Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Piece of my Heart?

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

In the article referenced below, it is estimated that in the last year and a half as much as 45% of the wealth of the entire world has disappeared, just disappeared. If this estimate is anywhere close to correct, and most likely it is, we are confronted with an economic disaster of staggering proportions.

How on earth could such a thing happen? I believe I have at least part of the answer. Those things we believed to be true wealth were not wealth at all.

Some of it was obvious criminal fraud, such as the Ponzi schemes that have been in the news. I have read that some of the financial instruments accounted in the world’s wealth were very close to fraud. For example, some of the insurance instruments written on bonds based on mortgages that were improperly valued or perhaps the mortgages did not exist at all. In addition, insurance policies were then written on the insurance policies, ad infinitum. Companies like AIG received payment for the policies, counted it as insurance in force, and the salesmen received gigantic commissions. It all went very well until someone looked in the bag of mortgages and found the bag was empty.

There were legal lunacies, such as toggle bonds, that never paid any interest. They only paid in more debt, forever. Such madness was not limited to clever rascals and outright criminals playing with billions of dollars that really did not exist. The middle class and even the working poor got into the action. In the last few years they were given loans on houses and condominiums they could not possibly afford based on the assumption that property value never goes down. This included insane instruments such as reverse amortization mortgages that increased mortgage debt even as the home owner paid the required monthly payment. The banks knew the home buyer was perpetrating a fraud to buy a house they could not possibly afford. In the industry these loans were called “liar loans.” Sometimes the lying was done by the buyer, sometimes by the real estate appraiser, sometimes by a bank employee who wanted a bigger commission. It all went very well until someone looked in the bag and found the bag was empty.

There are really too many villains in this sad story to worry too much about fixing blame. First we need to fix the problem and that may not be possible in my lifetime. The politicians in Washington twisted the arms of the bankers to make loans to the poor that could not possibly be repaid. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gave an implicit guarantee to the world that their mortgage bonds would be protected from default by the American taxpayer. The rating agencies, that held a special legal position granted by the government, were paid on the basis of the rating given a particular bond, the higher the rating, the higher the fee. It all went very well until someone looked in the bag and found the bag was full of rot and corruption.

All of us, but particularly my generation, the baby boom, have been weighed in the balance and have been found wanting. As I began to write this entry, I was reminded of this quote from the writings of Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, the conscience of his nation. My generation is responsible for increases in drug adiction, pornography, abortion, and divorce. The scandals that have bedeviled my generation are not limited to corrupt and lying politicians or even business executives that had only two moral imperatives, “What’s in it for me?” and “How soon can I take the money and run?” The scandals that have beset the church in the last twenty years are too numerous, too sordid, and too well known to repeat here. How could we possibly expect a God who is not mocked to tolerate this nonsense forever?

I think we should consider this a wake up call, a shot fired across the bow, a time to repent and ask for forgiveness. A time to ask the God of the Universe to show us the difference between the mammon of unrighteousness and true wealth.

May God have mercy on my soul.

Luke 16:10-13 NIV

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Please Share Stories Like This One

Someone I know once had a very good job but no health insurance. Unfortunately, about eight years ago he suffered a massive heart attack that came very close to killing him. The doctors saved his life but the bill was enormous. To make the situation worse, shortly thereafter his employer went out of business. He negotiated a payment schedule with the hospital that he could afford given his financial condition. He faithfully paid the debt down to about $7,000. At that point he noticed an advertisement for a zero interest (for six months) credit card. He applied for and was granted a card with $4,200 of available credit. He told the credit card company he only wanted a $3,500 limit. They thought this weird but complied with his request. He then went to the hospital and announced he had just been given a zero interest credit card with a $3,500 limit. He offered to give the hospital $3,500 right that minute if they would then consider his bill paid in full. The hospital jumped at the offer. In such situations, I am told, creditors view a bird in the hand as worth two in the bush. I would have never thought of such a thing, but I try to recognize wisdom wherever she may be found. My friend acted with great wisdom and he referred me to this curious Bible story.
Of course this is not the normal interpretation. Generally it is thought that our Lord was encouraging his followers to use their money in this world to establish their rewards in the next. Upon reflection, I don’t think we should limit “debts” to financial transactions but should apply the principle to forgiveness more generally. Also, this story and the following few verses have me thinking about the current condition of our country and my generation in particular. More on that at some future date.

[1] And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
[2] And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
[3] Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
[4] I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
[5] So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
[6] And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
[7] Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
[8] And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
[9] And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Swarm Theory and the Church

I expect that if asked, most pastors would like to be able to state that their church ran like a well-oiled machine. In fact, churches tend not to behave like well-oiled machines, they tend to respond in a manner that is perhaps best described by swarm theory. From my second hand knowledge of an interesting but underfunded project at work, I was aware of the existence of swarm theory, but until recently I had no idea that this was such an important and pervasive idea. There is a great deal of interest in swarm theory because human behavior in networks (such as the Internet) can often be predicted by the concepts of swarm theory. This sounds like something for me to explore in more depth sometime in the future.

Although we are all aware that human behavior in mobs can be a bad thing, it turns out it can also be a good thing. Sometimes the behavior of a swarm is more intelligent than the behavior of the individual members of a swarm. Scientists have studied the actions of flocks of birds, schools of fish, herds of antelopes, and flocks of sheep. It turns out, for example, when the group is threatened; they instinctively do exactly what they should be doing in order to confuse the attacking predator. How does this “greater intelligence” apply to human behavior? Recently, according to Kevin Kelly, in an experiment 5,000 people with no experience or knowledge of airplanes were placed in front of computers loaded with a sophisticated flight simulator. They were asked to land a jet aircraft. Their commands were summed and averaged to determine the motions of the aircraft. Turns out 5,000 ignorant people were able to land an aircraft as well as a trained pilot.

It also turns out there is still a place for leadership even in swarm theory. In a subsequent more complex experiment, the 5,000 volunteers piloted a submarine equipped with a robot arm through an imaginary sea in search of sea monster eggs. When a sea monster egg was found, the submarine’s robot arm would pick up the egg and store it. At times, when there were no sea monster eggs in sight the participants seemed to get confused and ship became somewhat paralyzed by conflicting commands. The individual running the experiment knew where the eggs were located. At moments of confusion, he would give a short simple command such as, “Why don’t you guys look to the right?” The participants would quickly react and move in the correct direction and load up on of sea monster eggs.

Commands, it has been found, are most effective when they are infrequent and short. Upon reflection, I have concluded that this command and control method sounds a lot like God’s interactions with the nation of Israel during Old Testament times. Every so many years God would send one of his servants, the prophets, to deliver a message that was usually rather simple to his wayward sheep. I believe that is happening in the American church this very day. The impact of large national financial ministries on individual churches all across the country has become so significant that it is being reported in the secular financial press. Recently Laura Rowley reported on three such ministries on her column on Yahoo Finance. Specifically these ministries were Crown Financial Ministries, Dave Ramsey Financial Peace, and Lynn Khalfani-Cox. In spite of their differences, all of these ministries seem to be delivering a simple core message. Get out of debt, particularly unsecured consumer debt, such as credit cards.

If this message is resonating throughout the Kingdom of God, perhaps it is a word for each of us to heed. Of course, check it out against scripture.

Here are two from the NIV:

Proverbs 22:7
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Deuteronomy 28:4 (From blessings for obedience)
The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.

Deuteronomy 28: 43, 44 (From curses for disobedience)
The alien who lives among you will rise above you, higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. He will lend to you, but you will not lend to him. He will be the head, but you will be the tail.

Friday, March 13, 2009

So There You Have It

So there you have it. A seven step plan for seeking after and hopefully, obtaining good gifts in this life.

1) Gratitude
2) Forgiveness
3) Divine Purpose
4) Goal Setting with Congruence
5) Faith
6) The Sisters (Persistence and Patience)
7) Generosity

This series is something I hope you found of value. It began life as a letter of encouragement to an acquaintance in Hawaii who wanted to buy a home. By the way, that mission was accomplished. I thought I was on to something and so shared the letter with a few others for feedback. Some of this feedback was obviously valuable. Some of it annoying, but I incorporated all of it, to varying degrees into my rewrite. Then I let it sit on my hard drive for a couple of years as I continued to occasionally tweak the titles and the order of the list on a dedicated page in my Franklin Planner.

I thought this would be a good time to pull it out, dust it off , and expand it in a more general way for a specifically Christian audience. I am happy with some of the results and less than happy with others. Generally I like the content but sometimes what I have written seems too “preachy.” For example, I think there is way too much scripture in the entry on Faith. I like the story but there isn’t enough substance there to justify its length. On the other hand, I was very pleased with the idea density in the section on Goal Setting with Congruence.

Upon reflection I have decided that what I have written would generally benefit from the use of the New International Version. It is just hard for me to get the language of the King James Version out of my head after so many years. In fact, I believe that if I rewrite this again at sometime in the future for another audience, I will still keep the King James for the Psalms. It is just impossible for me to imagine any version matching the beauty and cadence of the King James for Psalms.

This process is actually something I try to use in my own life with varying degrees of success and failure. Some of it is a reflection on my own experiences, some comes from a synthesis of an enormous volume of books and articles read over many years.

I guess I would only want to leave you with a brief conclusion. The process is never ending. As you grow closer to God, you will set better goals and have more faith to achieve them. Start small and start today. Pick an item off the list that speaks to your soul and create your own order for progress.

But do something today, God bless you all.



When I started working on this list, I intended to title this section (seventh and last) giving. The more I thought about the problem, the more I thought this was OK as far as it went, but giving does not go to the heart of the matter. Giving is just an act. An act that can find its source in all sorts motivations, some good some bad. Giving can come from a fear in a bitter resentful heart, a malicious attempt to manipulate another in blatant quid pro quo, or even an attempt to heal our own guilty conscience. I believe that Jesus is always more interested in the state of our heart than he is in our actions.

I have a friend. He is about my age, perhaps 55 or 56. When we were young we attended the same little church in Greenville, SC. He was then and is today one of the finest Christians I have ever met. More than almost anyone I know, he is a man who has constantly sought after God’s own heart. My friend, let’s call him Charlie for the sake of this exercise, married younger than most of us who went on to complete a four-year college degree. It was not very long before his wife became pregnant. Charlie wanted his wife to stay at home with their new baby, but he could not afford to support his young family on a draftsman’s salary. He decided to take a second, part time job waiting tables at a local restaurant. He told me he hated to see people pray before they ate. It inevitably meant that he would receive a lousy tip. In fact on one occasion a Christian customer left him a soul winning Bible tract instead of any tip at all. Then as now, I find this act so inexcusably despicable that as a Christian, it is hard to put my feelings into words. Given what I know about religion in the Bible Belt, particularly in certain circles found in Greenville, SC it would not surprise me a bit to discover the cheap (bad word deleted) who left Charlie a Bible tract was a faithful church member and I bet he tithed. I expect he took great pride in tithing and frequently reminded God of his faithfulness. A bit ashamed of himself, Charlie confessed his favorite customers were drunks. They left good tips. Fortunately, Charlie was a lot better at forgiveness than most people in the food service industry.

There is a better way. We are told the queen of Sheba gave King Solomon an hundred and twenty talents of gold, of spices very great store, and precious stones. The narrator goes on to observe that there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. The king, by the way, returned the favor. This is what kings and queens do, even in this day. They give out of a sense of abundance, knowing that there will be plenty more where that came from. After all, basically they own an entire country.

Once again though, the condition of your heart does not depend on the material world. The famous Jewish psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, observed, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” They had a sense of abundance that could not be overcome by even the most horrifying depravation imaginable.

I believe I have it all wrong. So often I act out of a sense of scarcity not a sense of abundance. After all, we are sons and daughters of the King. Jesus told his disciples, “freely you have received, freely give.” Try to be a blessing. Once again, it isn’t necessary to perform some great feat to become a blessing. Start small. Once I was walking down a street on my way to a meeting with some unpleasant sponsors. I noticed one of the parking meters was within a minute or two of expiring. Only a few cars behind me a meter maid was working her way up the street. On an impulse I fished into my pocket, pulled out a quarter, and dropped it into the meter. I gave a small blessing to someone I never met and probably never will meet. It felt good. A small start for this tight fisted son of the snow covered German forests where scarcity is the norm and thrift a way of life.

In Lawrence of Arabia, Anthony Quinn portrays Auda Abu Tayi, a corrupt, self important old tribal chieftain and war lord. A one point he informs everyone within earshot, “I am a river of blessing to my people.” In fact he was greedy but lovable thieving scoundrel, but what an idea! Could I be a river of blessings to the people I meet? What a way to live, to continually look for an opportunity to be a blessing to others. I assure you, when I use my horn in Washington traffic I am generally not looking to bless my fellow drivers.

Of course just as there are many bad motivations for bad giving, there are many good motivations for giving. I contend that while it is possible to give without a heart full of gratitude. That it is impossible not to give if your heart is overflowing with love and gratitude to the Lord of the universe. Consider a grandfather. He is very likely to spoil his grandchild, just because he is so happy and grateful to see the child of his daughter alive in this world. Keep practicing generosity. The time will come when you will be in a position to make a difference in some wonderful life and as you reach out your hand, friendship and blessings will keep flowing forward forever, even into eternity. You will be ready for the truly important moments that can change the history of a life if you practice giving as you receive.

Matthew 6

[24] No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
[25] Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
[26] Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
[27] Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
[28] And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
[29] And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
[30] Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
[31] Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
[32] (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
[33] But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
[34] Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Sisters Patience and Persistence

There are a lot of what I will term, mind science teachings that are popular today. They come in different religious flavors and varying degrees of sophistication but they all contain a similar teaching. They all claim mind or intention is the beginning of all things. That is correct. They all claim that before something can materialize in your world, you must have the thought in your mind. That is correct. Some of them even teach methods of visualization to help you learn how to clearly see your goals. Visualization works. Even Olympic athletes utilize visualization techniques as part of their training. It has been found that mentally rehearsing a gymnastic routine or even shooting foul shots will improve an athlete’s actual performance. But often, that is where these teachings stop. They imply that you do not need to practice or continue exercising in the face of disappointment and discouragement to achieve a goal. In fact, even the exceptional athlete runs hundreds of wind sprints and spends hours in boring repetitive drills of fundamental skills.

Persistence is the point at which divine will takes shape in human hands. We can say this mountain will be removed from my life, but mountains are large. Rent a bulldozer and start digging. If the rock is worth something, people will pay you for a chance to haul it off. If you believe you have found God’s will for your life, persist in seeing your goal, even as you work towards that goal.

Persistence has a sister, patience. If you set a very large goal, at some point in time you will be tempted to cry out, “The task is too great.”

Patience says, “This is not so.” If, for example you have set a goal of $1,500,000 in cash, stocks, and bonds for retirement, this is can seem an overwhelming goal, particularly as you watch your investments decline in value on a weekly basis.

Patience says, “Can you put aside $1,000 this month? Perhaps that is something that can be done by payroll deduction into a 401-K, every month. Perhaps your employer will add something to that money. Perhaps the mutual fund purchased with that money will eventually begin to grow again.”

“Perhaps,” patience will tell you, “You can take the first of 1,500 steps and not even notice it.”

If you keep doing the right thing in the right way you will get closer and closer to your goal. If God has truly told you, this mountain will be removed. It might take some effort, but enough bulldozers, enough dump trucks, and enough time and that mountain will be removed from your life.

This principle applies to any problem. Consider the case of a very lonely unhappy divorced man. One day he decided he had enough of his own sorrow and self pity. He didn’t know how to start meeting women. After all, he was over fifty years old. He decided to take a class in ballroom dancing. He thought women might like dancing. He was right. He was outnumbered in these ballroom dancing classes and some of the women in these classes were divorcees looking for a husband. It took some time, but eventually, through persistence and patience, he found a good Christian wife. (true story)

Patience and persistence would be number six on my list of seven.

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

Mary Anne Radmacher

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Practice of Faith

Faith is number 5 on my list of 7. As I am learning how to write these entries, I am learning how to exercise my faith, because learning how to write is an important goal in my life.

Once we have made an effort to purify our hearts, once we are focused and working towards a goal in a manner that is systematically in line with our thoughts, values, feelings, and natural talents, we must exercise faith if we are ever to see that goal actualized in the material world. The world often presents difficulties that we must overcome. To reach our goals, we must continue to believe that we will achieve them. We must continue to visualize them in our mind’s eye. We must continue to believe that we are acting in accordance with the will of God for our life. Without faith that we can complete the task, we could not graduate from college, build a house, run a race, or find a mate. If we have made the effort to set a goal in line with our Divine purpose, we can believe that the God who has given us our desires will help us fulfill them.

I have spent some time wondering why I have a measure of faith in some areas of life and not in others. I have analyzed my own behavior and I have found that in the areas where I have been able to walk in faith, I often practice an exercise that can be found in the life of King David. I think back on my training as a child or as a new Christian. I recall the times God moved in my life and delivered me from some trial. I say to myself, “God delivered me from this and God gave me the strength to do that, surely I will overcome this new obstacle in my life. When King David faced a problem, he was fond of reminding himself of what God had done in life. Consider this example can found in Psalm 18:

[29] For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
[30] As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
[31] For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
[32] It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
[33] He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
[34] He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
[35] Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
[36] Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
[37] I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.

I believe David benefited from good training as a child. No doubt his father, like my father, made David a sling and taught him how to use it. The sling is still a dangerous weapon (particularly in the unsupervised hands of a small boy), but in the ancient world it was a weapon of war. I expect Jesse taught him how to handle a long staff, another standard martial arts weapon and the basic tool of a shepherd. Furthermore, we know had a number of older brothers. Based on my observations of sibling behavior, it is easy to conclude that even without training, David would have to learn how to defend himself. Does this exchange from I Samuel 17 sound familiar?

[28] And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.
[29] And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?

Out in the wilderness with the sheep, David probably found plenty of opportunities to practice with the sling and the long staff both as he protected his father’s sheep and out of sheer boredom. The point here is he did not start with Goliath of Gath. He started with smaller goals, most likely learning to hit anything at all with a sling. As a child, I could hurl a rock a great distance with my sling but I was unlikely to hit anything I was aiming at. For this reason, my sling practice was limited to areas not inhabited by windows or other children. The wilderness seems like a perfect place for a boy to learn how to use a sling. Start with small goals, build your confidence. Then look for bigger and bigger goals, understand that the God who helped you reach your first goal will help you reach your second and third goals. Then when the time comes that you must face a truly frightening challenge, you can say like King David said,

[34] And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:
[35] And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.
[36] Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
[37] David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.

I believe that David could have hit Goliath 100 out of 100 times. The giant was too big a target for an expert to miss. I believe David could have hit Goliath in his helmeted head 80 out of 100 times. But a kill shot with a single stone? I think even for an expert that is a 1 in a 100 throw, bad odds when facing a heavily armed giant. David, however, had the training, he had the experience of God’s power moving in his young life, and David confessed his faith in the present moment, in the moment of crisis. It wasn’t faked. He wasn’t pretending. It was real.

[45] Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
[46] This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
[47] And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands.

Of course we all know the outcome of this most popular of Old Testament stories. A junior high school aged boy, too young to march with the army, took out the biggest, badest martial artist of his age with a single stone.

Go thou and do likewise.

Hebrews Chapter 11 is THE faith chapter, when you get a chance read the whole thing. I think you will find it a blessing.


[1] Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
[2] For by it the elders obtained a good report.
[3] Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
[4] By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
[5] By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
[6] But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
[7] By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
[8] By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
[9] By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
[10] For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
[11] Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
[12] Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
[13] These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
[14] For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
[15] And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
[16] But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.