Heroes… By Faith

Heroes have been much on my mind today; maybe because yesterday I read Hebrews 11, “the faith chapter.” This discusses some of the heroes of the Bible–Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and many more. Their heroic actions, famous and well-remembered, were of all different kinds. But they had one thing in common: they were all done “by faith.”

I keep this in mind when I write my books. The plot calls for many heroic acts, to be performed by many characters. And they are all performed “by faith.” Because these are not superhuman, not silly superheroes: but ordinary people, men and women, boys and girls, who do what must be done because they believe God’s word and try their best to obey. Without faith, they couldn’t do these things.

But there is another kind of heroism, also by faith, but not very often recognized. Writers especially almost never get to know how readers are affected by their writings; but then that’s true for all of us. You may have done something that produced great good for someone else without your knowing it; even without that other person realizing it was you. Our actions and our words spread out like ripples on a pond, and we have no way of knowing whom or what those ripples touch, with what effect.

So we carry on by faith. We try to do what’s right. We try to please God. There are acts of goodness that we do on purpose, but also acts we don’t do with any expectation of good. God can use our actions and our words in unexpected ways, ways that would surprise us if we ever saw the result.

It would be good for us to keep this in mind. We might never have an opportunity to save a life, but we can touch a life. Only God sees everything. We can’t; we have to proceed by faith–“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Verse 1).

When the Book of Life is opened, there will be surprises in it.

‘Reoriented Towards God’

See the source image

Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus

Today’s Chalcedon editorial gives us an answer to the world’s craziness.

https://chalcedon.edu/blog/reoriented-towards-god

The answer is “Faith,” which takes us out of ourselves and makes God the center of our lives. Examples are listed in Hebrews 11, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible: “the faith Hall of Fame.”

All power comes from the Lord, not man, not man’s institutions. Faith must shape our lives and works; and God is always looking for faithful men and women to accomplish His work in the world. As His servants, that’s why we’re here.

By Request, ‘By Faith’

Susan asked for this–By Faith, by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, sung by Keith and Kristyn Getty: a hymn that picks up where Hebrews 11 leaves off.

“Walk by faith and not by sight”–it would be a good thing, to know how to do this. Prayer will be part of that answer, I think.

Do We Really, Truly Need Another Superhero Movie?

Captain Marvel Poster

I noticed the Captain Marvel promotional items at the supermarket yesterday, heralding the impending release of “one of the most anticipated”–by who?–“movies of 2019,” which is expected to “rescue the box office from the worst February in years.”

Captain Marvel isn’t a man anymore. They killed off the original Captain Marvel and now it’s a woman named Carol, “one of the universe’s most powerful heroes.” The universe? Gee. And her task is to save Earth from being destroyed in a “galactic war.”

Ah, fanabla. The nearest galaxy to our own Milky Way is the Andromeda Galaxy, a mere 2.5 million light years away. For the college-educated, that means that if you traveled at the speed of light, it would take you two and a half million years to get there. So really, the prospect of any kind of intergalactic unpleasantness is not on the cards. Does nobody know these things anymore?

“Entertainment” is a passive but powerful form of self-education. An uncritical consumption of superhero comic-book movies can’t possibly be good for you. Besides which, the whole idea is inexpressibly boring.

Y’know, there is such a thing as a real hero: someone to be admired for his or her greatness of character, to say nothing of achievements. Someone who stands up to evil and won’t back down. And it is possible to create fictional heroes who demonstrate goodness, courage, faith, integrity, and all the other virtues. We watched a movie-length Endeavor episode the other night that displayed and celebrated genuine heroism–ordinary men going up against evil, fighting off the powerful temptation to join it and get rich, putting their lives on the line against it… and winning! And they did all that because they were police officers and that was what it was their duty to do: they carried out a public trust, cost them what it may. What a splendid thing that was to see!

And of course history, and especially the Bible, is full of heroes. Hebrews Chapter 11 celebrates godly heroes–Abel, Moses, Abraham. “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (verses 32-34).

Now that turns me on! And all without a single superhero in the list.

Faith and Reason

Image result for images of happy winston churchill

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…    –Hebrews 11:1

As I continue to read about Winston Churchill, I encounter many attempts to claim him as an atheist, or at least an agnostic: certainly not a believing Christian. Most of these claims rest on the argument, “Oh, he had too much trust in reason to be a believer!”

For “trust” read faith. As in, he had too much faith to have any faith.

Thing is, you can’t get away from faith. It’s part of you, and you have to put it somewhere. Even an atheist has faith. He just withholds it from God and puts it somewhere else.

Why not put our faith in reason?

First, reason is the gift of God. He put it there, and means for us to use it.

But second, because reason is upset and misdirected by so many things. By prejudice, misinformation, incomplete knowledge, lies, and wishful thinking, just to name a few. We can train ourselves to reason better than we do, but can never train ourselves away from being human (despite the best efforts of secular humanists in that direction). Human reason is inadequate; it cannot stand alone. It’s a good thing, but it’s not everything.

And third, there are things that we hope for, and there are things that we cannot see–and those things are real. We can’t even approach them without faith. Probably can’t even talk about them.

Even a communist has faith, no matter how strenuously he denies it.

 

‘These Are They Who Have Come Out of Great Tribulation’

Foolish, isn’t it, to oppose the singing of God’s praise and the preaching of the cross against the mighty powers of a fallen world? But God likes that kind of foolishness, and uses it all the time: see I Corinthians 1.

The Gaither Vocal Band, with Ernie Haas, sings These Are They Whom Have Come Out of Great Tribulation: this is Revelation 7:14, with echoes of Hebrews 11.

I am reminded again of King Alfred’s words: “For the Lord is our defense, Jesu defend us!”

Hymn, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’

For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  –Hebrews 11:14

Occupy until I come.   –Luke 19:13

This is a sweet old hymn, a folk hymn, with a message that we are but pilgrims and sojourners upon God’s earth, on our way to His Kingdom.

But the earth is the Lord’s, too; and when we finally get to where we’re going, we want to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

The Saddest Word in the Bible

Who spoke the saddest word in all the Bible?

In Acts 26, Paul defends the Christian faith before the Roman governor, Festus, and King Agrippa, son of that Herod who murdered the Apostle James, but a man with a decent reputation in history. Paul has high hopes that Agrippa will listen to him, because he knows the king has been an earnest student of the scriptures.

Paul concludes, “For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.”

And Agrippa’s answer (verse 28): “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

Almost!

Almost got eternal life. Almost got forgiveness of my sins. Almost reconciled to God. Almost entered into God’s Kingdom, and into the joy of Our Lord.

Missed it by that much!

At the risk of sounding like a 1950s TV commercial, don’t let this happen to you.

All right, yeah, faith can be difficult. It wouldn’t be faith, if it weren’t. The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)–and King Agrippa didn’t have it.

He almost believed.

That’s sad.

‘Miracle on 34th Street’

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… (Hebrews 11:1)

Here at our place, it’s our custom to watch Miracle on 34th Street after Thanksgiving. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen it. It never grows stale for us.

Just suppose a nice old man insists that he is, in fact, Santa Claus; and that he’s put on trial for his sanity. How could he possibly get out of this jam? It would take a miracle–right?

And a miracle is just what we get. And without any laws of nature being broken, either.

Look, if this story doesn’t stir up your feelings, you’re probably ready for an autopsy.

It’s a parable. It’s a story about faith. It’s what you’d get if someone were to make a movie of Hebrews 11:1. Do yourself a good turn, and see it. Or see it again. It will do you good.