I hope it is a help to those who read it.  

I inherited a tradition at First Baptist, Rome that recognized recently deceased church members each year on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.  A couple of years prior to my retirement, 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 ( I found the later quite disturbing). 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 prayers that call 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 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 most other Christians (who don’t).

I do not have a complete theology for an All Saints Sunday that incudes prayer for the dead, but, as a pastor, I tried to address the human-need side honestly, while addressing theological concerns soundly.  Here is the pastoral prayer I offered during my first observance of All Saints Sunday.  I hope it is helpful to any who express grief and hope by praying 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 in the same way as the life we enjoy now.  We fear what we cannot imagine.

Therefore, place Your Spirit upon us.  Remind us of the promises that You have kept throughout our years.  Lead us now 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.

May those who rapidly approach the door to eternity not fear death.  May they find comfort, courage, and sustaining faith in our presence as we minister Your love 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…

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