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New book published - Through Faith

I just released a new book called "Through Faith." Below you will find the first chapter. I hope you read it and share it with friends.

Like all the books I've published, you can find the link to paper and electronic copies on the sidebar of this blog (or by clicking the above links). 

Thanks to ridiculously extensive volunteer effort by Cindy Hughes, you can also download free audio files for the book as well. I will update this post with a link once they are available.

I'm having technical difficulties getting a kindle version uploaded, so I would advise using another medium for now.

<First chapter follows>

No one seems to be able to define faith

    What is faith? If you ask a Christian, they are likely to paraphrase Paul by saying that faith is things hoped for and not seen. But that isn’t a definition; it’s an example. 
    Some consider faith to be evidence-free belief. They use the word when people ask them why they believe what they do, saying something like, “Well, sometimes we just have to take things on faith.” Yet Peter, who surely knew the gospel of Jesus Christ at least as well as they do, said: 

…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (1 Peter 3:15)

Peter was not implying that our “answer” ought to be no better than “I don’t know.”

    Faith is not a substitute for evidence; it is a process that always generates it.
Some think of faith as internal evidence for a belief. If this is the case, what could Paul have meant when he said that faith comes by hearing a preacher (see Romans 10:14, 17)? How can someone share evidence that only exists internally? And why, then, did Jesus (not to mention his disciples) go through the trouble of doing so many outward miracles, when it cost them their lives to do so?
    Some think of faith as meaning “a belief.” One can believe anything they want, but one cannot have faith in anything they want. One can’t wish their way into heaven. If they could, the Bible would be much shorter than it is. 
    Is it wise to proceed in life without a firm understanding of what faith is, how to get it, and how to exercise it?
    Faith lies at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul said that it is through faith that we are saved (see Ephesians 2:8), through faith that we endure severe persecutions and trials (see Hebrews 11:35-37), receive God’s approval (see Hebrews 11:2, 39), work miracles (see Hebrews 11:33-34), and that “without faith it is impossible to please him.” (Hebrews 11:6) 
    Can someone be a true Christian if they can’t even define what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ? Can you say you have faith if you can’t even define what it is? Can you claim to live according to faith if you can’t explain what it means to do so?
    How can a word that is used as such a central anchor to the gospel of Jesus Christ (about 400 times in the New Testament, depending on the translation) be so ambiguous to so many who claim to be Christians?
    Claiming to be a Christian without knowing what faith means and how it is practiced seems as absurd as claiming to be a carpenter without knowing what a hammer is or how it is used. 

What is faith?

    Put in the simplest terms, faith is seeking out and living according to a greater understanding of reality. It is consciously desiring, searching for, and acting to obtain specific outcomes.
    Faith is the process by which outcomes are obtained. It consists of the mapping of cause (action) to effect (outcome), the reasons we have to believe the mapping, and the desire we have to obtain the expected outcome (see Figure 1). Faith is a process because each component of faith is continually updated and improved as we gain understanding through experience.
    Faith is not limited to religion. A variety of historical and cultural circumstances mean that the sources we have that describe it are explicitly religious, but this does not limit its application to only religious circumstances. When we read scriptures that describe faith, we ought to attempt to apply them as broadly as possible, recognizing that they were phrased in religious terms to garner the greatest comprehension of a less-educated populace that had a pre-existing, largely-shared understanding of God and the gospel.
There is nothing mystical about faith. It is as tangible as turning a screw or pumping water.
    Faith is a mechanism of power. It yields outcomes beyond what would otherwise occur through new or greater belief—new actions based on better-informed desire and superior reason. 
    Faith is a process. It is not so much something you have, but something you do. Faith is to think in terms of what is possible, to be accurate about where you really are, to design a realistic, detailed path from where you stand to where you want to go, to execute that path, and to revise it as you learn more about reality and about yourself. Faith means daring to dream of outcomes that would otherwise not happen, searching for a path to obtain them, and exercising both sufficient adherence and effort to obtain them.
    Faith is much more than an optional strategy in life. Faith is a principle that drives all situations, whether we classify them as secular or spiritual. All good outcomes in life are obtained through faith, no matter how secular they may seem. 

Faith, miracles, and salvation

    The Lord promised that those “that believe” will perform certain miracles:

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16)

This promise was not given in isolation. Rather, it came immediately following the Lord’s assertion that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16) Miracles are given to teach which beliefs bring about salvation. Jesus was saying that if someone’s beliefs do not result in casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents and drinking poison without being harmed, and healing the sick, they aren’t the ones that lead to salvation.
The belief Jesus spoke of is not just effectual for certain miraculous manifestations. Those who hold the belief Jesus referred to will find every aspect of their lives radically more effectual than their peers. The fact that Christians today live such normal lives is even stronger evidence than the lack of Jesus’ listed miracles that, whatever their belief, it is categorically different than what Jesus was teaching and describing.
    Through faith in Jesus Christ, individuals repent, obtain promises from God, and work mighty miracles in his name. In a world where people can’t even define the word, is it any wonder we see so few of these things? How many people do you know who unerringly obey all of God’s commandments? How many people have received promises from God through personal communication from him? How many Christians do you know who work the same type and quantity of miracles in Jesus’ name as you find so commonly performed in the scriptures?
    Where is faith today? You will not find it exercised or taught in churches. You will actually find stronger examples of it in the secular world than among the religious. As Jesus said, “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (Luke 16:8)
It is easy to see the truth in Jesus’ claim that worldly people more effectively search for what they profess to desire than do religious people. Most religious people do not live according to what they say they desire. They do not actively seek the path to what they claim they want. They do not live according to their understanding of how they will get it. They do not revise their path when they learn new information.
Is it any wonder that so many Christians are indiscernible from those who do not believe in God? Is it any wonder why the Christian world is so noticeably devoid of the many miracles that Christ explained could only be manifest through faith? Is it any wonder why those who do not yet believe in God prefer to remain in their disbelief rather than accept a religion that fails to demonstrate any benefit?

A plain, practical principle

    In this volume, you’ll be taken on a tour of scripture to explain what faith is, how it is obtained, and how it is used. You’ll learn why it is impossible to please God without it, and why it is necessary to exercise faith in Christ to lay hold of every good thing. You’ll come to understand how faith affects secular aspects of life and discern those specific circumstances where only explicit faith in Christ will yield what is available to us.
    As you increase in understanding and application of faith in your life, you will draw closer to God and become capable of doing more in his service and for your fellowman than you ever dreamed possible. You will quickly learn that it is impossible to have faith in Jesus Christ for very long, because soon after exercising faith in him, you will come to know—not merely believe—that he is real. You will come to know of the reality of his atoning sacrifice and of his unending love for you, exactly why this matters in every aspect of your daily life, and you will live so as to best share his love with all mankind.