Posts Tagged ‘faith’

The Mountain of Faith

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 by Wolfgang Vondey

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus promises that “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Who doesn’t wish to have that kind of faith? The problem is, nowhere in Scripture do we find anyone moving a mountain. There is no record in history, that anybody ever moved a mountain. Jesus is not speaking about moving literal mountains–Jesus is speaking about spiritual mountains.

We all have mountains in our lives that need to be moved. Watch the video below and follow Moses as a guide up the mountain to learn how to move the mountains in your life and what it takes to have faith as a mustard seed. Your mountain will probably still be there, after these 30 minutes, but I pray that the word of God will give you hope, courage, and determination to change your circumstances and to learn that the only way to move a mountain is up!

 

Works Righteousness and Going Nuclear

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

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Protestants love to use the phrase “works righteousness” when describing various positions even though they disagree as to what it is and therefore what theological positions support it.

It’s one of those “going nuclear” phrases. Like pushing the red button, it is used to annihilate another position in a single move.

For example, my blog last week about penance got some reactions about it being another form of salvation by works. If you have to do something as part of your repentance then you’re working to gain favor.

There are several misconceptions here beginning with what happens in salvation. Read the rest of this entry »

Christian Witness in a Pluralistic World: Renewing Christian Faith

Monday, July 1st, 2013 by Amos Yong

faithThere is no doubt that Christian faith is exclusively in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NRSV), and the apostles also declared, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jews might anticipate a messianic deliverer who will reunite the people of God with Yahweh, but they do not hold, as Christians do, that Jesus is that Messiah. Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet but both subordinate his message to that of Muhammad’s and do not understand his claim, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30), in a similar manner as Christians. In other words, Christians make unique and exclusive claims about Jesus as savior and revealer of the Father.

But Christians are not the only ones with unique and exclusive claims. In fact, all religious traditions, by virtue of the fact that they are what they are and not something else, have such claims. Some might even follow up on such claims with concomitant actions in ways that put Christians to shame. The apostle James agrees that, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:17). Read the rest of this entry »

Christian Witness in a Pluralistic World: Renewing Christian Faith

Monday, June 10th, 2013 by Amos Yong

witnessThere is no doubt that Christian faith is exclusively in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NRSV), and the apostles also declared, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jews might anticipate a messianic deliverer who will reunite the people of God with Yahweh, but they do not hold, as Christians do, that Jesus is that Messiah. Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet but both subordinate his message to that of Muhammad’s and do not understand his claim, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30), in a similar manner as Christians. In other words, Christians make unique and exclusive claims about Jesus as savior and revealer of the Father.

But Christians are not the only ones with unique and exclusive claims. In fact, all religious traditions, by virtue of the fact that they are what they are and not something else, have such claims. Some might even follow up on such claims with concomitant actions in ways that put Christians to shame. The apostle James agrees that, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:17).

Apologetically, then, I think actions speak louder than words. While on occasions thoughtful members of other faiths convert to Christ because of the rhetorical persuasiveness, intellectual coherence, and aesthetic attractiveness of the Christian message, these are exceptions that still, in time, ought to be followed by conversions of the heart. At this level, people come to Christ not because he is reducible to a set of ideas but because as the living “reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (Heb. 1:3a), Jesus and his followers touch hearts, heal bodies, and transform lives and communities. Christian mission in a pluralistic world is most effective when clear proclamation of the message of the gospel – of Jesus as savior, healer, sanctifier, and coming king – is preceded and supported by works of love, mercy, peace, and justice.

Trinitarian mission in this holistic sense cannot be merely exclusivistic. Sometimes communal transformation invites Christians to work alongside people of other or no faith in order to effect change. There is no need to compromise on what we believe and confess in these cases, but there may be many good reasons to collaborate with others in order to bring about common good. Sometimes, we may even need to choose not to engage in certain actions, otherwise appropriate and even normative, if that might distract from or stumble the “weak” – as St. Paul, for instance, suggested not eating meat offered to idols in some contexts which might be fine in other contexts – and thereby undermine the witness to Christ needed for the moment. There are many levels at which Christians can and should address the plight of the unfortunate (orphans, widows, the impoverished, and people with disabilities, among others), and some levels of engagement summon, if not require, interfaith cooperation. Christians bear witness to the living Christ on these occasions by serving those in need; in fact, it may well also be that all so engaged minister to Christ himself. Effective missional witness in a pluralistic world, hence, involves addressing human heads (the cognitive dimension) and human hearts and hands (the embodied and social domains).

Yet I also think that given the goodness, truth, and beauty that is refracted through other cultural and religious traditions, Christians should be motivated to dialogue with those in other faiths not only missionally but also for our ongoing self-understanding. By dialogue, however, I don’t mean only those formal occasions involving representative intellectuals but those circumstances when we can be hosts and guests of those in other faiths in order to get to know them, share our lives with them, and learn from them. The point of dialogue is that there is a mutuality of interaction, relationship, and transformation, just as when Peter met Cornelius (Acts 10). I mention being hosts and guests since sometimes, Christians are reluctant to embrace the latter role. It is simpler, and safer, to be hosts of those in other faiths since hosts establish the ground rules for the meeting. However, Jesus Christ himself is the paradigmatic guest himself in his incarnation even as the Holy Spirit desires to be the guest in every human heart. Christian missionaries have also been exemplary guests, as they are sent ones who enter into the spaces and times of others. Guests bring with them gifts – the gospel – but are also open to the hospitality of others, as Paul himself received such from the Maltese barbarians (Acts 28:1-10).

And what do others have to offer besides physical nourishment? Do Christians really have anything to learn from others that they do not already know? The Day of Pentecost narrative suggests that God’s salvation history involves the redemption of many languages in order that the world might say, “in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11). Languages we know are culturally embedded, as are religious traditions. Hence, the capacity of languages to declare the glory of God suggests that the highest aspirations of cultural and religious traditions may also be redeemed for divine purposes. This is not to say that each and every word of every language is sanctified in some absolute sense, nor is it to naively sanction all cultural and religious realities. It is to say that there is no reason why authentic dialogical and conversational interaction with people of other faith should not be catalytic for Christian self-transformation. Might not our interaction with religious others teach us humility, open us up to graces all humans hold in common, prompt question our own traditions (which are sometimes also encrusted in many ways by cultural accretions such that their original purposes have become obscured), and help us recognize that despite all we think we know, often in the face of reality we must be mute and wait for divine revelation to know how to “live, and move, and have our being”?

Christians should expect nothing less in faith. Not only do we now see through a mirror dimly (1 Cor. 13:12), but we worship and serve a living Christ who cannot be reduced to any set of propositions. In fact, only in the eschatological future will he be fully manifest: “when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This is not to say that the future revelation of Christ will contradict what is known about him now from scripture and especially the dogmatic tradition, rightly understood. It is to say that there might be unexpected convergences that the eschaton will bring to light.

Evangelicals like to say that theirs is not a religion but a relationship. They are also primed, when they go on mission trips, to testify about their own lives being changed by the experience. I see no reason why interacting with people of other faiths ought not also to transform their lives by deepening their understanding of and relationship with the living Christ. Especially when led by the Spirit of Christ, Christian witness in a pluralistic world will surely bring about conversions to Christ; but it might also bring about Christian transformation, indeed revitalization and renewal.

 

Unseen & Evil

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 by Matthew Brake

The more I talk to friends who do not share my faith and who lean towards critical realism, empiricism, and logical positivism, the more I realize that there are two problems with my faith.

1. I can’t see God.

I can’t prove God exists. I can infer that God exists because of the grandeur of the universe, but an atheist looks at the vastness of the universe and sees a cold, harsh place that doesn’t seem to point to a personal God.

I can appeal perhaps to personal religious experiences which have been formative for me, but when I look at many of those experiences, while they were personally encouraging to me, they could be as open to interpretation as the ending ofPan’s Labyrinth. (Was she crazy or did she see something? Who knows).

I can appeal to the miracles that friends of mine claim to have performed/seen–but am I unspiritual to wonder if they’re exaggerating?

Even if they were, I can understand the incredulity of someone listening to a third person account of such an event.

The biblical writers seem to ponder the invisible nature of God (warnings against idolatry, Paul’s comments in 2 Corinthians 4:18, Hebrews 11:1, etc.), but is that enough when you’re trying to have meaningful conversation about God with friends who only trust the scientific method (which evaluates the physical seen world)?

 2. The universe is harsh.

Evil, pain, and suffering exist in the world, and if you buy into theistic evolution and an old earth (disclaimer: I do), then you’re left with the problem that for 100,000 years before Abraham, people were dying at 25 of hunger, disease, and brutality.

 Does this point to a loving and benevolent God?

The Hebrews had a couple of different ways of processing evil in the world.

One way was proverbial wisdom (if you do right things, life goes well. If you do bad things, not so much).

Another way of dealing with evil was contemplative wisdom.

Contemplative wisdom acknowledges life as it actually is.

It readily admits that sometimes, no matter how many right things you do, good people still suffer.

Ecclesiastes pretty much says, “None of this makes sense. Obey God anyway.”

Job concludes, “Good people suffer. If God’s real, then shut your mouth.”

This can help one to see that the Bible (thankfully) offers no pat answers to the problem of evil, but it can leave a person dissatisfied.

 Now What?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Experiment

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 by James Flynn

Have you ever met someone who was terrified of making mistakes?  We have that fear in us to some degree—no one likes to mess up.  You get laughed at.  You feel like a fool.  Your face turns several shades of red and you get all choked up.  You know what it feels like, because you have been there just like me.  But for some, it goes far beyond that.  Fear of failure can literally paralyze you. You feel frozen and unable to make decisions.  The cure?  An attitude adjustment.  Life is meant to be an adventure, and any good adventure gets its thrill from things not going exactly as planned.  God never designed life to work perfectly or even to be predictable.  As my friend Pastor Mark Batterson at National Community Church say “Everything is an experiment.”  Life is a Spirit-led experiment to discover more about God each day.  Jesus said life would be just that.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be daily at work in the life of the believer, gently leading and guiding us (John 17:17; 14:21,26). Jesus made the disciples aware of God’s master plan to send the Holy Spirit to dwell with each of us so that He, the Spirit, could translate life, circumstances, and their context into meaning. This kind of experimental living was advocated by Henry Blackaby and Claude King in their book “Experiencing God.”  Blackaby and King outline seven essential “realities” of experiencing God in our daily lives:

  • God is always at work around you;
  • God pursues a love relationship with you that is real and personal;
  • God invites you to become involved with Him in His work;
  • God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways;
  • God’s invitation to work with Him always leads you a crisis of belief that requires faith and action;
  • You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing;
  • You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

 Blackaby and King’s theology is experimental Christianity at its best. It takes into account the sovereignty of God and His lordship by conceiving of a God who takes the initiative in executing His purpose in our lives before we are even aware. Purpose is grounded in His love for us. This experimental approach to living is not an invitation issued by us to God, asking Him to bless our work, but rather an invitation extended to us by God to join Him in what He is already at work doing, thus requiring our submission and obedience.             

Life is unpredictable because God has made it that way.  You can spend your life trying to control things so they will turn out “just right.” Or, you can make provision in your heart to realize that things often will not work out how you expected and that is what gives life its zest.  Stop being so uptight about the way life is.  Learn to relax and yield control to God.  When the wind blows, it is the oak tree that snaps because of its rigidity, but the more humble palm tree that bows low and bends, still standing after the wind is gone.  Bend or be broken.  Bow when the wind blows.  Approach life this way, and you might just rediscover the wonder of your relationship with God, forgive yourself for mistakes God forgave long ago, and look forward to the next “adventure” that comes your way!