In Hindsight - Vol. 3

Start with Why

“Why?” This is a question we’ve all heard, and at one time or another all have asked. As a father of a two-year-old, this is a question I hear several…thousand times a day. On the surface “Why?” is a pretty simply question; I mean, it’s just one word. Yet, the question of “Why?” is sometimes one of the most complex things that can be asked. Author Simon Sinek points out that, “Everyone knows what it is they do, some know how they do it, but very few know why.”

There aren’t a lot of things that I collect. There were a few years growing up that I collected comic books (and thus was born my enduring love of Spider-man). My wife Megan and I both love to read and so our book collection always seems to be growing. The one thing that I have collected more than any other is a large assortment of random facts. I’ve often told the students that I am a vault of useless information. For example, the states in the middle of our country are more uniform than the eastern states because of the advent of the railroad. A man named David Rice Atchison was technically President of the United States for one day. The state of Alaska is the farthest state north, east, and west. I knew those facts off the top of my head without needing to look them up. What good are they? No idea. While I think it’s fun to know random (and honestly, useless) tidbits like that, I obviously find it far more valuable to know about our faith. The important thing for all of us is to not just know what we believe, but also why we believe it.

My goal for this next term is to help the students examine what they believe and also why they believe it. We are going to explore the book of James and see what a working faith looks like. We are also going to look at some of the myths and misconceptions of our faith and examine them to see what God’s Word really has to say about some of these “spiritual urban legends.” The purpose behind all this is for us to see what we need to pick up as we follow Jesus, and what things are better left behind.

In Him,
Pastor Michael

Sunday Morning Series-Myths and Misconceptions

I began this series by stating that smart people don’t always think smart things. It’s easy for any of us to believe something false, especially if it comes from a trusted source or is widely believed. A myth is defined as “a widely held but false belief.” Sometimes we just assume something is true and so we don’t even question it. For example, everyone knows that Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth and had to travel to Bethlehem to be registered for a Census. It was a long journey for a 9-month pregnant woman to make, but luckily she had a donkey to ride on. Only one problem with that…the Bible never says anything about a donkey. Maybe Mary did ride a donkey, but maybe she didn’t. The Bible doesn’t say, yet most are convinced that this is a fact. Why? Because “everyone” knows (or at least thinks they know) it’s what happened!

A misconception is defined as “a view or opinion that is incorrect based on faulty thinking or understanding.” Sometimes we only have part of the information and not the full picture. For example, everyone knows that George Washington is the first President. The United states declared its independence from the British in 1776, and George Washington became president in 1789. So, what happened in those intervening years? Well, before the constitution was written in 1787 the United States was united under an agreement known as the “Articles of Confederation.” Under these articles there was an office of “President” though it looked quite a bit different than it does today. Eight men served in this position meaning George Washington was technically the 9th President of the United States, but he was the first President under the constitution.

The big idea of this whole series is to continually go back to Scripture to be sure that what we believe is not just based on popular opinion but based on God’s Word. God’s Word is always our highest source of Spiritual truth and we need to examine it to know what we believe and to see why we believe what we believe.

Discussion Prompts

  • What is something that you assumed to be true that wasn’t?

  • Are you usually someone who is more trusting or skeptical? Why?

  • Why are myths and misconceptions about our faith dangerous?

  • How can we avoid believing myths and misconceptions about our faith?

Wednesday Night Series: Faith That Works

On Wednesday nights we are working our way through the book of James. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly states how our salvation is achieved through grace and not works, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Here Paul states how we are saved, but in verse 10 he goes on to say why we are made new in Jesus; “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The Bible is clear; we are saved by faith, not works, BUT we need a faith that works. We don’t place our faith in works, but our faith should work. So far, we have spent 3 weeks going through this short yet powerful book.

Faith that works moves forward—We began by looking at the first eight verses of the book of James. James’ original audience was facing persecution and difficulties like we can’t imagine today. The advice James gave them was to keep moving forward. We picked up four points from these verses: 1.) Faith that works moves forward through difficulty; 2.) Faith that works moves forward patiently; 3.) Faith that works moves forward by relying on God; and 4.) Faith that works moves forward by keeping a right perspective. Even in the midst of trials, our faith can still move forward and grow.

Faith that works is motivated by love—Everyone generally falls on one of two sides; logic or emotion. I’m someone who definitely falls on the side of logic. As much as I like things to be logical, I have to admit, love is a far more powerful motivator. This is why when my daughters ask me to read them one more bedtime story, even though logic tells me they need to go to bed, love usually wins out and I often say yes (especially when they smile at me all cute like). This night we looked at James 1:9-12 and saw that: 1.) Everyone faces different kinds of trials; 2.) Trials are an opportunity for growth; 3.) We should place our trust in what’s lasting; and 4.) God eternally rewards those who love Him. James warns us that difficulty will come, and life is fleeting. This is not meant to cause us to lose hope, but to cause us to make sure that our hope is put in the right place. Following Jesus should be motivated from a place of love. As Jesus Himself said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Faith that works is tested—How do you know if something works? You test it. The definition of test is to “take measures to check the quality, performance, or reliability of something, especially before putting it into widespread use or practice.” As we looked at James 1:13-19, we saw that our faith will be tested not with the goal of having us fail but with the goal of showing that our faith works. In this section James talks mostly about temptation and brings up some rather important points: 1.) God tests us but never tempts us; 2.) Temptation starts with our own desires; 3.) Temptation always costs something; and 4.) God is still good even when we face temptation. Temptation is guaranteed to come, but we don’t have to give into it. In these verses James reminds us to look ahead and beware of temptation, to look around and see God’s goodness, and to look within and see the work that God has done inside us. In Jesus Christ we have been given a new nature, and with his strength we can stand against temptation.

Discussion Guide

  • Read Ephesians 2:8-10 and discuss the balance between faith and works. What does it mean that we are saved by grace and not works? What place do works play in our faith?
  • Why does God allow us to face difficulties?
  • What are the things that motivate you? Are you more motivated by logic or emotion?
  • What’s an example in your own life when you experienced grace?
  • What are some ways you have found to be effective to stand against temptation?
  • What’s the difference between being tested and being tempted?
  • Why does God allow us to be tempted?