the Manna magazine | January 2014
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the Manna magazine | January 2014
Columns 07 | Signals 09 | On The Air
Features 10 | Spirit of Promise The purpose of a promise.
Stay in Touch
18 | Winter Blah Cue the blues. Winter is here.
20 | Standing on the Promises of God God keeps His promises.
22 | Unseen Substance What is true faith?
12 | Promises, Promises Not one has been broken.
16 | Promise Ring The joy of a promise kept.
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2014
the Manna magazine | A Publication of Maranatha, Inc. Editor-In-Chief: Debbie Byrd Creative Director: Joe Willey Editorial Coordinator: Karen Punches Contributing Writers: Phil Bohaker, Tammy Darling, Jeff Friend, Josh Millwood, Karen Punches, Brittney Switala & Fran Tatum Media Representatives: Ron Hall & Robert McClure
Frequently Asked Questions Who We Are The Manna is published by Maranatha, Inc., a Christcentered ministry called to proclaim the Good News of faith and life in Jesus Christ through various forms of media, as God directs, until He returns. “Maranatha” (mer-a-nath´-a) is an Aramaic word found in I Corinthians 16:22. It is translated, “Our Lord, come!” Joy! 102.5 WOLC is also part of Maranatha, Inc. Its call letters stand for “Watch, Our Lord Cometh.” Maranatha!
Disclaimer Non-ministry advertisers are not required to subscribe to the “Statement of Faith” printed at right; nor are their businesses and products necessarily endorsed by the Manna, Joy! 102.5 WOLC, or Maranatha, Inc., whose viewpoints are not necessarily represented by the opinions or statements of persons interviewed in this magazine; nor are the viewpoints of its advertisers.
Statement of Faith We Believe… that the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept; that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that the only hope for man is to believe in Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, who died to take upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind, and who rose from the dead so that by receiving Him as Savior and Lord, man is redeemed by His blood; that Jesus Christ in person will return to Earth in power and glory; that the Holy Spirit indwells those who have received Christ, for the purpose of enabling them to live righteous and godly lives; and that the Church is the Body of Christ and is comprised of all those who, through belief in Christ, have been spiritually regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The twin mission of the Church is worldwide evangelization, and nurture and discipline of Christians.
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Signals A New Start Perhaps there is a reason we start the New Year fresh and with positive attitudes. We’ve just come out of a season where strangers smile at each other and slow down to hold open a door when a fellow shopper is just behind them. We say things like, “Let me get that for you” or, bravely, “Merry Christmas.” We attend Christmas concerts and encourage children to dream of fanciful things like Santa and reindeer and gifts. The whole season—commercial or not—encourages us and lifts us up. We’re filled with glad tidings and joy. And eggnog. And decadent little balls of chocolate and nuts rolled in coconut. And now it’s time to start off the New Year just right! As we pack up the artificial Christmas trees and lug them back to the attic, along with plastic containers of lights and ornaments (unmarked, so we have to hunt for them year after year), and as we remove every trace of Christmas decoration from our homes and lawn (because by the end of December we’re, well, just sick of it all), let’s take care not to pack up Christ and tote Him to the attic, too. Underneath all of the wrappings and tinsel, the chocolate and peppermint, the politeness and party-going, it was and is and always has been all about Christ our Savior.
We might launch ourselves into this new year in a variety of different ways—Auld Lang Syne, descending disco balls, parades and confetti—and with as many different convictions—“I’ll exercise more this year,” “I’ll be more organized,” “I’ll visit grandmom more often”—but without Christ right there in the midst of it all, the happiness and encouragement will soon wane. May our deepest and most sincere resolve arise from our commitment to keep Him the center of attention. We were made to praise and glorify Him. Let us each resolve to fulfill our purpose. We share so many clichés about keeping Christ in Christmas. It may not tickle the ears as well, but let’s say we keep Christ in the New Year—all of it! Happy Christ-filled New Year! Debbie Byrd is General Manager of Maranatha, Inc., a ministry that includes Joy! 102.5 and the Manna.
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On the Air Bright Future Recently, TobyMac breezed into our city with his Hits Deep Tour. It was a cavalcade of artistry—Mandisa, Brandon Heath, Jamie Grace, Colton Dixon, Chris August, Capital Kings and, of course, the man, the myth, the legend: TobyMac. The show was fun, but for this lover of 90s Christian music, the highlight was when TobyMac sang “In The Light,” a dcTalk classic. The trio that made up dcTalk has all moved on to big things. Michael Tait has been the lead singer of Newsboys for several years now, and Kevin Max, the dark horse of dcTalk is now front-man for a rebuilt Audio Adrenaline. During the pre-show, a fan asked the question we all wanted to ask, but didn’t have the courage. “Will you ever do a dcTalk reunion tour?” There was a pause as everyone held their breath. The answer could destroy dreams or grant wishes. And the answer was not what I expected. It was way better. Toby explained that all three still love each other and constantly text one another (awesome, right?), but to do a dcTalk tour
would have severe consequences for a lot of people. They would have to basically dismantle Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline and Diverse City (TobyMac’s amazing band). That gets translated into a lot of great people suddenly unemployed just so three guys can relive the glory days. Who would want that? But don’t be bummed out—there is more than a glimmer of hope. They have been talking and continue to flesh out a tour that would feature Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline and TobyMac—with a dcTalk set during the show! So, the answer to the question, “What could possibly be better than a dcTalk reunion?” is this: A dcTalk reunion, plus three of the biggest and best touring bands in Christian music for the last 20 years! The future is bright! Josh Millwood is Music Director of Joy! 102.5. Visit www.wolc.org.
Listen Now! Check out our Program Guide at wolc.org
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2014
Spirit of Promise By Phil Bohaker
e are culturally conditioned to take promises lightly. Politicians make endless promises, then routinely break them in the name of expediency. Marriages begin with sacred vows of lifelong commitment, then as often as not end in divorce. Business partners strike a deal, then undermine the agreement behind the scenes. We say what we need to say, then do what we need to do. What seemed like a good idea five minutes ago doesn’t make me happy anymore, so I cut my losses and move on to the next thing. This cultural tide is a danger in many a Christian’s daily life. Many of us do strive to live with integrity, to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no.” But the cultural norms pressure us and threaten to seep in and taint our lives. With a divorce rate among Christian couples equal to the national average, just to cite one example, the Christian community is by no means exempt. We make promises we never intend to keep or, at least, fail to keep once times get tough. We are wise to take note of how God makes promises and, more importantly, how He backs them up. There are many examples of God’s promises in Scripture but perhaps
none more important to the Christian life than the promise of the Holy Spirit. To speak of the promise of the Holy Spirit is to speak of both the thing promised and the promise of something else to come. Jesus sat His disciples down for a talk just before ascending to heaven and told them to wait for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, who in His words was the “promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). Twice Paul makes reference to the “promised Spirit” (Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:13). Jesus had promised the Spirit would come to fill the void caused by his own departure. He had done miraculous things by the power of the Holy Spirit; it was time to pass the baton to His followers. They would carry on his mission in the power of the Holy Spirit, not just replicating His ministry but even doing greater works than He did (John 14:12). In the mystery of the triune God, the risen Christ would be present with his Church through the ministry of the Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the promise to every believer. The connection between Spirit and promise also points us to our future. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of God’s promise of eternal life to all who believe, a kind of “down
payment” for our rich inheritance to come (Ephesians 1:1314). There is no reason for believers in Christ to fret over the state of our souls, for God sealed us airtight and leakproof with his living, personal assurance of our future salvation. He has given us Himself as proof that He won’t forget his promise. The temptation to make flippant promises and break them easily is a threat at some point or another in any Christian’s life. This is not to say that all promises are of equal spiritual significance. Canceling dinner plans and ending a marriage are not comparable betrayals of vows. Yet, there is a commonality present in all promise breaking: something better came along. Or, perhaps, something more important came along. Some such instances are justified, of course. Rare is the employer who would call an employee to account for breaking the terms of employment agreement if she had a family member rushed to the hospital and was forced to leave work early. These are the urgencies of life, the exceptions to the rules of promise making. But when it comes to moral issues, situations which test our integrity, the space for compromise
quickly narrows. God has given us all we need to stay true to our word by making it clear that He is always true to His Word. The assurance of our salvation, rooted in the death and resurrection of Christ, is the antibiotic to the plague of promise breaking. What could we possibly be lacking when, though we were dead in sin, God “made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:5-6)? And if that were not enough, He gave us the Holy Spirit to prove it. In fact, the Holy Spirit’s testimony to our luxurious inheritance is protection from any temptation in life to think that what we have is not enough or that the world’s poisoned apple will satisfy our hunger. What more could one want but what God has already promised? What has God promised that is not already as good as done? Those are the questions to ask when a onceuttered promise feels a little burdensome, and you want to lighten your load. Ask the questions, then stop and listen for the Holy Spirit to supply the answer. wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2014
Promises, Promises By Jeff Friend
s 2014 emerges, it seems another word—promise—can be added to the growing list of terms that Americans find irrelevant today. Put it right below the other words like faithfulness, honesty, commitment, morality and all the rest of those tired old notions from past generations. They have been replaced by concepts like “me first,” “instant gratification” and “rules were made to be broken.” A promise? That’s so 20th century. But before we totally cleanse our collective vocabulary of the word, maybe we should take one last look at what the big deal about the word was in the first place. After all, it has been around for so long and was so widely cherished, it must have had some importance. Indeed, a promise is a big deal. Promises can be written or oral, implied or direct, short-term or long-term, between people or organizations and many other forms. You can even make a promise to yourself, like “I promise to start exercising.” A promise is simply an assurance of something that will happen in the future. But it all hinges on the integrity and dependability of the one making the commitment. We all make promises every day—to be at a meeting, to attend a child’s sports event, to call a friend. Yes, even to pray for someone. But how good are we at keeping all those promises? Those may be relatively small obligations, but if we have trouble keeping them, how do we do at the bigger ones like legal contracts or marriage vows? Aren’t they just more formal types of promises? It’s easy to make a promise, but often very hard to keep them. We usually don’t promise something with the intention of not following through. We just get busy, distracted or simply forget. But how do you feel when you are the one affected by a broken promise? Those times when someone you totally believed would be true to his word wasn’t. We all know how that feels. Breaking a promise made to a family member or friend certainly causes disappointment, hard feelings and a loss of trust and credibility. Even after an apology, it may take years for those wounds to heal, if ever. But what about when we don’t keep a promise we made to God? Sometimes we tend to make a promise to God when we are in trouble. “Lord, if you get me out of this mess, I’ll never miss another church service.” “God, I’ll give 20 percent of my income to the church if you’ll just provide the money for me to pay this bill.” Unfortunately, most of these “desperation promises” are quickly forgotten once the crisis passes.
At other times, we make well-intentioned and sincere promises to God, like Peter did. He assured Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35, NIV). Within a few hours, Peter had disowned Jesus three times, and the realization that he had broken his promise to Jesus devastated him. Humans may have great difficulty in following through on promises, but God has a perfect record. The Bible uses a variety of words to express when God makes a promise—swears, says, covenants, oath, prophecy—but the end result is the same. If God makes an assurance that some action is going to happen in the future, it will always happen. The Bible is full of evidence, starting in Genesis. In Genesis 3:15, God specifically told the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between her offspring and yours; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (NIV). The birth, death and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled that promise. God made many other covenants including those with Abraham, Moses, David and Noah. Throughout the ages, God has proven that He is trustworthy, faithful and unchanging concerning His promises. If God promised something, you can count on it. Joshua confirms that to be true when he writes, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled” (Joshua 21:45, NIV). If you need more proof of the enduring nature of God’s promises, just look into the sky after it rains. See a rainbow? That is God reminding us of His promise to never again destroy the whole earth by a flood. “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Genesis 9:16, NIV). An ‘everlasting covenant’. His promises never expire. God made a lot of promises in the Old Testament and Jesus made many in the New Testament, and not one was broken. But some of the most exciting promises wait to be completed, and they are part of the foundation of our hope for eternity. “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2, NIV). So even though our culture may want to get rid of “promises,” Christians can be assured that God will continue to honor His promises forever. You can depend on it.
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2014
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Program Guide Listen @ www.wolc.org
SRN News - at the top of various hours www.srnnews.com
Turning Point - 7:00 pm www.focusonthefamily.com
Music - 12:00 Midnight - 6:00 am
Revive Our Hearts - 7:30 pm www.reviveourhearts.com
Joy in the Morning - 6:00 am - 9:00 am Our Daily Bread - 6:25 am www.rbc.org/odb My Money Life - 7:25 am www.crown.org Insights - 7:45 am www.insight.org Focus on the Family - 9:30 am www.focusonthefamily.com Family Life Today - 10:00 am www.familylife.com Turning Point - 10:30 am and 7:00 pm www.davidjeremiah.org Midday Joy - 11:00 am - 1:00 pm New Life Live - 1:00 pm www.newlife.com Mission Network News - 1:55 pm www.mnnonline.org In Touch - 2:00 pm www.intouch.org Money Wise - 2:30 pm www.compass1.org Renewing Your Mind Minute - 3:30 pm www.ligonier.org Focus on the Family Minute - 4:30 pm www.focusonthefamily.com Adventures in Odyssey - 6:00 pm www.whitsend.org Focus on the Family - 6:30 pm www.focusonthefamily.com
Money Life - 7:55 pm www.crown.org Insights for Living - 8:00 pm www.insight.org Bible Reading - 10:30 pm Music - 8:30pm - 12:00 Midnight
SATURDAY Down Gilead Lane - 9:00 am www.cbhministries.org Adventures in Odyssey - 9:30 am www.whitsend.org
SUNDAY Music - 12:00 Midnight - 8:00 am Grace to You - 8:00 am www.gty.org Living a Legacy - 10:30 am www.moodyradio.org/livingalegacy Moody Church Hour - 11:00 am www.moodychurch.org National Christian Choir - 12:00 pm www.nationalchristianchoir.org The Hour of Decision - 1:00 pm www.billygraham.org Forward in Faith - 1:30 pm www.centralchurchofgod.org Gospel Greats - Sunday, 2:00 pm www.thegospelgreats.com Music - 4:00 pm -12:00 Midnight wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2014
Promise Ring By Josh Millwood
Educating Delmarvaâ€™s Children for Eternity
eddings have become a spectator sport. We go. We watch. We eat cake, dance and try to photobomb every picture. The end. Billions of dollars are spent in America putting on spectacular shows, with elegant or over-the-top themes (maybe even a Sylvester Stallone classic Over The Top theme). There are reality series about weddings. There are endless movies about brides running away or grooms learning to dance. Marriage is the new professional sporting event. But it used to be a covenant. You are required by law to have a witness when
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you get married. Even at the Justice of the Peace. Even in Vegas. Why? Because this promise matters. Western civilization is built on the back of the stability of family. The definition of family has changed many times. The most recent has been a swing away from the nuclear family (Dad + Mom = Children) to anything goes, whose math doesn’t quite add up. Bear in mind, families used to place a higher importance on grandparents, cousins, creepy uncles and, the further back you go, multiple wives and concubines. But in all forms, the family quite simply means stability. Every wedding ceremony should have a bit in the middle, somewhere after the introduction and prayer—but before the unity candle—where the bride and groom can address the attendees. I imagine this address to go like this: Groom: Thank you all for coming, even the ones of you who think [Bride] is crazy for marrying me. It means a lot. Bride: I’m not crazy. I’m not pregnant. I truly love him. I promise. Groom: Speaking of promises, we aren’t the only ones making them today. You see, we invited you here not just to witness this awesome union [Bride/Groom High Five], but to make us a promise… Bride: We simply can’t do this on our own. We need you to support us with love and wisdom and to hold us accountable all the days of our lives. Groom: We are going to do our best to honor one another and to live godly lives. But we aren’t delusional. We know that over half of marriages today end in divorce and quite frankly that terrifies us. Bride: We want your help to skew those statistics. With your help, we can learn to protect one another, forgive one another and keep our family whole. But that will take all of you reminding us that this promise we’re making today is a lifelong thing. Groom: If you can’t agree to help us in this journey, then please leave now. Seriously, we’ll wait. We spent a load of money on the reception and if you can’t agree to help our marriage succeed I really don’t want to share any of my cake with you. Bride: Do you promise to be there for us? Attendees: WE DO! Bride: Awesome! Groom: Thanks! Refreshing, right? That’s the whole point of why we should attend weddings. We are supposed to be stepping up and letting this fledgling family know that we’ve got their back. We won’t let them down. We will eat their cake...
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hristmas is over. New Year’s, too. The artificial tree is stripped and awaiting its usual corner in the attic. Strings of lights are now stuffed into boxes. All the fudge has been eaten. Presents need to be returned at the mall. No more Burl Ives singing or television specials to watch. You’re back to the grind at work thinking, “How long until Memorial Day?” Right about now, maybe you’re feeling as deflated as the blow-up Rudolph in your neighbor’s yard. If this describes you, it’s safe to say that you have the blues (cue the B.B. King guitar lick). It’s okay, though— you’re not alone. Most of us have gone through the postholiday doldrums at some point. All the celebrations are over and we’re left looking down the barrel of a long, cold winter and wondering how we’re going to make it through day after
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ordinary day. Well, there is good news. Believe it or not, regular days can be filled with as much hope and wonder as the Christmas season. How? Because our traditions may come and go, but the Lord never changes, His promises are forever, and His attention is never away from those who belong to Him through Jesus Christ. In fact, He is always watching you with keen interest, as if it were just the two of you and no one else. You’re that important. In Scripture, the psalmist writes, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me
Winter Blah By Karen Punches
and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” (Psalm 139:1-6). If you wanted to personalize it, perhaps it could go something like this: O Lord, you see me when I hit the snooze button. You watch me as I eat my cereal. You’re with me as I’m putting gas in my car. You know I’m anxious about my staff meeting this morning. You were with me when I bought paper towels at the store. You made me cross paths with that person today. You know I love singing that song. You understand what I worried about before falling asleep. No matter how seemingly trivial our daily movements and tasks may be, the fact that they matter to God and have already been planned out by Him is what brings meaning to the mundane. It’s the knowledge that the possibilities are
endless when we consider that He is always working behind the scenes on our behalf. Author Elizabeth George writes, “We must never panic, never fear, never wonder, never doubt, and never question if God is in control or what He is doing. True beauty and strength believes in the complete oversight of God, even over the minutia of life.” So, when routines, errands, schedules and appointments—even boredom—tempt us into wondering whether any purpose is behind this “same old, same old” day, we have to adjust our attitudes and remember what the psalmist went on to write in Psalm 139:16: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2014
f you were to ask most, they probably wouldn’t be able to repeat any actual promises from God. Of course there is a belief in the absolute Truth of the Bible and its life-giving nature, but how do you apply these promises? Clearly it is important to look at scriptural context when deciding if a verse is a promise of what can be expected from God. A better thought process may be, “How can I align my heart to what the whole of Scripture is telling me?” instead of, “Here’s a promise of what God owes me.” Christian publishers thought they knew. Twenty years ago pocket-sized promise books were all the rage. There were promise books marketed specifically as teen graduation gifts, wedding gifts and gifts for new parents. The books were little more than Bible reference books (a condensed concordance) designed around topics of particular interest to each demographic. These books held wonderful scriptures to encourage and challenge, even memorize, but they weren’t specifically promises or covenants. Interestingly enough, the word “promise” itself is only used 13 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Various websites say there were between 3,500-5,000 promises
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of God in the Bible. Dictionary.com defines a promise (noun) in the following ways: 1) a declaration that something will or will not be done, given, etc., and 2) an express assurance on which expectation is to be based. Given a dictionary understanding of the word promise, let us determine whether two popular verses which are often deemed as “life verses” or promises are truly assurances for today and for the situations in which they are regularly applied. The first is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This passage is found in a book of the Bible that is rarely quoted, except for this one verse. The book of Jeremiah is in the Old Testament and he was a prophet to the Jews. Jeremiah is writing to the Jews taken by Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian Empire, from the land of Judah to live in the region of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar took Jews to Babylon in a series of captivities. Jeremiah was part of a group that was left in Jerusalem before its eventual destruction and the final deportation. In the context of the verse, the Jews were being told that, for 70 years, they would live in exile but that a
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Standing on the Promises of God By Brittney Switala
hope and future was to come. Some well-respected theologians would argue that verse has no modern-day application, while others, like pastor/ author John Piper would say this passage applies to the Church today. John Piper said in a sermon on this passage: “Everything that God meant to be fulfilled for His people Israel now is going to be fulfilled in His people of the New Covenant. So that not only Jews but also Gentiles, through faith in the Messiah, become part of the covenant people of God, so that every promise can be laid hold on by Gentiles who are in the Messiah, in Christ Jesus.” So, if Jeremiah 29:11 is understood to be for us, here are some important notes: “…Plans to prosper you…” As believers in Christ, we know that we have a positive end in Heaven with Christ (1 Peter 1:3-5). It does not promise financial prosperity or an easy life. “…And not to harm you…” God allows trials and persecution to help us grow in our faith. He also sometimes rescues people from harm (2 Thessalonians 1:4, 2 Peter 2:9). A second commonly-cited life verse or promise is Proverbs 3:5 and 6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways
submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” The book of Proverbs is a book of wise sayings and principles, not promises. Solomon wrote much of it to instruct his son about right living. That being said, one must be careful not to cling to any verse in Proverbs as an IOU from God. Proverbs 3:5-6 is consistent with the message of all Scripture that the Lord wants us to seek Him in all things (Deuteronomy 4:29, Acts 17:24-28). The Proverbs themselves provide much of the wisdom and understanding necessary to have a straight path. Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages seeking Scriptures for life wisdom to make ethical choices, but they are not necessarily a promise that the Lord will give clear direction at all times. We can be assured God has good plans to preserve and refine His Church. This may not mean individual believers won’t suffer physical harm and even death on Earth for their faith in Christ. It may not mean every decision will be easy or even clear. It does mean something far better and more rewarding: God will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). And that is a promise you can stand on.
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t any given moment during any time of the year, were you to visit my home, you would find a stack of books on the nightstand beside my bed. Generally, these books represent my varied interests of study: gardening, theology, psychology, and current events. But recently, a new pile of books has sprung up on my nightstand. I’ve begun collecting books on physics. Now, for those who love science, and particularly physics, this comes as no surprise. Why wouldn’t I have already accumulated a library full of physics books? But for those who, like me, didn’t graduate beyond basic biology, you might think me crazy, or masochistic, or both. Whatever the case, my interest in physics began by considering this particular statement from Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is… the conviction of things not seen.” What a complex and seemingly paradoxical statement about the nature of faith! How can we have a conviction in things that are beyond our senses, beyond our perception and understanding? Moreover, how do we maintain the conviction of faith in the absence of concrete evidence? Can we really sustain conviction in that which is beyond our conscious experience of the world? Physics in its simplest definition is the study of matter and how it works. Physicists are concerned with the material and the energy makes up the universe. As such, the discipline of physics deals with elements so small that they cannot be seen even with the aid of the most powerful microscope. John Polkinghorne, physicist and Anglican priest, explains, “We now know that atoms themselves are made out of still smaller constituents (quarks, gluons, and electrons….we do not see quarks directly, but their existence is indirectly inferred).” While physicists can only see, as it were, an indirect inference to these tiny realities of matter, they point to and indeed make up matter and energy all around us. I cannot see them, nor do I contemplate their existence on a day to day basis; but I trust they are there and at work when I sit down on my office chair each day! In the same way, the Christian scriptures affirm that faith discerns the substance behind the often murky shadows of our reality. Indeed, the discipline of faith is to train one to have a different kind of
sight. The apostle Paul wrote that “what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot is eternal…for we walk by faith not by sight” (2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:7). The conviction of faith, therefore, is the ability to see through our circumstances to the spiritual realities behind them. The grace and strength promised in weakness, for example, the wisdom that is found in the foolishness of the cross and in the suffering Christ, or the blessing and joy that is found among those who weep, all bind us to a concrete reality in God even while we “see through a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is an eternal reality experienced in the midst of our temporal lives. In this sense, then, the conviction of faith calls us to go beyond certainty to wisdom. As Scottish author George MacDonald once noted; “Men [sic] accept a thousand things without proof everyday, and a thousand things may be perfectly true and have no proof. But if a man [sic] cannot be sure of a thing, does that automatically mean it is false?” Indeed, all kinds of assumptions are made each and every day—that my chair won’t fail, or my car will get me from one place to another without injury, or I will see my loved ones again at the end of the day—without any certainty or proof. Perhaps the conviction of faith seems more tenuous when suffering comes. The writer of Hebrews names ancient men and women who endured in faith. They endured even when the promise was not received or seen, even when they were “tortured, mocked, scourged, stoned, imprisoned, sawn in two, killed with the sword, impoverished afflicted and ill-treated” (Hebrews 11:35-38). These were the ones of whom the world was not worthy, the writer tells us. They saw beyond their circumstances to that eternal reality. They saw there is something greater than comfort or ease in this world, and they held on— however tenuously—to faith. The “conviction of things not seen” is the substance of faith. It is the attention to those seemingly immaterial realities that are the true substance behind the circumstances of our daily lives. The conviction of faith is the ability to see in the disparate threads of our lives a beautiful garment, a useful quilt, or a magnificent tapestry. The conviction of faith is the ability to see
Unseen Substance By Margaret Manning
beyond the finite to the infinite—in much the same way as physicists have discovered the infinite world of subatomic particles. Those invisible particles form an intricate tapestry of essential structure for everything that we see around us. In the classic story of The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery writes of a little fox who promises to reveal the secret of life to the young boy in the story. When the secret is finally revealed it is this: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”In a similar manner, faith sees what cannot be ascertained by chasing after certainty. Rather, faith offers
the conviction of what is yet unseen as the substance of reality. Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington. Unseen Substance by Margaret Manning, A Slice of Infinity, originally printed May 14, 2013 (www.rzim. org). Used by permission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. wolc.org | readthemanna.org | January 2014
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