VIDEO The Substance of Faith

By John MacArthur Oct 18, 2009

I want you to turn in your Bible to Hebrews chapter 11. And as we look through this chapter, I – I want us to not get caught up in a lot of difficult details. I think this is a chapter that is – is going to be foundational for us. There’s so many new people in our church, so many new Christians in our church, so many who – who need to understand the foundations of our faith. I don’t want to make this complicated, I don’t want to make it difficult. I’m not going to try to take you in to some kind of minute nuances of theology, but I – I want to embrace this chapter and I want you to embrace it in your thinking and in your – in your spiritual experience because it is so foundational to our life as believers.

We understand that we are saved by faith. We all understand that. “The just shall live by faith,” which is essentially foundational teaching in Scripture. It is quoted back in chapter 10 verse 38, that’s how the tenth chapter really ends. That is not the only place that that passage is quoted. That passage is taken out of Habakkuk chapter 2 in verse 4 but is repeated by the New Testament writers several other places as well because it’s so very, very foundational. So when we talk about salvation, we talk about the gospel, we’re always talking about faith and that raises the question, “What is faith? What is the essence of faith? How are we to understand faith?”

And that’s why we want to look at this chapter. This chapter has been called “The Hall of Fame.” It has been called “The Heroes of the Faith.” It has been called “The Honor Roll of Old Testament Saints,” “The Westminster Abbey of Scripture.” It’s been called, “The Faith Chapter,” and perhaps other things as well. What it presents to us is the power of faith, the power of faith, the excellency of faith.

And I think that needs some clarification in the climate in which we exist today because there is a faith movement within the framework, large framework of evangelical Christianity. It is part of the Charismatic Movement, it’s called The Faith Movement. And these people talk about the power of faith. They talk about the power of faith a lot. But when they’re talking about the power of faith, they are creating a faith that doesn’t exist. They’re taking an impotent faith and trying to empower it. When people in the Faith Movement talk about the power of faith, they’re talking about faith as if it were a personal power that we possess to create our own future, a personal power that we possess to create our own reality, to change the world, to literally define and manufacture our own future.

When they talk about the power of faith they mean that we can use our faith as a power to write our own future history. We can literally believe things into being. We have the power of faith that can create a healing. We have the power of faith that can bring about a salvation. We have the power of faith that can change how people can treat us. We have the power of faith that can change our economic situation, that can take us from poverty to wealth, that can take us from having little to having much, from being deprived to being prosperous, from being a failure to being successful, from being a nobody to being a somebody, from having only ambitions and hopes and dreams to experiencing fulfillment.

The – the notion that exists in this Faith Movement, as it’s called – and they have largely tried to commandeer the concept of faith – is that faith is a power that you possess to create your own future. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is a lie, it is a deception. Faith is not a power which you possess to create your own future. Faith is a God-given ability to trust the future that God has promised you. Huge difference, huge difference.

I don’t want to write my own future, do you? I really don’t want to be responsible for laying out my future. I don’t want to be responsible for determining what my future is going to be. I’m more than happy to leave that in the hands of One who loves me perfectly and has ordained for me a future that is purposeful, fulfilling, satisfying, God-glorifying and eternally blessed. We’re talking about faith, not the false kind of faith that supposedly can create your own future, but the true kind of faith that can produce in you confident trust in the future that God has promised you. That future is laid out in Scripture.

So when we’re talking about faith, we’re talking about trusting in which God has said. Not trusting that you can create something as yet unsaid, a future unwritten, unspoken, unrevealed, but rather to believe in that promise which is laid out in Scripture in all its glory and all its detail that has been given to every true believer. In fact, from a human viewpoint, all they hear is a faith that are recorded in the eleventh chapter, and there are many of them as we will see when we go through the chapter. If from the human perspective they had perhaps the option, they might have written their story differently, differently. Because all their stories are filled with difficulties.

Certainly Abraham’s was, and certainly Moses’ was. We can start where the chapter starts with the first, “By faith, Abel.” You wouldn’t say that if Abel had a choice to write his future he would have written that he would be murdered by his brother. No, these are – these are people who died. These are people who struggled. These are people whose lives were marked with horrendous suffering and it crescendos toward the end of the chapter. So from the human perspective, if they somehow had the power to write their own future, they perhaps would have written it differently than God wrote it. But the kind of faith that we’re talking about, the faith that God gives a believer is the faith to trust the future that God has written because inherent in what God has written for us is His promise of ultimate blessing and eternal joy.

Now the readers of this book needed to understand about faith. They needed to understand it desperately. Obviously, the bulk of those who would read this epistle written to Hebrews were believers. This was written, we don’t know by whom, can’t be certain of that, but it was written by one of the apostles or an associate of the apostles to a community of Jews who had come to faith in Christ. They understood faith. They understood that they needed now to continue to live by faith and that faith would be placed in the gospel, in the person who is at the heart of the gospel, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.

This would be a new kind of life for the Jews. As I said, these are Hebrew believers and, really, for the first time in their life through the gospel and salvation, they have come to understand that their relationship with God is not dependent on works but it’s dependent on faith. That’s new and it needs to be reinforced. And that’s part and parcel of why this eleventh chapter is here so they don’t grow, to borrow Paul’s words, weary in well doing, that they hold on to a life of faith by looking at the models and the examples of all these people in the past who lived by faith and received their glorious reward.

But it’s more than just a chapter designed to encourage believers to continue to walk by faith. You will remember that through the first ten chapters the writer has been laboring to make one major point and it is this; that the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant, right, that Christ is superior to everything else. Jesus and His sacrifice is superior, completely superior to the sacrifices and the animals in the old system. He is a better sacrifice who made a better offering. Jesus is better than angels, the writer tells us in these chapters. He is better than the prophets. He is better than Moses, better than Aaron, better than Joshua. He is a better priest than all other priests. And he is from a better priesthood, a superior priesthood, He is the mediator of a better covenant and He is a better sacrifice.

The message of the first ten chapters is, “Put your faith in Jesus Christ, He is in every sense superior.” Now this reinforces for the believers who are receiving this letter, the superiority of Christ to which they have already asserted their will by the power of God. They already know that. They have trusted in that reality. But at periodic points through the opening ten chapters, familiar to anyone who studies the book of Hebrews, there are warnings. There are at least four of them by the time you get to this chapter and this chapter constitutes, if you will, another warning. And these warnings are given to non-Christian Jews who are attending this fellowship. They’re sitting on the fringe, if you will.

They’re apparently intellectually convinced of the gospel, they understand the truth of the gospel in their minds, they understand the power of the proof of that truth by the miracles and signs and wonders which were wrought by Christ. So we could say they’re intellectually convinced. They are hanging on the fringes of this fellowship of Christian Jews but they never really have come all the way to Christ. And there are these periodic warnings not to fall back, not to go back into Judaism. There’s one in – one of them in chapter 2, there are more in chapter 3 and 4, another in chapter 6, another in chapter 10. Don’t go on sinning willfully after you have the knowledge of the truth, says chapter 10, or you will bring upon yourself a far more severe eternal judgment.

So the warning is, “Come all the way to the New Covenant. Come all the way to Christ. Come all the way to faith.” This is a big change, a big change because we know that the Judaism that existed in the time of our Lord and thus in the time of the New Testament was a system of salvation by what? By works, by merit. The Jew attempted to earn salvation. This is all the Jews knew. This is what they had been told. This is what they had been taught. This had been ingrained into them from generations by their parents and their religious leaders. And a simple study of the four gospels reveals the fact that the Judaism of the first century was not the supernatural system given by God whereby the sinner knew that he couldn’t keep the Law of God and thus was penitent and prayed to God, like David did in Psalm 51, pleading for mercy and grace by faith in a God who was willing to forgive and thus receive salvation as a gift of grace, not earned by works.

The system had long forgotten that salvation was by grace, that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, that Abraham believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness, and they had created a religious cult built on ethics, built on morality, built on religious ceremony. Salvation came to those who observed all those ethical standards, all those moral oughts and all those ceremonies.

It was necessary then to teach these people the reality of salvation by faith. They had a lot of other things that they could look at in terms of New Testament literature to be taught that. Jesus said that salvation was by faith – that was clear – and not by works. The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear, Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace are you saved through faith.” Romans chapter 3, chapter 4, and all the way through indicates that salvation comes by faith alone. Scripture is replete with that emphasis. But the Jews are having a hard time being deprogrammed. Can we put it that way? They’re having a hard time being deprogrammed. So you’re going to have to show them something other than the New Testament.

They would like to be able to accept this reality of salvation by faith – rather than what, by works – coming from Christ, coming from the apostles, coming from Paul, coming from the New Testament writers. But isn’t it possible that there could be some other illustrations of salvation by faith from the Old Testament? This might get them across that barrier that seems to be so formidable for them and that is why the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is written. It is written because it is a necessity to prove to the Jews who are intellectually convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, that salvation is by faith and that people not only after Jesus but even before Jesus were saved by faith, by faith.

So in verse 38 of chapter 10, the writer of Hebrews states the key. “My righteous ones shall live by faith. My righteous ones shall live by faith.” That is a direct quote from Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 4, “The just, or the righteous one shall live by faith.” And Habakkuk is an Old Covenant prophet and you can’t shrink back from that. If he shrinks back, “My soul has no pleasure in him,” says the prophet. Verse 39, “But we are not of those who shrink back.” We don’t shrink back from this salvation by faith in Christ.

To shrink back is to end up in “destruction, but of those who have faith to the persevering of the soul.” The plea all the way along in these warning sections is don’t come all the way to Christ, sit on the edge and then reject salvation by faith and fall back into your old works/righteousness system. If you fall back, God has no pleasure in that and you will fall back into eternal destruction. Come all the way to faith in Christ for the eternal preserving of your soul.

Now how is he going to get this case across? How is he going to penetrate their sort of Old Testament thinking? The answer in chapter 11, by giving us a list of Old Testament saints whose lives were marked by faith. The true people of God through all the ages have become the true people of God by faith. Chapter 11 is loaded with illustrations. Just looking at verse 4, “By faith, Abel.” At verse 5, “By faith, Enoch.” At verse 7, “By faith, Noah.” Verse 8, “By faith Abraham.” And again in verse 17, “By faith Abraham.”

And in verse 20, “By faith, Isaac.” In verse 21, “By faith, Jacob.” Verse 22, “By faith, Joseph.” Twenty-three, “By faith, Moses,” and again in verse 24. Going down further, in verse 31, “By faith, Rahab.” And then in verse 32, “There’s Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, who by faith did all these amazing things.” Verse 39 sums it up, “All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

They didn’t receive what was promised, they trusted that it would come as it had been promised. And that’s exactly what I said is the definition of faith you want to work with. Faith is confident trust in the future God has promised. Faith is not some kind of power by which you create your future. It is the power of God given to you to trust in the promises God has made in Scripture. These people hadn’t received the promise and they trusted in the promise and thus they live by faith. It’s a great, great, monumental, powerful, powerful lesson.

Now we’re just going to kind of look at the opening three verses and then we’ll – we’ll do some character studies over the next Sunday evenings. But let’s just consider a few things. First is the nature of faith, and this is good because the writer gives us a sort of starting point, a kind of basic definition. It’s not really a formal definition of – of faith rather than a – rather it is a description of faith, kind of the basic elements or features that describe faith. And it’s very, very simple, look at verse 1. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

So the first thing we learn about faith is that it is trusting in what isn’t visible. It is trusting in what isn’t received. It is trusting in what isn’t experienced. It is trusting in something not yet manifest. Faith, belief, that’s a noun, the Greek word pistis. It is a noun, it means belief, trust, confidence, faith. And I love the fact that he uses a noun because it emphasizes the settled reality of this. It is a commodity that is possessed.

Certainly believing can be a verb, but we’re talking here not about some act of faith but we’re talking about the reality of a settled faith. It exists as a commodity. It is a gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 says, “not of works.” It comes from God. And when God gives this commodity of faith, it is the assurance of things hoped for. That’s what it means to live by faith. It doesn’t mean that – that we see something we want and bring it into existence. It means that we put our confidence in something not seen, convictions of things not seen.

Some of your translations will say, “Faith is the substance of things not seen.” That’s a great translation, I love that translation. Faith is the substance of things not seen. Substance is a word that has substance, doesn’t it? It does. It’s a word that you can take to the bank. It’s a word that you can sort of cash in on. It’s a word that basically can be legitimately translated substance, essence. That gives it reality. Faith is substantial confidence in the reality of something not realized. Faith gives present substance to something that is future.

As this chapter will show us, when it unfolds, in Old Testament times there were – well, all the saints, men and women who had nothing but the promises of God., nothing but the promises of God to rest on, nothing but the promises of God to hope for. No visible evidence that messianic promise would come true, no visible evidence that kingdom promise will come true. Yet the promises were so real and the revelation of those promises in Scripture so reliable that people built their entire hope on them. All the Old Testament promises related to the future.

That’s what it says at the end, at the end of the chapter. Those people who exercised this faith, exercised faith in what was promised that they did not receive. What would that be? Eternal life, heaven, everlasting bliss, reward, joy, reunion which is promised in the Old Testament of the saints in the presence of God? The very presence of God? The very likeness of God? I will – David says, “I look for the day when I will awake in Thy likeness.” The glories of eternal bliss…they didn’t see any of it here. They never even saw the ultimate sacrifice. They never knew who the Messiah was. They were people of faith but their faith was anchored in a reliable revelation from a God who cannot lie and so their faith gave substance to the future hope.

Now we’re on this side of the cross. But, folks, we understand this, don’t we? None of you has seen heaven and you don’t know anyone who’s been there and back except the Lord Himself. And yet, you have basically put your entire eternal destiny on the foundation, on the fact that the Scripture is reliable and what God has promised you can trust, right? And what that has done is created substance in the present tense for a future promise.

This is better than the best retirement plan you have ever heard of and we’ve lived long enough to know that they don’t provide what they promise, right? Faith is so strong, it is a gift of God, it is the gift of God that allows us to – listen – trust the Scripture. And in trusting the Scripture, to trust the gospel in the Scripture and thus trust Christ as Savior. That’s a package. I think we – we need to understand that. It wouldn’t do any good to trust in Christ as your savior unless you could trust the Scripture for everything that Him being your Savior means. Do you understand that?

You say, “Oh, I need to put my faith in Jesus as my Savior. What’s that going to bring me? What’s that going to deliver to me?” It’s going to deliver to you everything that the Bible promises it will deliver to you. And the Scripture is reliable and you believe it and I believe it because we have been given the faith to believe it. It is a gift from God. “Yeah, well that,” you say, “doesn’t –does that mean that Scripture can’t be proven to be true?” No, the Scripture can be proven to be true, which just strengthens our assurance, doesn’t it? But we know this to be a reliable Scripture and the promises of God are reliable, and so we put our trust in Christ because the things that come with trusting Christ can be trusted.

Faith then is that assurance, or that substance in the present tense of things hoped for. So, literally, what we hope for by way of revealed promise has substance right now and that substance is strong, I want you to know it’s strong. You – you stood there along with me tonight and you sang all those songs, right? You sang from the heart and you loved everything you were singing and you believed it, didn’t you? And it’s all about what is yet in the future. It’s all about your future.

But it has substance now. It has weight now. It provides assurance now so that you sing and you pray and you praise and you act and you live and you obey and you minister and you witness because this hoped for reality gives present weight to your life, substance. And frankly, this is against the grain of all the things that work in a fallen world, is it not? First of all, it’s against the grain of your own flesh. Is that not true?

So now that you believe these things and have put your trust in Christ and are now living a life based upon promises for the future that you haven’t seen that have so much weight that they control your life, what do you do? You live your life as a Christian battling against the flesh that is your natural expression. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just say, “Forget it, I’m just going to go with whatever I feel.” It would be a lot easier, right? It’s the way you used to live, like the godless Gentiles live, in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, what happened, whatever happens.

But you don’t live that way. You restrain the flesh. You restrict the flesh. You limit the pleasures. You fight against your fallenness. You resist sin, you run from it, you flee it. Why? Because you understand that there is a future reward and a future desire to come before the Lord and bring honor to His name by the life you’ve lived. So you, literally, have brought substance into your life by the things you hoped for in the future. Why do you have this kind of hope that’s so strong that it can change the way you live your life and that you live your life against the grain of your own fallen flesh? Because you believe in the truth of God’s revelation.

Why do you believe that? Because God has given you the faith to believe in that revealed Word and everything you ever study in that Word and all the evidences that come around that Word indicate that it, in fact, is true. You not only have such substance to this hope, that you live against the grain of your flesh, you live against the grain of the world. Everybody in the world is living a certain way and what are you trying to do? You’re trying to live in a completely opposite way.

You know, you’re like a – you’re – you’re like a – a person trying to fight your way through a massive crowd of millions of people who are all going in one direction and you’re going the other way. And yet – I mean, you’re getting trampled in the process. You may be trampled by your family, you may be trampled by the people at your school, at your work, you may be mistreated here and there. You’re going in to collision after collision after collision and to just make it more complicated, you have a responsibility in the process of trying to work your way through this mass of humanity going in the opposite direction of grabbing them here and there and trying to turn them around, bring them to the knowledge of Christ and get them on your side. What power this faith has. Wow!

This faith is so powerful, it gives such substance to your life that you live against the grain of your own fallenness and you live against the grain against the world of which you are a part. There’s a real sense in which you live against the grain of your own senses, your own senses because you can’t do what your natural senses tell you to do. If left to your own natural senses, you’d be out of control in every aspect of your life, would you not? Because those senses are never satisfied. You never have enough of anything cause if you see something else you want it, right? You want it.

This is what it means to have substance in the present based upon promises for the future. This is how we live our lives as Christians. This is what it means to live by faith. Faith furnishes the heart with firm support in the revealed promises of God. Faith believes God. It believes God as revealed in Scripture and that faith, Scripture says, is an anchor. Here we see it as an anchor, laid out in the experience of believers. Real faith gives us a confident substance in the present.

But I want to go beyond that. It is not just the assurance of the substance, or you could even translate it the evidence, elegchos, but it is also the conviction. That’s the word “evidence.” It’s the conviction, elegchos, of things not seen. This takes it a step further. It is the substance that becomes conviction. Maybe I should have picked that up a little bit earlier because it’s conviction that can – that basically defines how you live, okay? You can know something to be true, but until it becomes a conviction, you don’t put it really into action. So we have substance that has led to conviction.

What would make you live against the grain of your fallenness? What would make you live against the grain of the world? What would make you live against the grain of your own senses? What would – what would cause you to abandon everything for something you can’t see, for promises that have never been fulfilled? What would cause you to live this kind of life? A conviction, conviction. And implied in that conviction is a strong, strong commitment.

For example, borrowing from the chapter, what would make you build a boat in a desert because you were told it was going to rain when it had never rained in the history of the world? A conviction? Well, it would have to be more than just some kind of hope because you would have to spend 120 years building the boat. Can you imagine building a boat as Noah did for 120 years in the desert and dealing with the mockery of his neighbors? Some of you being mocked by your neighbors for a few days perhaps is more than you can handle.

What put his faith into action? There was such substance to what he had been told, he was so confident in the revelation of God to him that it became a conviction that he could literally live his life on. That’s what puts faith into action. He acted on it. And we’re going to see that’s really the story of the chapter, how all these people acted on faith. Because of revelation came action, because of substance came conviction.

Now we understand that in the human realm and we talk about this a lot. You know, we understand that we all live by faith. We drink water. We eat in restaurants. We go to the pharmacy and we drink whatever the pharmacist gives us, we are clueless what is in the bottle. We fly along the freeway at a furious pace and we expect that when the arrow goes this way, there’s an off ramp there and not a precipice. We trust the sign. We trust the people who put the signs up. Some parts of the world they don’t, for good reason. We trust the surgeon. That’s natural faith.

But that’s faith in things seen, isn’t it? Because we have, we have evidence, we have past history. All this has already been proven to be trustworthy. But when we’re talking about eternity, we’re talking about the unseen. When we talk about the future and heaven and all that is there for us in the promises of God, we’re talking about something that no one has experienced. There isn’t one person on the planet today that you can go to and say, “You’ve been to heaven and back, tell me about it.” Not one. But there are lots of folks who have been to the doctor and been to the pharmacy.

This is a supernatural gift. This is another kind of faith altogether, altogether. This is the way we live. We live on the promise given to us in the Scripture because we believe the Scripture is reliable. We believe it’s reliable because the evidence tells us it’s reliable and because the Spirit of God has planted in us a faith to believe in its trustworthiness. So that’s the nature of faith. A word about the testimony of faith, verse 2, and here the writer sort of introduces us to what is going to be the emphasis of the chapter. “For by it, the men of old gained approval.” Literally some translations, I think the King James says, “The elders,” meaning the Old Testament saints.

And this is where he sort of tips his approach here. He’s going to help these Jews who maybe are struggling a little bit with this idea of salvation by faith because they’ve come out of a works system, by pointing to the fact that this is in fact how the saints of old gained approval. The approval means praise, approbation. Why would we identify them as heroes of the faith? Why did the Jews identify them as heroes of the faith? Why did they look at Abel as nobler than Cain? Why did they look at Enoch as noble? Why did they look at Abraham as noble? Why did they look at Sarah as noble? Why did they look at the others, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, Joseph and all the rest? Because of their faith and that’s what he’s going to show throughout this chapter.

This is not a new concept. The great heroes of the faith, the saints of old lived by faith. Abel believed God regarding sacrifice, acted on faith that what God said was true and what God expected was the path of blessing. He did what God told him because God told him this is what to do and I’ll bless you. And he did it and was, of course, received and approved. Enoch believed God so much so that he didn’t die. God was so pleased with him that one day he took a walk and walked right into the presence of God and skipped the dying part. Noah believed God and because of it God granted to him righteousness and God vindicated him, brought about what God had promised but spared him and his family. Abraham and

Sarah believed God for a child and God fulfilled the promise. We’ll learn about Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and everybody else, all who believed God and were approved by all who knew them. The record of the Old Testament stands as testimony to their faith. They trusted in what they couldn’t see. They lived their lives based upon promises God made to them, and certainly God approved of that and they were rightfully honored by the people of the past and even remained the heroes of the faith. God’s Word made their hope real. And based upon what God had told them, they lived obediently by faith and are rightly honored as heroes.

In Acts chapter 7 in verse 54, it says, “When they heard this, they were cut to the quick,” – this is the preaching of Stephen – “they began gnashing their teeth at him. Being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;” – that’s the first glimpse of heaven by a saint – “and he said, ‘I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” I’m glad he saw that, aren’t you? I’m glad he recorded that in his sermon and I’m glad the Spirit of God let Luke put it down in holy Scripture because that’s eyewitness evidence of who is standing and waiting for us when it’s our time to enter into heaven. But this is new. This is a whole new experience.

“They cried out with a loud voice,” – the people did – “covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” – later known as Paul – “went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.”

Every one of the saints of old who lived in hope perhaps would love to have had that moment experience and maybe some of them did. It’s not recorded. But I’m so glad for the testimony of Stephen that what he anticipated to be true was in fact true. Heaven was reality. The glory of God was there and Jesus was waiting for the faithful to come into His presence. Every one of us, every saint of old who has ever lived by faith would find great comfort in the testimony of Stephen.

So, the nature of faith. It is confident trust in the future promised by God in Scripture. The testimony of faith, it has always been the testimony of the saints, Old Testament and beyond. It was by faith that the men of old gained approval, not only from God but they became the heroes of the faith because of their faith, believing in what they had not yet seen or experienced.

And then there is, finally, an illustration of faith, the first one that he gives. And he gathers us all into the illustration in verse 3. “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Now this is a wonderful little illustration. We could spend an awful lot of time on this. And by the way, the whole creation conference on the weekend really will draw from the reality of this verse.

But understand this, the point being made here is something critical to us. We live in faith that looks forward to what God has promised, okay? This illustration takes us back and gives us a foundation for faith looking forward. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. That looks back at creation. Creation is things seen in the universe, made out of things unseen. That’s creation. Creation is ex nihilo, God made the whole universe out of what? Nothing. What is seen was not made out of anything that was visible. So out of the invisible came the visible, out of nothing came everything. We understand that by faith.

You say, “Why – why do we understand that by faith?” Because we weren’t there, right? You say, “Well I can’t live by faith. I can’t – I can’t conduct my life by faith.” Well try this on. The world exists, the universe exists. By faith we understand that God created it by His Word. Now where do we place our faith? In the revelation of God written in Genesis chapter 1 and 2 which tells us that God created the universe by His Word, right? “Let there be light, and there was light.” He spoke everything into existence and the record is in Genesis 1.

So we have an opportunity to place our faith in something in the past as a foundation to place our faith in something in the future. We can look at the effect which is he universe; we understand that it exists. Anybody with half a brain has to understand that it had to have been created out of nothing, there – there had to be a starting point, there had to be a time when there was nothing. That time then ended when God created the universe. By faith we understand how that happened. Our faith is in the revelation of Scripture. By faith you understand that it happened, anybody, any – really, any person who doesn’t just hate God and hate Christianity has to say somebody did this. You say that when you look at a watch, don’t you? Why not a universe? I mean, how obvious.

But the person who just understands that it happened doesn’t know how. Only the person who puts his faith in the Scripture understands how. By the Word of God. So by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God. Why? Because that’s what the Scripture says and that’s a reality, isn’t it? Scripture says – now follow the thought. Scripture says God created it, we live in it and we can see the evidences of His creation. So the fact that we can look back and see that God described His creation, told us how He made it and has left His imprint on it and we are now living in that creation gives us the opportunity to have a foundation for believing in the future.

What God said in Genesis brought about the universe and we now live in it and experience it and know its reality. And we can trust that the same God who spoke this into existence by His Word has said that He has spoken another world into existence which awaits us and that we will one day experience that world. We experience this world which God spoke into existence, we will experience the world which He has spoken into existence in the glory of the supernatural realm.

We can trust Him for that as He is the source of that in the same way He’s the source of this. It’s not really a stretch. There’s really no other way to explain the universe than to say that God created it. No other way. And here we live in a world created by the Word of God, described in detail in Genesis 1 and 2. All true science confirms the creative hand of God in the complexity of this universe.

So we live now in a universe created by the Word of God, we see His imprint on it and that is the foundation by which we trust that God will, in the future, have waiting for us another universe in the glory of His presence, also promised by His creative power. Well there’s more that could be said about verse 3 but maybe that’s enough to get us there. We all live by faith. All of us who are believers, we trust God. We trust God as Creator of this world and we trust Him as the Creator of the world to come for those who know Him and love Him.

Father, we thank You that as we think about beginning to look at the concept of faith, the essence of faith, the power of faith, it all really begins with You and we don’t need to wonder and grasp and hope for some illustration that Your Word can be trusted. Rather we have the revelation of Scripture, a revelation that is true, trustworthy, tested for centuries and centuries and centuries.

We have the great evidence of Your power revealed in this temporal physical creation as evidence of your power to create that eternal spiritual creation in the glory of the heaven that is to come. Grant us, Lord, ever – ever-growing faith, ever-strengthened faith and may we not doubt but grow strong in faith. Giving glory to You, we pray. Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-381

Bible app banned as Muslim extremism surges

National policy of religious tolerance facing headwinds

A decision to prevent citizens of Indonesia from being able to access a Bible application for cell phones and mobile devices is sparking arguments amid that nation’s openly tolerant campaign to allow people to choose their own faith and practice it.

The worldwide Christian ministry Barnabas Fund is reporting that the Bible application for the Minangkabau people was removed from the Google Play Store for residents of Indonesia following a demand from Irwan Prayitno, the governor of West Sumatra.

He claimed it was causing discomfort in the Minangkabau people who are living in his province, the majority of whom are Muslim.

Only about 1.43% of the people there, about 69,000, are Christian.

The Indonesian Ulema Council supported the censorship by the nation’s Communication and Information Ministry, with a statement of secretary general Anwar Abbas that said, “The guidance of the Minangkabau people is not the Bible. Hopefully there will not be a Bible [published] in the Minangkabau language.”

“The decision to ban the Minangkabau Bible App failed to take into account the rights of Minangkabau Christians,” the Barnabas Fund reported.

And the decision was criticized by the chief of the nation’s longtime Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education, which advocates for tolerance.

That agency’s opinion is that holy books could be translated into any language as long as they were not misinterpreted.

The chief of the agency said, “Every individual is given the freedom to observe their beliefs as long as they do not cause disruption in the public. And, of course, some of the residents of West Sumatra are also Christian, and the governor himself is governor to everyone, not a certain ethnicity or religious belief.”

Pancasila is a formal doctrine instituted in Indonesia to encourage tolerance for religions – and discourage extremism. It prevailed for many years, with Christians and Muslims living as equals. That started changing only a few years ago.

Then, Barnabas Fund reported, the nation saw “a rise in hard-line Islamic ideology in recent years. A generation ago, Muslims and Christians lived peaceably as equals in accordance with Pancasila.”

“In 2019, the government took several steps to counter the spread of fundamentalism by urging members of the public to report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material.”

That battle against “hard-line Islamist ideology” includes requests to the public to “report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material,” Barnabas Fund said.

Indonesian Communications Minister Johnny G. Plate said the intention was “to bring together and improve the performance of our civil servants, as well as to foster higher levels of nationalism.”

Indonesia has the world’s biggest population of Muslims, and reports suggest that 19% of civil servants and 3% of military personnel favor an Indonesia under Islamic rule. About 18% of private employees and 23% of students share the view.

Bible app banned as Muslim extremism surges

Right Around Here

Right Around Here

By David Jeremiah

There’s a famous story about a prospector who sold his farm so he could look for diamonds. He wore himself out searching the world for the mother lode, finally dying in despair. Later, the man who had bought the prospector’s farm saw a flashing stone in the backyard stream. He fished it out, admired it, and put it on his mantel as an interesting curiosity. A visitor identified it as a diamond of remarkable size. The farmer recalled seeing other such stones in his creek, and his farm became one of the most productive diamond mines of all time.

The first man traveled the world looking for acres of diamonds when they were in his own backyard the whole time.

There are acres of needs in your own back yard.

SHARE ON:We don’t always have to travel afar to find the delights we seek. Sometimes they’re in our own backyard. It’s remarkable how much money we spend taking in the wonders of distant places, while at the same time overlooking nearby points of interest—natural beauties, fun drives, local history, unexplored backroads, nearby attractions, pleasant neighbors, and neighborhood restaurants.

The same dynamic is true when it comes to living in confidence in a chaotic world. We long to make sense of it all and solve the global problems we see at a distance—they certainly need our attention. When we think of the staggering needs of nearly eight billion people across seven vast continents, we’re overwhelmed. The world is distressed, and the combined burdens of humanity can weigh heavily on us.

But remember—the world starts at our doorstep, and that’s where to begin serving the Lord. That’s the pattern Jesus suggested in Acts 1:8: “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Our influence should begin in our own Jerusalem—our own home and our own hometown.

Just as there are undiscovered sites around you, there are uncovered needs closer at hand than you realize. There are acres of needs in your own back yard. A part of the ultimate staycation is looking around to see how God can use you “right around here.”

God’s Plan for the World Begins With You

Every stranger is a potential mission field.

SHARE ON:Psalm 139:16 says that all our days were written down in advance in God’s book. The important thing isn’t what we’re going to do for the Lord at a later time or in another place. We’re to serve Him today, right here, where we are.

I read about a man who wanted to plant a church, but his dreams didn’t work out. To make ends meet, he started driving for Uber and Lyft. He soon learned God wanted him to love every single person who got into his car. “I just tried to display the goodness of God to my riders,” he said. “Every day, I felt challenged to plant seeds for the Lord with each rider.”

When he picks someone up, he starts a general conversation, asking the Holy Spirit to guide the way, and he takes the Gospel conversation as far as seems wise. “I’ve given rides to alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, atheists, sick people…. I’ve bought people meals to help them feel loved, cleaned them up after they passed out, and had hour-long discussions after we reach their destination.” He now thinks of his car as a mobile sanctuary.1

God is present right where you are—right around here.

SHARE ON:It can work the other way too. I have a friend who keeps small New Testaments with him and he looks for opportunities to give them to Uber and Lyft drivers, along with a generous tip. “Maybe you have some downtime between riders,” he says. “Let me give you something interesting to read.”

We simply need to pray each morning: “Lord, what do You want me to do today?”

God’s Plan for the World Starts at Home

That kind of attitude starts at home, right where we live. “Lord, how can I serve my family today? What do you want me to do under my own roof?” One woman I know had a sign over her kitchen sink that read: “Divine Service Conducted Here Three Times a Day.” Those who share your roof need your divine service, your godly cheer, and love.

Even those who live alone are nevertheless homemakers, and the environment around us reflects what’s happening within us. Building a clean, cheerful surrounding reflects the nature of God who surrounds us with the beauty of nature.

Now more than ever you can serve others without even leaving your home. Notes, messages, video calls, social media platforms, cooking, baking, and entertaining—all these can become rich ministries. Long before the Lord’s Church expanded to Samaria, Caesarea, Antioch, or Rome, the believers in Jerusalem were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house,” as “they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46).

God’s Plan for the World Involves Nearby Strangers

You probably have strangers near at hand too, maybe more strangers than acquaintances. Every stranger is a potential mission field. One day, a lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus told a story about a traveler who was attacked by thieves only to be left bleeding in a ditch. The one who saw him, cared for him, and helped him recover—that was his neighbor. 

In other words, the neighbor we’re to love might be the needy stranger we pass. I’m not saying we should necessarily give money to every homeless soul at every intersection. We have to help others in the wisest way—but help we should! The needs at our doorsteps are greater than ever, and God can give us the wisdom and wherewithal to be like the Good Samaritan on a daily basis.

Along the way, we’ll be sharing the message of Jesus. Some years ago in Shanghai, a young man named Will Wang wanted to improve his English, so he struck up a friendship with an American expat named Nick. One day, Nick told him, “I used to be a pretty bad man on the streets…. It is [the] God of the Bible who has transformed me into what I am today.” As Nick spoke openly of his faith in Christ, Wang was impressed. But having grown up an atheist, he resisted the Gospel. Later Wang moved to Detroit for university studies. Here he met more Christians, but he still felt that the Bible was a book of fairy tales.

One day Wang filled up his car with gasoline and drove off, leaving his wallet on top of his vehicle. He lost $900 in cash, along with all his credit cards and ID. In his frustration, Wang blamed God for the loss. But the next day a man showed up in the dormitory, asking for him. The man had found Wang’s wallet and was returning it. Wong thanked the man profusely, but he asked, “Why would you return my wallet back to me with the money in it? Most people wouldn’t return it.”

“I’m a Christian,” the man said. “God wants us to love each other as brothers and sisters. I hope what I have done to you today, you will do to others one day.”

That encounter led to something more than a wallet. It led Wang to receive the riches of the Lord Jesus Christ. “It was a divine set up,” Wang said. “It immediately changed my heart at the moment. I felt so touched, and at that moment I instantly believed in God.” The young Asian man was baptized and soon began leading a Bible study.2

We can reach foreign nations “right around here” on our doorstep, sometimes just by staying the course, being honest and loving to strangers, as Jesus was. If you can’t cross the ocean with a passport in your hand, perhaps you can cross the street with a pie and a smile.

T. S. Eliot once said, “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started.” Most people enjoy traveling, but often our travels are restricted—by financial limitations, health concerns, world conditions, tight schedules, or providential hindrances. It’s of no concern. In serving the Lord, you don’t have to be anywhere but where you are right now. Look around. God is present right where you are—right around here.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the world, but be burdened for your neighborhood. It’s full of diamonds in the rough—people who need to be discovered and loved. They are in your own backyard.

1“The Mobile Sanctuary,” The Christian Heart, November 9, 2020, https://thechristianheart.com/the-mobile-sanctuary/.
2Roxy Photenhaur, “Lost and found wallet filled with cash led to faith,” God Reports, December 7, 2020, http://godreports.com/2020/12/lost-and-found-wallet-filled-with-cash-led-to-faith/.

https://www.davidjeremiah.org/magazine/article/right-around-here-252

1st Amendment Victory: SCOTUS Strikes Down Philadelphia Law Forcing Same-Sex Adoption at Catholic Org

SCOTUS
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

HANNAH BLEAU 17 Jun 2021

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Thursday unanimously overturned a lower court ruling regarding the City of Philadelphia barring foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services due to its unwillingness to endorse same-sex couples.

In a 9-0 judgment, SCOTUS held that the City of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for the provision of foster care services unless the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It came about after Philadelphia stopped foster children from being placed with the Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on the basis of its beliefs and practices on traditional marriage.

“Philadelphia took this extraordinary action not in response to any legal violation, nor in response to any complaint it received, but because of CSS’s religious beliefs and practices regarding marriage, which City officials read about in the local paper,” the petitioner’s brief reads, noting the Third Circuit ruled in favor of Philadelphia, considering the city’s actions “neutral.”

“The City will renew its foster care contract with CSS only if the agency agrees to certify same-sex couples. The question presented is whether the actions of Philadelphia violate the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, in which he ultimately determined the city’s action did so.

The city’s actions, he wrote, “burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” noting the city’s dissent of that opinion.

“In its view, certification reflects only that foster parents satisfy the statutory criteria, not that the agency endorses their relationships. But CSS believes that certification is tantamount to endorsement. And religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection,” he wrote.

Central to Philadelphia’s defense was that the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision Employment Division v. Smith held that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment applies when the government discriminates against religion, not to laws that generally apply to everyone regardless of religion. The city points out that under its anti-discrimination law, the Fair Practices Ordinance, everyone has to treat same-sex marriages the same as traditional marriages, and says that makes it a neutral law of general application.

The Court ultimately rejected the city’s argument that CSS’s practice violated a section of “its standard foster care contract, determining that the provision is not generally applicable as required by Smith.”

Roberts, in his opinion, determined that the city offered “no compelling reason why it has a particular interest in denying an exception to CSS while making them available to others.”

“As Philadelphia acknowledges, CSS has long been a point of light in the City’s foster care system. CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else,” Roberts wrote.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” he added.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, concurred in the Court’s judgment only, determining that Philadelphia issued “an ultimatum to an arm of the Catholic Church: Either engage in conduct that the Church views as contrary to the traditional Christian understanding of marriage or abandon a mission that dates back to the earliest days of the Church — providing for the care of orphaned and abandoned children.”

“There can be no doubt that Philadelphia’s ultimatum restricts CSS’s ability to do what it believes the Catholic faith requires,” he wrote.

But they also took their views a step further, determining that the case serves as the latest example of Smith acting as a plague on the Constitution, triggering mounting issues in religious liberty cases. As such, he wrote, the Court should overrule Smith “without further delay.”

“This decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops. The City has been adamant about pressuring CSS to give in, and if the City wants to get around today’s decision, it can simply eliminate the never-used exemption power. If it does that, then, voilà, today’s decision will vanish — and the parties will be back where they started,” he asserted, noting the Court should “reconsider Smith without further delay,” as its interpretation of the Free Exercise clause is “hard to defend” and cannot be “squared with the ordinary meaning of the text of the Free Exercise Clause or with the prevalent understanding of the scope of the free-exercise right at the time of the First Amendment’s adoption.”

Gorsuch also wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment, joined by Thomas and Alito.

“As Justice Alito’s opinion demonstrates, Smith failed to respect this Court’s precedents, was mistaken as a matter of the Constitution’s original public meaning, and has proven unworkable in practice,” he said, noting many of their colleagues seek to “sidestep” the greater questions regarding Smith, unanimously ruling in favor of CSS but refusing to address Smith and its implications today.“Smith committed a constitutional error. Only we can fix it. Dodging the question today guarantees it will recur tomorrow. These cases will keep coming until the Court musters the fortitude to supply an answer,” he wrote. “Respectfully, it should have done so today.”

The case is Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, No. 19-123 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/06/17/scotus-unanimous-philadelphias-refusal-place-foster-children-catholic-social-services-violates-first-amendment/


VIDEO Abraham’s covenant was confirmed by obedience

Elizabeth Farah presents her latest installment of DIY Bible Study

There is an obsessive desire of many pastors, theologians and teachers to downgrade the marriage covenant of Mt. Sinai and Deuteronomy to a low status as compared to God’s covenant announced to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Let’s just look at the scriptures!

There is an obsessive desire of many pastors, theologians and teachers to downgrade the marriage covenant of Mt. Sinai and Deuteronomy to a low status as compared to God’s covenant announced to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the Messianic King covenant given to David and the New Marriage Covenant announced through Ezekiel and Jeremiah. We won’t discuss the “why” in this video but, we will look at one contrivance among many to achieve that distortion of truth.

“Unlike the “Mosaic Covenant” the “Abrahamic Covenant” was unconditional.” This is ashamefully ignorant or deliberately deceptive teaching by men who, according to their credentials, should know better. Have they studied the life of Abraham and the 50-year-period of the establishing of that covenant. How many times did the Lord say that the CONDITION of the making of that covenant was based on Abraham’s obedience to YHVH’s (Father, Son, Spirit) commandments, statutes and laws being obeyed by Abraham. Not only that, it was conditional on Abraham TEACHING his sons and household afterward to do the same!

This false doctrine matters. It effects all teaching of all covenants. It is so clearly and demonstrably false that one can only point to ignorance (shameful given the clarity of the word of God), negligence (again shameful), or deliberate deception with the motivation of affirming a denomination or systematic theological construct — the traditions of men.

Let’s just look at the scriptures!

VIDEO Gene Simmons Defends Tim Tebow, Slams His Critics in Viral Tweet: “Shame on the NFL & Rest of the World”

gene simmons

Gene Simmons, lead singer and bassist for rock band Kiss, is once again coming to the defense of Tim Tebow, calling out the former football player’s critics on Twitter.

Simmons posted the comment along with a TMZ article announcing Tebow’s potential one-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“I support Tim Tebow,” Simmons tweeted on May 11. “He was widely criticized and made fun of, simply because he is a man of faith, who believed in his Christian values. Shame on the NFL and the rest of the world for stooping so low.”

The 33-year-old athlete, who tied the knot with Demi-Leigh Nel Peters last year, has been the target of hateful criticism in both his college and pro career.

Known for taking a knee in reverence to God, and wearing Bible verses like John 16:33 on his eye paint during games, Tebow was readily made a mockery by the NFL and the public at large.

John Oliver, “Daily Show” comedian, even once infamously stated: “I dislike [Zimbabwe dictator] Robert Mugabe. I hate Tim Tebow. If I was in a room with Tim Tebow and bin Laden, and I had a gun with one bullet, I’d shoot bin Laden. I’m not a monster. But if I had two bullets, I’d shoot Tim Tebow first.”

A popular “SNL” skit poked fun at Tebow’s “prayer bow” before games, and a handful of the former quarterback’s fellow football players joined together to complete the comedic act.

The moral standards that went along with Tebow’s faith, like saving sex for marriage, were equally harassed for years. Being a 30-year-old male virgin was just insanity to the secular, sex-crazed culture. The world lost its mind when Tebow was allegedly dumped by a former Miss Universe because he wouldn’t have sex with her. 

Thankfully, there have been a handful of influential figureheads that have stood up for Tebow, championing him for his strong faith rather that ridiculing him. This isn’t the first time Gene Simmons has defended Tebow.

In fact, in a 2013 interview that has since gone viral, Simmons boldly stated, “Here’s a man who believes in God and people pick on him. If he was a Jew, or a Muslim and you did that—people would never dare. But for some reason if he’s a Christian, you’re allowed to pick on him.”

And the Kiss singer didn’t stop there, as he declared the irresponsibility of journalists to be the “height of lunacy.”


“It’s the height of lunacy, and those journalists should be held accountable,” he continued. “They’re never gonna pick on a guy who tortures dogs or has perhaps gone to jail for murder, but if he believes in Christ his Lord, then it’s open season. It’s like what country are we living in?”

Wow, Simmons NAILED it there! Kudos to the Kiss rocker for stepping up to this godly man’s defense. Can’t wait to see what God has in store for Tim Tebow next!


Faith is now more essential than ever

Exclusive: Chuck Norris shares favorite story from his popular ‘Fact Book

This last year under COVID has been as suffocating for most as a continuous martial arts headlock. Government overreach has become in vogue, cloaked under the umbrella of virus restraint. Our liberties have been stifled like never before. And Americans’ losses have been astronomical through employment losses, business closures and a vast array of other personal loss, diseases of despair, etc. (If you haven’t, please read my previous column, “7 dire consequences and collateral damages from extended lockdowns.”)

At this point, most Americans are willing to risk moving forward while opening society and keeping their own loved ones safe. One more proof of that comes from a new Pew research poll that says “4 in 10 U.S. Christians plan to attend in-person Easter services.” In fact, an earlier Pew poll revealed that 25% of Americans say their faith has grown amid the pandemic.

Science even backs their spiritual growth and decisions. The Harvard School of Public Health published a fantastic article in 2020, “Regularly attending religious services associated with lower risk of deaths of despair.”(Experts estimate that at least 150,000 Americans will die from deaths of despair, which they now know are being “fueled” by up to a 60 percent increase from pandemic fallout and collateral damages – something the CDC and mainstream media rarely if ever report on.)

The Harvard article states: “People who attended religious services at least once a week were significantly less likely to die from ‘deaths of despair,’ including deaths related to suicidedrug overdose, andalcohol poisoning, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.” (Please underscore those three words: “significantly less likely.”)

Unfortunately, over the entire last year, most governors (like California’s Gov. Newsom) deemed religious gatherings as “non-essential.” They have had little if any regard for America’s constitutional Bill of Rights and are ignorant of the power of religion to help. In California’s case, it took the U.S. Supreme Court to spank Newsom by forcing him to allow churches to meet like other businesses.

TRENDING: The 1 precious secret to eternal life

All of our governing officials need to wake up, follow the Harvard science, and quit fueling diseases and deaths of despair. When they shut down churches and other centers of faith, they are literally closing spiritual hospitals. They are not just essential but lifesavers.

The truth is, especially as we walk into Holy Week around the world, faith is more essential than ever. The roles of faith and religion remain central to humanity’s success and society’s civility, as George Washington so eloquently conveyed in his Farewell Address. (We need more Washingtons in Washington!)

Based upon the preceding, Holy Week provided our country and the world with opportunities to infuse and empower our health in mind, body and spirit. Easter brings unique help and hope in its message to the darkest times, like the sun’s rays bursting through the stormiest clouds. Is there a better time for it than now?

I’m not a preacher nor do I pretend to be. Though we respect all religions and those who adhere to them, my wife, Gena, and I are Christians, and our faith is the primary anchor for our souls. It’s the one thing that offers us true peace, hope and a remedy against fear, especially through hard times.

This seems like an awkward time for humor, but even novice psychologists would tell us that “laughter is still the best medicine.” Humor won’t eradicate a virus, but it will encourage a downcast spirit. Even on the battlefields of war, levity can leverage greater joy and steadiness.

In fact, it was primarily for our troops during the Iraq war that I wrote my “Official Chuck Norris Fact [Joke] Book.” In it are my 101 favorite “Chuck Norris Facts” or memes and stories about my life.

“Chuck Norris Facts” started over a decade ago and are still even being quoted and created today. For example, someone sent me this one a few months ago: “Chuck Norris contracted the coronavirus. Now the virus is in quarantine for 14 days!” That’s funny, and I’d be overjoyed to reduce the power of any virus anytime and anywhere. But the truth is, even humor is ill-equipped to bring relief when COVID cripples an elderly person or family.

So, let me quote from what I believe is the most inspirational story and my most favorite entry in my book. It’s the last one: No. 101, and it’s fitting to repeat for this Holy Week. I’m quoting it verbatim. You’ll see why.

#101
“Chuck Norris’s tears can cure cancer. It’s too bad he’s never cried.”

Let’s be honest …

If my tears could cure cancer, I would cry a million of them. Of course, that is only wishful thinking. But I do know of a substance that can cure the soul.

Mom raised my brothers and me in the Christian faith. We didn’t just attend church and Sunday school (which she taught, by the way); she also read to us from the Bible, prayed with us, and modeled a life of love. Nothing was forced down our throats – it was just lived out in front of us every day. I am who I am today because of my mom’s influence. [She’ll be 100 years young on May 4! Here’s her autobiography.]

I was twelve years old when I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and was baptized at Calvary Baptist Church, where our family attended. As a young man, I recommitted my life to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles.

I’ve always maintained my faith throughout my martial arts, movie, and television careers, but there was also a time when I lost my way. As resilient as I thought I was, I swallowed the hook of the Hollywood lifestyle.

Mom continued to pray for me throughout those years, and I’m convinced that’s how and why God brought Gena into my life. She is a beacon of God’s light and love, just as my mom is. Gena brought me back to my childhood faith – in which compromise was unbecoming, transparency was a virtue, humility was required, and belief was daily practiced. We’ve always respected all religions and those who hold differing beliefs, but we are unashamed Christians.

On Easter Sunday 2009, I experienced another highlight in my spiritual life. I recommitted my life to Christ yet again, but this time with my household. Gena, our eight-year-old twins at the time, and I all recommitted our lives to Christ and were baptized together by our chaplain. What an absolute joy it was to watch my loved ones go into those sacred waters on our Texas ranch and to hear them affirm their belief and recommitment to follow Jesus.

Watching them, I thought about the place in the Bible where Paul and Silas were miraculously freed from a jail cell. The jailer was so moved by the event that he asked them, “What must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” Then the jailer and all his family were baptized.

As our chaplain leaned me back and fully immersed me in the water, I thought about all I had been through in my life and all I still wanted my life to be. I felt renewed, refreshed, and cleansed, with the waters that are a symbol of Christ’s forgiving blood. As I came up with water flowing off my head and body, I prayed as my mom has prayed every day of her life: “For your glory, Lord. For your glory!”

Every Easter I reminisce about our baptisms. Every Easter is a powerful reminder of a day that changed history, and I’m not talking about the bunny. The physical Resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian religion and our personal faith. It reset the course of humanity and has indelibly changed the hearts and souls of billions, including Gena and me. It has also given us our hope for the afterlife and a time when this world will be finally set right with God as its only King.

Our friend, spiritual mentor and prolific Christian author, Randy Alcorn, who has recently deeply struggled with his beloved wife Nanci’s battle with cancer, explained it in an almost poetic and perfect way:

“Hope is the light at the end of life’s tunnel. It not only makes the tunnel endurable, it fills the heart with anticipation of the world into which we will one day emerge. Not just a better world, but a new and perfect world. A world alive, fresh, beautiful, devoid of pain and suffering and war, a world without disease, without accident, without tragedy. A world without dictators and madmen. A world ruled by the only one worthy of ruling.”(Bold mine.)

Now, that’s great Easter news and chicken soup for every soul!

(If you struggle, doubt or want to explore faith and spiritual issues more, I encourage you to download this FREE E-copy of the book, “God Questions: Exploring Life’s Greatest Questions About God,” which tackles tough questions about God and gives evidence to support it. Please click HERE. Another upcoming, inspiring and insightful book and resource on the Bible by Joe Kovacs to watch out for and acquire when it is published is: “Reaching God Speed: Unlocking the Secret Broadcast Revealing the Mystery of Everything.”)

VIDEO Dennis Quaid Stars in New Netflix Film ‘Blue Miracle’ Based on Inspiring True Story of Faith

By Bri Lamm -May 6, 2021

Dennis Quaid is making a splash back into our television sets later this month in a new Netflix film perfect for the entire family!

The movie, “Blue Miracle,” is based on the true story of Casa Hogar, a Mexican orphanage that is struggling to stay afloat after Hurricane Odile struck Mexico’s southern Baja California peninsula in 2014. Much of the area was destroyed, including parts of the orphanage, leaving the young boys living at Casa Hogar feeling hopeless and alone.

“Maybe God just wanted to get all the unluckiest kids in one building so he can crush us all out,” says one of the orphan in the movie trailer as they await the storm’s arrival.

In order to keep their home, the boys and their caretaker, Omar Venegas (Jimmy Gonzales) enter Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournament, a fishing competition that pays out millions of dollars in prize money.

The boys and Omar team up with self-professed “two-time champion of Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournament” Wade Malloy (Dennis Quaid), who’s told he doesn’t qualify for the tournament unless he teams up with a local fisherman.

The unlikely competitors set out to sea in hopes of saving the orphanage and overcoming adversity—even with the odds stacked against them.

Producer Ben Howard calls the film a “remarkable true story of how Omar and his boys managed to pull together and achieve what seemed like the impossible and their incredible story will no doubt win the hearts of audiences around the world.”

Blue Miracle premieres worldwide on Netflix on May 27.

An Ordinary Girl of Extraordinary Faith

by Simonetta Carr

As sixteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey stood on the scaffold on a gray winter morning, she looked calmly out over the crowd of spectators. Then, mustering the strength she had asked God to provide, she spoke with such a poise and conviction that even her executioners were moved.

After a brief and customary admission of guilt (all those condemned to death had to admit to the justice of their punishment), Jane emphasized what mattered to her more than anything in the world. “I pray you all, good Christian people,” she said, “to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by none other means but only by the mercy of God and the merits of the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ.” She confessed some past sins, particularly love of self and the world, thanked God for His mercy, then asked for prayer, but was careful to add, “while I am alive,” thereby pointing out the futility of the Roman Catholic belief in prayer for the dead.

Jane had ruled England for less than two weeks, during one of the most turbulent times of its history. Young King Edward VI had just died of a pulmonary illness, leaving unconfirmed orders for the installment of Jane to the throne. Taking advantage of strong popular support, Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s firstborn, swiftly gathered her forces to claim her rights to the crown. Jane was arrested, confined to a section of the Tower of London, tried, and found guilty of treason. Initially, Mary seemed bent on showing mercy. That was until Jane’s father was caught as part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government. At that point, Jane became too great a risk to Mary’s reign. As long as she was alive, someone could try to free her and set her up again as queen. Her death sentence was sealed.

We know relatively little of Jane’s life until Edward’s death and the enactment of his will, but she emerges as a typical teenager from the few documents available. Her early letters reflect a simple desire to move away from home and a pleasing demonstration of literary skill. Her often romanticized complaint that her parents didn’t appreciate her love for higher studies sounds, in reality, like a teenager’s attempt to elicit sympathy at a time of personal frustration. Even her teacher, John Aylmer, had serious concerns when she started to display a seemingly vain interest in fashion and music.

Strangely, it’s in this ordinariness that we may find the greatest encouragement for ourselves and our children. When this very normal young girl had to face sudden humiliation, imprisonment, and eventually death, the Scriptures and theology she had consistently and almost inconspicuously learned, day after day, as a young girl—mostly in church, school, and family devotions—took prominence in her life.

Her theological training stands out particularly in her account of a three-day discussion with John Feckenham, an abbot sent by Queen Mary to persuade Jane to accept the Roman Catholic faith. Utterly convinced that “faith only saveth,” Jane confidently and passionately dismantled Feckenham’s arguments regarding the mass by pointing out that Christ sacrificed Himself once and for all on the cross and that He was offering an ordinary piece of bread while present in body with the disciples when He said, “This is my body” (Luke 22:19).

Her familiarity with Scriptures is also obvious in the letters she wrote during her imprisonment, particularly one to Thomas Harding, her former chaplain, who had renounced his faith in the gospel. In just one paragraph of that boldly explicit message, she very naturally quoted about eleven Bible verses.

Finally, her last letter to her younger sister Katherine echoes the words of comfort and instruction Jane must have heard in her younger years:

Desire, sister, to understand the law of the Lord your God. Live to die, that by death you may enter into eternal life, and then enjoy the life that Christ has gained for you by His death. Don’t think that just because you are now young, your life will be long, because young and old die as God wills. . .. Deny the world, defy the devil, despise the flesh, and delight yourself only in the Lord. Repent of your sins, and yet don’t despair. Be strong in faith, and yet don’t presume. With St. Paul, desire to die and to be with Christ, with whom, even in death, there is life.

Jane inscribed the same phrase that she wrote to her sister—”Live to die, that by death you may enter into eternal life”—in the dedication of her book of prayers that she left to her jailer. In her last days, her death as a Christian was the only thing that mattered, and she embraced that task with diligence and devotion.

It’s sometimes easy to see ourselves or our children as the younger Jane—attending almost routinely or even distractedly to the means of grace and the study of God’s Word, seeing little fruit—but Jane’s life is an encouragement to persevere. If we are grounded in the gospel and sound theology, trials will not catch us unprepared. They will strengthen the faith that “comes from hearing,” while “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion” (Rom. 10:17Phil. 1:6).

Simonetta Carr is the author of numerous books and biographies, including her newest book Anselm of Canterbury, which is part of the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.

Prisoners of Hope

To be incarcerated physically I’m told is difficult to deal with. Locked up for hours per day, cut off from loved ones and surround by darkness and evil. Do you know that many of us are in prison in our minds. What about you? Are you in an emotional prison right now? You may not have thought about it that way, but if you are holding unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone who has wronged you — whether it was five, ten or thirty years ago — that is an emotional prison.  

God’s Word promises that if you’ll step out of that prison and become a prisoner of hope, He will restore back to you double for your trouble! That means if someone wrongs you, instead of getting negative and bitter, your attitude should be, “they just did me a favour. They just qualified me for double!” That’s the attitude of a prisoner of hope.  

Today, lock into an attitude of victory that says, “I won’t be defeated! Things may look impossible, but I know God can do the impossible. I may have been treated wrongly, but I’m not worried. I know God is my vindicator. It may be taking a long time, but in due season, I know I will reap if I just don’t give up.” Stay strong and in the place of hope today, knowing that you will come out with double! Hallelujah! 

“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.”(Zechariah 9:12, NKJV) 

Let’s Pray 

Yahweh, today I choose to release those who have wronged me. Father, I refuse to live in an emotional prison, please change my mental location. God, I know You are my vindicator and redeemer. Make me a prisoner of hope and I receive Your promise today that You will give me back double for all my trouble, in Christ’s Name! Amen

https://godinterest.com/2021/02/18/prisoners-of-hope/