Faith

Before the 2018 Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles had never tasted victory at the highest level. When back-up-quarterback-turned-MVP Nick Foles and the rest of the team closed the book on their Cinderella season, many of the players did not bask in their own glory. After winning their close match against the favored New England Patriots, several of the key players gave all the glory to Christ.

As the Eagles now attempt their second ever Super Bowl trophy this Sunday, Charles Morris returns to his 2018 interview with author and sports writer Joshua Cooley to discuss the faith of these team members who reached the pinnacle of their sport. Though many of the players mentioned in this episode are no longer on the Eagles’ roster, we pray this episode will bolster your own faith as you prepare to watch North America’s biggest primetime sporting event this Sunday.


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After playing college football, Kurt Warner didn’t have many options. But just when it seemed like his dreams of going pro would never pan out, he went from being a stock boy at a grocery store to a two-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion, and Hall of Fame quarterback.

On the surface, this may seem like your typical rags-to-riches Cinderella story, but that misses the most essential part of Kurt’s story — his unwavering faith in Christ.

After years of challenges and setbacks, it wasn’t just hard work that led Kurt to success in the NFL … but faith, hope, and love. And this is the story you’ll find at the heart of the Erwin Brother’s most recent movie American Underdog.

Watch the video below to hear from Kurt himself, as well as some of the cast and crew from this inspiring new movie, about the faith behind Kurt Warner’s football story.


Kurt Warner - American Underdog - DVD American Underdog (DVD)

Based on the True Story of Legendary Quarterback Kurt Warner

Life made them underdogs. Faith made them champions.

From Kingdom Story Company and The Erwin Brothers—the directors of I Can Only Imagine—comes AMERICAN UNDERDOG, based on the inspirational true story of NFL Quarterback Kurt Warner.

Undrafted as a quarterback out of college, Kurt found himself stocking shelves in a grocery store to help support Brenda and her two kids, all while trying to hold onto his fading dream of becoming an NFL quarterback. Their incredible true story of faith, family, and football was made for the big screen. This movie is sure to inspire the dreamer in all of us!

How Can I know God?

     What is Christianity? Some say it is a philosophy, others say it is an ethical stance, while still others claim it is actually an experience. None of these things really gets to the heart of the matter, however. Each is something a Christian has, but not one of them serves as a definition of what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a transaction between a person and God.

     A person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to knowing about him directly and intimately. Christianity is knowing God.

     “Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” –John 17:3


Why do I need to know God?

     Our desire for personal knowledge of God is strong, but we usually fail to recognize that desire for what it is. When we first fall in love, when we first marry, when we finally break into our chosen field, when we at last get that weekend house — these breakthroughs arouse in us anticipation of something which, as it turns out, never occurs.

     We eventually discover that our desire for that precious something is a longing no lover or career or achievement, even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy. The satisfaction fades even as we close our fingers around our goal. Nothing delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Many of us avoid the yawning emptiness through busyness or denial, but at best there is just a postponement. “Nothing tastes,” said Marie Antoinette.


There are several ways to respond to this:

By blaming the things themselves – by finding fault in everyone and everything around you. You believe that a better spouse, a better career, a better boss or salary would finally yield the elusive joy. Many of the most successful people of the world are like this — bored, discontented, running from new thing to new thing, often-changing counselors, mates, partners, or settings.

By blaming yourself – by trying harder to live up to standards. Many people believe they have made poor choices or have failed to measure up to challenges and to achieve the things that would give them joy and satisfaction. Such people are wracked with self-doubts and tend to burn themselves out. They think, “If only I could reach my goals, then this emptiness would be gone.” But it is not so.

By blaming the universe itself – by giving up seeking fulfillment at all. This is the person who says, “Yes, when I was young I was idealistic, but at my age I have stopped howling after the moon.” This makes you become cynical, you decide to repress that part of yourself that once wanted fulfillment and joy. But you become hard, and you can feel yourself losing your humanity, compassion, and joy.

By blaming and recognizing your separation from God – by seeing that the emptiness comes from your separation from God, and by establishing a personal relationship with Him.


In order to form a personal relationship with God, you must know three things:

1) Who we are:
     God’s creation. God created us and built us for a relationship with Him. We belong to Him, and we owe Him gratitude for every breath, every moment, everything. Because humans were built to live for Him (to worship), we will always try to worship something — if not God, we will choose some other object of ultimate devotion to give our lives meaning.

     Sinners. We have all chosen (and re-affirm daily) to reject God and to make our own joy and happiness our highest priority. We do not want to worship God and surrender ourselves as master, yet we are built to worship, so we cling to idols, centering our lives on things that promise to give us meaning: success, relationships, influence, love, comfort, and so on.

     In spiritual bondage. To live for anything else but God leads to breakdown and decay. When a fish leaves the water, which he was built for, he is not free, but dead. Worshiping other things besides God leads to a loss of meaning. If we achieve these things, they cannot deliver satisfaction, because they were never meant to be “gods.” They were never meant to replace God. Worshiping other things besides God also leads to self- image problems. We end up defining ourselves in terms of our achievement in these things. We must have them or all is lost; so they drive us to work too hard, or they fill us with terror if they are jeopardized.

2) Who God is:
     Love and justice. His active concern is for our joy and well-being. Most people love those who love them, yet God loves and seeks the good even of people who are his enemies. But because God is good and loving, He cannot tolerate evil. The opposite of love is not anger, but indifference. “The more you love your son, the more you hate in him the liar, the drunkard, the traitor,” (E. Gifford). To imagine God’s situation, imagine a judge who also is a father, who sits at the trial of his guilty son. A judge knows he cannot let his son go, for without justice no society can survive. How much less can a loving God merely ignore or suspend justice for us — who are loved, yet guilty of rebellion against his loving authority?

     Jesus Christ. Jesus is God Himself come to Earth. He first lived a perfect life, loving God with all his heart, soul, and mind, fulfilling all human obligation to God. He lived the life you owed — a perfect record. Then, instead of receiving his deserved reward (eternal life), Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins, taking the punishment and death each of us owed. When we believe in him: 1) our sins are paid for by his death, and 2) His perfect life record is transferred to our account. So God accepts and regards us as if we have done all Christ has done.

3) What you must do:
     Repent. There first must be an admission that you have been living as your own master, worshipping the wrong things, violating God’s loving laws. “Repentance” means you ask forgiveness and turn from that stance with a willingness to live for and center on Him.

     Believe. Faith is transferring your trust from your own efforts to the efforts of Christ. You were relying on other things to make you acceptable, but now you consciously begin relying on what Jesus did for your acceptance with God. All you need is nothing. If you think, “God owes me something for all my efforts,” you are still on the outside.

     Pray after this fashion: “I see I am more flawed and sinful than I ever dared believe, but that I am even more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I turn from my old life of living for myself. I have nothing in my record to merit your approval, but I now rest in what Jesus did and ask to be accepted into God’s family for his sake.” When you make this transaction, two things happen at once: 1) your accounts are cleared, your sins are wiped out permanently, you are adopted legally into God’s family and 2) the Holy Spirit enters your heart and begins to change you into the character of Jesus.

     Follow through. Tell a Christian friend about your commitment. Get yourself training in the basic Christian disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible study, and fellowship with other Christians.


Why should I seek God?

     On one hand, you may feel that you “need” Him. Even though you may recognize that you have needs only God can meet, you must not try to use Him to achieve your own ends. It is not possible to bargain with God. (“I’ll do this if you will do that.”) That is not Christianity at all, but a form of magic or paganism in which you “appease” the cranky deity in exchange for a favor.

Are you getting into Christianity to serve God, or to get God to serve you? Those are two opposite motives and they result in two different religions. You must come to God because 1) you owe it to Him to give Him your life (because He is your Creator) and 2) you are deeply grateful to Him for sacrificing His Son (because He is your Redeemer.)

     On the other hand, you may feel no need or interest to know God at all. This does not mean you should stay uncommitted. If you were created by God, then you owe Him your life, whether you feel like it or not. You are obligated to seek Him and ask Him to soften your heart, open your eyes, and enlighten you.

     If you say, “I have no faith,” that is no excuse either. You need only doubt your doubts. No one can doubt everything at once — you must believe in something to doubt something else. For example, do you believe you are competent to run your own life? Where is the evidence of that? Why doubt everything but your doubts about God and your faith in yourself? Is that fair? You owe it to God to seek Him. Do so.


What if I’m not ready to proceed?

Make a list of the issues that you perceive to be barriers to your crossing the line into faith. Here is a possible set of headings:
• Content issues. Do you understand the basics of the Christian message — sin, Jesus as God, sacrifice, faith?
• Coherence issues. Are there intellectual problems you have with Christianity? Are there objections to the Christian faith that you cannot resolve in your own mind?
• Cost issues. Do you perceive that a move into full Christian faith will cost you dearly? What fears do you have about commitment?
Now talk to a Christian friend until these issues are resolved.
Consider reading: Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (MacMillan) and Basic Christianity, by John Stott (IVP)

© 1991, Timothy Keller (used here by permission)

Can-I-Really-Trust-The-Bible-Barry-Cooper


Can I Really Trust the Bible?

For further reading … The Bible makes big claims for itself. But do those claims stand up? Aren’t the stories just legends? Hasn’t the information been corrupted over time? Isn’t the Bible full of mistakes? And isn’t it culturally outdated? In this absorbing little book, Barry Cooper explores these questions – and many others – with warmth, wit and integrity. request-your-copy-today-400

It was October 1843. Charles Dickens stepped out of his brick-and-stone home near Regent’s Park in London to go for a walk. He was normally a buoyant, optimistic person, but on that particular evening he had a heavy heart.

At 31, he’d been at the peak of his writing career. Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby—they all sold well. But his newest novel—Martin Chuzzlewit—was a flop. And just a few months earlier his publisher told Dickens that his advances were about to be reduced … by a lot.

The news had stunned him. Supporting a large, extended family, his expenses were nearly more than he could handle. His father and brothers were pleading for loans. His wife, Kate, was expecting their fifth child.

All summer long, he’d worried about his mounting bills, especially the large mortgage he owed on his house. Dickens knew he needed an idea that would earn him a lot of money fast. But his depression was giving him writer’s block.

As he went on his nightly walk on that October evening, he was hoping for a breakthrough. He wandered through London’s better neighborhoods, but, as he got closer to the Thames River, things changed. There were tenement houses, open sewers, and litter strewn everywhere. It reminded him of a nightmare he’d been having most of his life of a 12-year-old boy sitting at a worktable. There he’d work twelve hours a day, six days a week, attaching labels on an endless stream of shoe polish pots to earn the six shillings that will keep him alive. With his father in debtors’ prison, this boy’s only schooling was the one-hour lesson he would get during his dinner break at the warehouse.

The scary part was that this dream didn’t come out of Dickens’ imagination. It was a replay of his early life. He was that boy working twelve hours a day—until his father inherited some money, paid off his debts, and got out of prison.

It was on this night that the fear of destitution rose up in Dickens again. But as he headed home, he had a flash of inspiration. What about writing a Christmas story about a destitute family? But Christmas was less than three months away. The book would have to be short. It would have to be finished by the end of November to be printed in time for Christmas sales.

He began to write. The manuscript grew, page by page. He wrote about the kind of Christmas he loved—one of joyous family parties with clusters of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling, delicious feasts of roast goose, plum pudding, fresh breads, all enjoyed in front of a blazing Yule log. But then he wrote about a destitute family who couldn’t afford that kind of Christmas, and about the stingy Scrooge who could have helped but only cared about himself.

At last, on December 2, he finished the manuscript and sent it to the printers. On December 17, it went on sale and the first edition of 6,000 copies were sold out by Christmas Eve. Dickens’ financial situation was reversed and the world got a great story.

If you’ve been listening to the program this December, you know we’ve been talking a lot about Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and what happens to old Ebenezer Scrooge. After retiring alone to his cold, barren apartment on Christmas Eve he gets a visit from the spirit of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Doomed by his greed, Marley’s ghost wanders the world in chains. He warns Scrooge that he must change, or suffer the same fate. The ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come appear and show Scrooge scenes from his life.

In this way, Dickens does a masterful job of describing how Scrooge is brought to repentance. Scrooge can barely stand to see his sin revealed and yet it works this wonderful change in him. It shows him the consequences of his actions. It gives him a foretaste of the great regret he’s going to have one day. It humbles him and instills compassion in his hard heart for Tiny Tim and his family. And the best part is the relief he has when he realizes it’s not too late to change.

It’s a great story, but there’s one thing missing—Jesus. In Dickens’ story, Scrooge goes from being a villain to a savior, seemingly without ever turning in faith to the real Savior Jesus Christ.

If taken at face value, we might lose sight of Scrooge’s true need of a savior. The most profound repentance in the world isn’t enough without Jesus. It’s natural to think that we can redeem our past by doing better in the future, but it’s not true. Nothing we can do can ever pay for what we’ve done and not done—only the atoning death of Jesus on the cross can pay for our past.

No one knew this better than the apostle Peter. There was a before and after in Peter’s life but Peter didn’t change himself—it was Jesus who changed him. Peter bragged about his bravery and denied the Lord out of fear before finally running away. He’d learned the hard way how all the best intentions in the world couldn’t make him into a different person. But then Jesus sought him out—this Jesus who had paid the price for his sin on the cross. He came to him and called him into a new life.

The change you see in Scrooge can really only happen through the living Word of the gospel. Ultimately, Charles Dickens’ shows us what transformation looks like in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge. When those church bells ring at the end of the story, he is truly a changed man. But let us never forget that this impossible change can only be made wholly possible through the help of a loving, forgiving Savior.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
1 Peter 1:3

About the Author

As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.

Most of the thoughts above are taken from broadcasts of Haven Today. Corum Hughes serves as the editor of this blog and coordinator for Haven’s social media content. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Corum lives in Boise, ID with his wife Molly.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a Christmas classic. But it’s so much more than a heartwarming story to be read at Christmastime. This tale of Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge can point us to the truth about ourselves and, more importantly, the true, good news about Jesus.
To find out more about why this story has made such an impact throughout the ages, we sat down with Mark Dickens, who is the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens. In this short video he explains why A Christmas Carol is still loved today and gives some interesting insight into the faith of its well-known author.
 

 

ACC-product-blogA Christmas Carol (Audio Drama)

Experience Charles Dickens’s beloved story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future in a 90-minute full-cast drama production. Since 1996, Focus on the Family Radio Theatre has produced innovative audio entertainment for families and individuals. These dramas feature cinema-quality sound design and original music scores.
request-your-copy-today-400
 
 

If you’ve been looking for a way for the children around you to memorize and even understand the Bible this Christmas, you don’t have to look any longer. Randall Goodgame, the singer-songwriter behind Slugs & Bugs, has come out with a Christmas album that’s totally based on God’s Word.

This album tells the truth of Scripture in a way that helps it stick in young hearts. With music inspired by “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” these songs were created so the truths of the Bible can resonate in young hearts, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work on the hearts of parents and grandparents, as well.

Here are a few songs from Randall Goodgame’s Sing the Bible Family Christmas that will help you and the kids in your life get in the Christ-centered Christmas spirit this year:

 

John 1:1-4, 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

Luke 1:46-48

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;”

 
 

STBC-productSing the Bible Family Christmas

To have this album for the Christmas season, don’t hesitate to request your copy when you make a gift to Haven Today and we’ll send you Sing the Bible Family Christmas as our “thank you” for your generosity to this listener-supported ministry. Randall Goodgame created this album so that each word-for-word Scripture song would celebrate the miracles of all miracles: the coming of Jesus. When you follow the link below, you’ll get the chance to listen to samples of other songs on the album, such as “When the Fullness of Time had Come,” “Zechariah’s Prophecy,” “I Heard the Bells,” and more.

request-your-copy-today-400

 
 

Cheer up; you’re a lot worse off than you think you are,
but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined.

– Jack Miller

“How can God love me when I continue to sin?”
“Is God angry with me?”
“How can I be sure that I’m forgiven?”

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? The idea of grace is one of the most beautiful aspects of our salvation, yet it’s also one of the hardest  ideas to grasp.

We have all felt the guilt that comes when we’ve done something wrong, and it can become a barrier between us and God. We often forget that we are not saved by how good of a Christian we are, but by the loving sacrifice of Christ who paid the ultimate price for our sin. There is nothing on earth more powerful and life-transforming than our salvation by grace through faith. And because of what Jesus did for us, we can enjoy the blessings that come from receiving the gospel.

But the gospel is more than just something we are supposed to believe. God wants us to experience it every day.

The gospel holds everything we need for a life of joy and fulfillment. In his book, A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent explains how to preach the gospel to yourself and why all believers should do this on a daily basis.
Here are just 3 of the many reasons you should rehearse the gospel regularly:

1. Our Daily Need

Scripture itself tells us the gospel is so foolish, so scandalous, and so incredible, that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as we should. There is simply no other way to silence our human forebodings and the lies of the world than to overwhelm our heart with daily rehearsings of the gospel.

2. A Heart for the Lost

The more we rehearse gospel truths, the more we develop a burden for non-Christians to receive the same blessings. In Romans 9, Paul is devastated by a burden for his fellow Jews to experience the saving power of the gospel. His burden existed long before he started writing, but it is undoubtedly intensified by his rehearsal of gospel truths in Romans 5-8. This rehearsal inevitably leads his thoughts toward the plight of those outside of Christ.

3. Hope of Heaven

The more we experience the riches of Christ in the gospel, the more there develops within us a yearning to be with Christ in heaven where we will experience His grace in unhindered fullness. It enables our hearts to thrive during the most difficult trials here on earth.  When we preach the gospel to ourselves every day, we keep ourselves established in “the hope of the gospel.” Such hope is intended to keep us looking forward while still on earth.

Don’t stop here. To rehearse the gospel regularly, you need to know how to preach the gospel to yourself. To learn more, we recommend listening the radio series Preach the Gospel to Yourself with Milton Vincent.

In Europe during WWII, Ray Whipps served as an infantryman under General Patton in the trenches of Normandy, Paris, and Belgium. Betty was a field nurse in Cherbourg, France. After Ray was injured in a mortar blast, the two met and bonded over their shared faith. As Betty nursed Ray back to health, they fell in love and vowed to marry after the war.
But then things went terribly wrong. Hear Ray and Betty introduce their remarkable story of faith and love amidst the calamities of World War II.
 

 

51CSPtqUVaL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_‘Til We Meet Again

by Ray & Betty Whipps
Told in first person from Ray’s perspective, with personal wartime letters from Betty throughout, ‘Til We Meet Again is a sweeping love story set amid the backdrop of WWII. It is an epic story of faith, hope, and love, and a nostalgic look back at one of the most memorable periods in American history. But, most of all, this book will show you that no matter how hard things get, there is no trial so great that the strength of Christ in you is not greater still.
 
 
 

By all accounts, my friends Nolan and Adiya think they have boring testimonies of God’s grace.

They grew up in the same church in Northern Virginia, surrounded by Christian parents and a congregation that faithfully raised them in the Lord. They went to different colleges and churches for a time, but kept in touch and one day got married. Now they are raising their two daughters in a church near the one they grew up in.

Early on in our friendship, this couple confessed to my husband and me that they wished their stories were more exciting, that they had a prodigal-son past that they had left. They wanted to have that dramatic break so they would always remember what God had saved them from.

Oh, but to never have known a day where you didn’t know Jesus!

Stephen and I, who both became believers as young adults and walked away from sins and sinful lifestyles, think that to have always known Jesus is far more precious than an exciting story to tell.

The truth is, whether saved as a child, or as a rebellious teenager, we who have been saved have all been saved from the same eternal fate: an eternity of hell and an eternity without God or goodness or joy.

Our friends have a certain calmness and assurance about them that comes from years of trusting God, while Stephen and I feel like we are just getting started. In fact, we have one son and a daughter on the way, and it is our hope and our near-daily prayer that our children will have testimonies like Nolan and Adiya’s. That our children’s faith would be even stronger than ours.

How special it would be to us if our children always, always knew that God loved them. If they always knew that they were safe and secure, leaning on the Everlasting’s arms. We wish not for them to have the pain and destruction that comes from acting like the prodigal son (though surely the prodigal tastes the Lord’s sweetness, too). We wish for God to guide them all their lives and to use them in mighty ways for His kingdom.

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” – Luke 18:16

Both types of testimonies are surely needed in churches. Long-time Christians need excited new believers to remind them how much of a treasure their faith is. New believers need the model of steady, wise faith that long-time Christians can provide.

But if my husband and I could choose, for our children, we would choose Nolan and Adiya’s story.

Let’s not compare testimonies to see whose stories are more movie-worthy. Let’s champion those who grew up believing, who had Jesus’ help through the awkward teenage years, through the trying college years, through the rocky early years of marriage, and even through the sleep-deprived new-parent years. Let’s look past the testimony to the God who saves.

And let us pray for the little lambs in our churches, that they will always trust their Father with a child’s innocence.

 

 

Lindsey M. Roberts spent years writing exclusively for secular journalism, including such outlets as The Washington Post, Architect, and Gray magazine, before she first tried to write about Jesus. She’s thrilled to explore in words how everything from cleaning the kitchen three times a day to delighting in the maritime history of Nantucket is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband, a pastor and U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, and son in Virginia.