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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Grace Mercy Peace!

     In studying Romans I noticed how often Paul uses these 3 words: Grace, Mercy, Peace.   These are not words we hear used much today.   They seem foreign to us.  You almost expect to see them removed from the dictionary from their lack of use. 

   Grace is hard to define.  I once heard a pastor say, "Grace stands for, God's Riches At Christ's Expense".   That is nice and simple,  but is that all?   Is it just how God treats ME??    How do I live a life of Grace?   We are able to offer grace to others, but usually on a temporary and need-to-have basis.   Some one is being a jerk because they lost their job or a death in the family... we extend grace to them.   Someone is having a bad day at work.... we extend grace to them.   A person in line at a grocery store with 1 item in hand and we have a cart full of food.... we extend grace and let them go ahead.  That kind of grace is passive in nature.   I don't really have to do anything but let you by and have your way.   God's grace is not just passive.... it extends to action.   Mercy is the active form of Grace.  It doesn't just step aside, but it steps forward to help and to save.

   I was watching a TV show about "Horders".   These are people who are living a life of misery in the filth they have accumulated over many years.    One woman was helping her sister clean her house and as she walked upstairs she was astonished to find the upstairs carpet littered with dog feces.   It was literally everywhere you stepped.  She asked, "How do live like this?"  and her sister replied, "I don't go up there anymore!" .   She has a 2 story house but only lives on the first floor.  She didn't even smell the stench anymore.

   Jesus comes to our doors knocking.  Asking to come in.   Not to have tea, but here to clean up our sin-hording-lives.   We, like that woman, have horded our sins and collected them for so long we are either too ashamed to let people in or we don't even notice them anymore.   At first those sins were small and controllable we felt.  But somewhere along the line they took over.   Like those dogs who took over the woman's upstairs and had crapped all over her floor, our sins made a mess of our lives.   They are our "pet sins" we don't want to get rid of.   Jesus comes and kicks those dogs out and picks up the sin-feces that is all around us and halls it away to the cross for us.   That is MERCY.

   Finally, through that MERCY we can have PEACE, not only him but also with each other.  Our cleaned up homes/lives are not a sign of how great we are but how great he is.   But Jesus doesn't just come to clean your home.  He wants to come and have life with you in you and He wants to clean everyone's home.  He wants us to be on mission with him to help others using the same GRACE, MERCY and PEACE he has extended to us.   How do we do that?

    At the end of the TV program they would show the BEFORE and AFTER pictures of the home.   The people whose lives have been changed often say how they could not have done this on their own and how they owe a debt of gratitude to the people who stepped in and helped.  Other people who watch this show are compelled to call in and ask for their help.   They want what those people have.  We must be willing to show others, like in the TV show, our before and after pictures.   We must be open to allow others to see what Christ has done for us and continues to do for us because, you see, our hording natures have not been deleted.   We get lazy. We get side-tracked.  We get lured back into allowing "the dogs"  back into our homes only to have Christ kick them out again when we call out to God, "Lord have MERCY on me a sinner!"

GRACE, MERCY and PEACE now have new meanings to us. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Suffering can be Merciful.

  How many of us pray for a quick and speedy death?  I know I sometimes do.  I don't even like going to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned (I do anyway).   When a person dies from a car accident or being hit by a car while walking often hear people say, "Well at least they died quickly and did not suffer much".   As humans we hate long painful deaths.   We want it over quickly and painlessly.  Even for horrible criminals in prison who are on death-row we give them quick and painless ways of dying. No one likes pain.   We avoid it all cost. 

   But pain and suffering are sometimes God's only tools to pry open our hearts to him.  Take for example the thief on the cross next to Jesus.   In one Gospel account it says that BOTH criminals mocked Jesus and hurled insults at him.   But somewhere in that 6 hour ordeal one of them had a change of heart.  One of the criminals in his own agony saw that the one in the middle was different.  He did not treat his mockers with hatred and animosity but instead called out to God to forgive them.  The Holy Spirit used the suffering he was undergoing to lead him to faith and ask Jesus ,in affect, for forgiveness by asking him to "remember me when you enter your kingdom".     That is all.. just "remember me". 

    Had God given the thief a quick and painless death he would have missed out on the opportunity to meet Jesus.   Suffering was the most merciful thing God could do for him. 

    Some refer to these as "death-bed-conversions".   We often question the "sincerity" of the conversion, but not God.  We may inwardly roll our eyes at stories of people who come to faith this late in life but God doesn't.  Did Jesus question his sincerity?   Did he mock him by saying, "Really??? Now you want to follow me?  It's a little too late for that!".    No.   Instead he gives the man assurance of his salvation.   In fact, he is the only person in the Gospels Jesus ever gives this promise to directly.  Was it a coincidence that this man could do NOTHING to earn or prove his love of Jesus?   I don't think so.   Jesus is showing to all that it is literally FAITH ALONE that saves.   Faith in a loving God that remembers us and pulls us from hell itself .

   Of course there are always many who are like the other thief on the other side of Jesus who continue to curse God up til the very end.   The "good thief" chastises the other thief on the cross when he says, "DO YOU NOT FEAR GOD??"    He goes on to testify for Jesus to his fellow partner in crime when he says, "We are getting what our crimes deserve, but THIS man has done nothing wrong!".    How did he come to that realization?   We don't know.   Maybe it was what he heard the Pharisees say about him when they said "He saved others but he cannot save himself!"   Note they did not say "He pretends to save others" , but that "He saves others".   Later these same men tell Jesus "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross and we will believe you!".   Inadvertently they profess the Gospel without knowing it to the thief on the cross.   Maybe also it was the large group of women who came to the cross and weep for Jesus that struck a nerve with him?   What women would weep for a criminal or scoundrel who deserves death?   Maybe it was how Jesus cared for others even in his own pain as he reached out with words to his mother.  Whatever it was, the thief's heart was changed.   Like "The Scrooges" heart that was "2-sizes too small"  so also this mans heart was opened for Christ the King to enter in and make his throne. 

   I like to think that this thief died with a smile on his face to the dismay of the Pharisees and soldiers below.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Boogie man

   Brother's can be as evil as they can get to little brothers when it comes to living in the same house together.   Every little brother has had to endure the torture of their older brother inventing dark savage creatures of the imagination that were to be found in basements, closets, old sheds and the woods they walked by on their way to school.  These creatures all went by the same name:  The Boogie man!

   Brothers created they creatures for one reason: to have power over their little brother and make them do what they wanted.

   Boogie-men exist today even as adults.  When bad things happen we want to find the villain and put them away so we can go and sleep soundly in our beds at night once again.  Recently a boy went into his high school and shot 17 students and killed them.   We ask ourselves "why?" and "how do we stop this from happening again?".   We search like little 5 year-old's for simple and easy answers.

   Still others would point the finger at an organization demonize them.  I am speaking of course of the NRA.  I watched as I saw a young man stand on stage and challenge a politician to not take anymore money from the NRA.   He asked his question with such conviction that one can only think he believed 100% that doing so would have literally stopped the bullets from leaving the perpetrators gun.   Frankly I wish the politician had answered "YES I will no longer take money from the NRA!" because, frankly, it's a false-flag.

    Last year the NRA gave 3 million dollars to Washington DC politicians.  On a list of the Top 50 Lobbying groups, the NRA would not even be on the list at all.   The biggest donor to Washington was the Healthcare industry which gave over 120 million dollars.  The NRA donations don't even come close and would be barely missed by politicians.

   So why does the NRA have so much sway in DC?   The NRA members have 3 basic qualities politicians look for in support groups.  First, they are CONSISTENT voters.   Studies have shown that NRA members vote in virtually every election, big or small.  Unlike some vocal groups that make noise on the streets with signs and banners, the NRA shows up at the polls.   Second, they are PASSIONATE about their issue.  They care about their rights being infringed, they care about the protection of their country from those who would destroy it from outside and inside.   They care about the weakest in society being able to protect themselves from the strongest.  For example, an 80 year-old grandmother is no match for a 300 pound man.   But with a gun she can be stronger than one.  Her rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to be protected as much as anyone else. That passion is important to politicians because its those voters who will talk you UP or DOWN as a person running for office.  They will put signs on their lawns and bumper stickers on their cars.  They will not only go to the polls, they will also bring 3 or 4 family members with them.  Finally, they are WELL INFORMED.   The NRA keeps its members informed on where politicians stand on the issues.  They know that politicians are a sneaky breed that can turn on you in a moments notice and that person you voted for in the last election no longer exists. 

   That is why the NRA is important to DC politicians and that is why I am a member too.

    The problem with pointing at the NRA is that it prevents us as a society from looking at the real problems in our country.    Yes we need more mental health help in schools, but that is too little and too late to do anything.  The REAL question is WHY are we seeing more and more mentally unstable men in our country?   What are we as parents not doing that is causing this to grow?   We will never be able to growing weeds in the garden, but you can stop putting fertilizer on them!   So what could be the agents that are fertilizing these problems today? 

Here are just a few possibilities:

Breakdown of the family
   Today more and more kids are raised in single-family homes.  I know this goes counter to all the TV shows and movies that glorify single-family homes.  But we must come to grips on whether this is a contributing factor.  Often in divorce, children are placed in the mothers care which may be fine for the girls, but what of the boys who need to have a strong male figure in their lives that will correct them? 

Two-income families
   Even in cases of families that do manage to stay together we must look at are we being present for our kids.  Today, so many families feel they need two incomes to supply all their wants and desires.  These adults come home tired and an want to be left alone.   But children need their attention.   They need their input and guidance.  I know many have lots of energy to go around, but many... many people do not. 

Increase in violence in media
    Violent video games and movies DO play a role in all of this.  Go back and look at the Columbine video of the boys entering the school dressed in all back and wearing long black overcoats and dark sunglasses.  They were mimicking the movie The Matrix.  They had convinced themselves that they were in a video game shooting people with no feelings or emotions.  It was just a game.  They were not real anymore.

    Porn plays in this unhealthy development of boys brains even more.  They become desensitized to woman and humanity in general.  People are just objects for my pleasure and destruction.  It is a plague on our culture today and nothing is being done about it.   It is the ten 800 pound gorillas in the room we are ignoring.   Just GOOGLE search any topic on SEX and you will have more porn to view in an hour than people my age would see in a life-time.

Social Media
    Many of us were able to grow up without knowing what people around us were thinking of us.  Today's youth are bombarded on a regular basis with horrendous comments about their looks, their abilities, their lack of smarts and their lack of friends.  Social media has also hurt our kids because it has stolen from them the most important factor they need to become well-rounded adults.   That factor is us as their parents.   I am disgusted with how many parents I see in restaurants sitting inches away from their kids but are million miles away from them in spirit.  They sit with their head bowed to their devices scrolling with their thumb while their child tries to get their attention.  These children have been raised to think that from those devices is where all wisdom and answers to life's problems comes from.   They have not learned to communicate verbally and connect emotionally to adults and so they seek out answers from other emotionally disconnected and feeble brained kids like them.

And the list goes on and on....

But go ahead and keep blaming the Boogie-man for all your woes and things that are wrong in the world.   All that matters is YOU can go to sleep at night feeling content that tomorrow will hopefully be better day.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Gilligan was right

   I, like many people from my generation, loved to watch the re-runs of Gilligan's Island.  A show that was only on TV for 3 years seemed to live on forever in re-run-world.  Everyday when I came home from school (about 3:30) Gilligan would teach us a new lesson about living in harmony with others.  The island was a microcosm of our real world.  Represented by Scipper (authority), Gilligan (working class), Mary Ann (midwest values), Ginger (Hollywood), the Howls (upper class) and the Professor (educated class).  These people struggled through countless (and sometimes weird escapades) to show us how we can all get along and survive.  They taught us, friendship, money doesn't matter, fame isn't what it's cracked up to be, trust, support in bad times, being okay with who you are, not to be jealous and much more.

   One lesson I remember well was their lesson on why we don't need to no what the other person is thinking.  In this episode, Gilligan happens across some seeds that give people the power to read other people's thoughts.  By the end of the show everyone is angry with each other as they hear everything they never heard before.  (see below) Gilligan sees the problem and knows the only solution is to burn the plant that makes the seeds.

    Keeping ones thoughts to themselves is a gift we often don't appreciate either.  We sometime's think that being able to read another person's thoughts would be a wonderful power to have (mostly save us the energy of moving our lips), but in reality it's more dangerous than you can imagine.  Gilligan shows us that while we can have these thoughts, as long as they don't turn into actions we can live with each other in harmony.  In short, 


   We can have ill thoughts about another person, but unless those thoughts translate into some perceivable action,  they don't really exist (except of course to God who sees all).  

   Today, we willing let others read our minds on a daily basis.  We do this not with magic seeds, but with social media as we spill out our thoughts constantly.   We post videos, comments and pictures  on every subject imaginable (politics, sports, work, fitness, relaxation, social issues, religion etc), and let everyone around us know what we THINK.  If people LIKE our comment or reply with positive comments we feel accepted and empowered.  But if people leave negative comments  (or people you think should at least LIKE don't respond) we feel anger and vilified. If repeated, we might change the persons relationship to us on social-media to "acquaintance" or "blocked".   It might even cause us to physically remove them from our lives by ignoring them or avoiding them in person.  

   Personally, I think the social media experiment has been an utter failure.  It has caused us to migrate into smaller and smaller circles rather than become closer to each other.  We say things to each other on Facebook we would never say to them in person.  We also have replaced a physical contact with a person (verbal over the phone or in person) with a "LIKE" or a "Have a nice day!" comment.  We think that pressing a LIKE/SEND button equates to being there for the person physically.  Our friends and family sitting right next to us are yearning for help and support all the while we are online sending "our thoughts and prayers" to people we barely know. 

   The answer to the problem comes from Gilligan.  First, we need to burn our mind-reading-seed-bush by deleting our Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts and other social media.  But after we have done that we need to ask for forgiveness and go back to being REAL FRIENDS.  


Monday, November 20, 2017

My Wonderful Detour

   We hardly ever look at a DETOUR sign with joy.  A detour means our plans are going to have to be put on hold for a little longer as it will inevitably take more time to get to our destination than previously planned.  It often means getting off the 75 mph Interstate highway and getting on the 45 mph side road full of stop signs and slow traffic.  Unless you are on your way to an event you would rather not go to (such as a meeting with your in-laws) a detour is not your friend.

    I remember being in college at the University of Illinois in 1986 and interviewing for prospective companies.  Because my college had such a great engineering department (only ranked 2nd to MIT) most companies gladly came to our campus to do their initial interviews.  We had a lottery system at U of I where you put your name in for the companies you want to interview.  You were given 6 "cards" (2 A,  2 B and 2 C) and you used these cards to increase your odds of getting in.  So if it was a company you really cared about you would use an A card.  I reserved an A card for Intel that was scheduled to come to our campus in March.  I put my card in and the next week found out I was on the list.  I studied Intel all week to get ready.  They were the one company I really wanted to work for.  Then I was told Intel was not coming at all. They were not hiring in 1986 at all but instead were laying off as they got out of the DRAM business and refocused on the microprocessor business instead.

   I was depressed.

   I did end up getting two job offers that spring.  The first offer was from Digital Corporation and the other was Data General.  Both jobs were in Massachusetts and were only minutes away from each other.  I took that job with Data General (DG) as they gave me a chance to work on computer design.   I remember being on the phone telling my mom of my decision.   I told her that I was still bummed that I never got my chance to interview with Intel (on the west coast).  My mom's words were so profound and so prophetic I remember them to this very day.
"Well I guess God must have something in store for you out in Massachusetts as that is your only choice!"
    Like a bright orange and black "DETOUR" sign looming ahead, God was pointing me to the east coast. There was no choice in the matter.  He was telling me: "You are going this way no matter what John!".   God knew what he was doing.   For one thing, I had a good friend who also took a job with DG as well and so I had a person to room with.  But God had more than that in mind when he sent me out there.

   About 2 weeks later after I moved to Framingham, I decided I needed to find a church.  My first attempt at find a Lutheran Church was unprofitable as I got lost trying to find a church listed in Hudson.  On my third week I decided to try a church listed in Acton.  It was only about 15 minutes away and I felt I should be able to find it as it was right off a major route.   I went to Mt. Calvary Lutheran church and instantly felt right at home.  But God had more in mind for me than just a roommate and a home church to support me.

   As I sat in the service I noticed a young lady with the most beautiful head of strawberry blonde hair a few rows ahead of me.  I could not see her face at all, but as I sat there at the end of the service I heard these words in my head.
"You're going to marry that girl someday"
   I still remember looking around a bit trying to see who said that or where that came from.  I met this lady at the end of the service and was instantly struck by her charm and beauty.  I thought for sure she had to have a boy-friend or fiance waiting in the wings.  Over the next year we became good friends and eventually started to date.  We had a whirl-wind romance that swept us both off our feet and we were married in April of 1989.

    Our first year of marriage was filled with ups and downs.  In June, I lost my mother at the age of 57 to bone cancer.  In October, Data General laid off 2000 people (out of 14,000) and I was without a job.   That layoff was another good thing that happened to me for if I had not been laid off I would have missed an event that forever changed our lives.  I was looking at the job ads in the newspaper when I saw Intel was coming to the Massachusetts to interview.  I faxed in my resume and instantly got a call for an interview the next morning.  I studied all day to get ready and did great.   That evening we got a call for me to come and do an on-site interview.  I went a few days later and by the end of the day I had 2 job offers and it was my call on which one I wanted.  Shauna and I prayed about it and all my other interviews back in Massachusetts dried up and yielded no other options.  We were off to California and by January 1st 1990 we were on a plane out west.

   I often call Shauna "My Wonderful Detour!", as my mom had so prophetically said, "God must have something in store for you out in Massachusetts".  However, in God's eyes this was never a detour.  This was his plan and his path.  My path and plan would have cut short his plan and purpose and I would never had met Shauna.  I am so thankful now God didn't let me go out west in 1986 but sent me the other way instead.

   We all have our dreams and plans in our lives.  It may be to get a certain job or own our own business.  As I watch my own kids now map out their own lives I tell them to relish the detours God puts in their lives.  The people they put in their lives that they would not have met had it not been for their change in direction.  A lot of the time, God lets us choose our path, but when it really matters I believe God steps in and gives us no other choice.  It may be an illness or a job loss. It may be a death in the family or loss of a good friend.  But one thing is for certain. Jesus says,
"Truly! I will be with you always! Even unto the end of the earth!"
   Of course, as they say, hindsight is 20-20.  It's easy to look back and see where God's detours were for our best.  It's not so easy when we are in the middle of it.  When I was laid off I was angry.  When Intel did not come to my college I was depressed. I felt I was being punished or not being listened to.  We cry out to God that we don't understand what he is doing.  It's like meeting a detour sign when you feel you are 10 minutes late already and this alternate path is going to put you even farther behind.  We feel resentful towards God in these moments. I am not saying that everyone gets back on the path they had originally planned on going.  Yes, for me, I did eventually get my dream job. But even if that had never happened my new path would have been better than to the one I had mapped out for myself.  Now when things don't go my way I just remember my mom's words

"I guess God has something in mind for you...."

Monday, October 30, 2017

I don't understand!

    We've all had those studies in school that we had to take that pushed our ability to understand the subject.  Subjects, that no matter how much we read the material, we can't seem to wrap our brains around.  For me, that subject was Quantum Physics.  I did well in my other studies in college.  I could handle Calculus, Newtonian Physics, Thermodynamics, Differential Equations, Chemistry, Statics, Dynamics with a little bit of effort, but when it came to Quantum Physics it was a whole different matter.  Essentially we were told at the beginning to put aside Newtonian Physics altogether because it didn't apply here.   Electrons were NOT round balls of mass moving around in space, but instead were particle-waves moving from one state to another.   No longer can you say the electron goes from point A to point B and arrives at time T because you don't know with any certainty where the electron really is and what it's momentum is.  Here we can only predict a probability that it will arrive and that is about as best as we can do.  No matter how hard I tried to "reason it through" I could not.  My professor told us to just take the course on FAITH that this is how the world works at the sub-atomic level.


    Seems like this is an oxymoron.  Two things that have nothing to do with each other somehow had become intertwined.   But it was the only way forward for me to get through this class.   I took his advice and plowed through it resisting the whole time my desire to "figure it out" or "see what is happening".  (I managed an A- out of it).

    Our faith in Jesus is often much like Quantum Physics.   What does not make sense to us, makes sense to God in his kingdom.   To me, Jesus sounds a lot like my Quantum Physics professor as he tries and tries to get across to the people what God's Kingdom is like and how it works.  Words fail to fully express it.  He tries multiple parables to get it across to different people

Are you a farmer?         Listen to my story about a lost sheep
Are you a wife?             Listen to my story of the woman and the lost coin
Are you a merchant?     Listen to my story about the pearl of great price
Are you a land owner?  Listen to my story about the hidden treasure

It doesn't make sense!

    The problem for most of us in listening to these stories is we don't see the sense in it.  First in the story of the lost sheep, it's about 1 sheep that leaves the fold of 100 and the shepherd leaves the 99 for the 1 that is lost.  The numbers don't add up!  The ONE is worth more than the 99?  How?  Next, Jesus says, "He returns with joy!".    Over ONE sheep?  Why?  He has 99 that didn't get lost!

    In the Lost Coin story a woman carelessly loses a coin of great value.  Back then woman were the banks of the family and stored their wealth in a bag on a string around their neck.  Somehow a coin had rolled out of the bag and was now lost.  When she finds it after sweeping the floor she runs to her neighbors with joy yelling, "Rejoice with me! I have found my lost coin!".   You and I would not be so proud of our accomplishment.  It's like saying, "Rejoice with me! My 401K which was savaged by my foolish investments has returned back to its original value!". 

   In both the stories of the Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure, something of great value was somehow overlooked and found by a person who then must go and sell EVERYTHING he has to gain that property.  Who does he pay to?  He hasn't even had it appraised.  What if it's less than what he sold to gain it?

You have intrinsic value to God that you don't see

    In all the stories there is something of value to the owner.  A sheep.  A coin.  A pearl.  A treasure.  It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks.   He wants to obtain the item again and must spend time, energy and property to obtain it back.  I remember one time being confused about the story of the hidden treasure.  I had gotten the story backwards.  I thought the man was ME and the treasure was God's Kingdom and I should give all I have to obtain it.  But a good Lutheran pastor told me I had it backwards.  He told me, "John, YOU are the treasure in the story and GOD is the man who sells everything to obtain you".

    The issue here is that we don't see ourselves as a priceless treasure (maybe a stupid sheep... but not a pearl or chest full of gold coins).  Maybe when we are younger we might feel this way, but life has a way of tarnishing that treasure we see.   What we thought was gold was not gold.  Sins we thought we would never do we find ourselves committing.  We then perceive our value to diminish in God's eyes.  We then begin to think,  "Certainly I am not worth much now to him now!"

   But we need to understand that our value is not connected with what we do or not do.  In all the stories that value is assigned by the owner/finder. The items do nothing to find their way back to the person looking for them.  They are found by the person on their own.  Our value is not connected to our actions.  He created you and therefore you have value to him.  You, like the sheep/coin that gets lost, are bound by sin to fall away.  Your value, however, is greater than the cost it takes to retrieve the item and some ways the item is worth even more now to God than it was before.  God's accounting does not equate to our accounting on earth.  What looks like foolishness to us is wisdom to God.

The cost is paid back to himself.

   The final issue we have in understanding these stories is who the money/cost is paid back to?  Is it Satan?  Who?   The answer is to God himself.  Imagine a friend borrows you car and runs off the road and totals the vehicle (let's say for this story there is no insurance involved).  Your friend is without a job and has no way to pay you back.  You must therefore pay out of your own pocket to restore the car.  When you return with the new car you hand the keys to your friend and tell him to use it as long as he has need of it.  Why?  Because you value your friendship more than you value the car.  You LOVE your friend MORE than you love the money you lost.  Both in Economics and in Christianity we call this by the same name:  The Great Exchange.   In Economics, if I pay $5 for a gallon of milk to a store owner, both he and I walk away with more.  He valued my $5 more than the milk and is glad to take it.  I value the milk more than my $5 and I am glad to take it.  In God's world he sees our value as his creation as being greater than the cost of his Sons own life and gladly gives it for us.

St. Paul writes in Romans 8:32,
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Faith is what you need

    Of course, all of our "analogies" fail at some point to fully compare to God's world.  We must, like myself when taking Quantum Physics, accept what we are told with FAITH and ACCEPT it as the TRUTH it really is.    The debt is paid.  The door is open.  You are loved by God.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Front doors do matter

  I just got done sweeping on the front entryway into our house and it got me to thinking.   We put a lot of importance on our front doorway.   First we spend money to make a nice flat and level concrete surface for our visitors to walk on because we don't want them to trip or get their feet muddy while coming to our house.   Some people even put solar powered lights to illuminate the entryway at night so it's easy to see.   We also put a light near the door so they can see where the door is and where we have put the doorbell for them to ring.   We put plants and flowers near the door as well to make their coming here pleasant.  We also put a seat near the door for older visitors to sit at while they wait for us to come to the door to greet them.


   Front doors do matter!

   Today, many say that there is more than ONE way to heaven.  All that matters is you are sincere in your beliefs and want to help others.  But Jesus says in  John 14:6
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
and in John 10:9 he also says,
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
  My argument with the "All ways go to heaven" crowd is simply this:  "Why would God go through all the trouble of building a front door then?".    The issue is that all other "teachers or prophets" (such as Confucius, Buddha, Mohammad) just appear on the seen out of no where.  No prophecy to predict their coming.  No promises from God to keep.  No effort on God's part to prepare their coming.   Jesus, on the other hand, doesn't just pop on the scene to announce God's grace and forgiveness out of nowhere.  Instead, God works over thousands of years and his plan takes literally thousands of years and the pain, suffering and death of many of his servants to bring it all about.  Abraham is told to go live as a tent-dweller and wait for God to give him a son in his old age.  Joseph is sold into slavery to Egypt and suffers imprisonment for obeying God.  Moses leaves his lofty position as next in line of Pharaoh to lead his people out of Egypt.  Elijah is chased from town to town by worshipers of Baal and forced to live in the desert.   Jeremiah is thrown down a well for his denunciation of idol worship and ignoring God. Daniel is thrown in a lions den for praying to his God and not praying to the king.   If God was going to allow ANY route into heaven, then he wasted all his time and energy with sending his own Son Jesus to bear all of our sins.

   If we invite someone over we EXPECT  them to use the front door.  If they decide to use the window or the back door we would probably call the police to report an intruder.  If we used the same "all ways lead to heaven" argument, you would be confronted with policemen who would tell you that the intruder is just a visitor who chose to use an alternate means of entering your house and since there is no one acceptable way to enter a house there is nothing illegal about it.  You would argue that you DO care about how a person enters your house!

  God does care about how you enter too.

   In the story about the Wedding Feast, Jesus says that at the end there was found a man who was not wearing wedding clothes.  The King asks him, "Friend, why are you not wearing the wedding clothes I have provided?".   At this the man was speechless and he was thrown outside.  That is how those who come to God but want to have nothing with the forgiveness he has so graciously provided through Jesus his only Son who died on the cross for them.

Dealing with our "faults"

   In computers, errors are a constant source of problems.  Almost every part of a computer tries to detect and even fix errors as they occur.  Your hard-drive stores a value called a checksum on every 4K byte sector and whenever that sector is read, a checksum is computed and compared to the value stored.   If there is a mismatch, the computer might try to re-read the sector again to fix the error.  Your computer memory can have Error-Code-Correcting bits stored to not only detect a bit flip (0 becomes 1 or a 1 becomes 0) it can actually determine which bit is wrong and fix it on the fly.  When your computer sends or receives data over the internet, its data is checked and re-checked along the way to make sure it arrives unchanged from the source.

   But there is one place in a computer where errors are hard to detect and fix.  That place is the microprocessor.  Often referred to as the "brains" of the computer it can't see where it's going wrong. If it adds 1+1 and gets 3, then it will always add and get the same number.  The only way for it to detect a fault is to compare itself to another CPU running the same code in parallel with the idea that having two-heads is better than one.  But even if it does see a mismatch with the other CPU, it can't determine who is wrong and who is right.

   We as humans are like these microprocessors.  We know we are not perfect and we look to find someone to compare our lives to in order to stay on track.  It might be a sports figure like Tom Brady or a Hollywood actor like John Wayne.   But these people are as faulty as we are and we are always disappointed in the end. 

   In Psalm 19:12, King David writes:
   "Who can discern his errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults"
    I remember when a friend of mine suffered a mental breakdown from the struggles of life.  I had not seen him in many years and he came back to our company to work with us.  We could tell something was wrong with him and at first just ignored it.   After a few weeks though it became very apparent to all that he was not right in his head.  He was sending out long winded emails to various people about things that had nothing to do with work.  He wasn't coming into work but was working from home.  My boss sent me to go talk to him and see what was wrong.   I went to his place and it was like a scene out of the movies "A Beautiful Mind".  The walls of his apartment were covered with newspaper and magazine articles and the floor was cluttered with empty bottles of Coke and boxes of pizza and Chinese food.  I tried to get through to him that he needed help but he was convinced he was fine and in need of no help.  He was sure that everything was going to be fine once he solved this problem he was working on for our company.

  Our brains, like my friends, are so fouled up with sin we cannot even see our own faults.  We may even think that certain qualities we have are "good"  when in fact they are "bad" for us.   We have hidden our faults so well we can't even see them anymore.   But God does see them and he has pity on us.

   Jesus said to the crowds below him as he hung on the cross
  "Father!  Forgive them for they know not what they are doing!"
He was not just saying that to the Pharisees that had come to witness his death, but also about us as well.   We think we know so much these days and are convinced that it's GOD that has it all wrong and not us.   We are fine and everything will be better once we fix these few problems we have.

  So where are we left?   Who do we compare ourselves to?  How do we make sure we don't go too far away from where we should be?

Jesus has the answer:
 "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.  
   No one comes to the Father except by me"
I highlight the word TRUTH here because he is who we are supposed to be.  He is the benchmark.  Of course we can never measure up and he knows that.  That is why he credits our lives with his righteousness and atones for us.

Monday, August 14, 2017

No Shortcuts

My son when he has about 8 or 9 would often ask when we were driving somewhere "Dad? Do you know a shortcut?"  To his question I would have to reply "No Derek. There are no shortcuts"

In Matthew that when Jesus was about to be crucified they tried to give him wine mixed with gall which was a type of pain killer to help make him less resistant to them nailing him.  Jesus instead spits it out and refuses to drink it.   I find this so amazing as I can be such a child when it comes to pain.  My wife will attest to the fact that I am difficult to deal with when it comes to going to the dentist.   I will do anything to get out of it if I can.  I dread the needle so much when I am there.  Yet here is Jesus being given a pain killer to help get him through it and he refuses to drink it.   I would be just the opposite here and drink as much as I could, but not our Savior.  No one was going to be able to point at him and say later, "He didn't feel a thing!".  

Today we are all about shortcuts. We find more and more ways to do less and less. Our phones are loaded with short cuts to websites, addresses, contacts, credit cards, apps because we want access to these with as few touches as possible. We use GPS to find us the shortest possible route to our destinations and opt for every possible way to shave off 2 or 3 minutes from a 1 hour drive. 

We also want shortcuts when it comes to our faith too.  Do I have to go to church?  Can't i just listen to the sermon when I have nothing better to do?  Do I have to give money to the church?  Can't i just tweet or give a Facebook share once and a while?  Do my kids really have to spend 2 years in confirmation?  Can't they just go on a weekend retreat and cover everything they need to know?  Do I have to forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?  Can't i just send them a text on their birthday or something?
The answer to all of those questions are yes to first and no to the second. Jesus who took no shortcuts asks you to follow him in his footsteps

Friday, April 14, 2017


   The word "why" seems to be one of the first words children seem to learn, right after "momma", "dadda" and "no".    This word can drive a parent to near insanity on long car rides.

Why is the sky blue?
Why is the grass green?
Why can't I drive the car?
Why do we need to go on vacation?
Why can't we stop for ice cream?

The questions seem unending to a young parent.  This line of questioning would put a CIA operative to shame who must resort to water-boarding to inflict higher levels of pain and mental distress.

Some questions of "why" we can answer, but the child is too young to even understand our answer if we gave it to them.   We know that such answers would only be open to 10 more "why" questions that we don't have the time or energy to answer.  To this, we often resort to our simple answer:  "Because it just IS!",  This answer will hold a 5 year old for about 10 seconds before they bellow out a loud "WHY?" from the back seat of the car.

On Good Friday, while Jesus is hanging on the cross he screams out a question for God the Father to answer:
"My God! My God!  Why have you forsaken me?"
Christ, suspended on a cross between two worlds: earth and heaven.  Rejected by the earth and forsaken by the Father.


Why is often the hardest question to answer in stories like this.  Journalists can give you the Who, What, Where and How, but often they struggle to come up with the WHY.    When a crazed husband shoots his wife at her school and 2 other children we are left empty when we search for the reason of WHY.  Or when a soldier sees his friend take on heavy fire from the enemy and dies so he can crawl to safety we are left empty as we search for the answer to WHY.

The answer to Jesus' question comes to us earlier in the book of John
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life"
The answer is because he loves us.

All to often we get too caught up in answering the other questions that we overlook (or maybe we just don't want to face it) the most important of questions.  Knowing HOW Jesus died, WHERE Jesus died, WHEN Jesus died won't bring you any closer to God.  Today we are blessed with great cinematography and actors who can portray Christ's suffering in great detail and almost make you feel like you are standing right there under the cross.  But that won't save anyone.  Only when they come to face the question of WHY... are lives changed.   When we see that it was for US that Christ died.  He acted as the mother stepping in front of her child to shield them from the oncoming bullet to protect them.

I have often found it amazing that the one thing you can say to a child that you will never get a WHY question for is this:   I LOVE YOU!

Children just get it.  They accept it.   They know they are not perfect, but they accept the love of their parent as irrefutable and will often immediately respond with "I LOVE YOU DADDY!"

God loves you too and all he asks us to do is to accept it and not ask WHY.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Take up your cross and follow me!

   As Christians, we have all read Jesus famous words, "Take up your cross and follow me!"   We think about them when faced with adversity or painful suffering for the faith.  I am sure that the people who were standing there listening to Jesus must have had their eyes bugging out of their heads when they heard it.   They knew EXACTLY what Jesus meant.  They had witnessed the brutal Roman execution method hundreds, if not thousands of times.   The Romans had used it on a group of Jews who had tried to start a rebellion and had lined the roads leading to Jerusalem with their crosses as warning to anyone thinking they could secede from Rome.  To Christians living today in countries where paying this ultimate sacrifice is as likely as a snow day in Miami, its hard to put into perspective.   We sometimes carelessly use this phrase when we face some sort of minor adversity, "Oh well we all have our crosses to bear!"  ( I have never liked this use of this verse )

    But I think Jesus was not only referring to the ultimate cost of being a disciple, but also the physical act of forgiveness.  One reason I believe this is because of one little word we overlook in the verse we quote,
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 
   That little word "daily" says it all.  For if Jesus was talking about carrying a real cross, then you certainly would not be able to do that "daily".  While, yes, we do suffer insults and harsh criticism for being a follower of Jesus, we don't often take on martyrdom for the faith.  However we must look more at this verse and ask ourselves this question: what was Jesus doing on that cross for us?   He lovingly picked up that cross-beam and carried it to Golgatha so our sins can be wiped clean before God.   He took the beatings, whippings, flogging and crucifixion so we would not need to.  He bore our sins for us to repair the relationship between us and God.

   So how does that relate to us?

   Jesus often talked about the need for us to forgive one another as we have been forgiven.  This forgiveness is not cheap.  It comes at a price.  It can be painful.  It can be difficult.  We are called to pick up our sin-bearing crosses as well for those who have sinned against us!   We don't do this grudgingly but are called to have the same mindset of Christ himself who
"For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God
   Forgiveness is often hard.  The pain that others have inflicted on us from their carelessness and lack of love for us .... hurts.  That pain is inversely proportioned to how close they are to us.  The closer the more painful it is.  

    Peter asks Jesus a "hypothetical" question when he asks:  "Lord how often should I forgive my brother?  Seven times?".   Sometimes I wonder which "brother" Peter had in mind when he was asking this?  Was it one of the disciples?  To this Jesus replies, "Not seven times, but SEVEN TIMES SEVENTY!"   This was akin the Buzz Lightyear phrase:  "To Infinity and Beyond!"

    The "sins of a brother" are more sinister than just the sin of a stranger.  The stranger has no desire to be in a relationship with us.  Because of this, those sins hold no power over them.  The sins of a brother are from someone who wants to be in a relationship with us, therefore they give us power over them.    We can dangle those sins in front of their faces when we want or need something from them. But that is not what Christ wants from us.   Christ was faced with the same problem.  The sins we have done against God were against him.  Yet he did not hold onto them.  He carried them to the cross and left them there.

   The other aspect that Jesus confronts with forgiving a brother "Seven time Seventy!" is that because we are in relationship with that brother/sister they WILL sin against us again.... and again.... and again.  It's been said that it's often easier to forgive a total stranger than it is to forgive a family member.  The stranger will be gone a few minutes from now, but a family member is near you constantly.   The stranger's offense is a one-and-done sin (like a bee sting) that hurts for a short while.  But a person close to you will hurt you on a daily, if not hourly, basis.   Like the scourging Jesus received from the Roman soldiers.  It can feel like it will never end.  You might think it's over (the time between offenses) like Jesus might have felt between the beatings.  But it's not!  The person was just reloading.  

   The easy way is the way Peter was hoping for.  He was hoping for a limit on forgiveness that would allow him to end the relationship and thereby end the pain they  might inflict on us.  You can almost hear Peter pleading with Jesus as he offers him his "seven times?" bargain hunting expedition.  Ending the relationship is always easier.  The problem is that we end up cutting all ties to everyone.  CS Lewis wrote in his book, "The Great Divorce", about driving through hell where people were separated from each other by light-years of distance.  They were not separated like that by God but by their own doing.  They would rather live all alone than be possibly hurt by their interaction with other people.

  That is not how Christ wants us to be.  He ended the separation between US and GOD.  We, as well, should take up our cross of forgiving others for the JOY of having them back in relationship with us. So we too should join him in his endeavor to heal broken relationships by taking up our crosses of forgiveness of those close to us as well.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why I believe the Bible is consistent with Science

    Growing up in a Lutheran home I was taught that the Bible is the inspired word of God. PERIOD.  As a Christian, I still believe that whole heartily today as well, but it has taken my some time to find my way back to the truth through the years.

    I still remember taking Biology for the first time in High School.  I didn't get the teacher I wanted at the time.  I had wanted to get Mr Brown who was my Cross Country coach and also my Fellowship of Christian Athletes leader as well.  Instead I got Mr. Taylor, the Track and Golf coach.  We all referred to him as Mr. Darwin outside of class among ourselves because every part of his subject always somehow got pulled back into the subject of Evolution.  It was a difficult year for me and I had to spend extra time reading other articles on the subject in order to debate him on the subject and hold onto my faith that the earth was really only about 10,000 years old and Genesis was correct.

    For the most part, I held on to my faith through all of my high school years.  It wasn't really until I went to college and began to study Astronomy and other subjects that I began to wonder.  Is Genesis right?  I didn't really know any more.   They were so different and so far apart, how can you make sense of it.  I was told that either Genesis is correct or Darwin is correct?   It often haunted me.  I would later watch shows on TV showing the immensity of space.  Galaxies billions of light-years apart spread out through the universe and I am in one small planet among an uncountable number.  My smallness became even smaller and I struggled with how God could know me... ME... intimately.

   When these shows would come on I would shrink away from them and find other things to watch.  It scared me.   It seemed like a dagger in the Bible as well for if Genesis is wrong, then what else is wrong?   I knew I had to come to a conclusion, but which one?  Being well educated in math and science it almost seemed like I was doomed to make the wrong one.  But I knew God was big enough to answer my questions and he even challenges us too.  He says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your MIND".   He doesn't need for me to go get a lobotomy to be his disciple.    I also knew that some of the greatest thinkers and scientists in the world were Christians too.   Sir Isaac Newton (father of physics and calculus) was a very devout Christian.  CS Lewis, professor of Philosophy and Ancient Literature at Cambridge was at first an atheist and then later one of the most prolific writers of Christianity in the 20th century.   But even with this great company I needed more.  I needed to see it for myself.   I needed to be like Thomas and challenge the Lord on this and I knew he would answer me.

    It was during this time God put in my heart to lead an adult bible study at my church on the subject.  It forced me to put it down on paper and think it all through and as I did it became clearer and clearer to me.   The issue is not if Genesis is right OR Science was right, but instead that they BOTH were right.   This is not to say I think we evolved from apes.  No.  That part I do not accept and much in science today has yet to confirm that idea yet.   But of the things we are pretty certain on I think there is a lot of agreement.

   So let us begin...

In the beginning....

   First to start, we must see how we received the book of Genesis.   It didn't come straight to us in the 21st century.  This is the fundamental mistake many who read the Bible fail to acknowledge.  While,yes the Bible is the inspired word of God and God speaks to us through is word, it is given through the people of their time and in their language.  Genesis was written by Moses, but maybe even earlier to Abraham and passed down through his people.   Abraham lived around 4000 years ago in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in the city of Ur (one of the first civilizations).  His language was not like ours today.  Today we have about 20,000 words in our dictionaries to choose from, whereas Abraham may have had as little as 1000 words.  His knowledge of the world was also limited.  While he did move from Ur to where Israel is today, he knew little of how big the world was let alone how big the Universe was.  To Abraham the world may have only been a few 100 miles across and the stars were with in reach (or least the people of Babel thought they were).  Finally, we do not know Abraham's math skills.   Counting was of some importance but numbers above 10 might not be needed much.  To illustrate this, see how God communicates to Abraham how many descendants he will have.  He uses a picture-board of sorts with Abraham and says they will be more numerous than the "stars in the heavens" rather than giving him a large number.

   In short, Abraham had the language and world-view of a 5 year-old compared to us today.  We often forget those important facts and we often pull these people from the pages and make them fit our modern world or impose on them our language and world-view.   Neither of these are right when we read the Bible and often we do.   Would you berate a 5 year-old for not knowing calculus or Newton's 1st law of motion?   Of course not!   Neither should we expect that of Abraham, Moses, David or many other OT people.    They are who they are and we do not need to apologize for their attitudes or traditions that may seem foreign to us.  In fact, Genesis chapter 1 has only 784 total words and only 218 UNIQUE words in it and may be why it reads so simply.

    Note: this is not to at all say Abraham is primitive in his thinking at all.  For example, Abraham knows that there are limits on what a humans body is capable.  He knows that advanced age makes it impossible to bear children.   He also is willing to sacrifice himself to save his nephew and goes to war to free him.   He also bargains with God on Sodom and Gomorrah and reasons with God on how wrong it would be to destroy the righteous with the evil.   All I am saying here is that knowledge of space and science to his people of that time is limited compared to us.   

    To illustrate this in modern terms, consider a child's interest in the baby-making process.  So how do you tell a 5 year-old how they got here?   When it comes to children who are curious about how their baby brother/sister arrived here we must tell them the TRUTH in a way that they can understand it and in their own language.  You can't use big words like, gestation, or sexual intercourse with them.   You can't talk about DNA or Fetus or Embryos.  They just are not ready for that yet.  You don't want to lie to them as this will later destroy your credibility with them on future subjects.  A simple way you may want to address this is by saying to them:
"A special love that only a Mother and Father can have was blessed by God and put you inside your mother's belly!"
      Did you lie to your child? Absolutely not!   You answered his question in an honest and loving way that does not diminish your authority as a parent on future questions and you conveyed some very important principles such as love and the miracle of birth to him.  It's an answer that is both understandable and ,at the heart, truthful.

So also God must convey this important TRUTH to Abraham as well.  He must convey to him the following:
  1. God is in control of earths events (nothing happens without his permission)
  2. God is very powerful
  3. God is a God of order
  4. God loves him.

This is exactly what God does in Genesis.

    When you compare the story in Genesis to what science today tells us, they are really not very far apart at all.  In fact, in some ways Genesis was right FIRST and science later caught up with it.

Story of Creation as told be God:

  1. There is a beginning of time.
  2. Earth is void ... empty... null
  3. First act of creation ...LIGHT ... followed closely by DARKNESS.
  4. Earth is created and all the land is on one place
  5. Plant life is created
  6. Fish and Birds are created
  7. Land animals are created
  8. Man is created

Story of Creation as told by Science

  1. There is only the singularity and nothing else... emptiness
  2. There is a beginning of time (the singularity expands suddenly and unexplainably)
  3. The universe cools and the first atomic particles created are electrons. Because electrons do not want to be near other electrons they push strongly against each other and expand rapidly creating the first visible event in the universe.  That event is the creation of Electromagnetic energy (light).  The brightest even our universe ever saw.   Later as the expanding universe cools protons and neutrons are created and combine to form the first atom: Hydrogen.  
  4. Eventually earth is created.  According to plate tectonics all the earth plates started in one place creating a huge singe Super-Continent called: Pangaea.  
  5. First life form created is plant life as RNA is simpler to assemble than DNA. Most likely mold or fungus. 
  6. Life is thought to first start in the oceans with small single-cell life and then advance onto higher forms 
  7. Sea life eventually evolves and moves onto land slowly as fish searching for more food or to get away from predators find ways to adapt and stay out of the water for longer periods of time.
  8. Man eventually come 
       As you can see our two stories are not that different as I left out the days vs billions of years factor.


     But why would God say it was 6 days when it was really longer though?  Isn't that another argument against the Bible?   Actually it isn't at all.  Remember, Abraham has limited math knowledge.  He may only be able to count to 10 on his fingers.   Larger numbers don't come into play in his life, so God can't use numbers that have no meaning to him.

     Another reason God uses a shortened time frame is that God can use this to illustrate to Abraham his immense power.   This idea came to me when I was at work.  I had just finished developing a new tool and an amazed co-worker asked we how long it took to create it.  I answered "Oh I did it over the weekend", when in fact I had started it earlier the previous week.  I said "weekend" to make myself look better in his eyes (yes I have an ego just like you!).  But God doesn't do this to puff up his ego.  He has a legitimate reason for doing this: To show how powerful he is.

 In science we say


If I move a 200 lb weight 10 ft in 10 seconds.   I used 200*10/10  =   200 ft-lb/sec of power

If I move a 200 lb weight 10 ft in   2 seconds    I used 200*10/2    = 1000 ft-lb/sec of power

It took 5 times more power to do it in 2 seconds than when it was done in 10 seconds.

       God can use this to his advantage when talking Creation to Abraham.  While Abraham has absolutely no clue as to how BIG the Universe really is (he may think the world is only a few hundred miles across), or how COMPLEX it is at the atomic scale. He does see how big and varied the world around him is (plants,animals, bugs, etc) and by God reducing the time-frame he plants the idea in Abraham's mind about how POWERFUL God is and what he is capable of doing.  Abraham can compare what he is able to do in 6 days with what God is capable of doing in 6 days and be totally amazed and left in awe.   Yes, later we will discover with telescopes how big the Universe is and we will smash particles together in giant machines and see how complex atoms are and the mathematics of how it all works will blow our minds.  But for now, Abraham is the one God is talking to and he conveys his message to him in a way that Abraham can be amazed.  Note, It is completely possible that God can create the entire Universe in 6 days if he wants, either way we are awe-struck and the how powerful God is whether he is creating a small simple world in 6-days or a vast complex universe billions of light-years across.

  Genesis discovers the "singularity"

    Language is so vital in communication.  How do you describe something when you don't have the words (or knowledge) to back them up?  How does God communicate an incredibly dense, hot point of complete energy like the singularity?   This entity is so mysterious even scientists find it hard to describe it and why it would even suddenly expand is even more miraculous.  I remember being in 3rd grade and pondering the words in Genesis of how God says, "the earth was empty and void" but then a verse later says "the Spirit of the Lord hovered above the waters of the deep".  Wait!  How can water be present and the earth be empty?   I now see that the "waters of the deep" as God's description of the singularity.   Is earth in the singularity?  Yes it is!  I am in there.  You are there.  God calls out of this nothingness our very existence and that first visible event of light itself!  To the early man, such as Abraham, nothing was more mysterious than the depths of the sea and ocean.  Vast, endless and depths beyond comprehension, might be the only vehicle God has to explain this incredibly complex concept.  God often meets us where we are at and uses language and ideas we are familiar with.  Other examples of this in the Bible are when Jesus uses multiple parables to try to articulate the Kingdom of God to us mortals.  He uses, sheep (shepherds would get it), lost coins (woman of his day would get it), pearl of great price (merchants), and hidden treasure in a field (land owners).

   Another fact here often overlooked is just how amazing it is that a man with no education, limited language, no knowledge of science was able to write down a high-level overview of our universes creation and be 100% correct.  How can that be?  For the Christian, we see that it is God's inspired word and is just more evidence that we can trust him.

   Now of course, some skeptics will say that there are other early creation stories out there.  The Egyptians had theirs and so did the Mesopotamian people but none has come as close to what science has determined as the book of Genesis.  All other stories first try to explain God's creation.  Take for example Egyptian myth which has "Ra" ,the sun god, calling himself out of the Nile "because I knew my own name!". He then creates other gods by masturbating and his sperm creates new gods when it hits the ground.  Only the Jewish faith starts with God already there and calling our existence out.  Another big difference too is that in all other myths, man is often created by accident and is held down by god.  In Genesis, man is not an accident, but the crowning jewel of God's creation.  He is special and ....LOVED.

     Does this mean that Science has it all figured out?

     My answer to that question is NO.  So often science was wrong and the Bible was right for many years.  Take for example, that for most of sciences existence, scientists believed in a "static universe" view in which the universe has always been here and it's the same as it always has been.  Even Albert Einstein held this view.  Then along came Hubble who showed us that the universe is expanding and therefore at one time it was all compressed into a small point called the singularity.   The Bible already pointed out this to us in it's first few words, "In the beginning..." and God's first creation of light.   Science had to re-write their books on the Universe and how it got here whereas the Bible did not.

    A second reason I don't accept everything from Science is that they often over simplify things in order to fit their time-table.   For life to get where it is today, you need 2 things:
  1. A long series of small (minute) steps caused by mistakes in the DNA
  2. A long period of time measured in the billions of years to play out

     For issue #1, the problem is that Life is not a simple process.  As we study the cell more and more we find more and more complexity (something Darwin never could have imagined).  We find molecules inside the cell that act like small motors or robots carrying nutrients and waste to and from the cell membrane.   We see small entities in the cell called mitochondria processing energy for the cell to do its work.   So as we look closer and closer we see that the number of steps needed grows exponentially and the path becomes longer and longer.  Like a person on a long journey who thinks the end is just over the next mountain range, only to find multiple mountain ranges after it looming far into the distance.

     This greatly impacts reason #2, because as you need MORE time to complete the journey your find that you are being given less time to do it.   You have to remember that for Life to exist on earth the clock doesn't really start ticking until earth creates a stable environment for Life to begin.  Just because rocks show the earth to be 5 billion years old does not mean that life can start developing on earth 5 billion years ago.  Other factors must come into being and in a certain order:
  1. Earth in a stable orbit with a stable rotation
    • Idea of moon coming from an impact of a Mars-size planet disrupts this process
  2. Once #1 is done, a stable magneto-sphere can be created
    • This is needed to stop the Sun's strong solar-wind from removing the earth's fragile and growing atmoshere
  3. Once #2 is done, an atmosphere rich in Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen and Hydrogen accumulates
  4. Once #3 is done, Ozone can now be generated in large enough amounts to accumulate in the upper atmosphere to block the Sun's UV rays which would destroy any early amino-acids that form 
  5. Now life can "possibly" start on the earth.
    Without these factors completed in this order, the life process cannot start its journey.  As scientists begin to take these factors into account, they soon realize one hard truth:  They don't have enough time.    All these factors have caused scientists to re-evaluate how life came to be on earth.  As recent as this past decade scientists have introduced a new idea to try to explain it all:  Planet seeding.  Since there is not enough time for life to begin HERE, then it must have started somewhere ELSE and then was transported here by meteorites and comets.  But overlooked is that it would require life to start on a similar planet as ours billions of miles away, find its way here to our planet and be able to survive its new environment.   I question the probability of that as being as near zero as you can get.  Imagine us traveling in a space ship over billions of miles to another planet and landing on it.   Then imagine us leaving our ship, with no protective suits and no special breathing devices to give us our earths atmosphere of oxygen, nitrogen and other elements "hoping" that our new planets atmosphere won't kill us.   What are the chances of that??  Would you take that first step out of the space ship?  I wouldn't.

    So yes, science hasn't and won't figure everything out.  I think God has left his finger prints all over his creation for us to marvel and say "How in the world did this ever come about?".  As we delve deeper into cellular biology and the complexity of life we are shown that life is too complex to just start on its own.  We see a great design must have an even greater designer behind it.

     What about other Christian scientific views such as Apparent-Age skeptics ?   Do they explain things as well?

      I have at one time or another been in some of their camps along the way.  For example, I used to think it was possible that the earth only LOOKED old because when God made the rocks he could make them look old (what they call "apparent age").   But I never really liked this answer.  It would mean that God deceives the scientists into thinking the earth is 5 billion years old.   But I know God does NOT deceive.   It's like a person who takes an piece of furniture and puts varnish on it and dents it to make it "look old" (called antiquing) which is fine as long as you don't sell the furniture as being really old.   For that reason I could not hold the Apparent-Age view anymore.

    So Why does God do it this way?  Why does he create our world and us using natural processes?

    I think the answer here is simple:  he wants us to come to him in FAITH... not FACT.  Imagine if God did make the world in 6 days and the earth was only 10,000 years old.  Every rock we tested would show a 10,000 year old earth.   There would be NO dinosaurs.    Our universe would be only 10,000 light-years across (about 1/10 the size of the Milky Way).   Everything would line up.   There would not be enough time for evolution to occur.    There would be no scientific explanation for our being here and so the ONLY answer would be what God says in Genesis.  But that would mean I would be compelled by facts to believe in God and not faith.   I would even go to say that faith wouldn't be needed at all and we would have no choice to believe or not believe in God.

    But God doesn't want fact-based-zombies worshiping him.   He wants believers who will worship him in "Spirit and in Truth".   He has reasons for doing things the way he does them.  The problem is that we too often don't spend the time with him to ask him "why?".  We don't delve into his purpose and his plan to see that he really does have one.  God knew from the beginning that we would develop amazing radio-telescopes and see how huge this world is.

    He knew we would discover how cells divide and grow.  He knew we would discover how cells carry with them the information to create a whole new being inside of them.  He knew we could create electron-microscopes and would discover the DNA structure and how it carries life-data from eons ago inside it.

 God knew we would dig into the earth and find fossils of long extinct creatures.  God knew we would discover radioactive isotopes that would enable us to test the age of rocks and minerals and see how old the earth really is.

    All of these discoveries would only bring MORE glory to him as it would show how even greater and powerful he is if we only have faith that he is there.  But like the idol worshipers of ancient times, we worship what is created (science,math,physics,biology,etc) rather than the creator.  We glory in our "discoveries" rather than in the one who designed it in the first place.   Like art-critics who painstakingly analyzes a great painting and studies every brush stroke and after writing their critique of the work turns around and glories more in his own critique rather than in the genius who created the painting in the first place.

    But God knew this would happen too....

Does Science have all the Answers

    Finally, science must come to realize that for all their research and all their analysis and formulation of laws, theories and ideas, it cannot determine the answer to the most important question of "WHY?".   They can determine the HOW but never the WHY.  Take for example, Einsteins highly complex General Relativity Field Equation (note the equation below is "short-hand notation" and the actual equations are extremely complicated):

     Einstein might formulate the Law of General Relativity, but why the universe has that law in the first place cannot be determined.  Could the universe possible run on a completely different set up equations?  Sure.   So why does ours use this equation?   Another issue is the constants used in these equations, such as 'c' which is the speed of light ( 3.00×108 m/s), or G which is the Gravitational constant (6.67408 × 10-11) can take on all kinds of values.  Our Universe happens to use these values but nothing says it has to be that way.   Research has shown that changing the G value by a factor of 10 our universe would either implode during the Big Bang or fly apart before stars or planets could form.   So why does our Universe has the exact right settings for these constants?  They might theorize that universes pop in and out of existence randomly each with different settings of constants, but they cannot determine why they do so or how those values get assigned.  For these questions science has no plausible answers.

  However, it is the WHY that God answers in the Bible when he says:
For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life!
   God knew from the very beginning Adam and Eve would sin and he would no longer be able to bless them with eternal life.   He would have to fix the problem of their sin by sending himself... his own Son to come and die and pay for our sins.   In fact God spends most of the Bible dealing with this issue rather than with Creation.

That alone should show to us just how much more important this is to him.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

We don't know what we are doing!

   Never before did a verse from the Bible become more clear to me than when I had to deal with a friend suffering from mental illness.  Several years a friend of mine had been rehired to work with us.  We had worked together back in the 90's and he was a genius to work along side. I was excited to work again with him along with 2 other of my friends.  He had left the company and worked away from us for several years and we had lost touch.  We had a benign interview with him (we were required to do it) assuming we knew he would be a great fit for our team (we had worked with him for several years so we had no reason to believe he wouldn't be).  Well after a couple of weeks we realized we had made a mistake.  Our friend was not showing up to work or for meetings.   He would ramble on in emails about nonsensical things and would make odd conversations on the phone.  I finally took it upon myself to go find out what he was up to and went to the apartment he was staying at.   I knew from the moment I walked in that I was in the presence of someone with a mental disorder.  The place looked like something out of the movie "A Beautiful Mind" with papers everywhere and printouts tacked to the wall.   There were pizza boxes and chinese food boxes on the floor and I could tell he was living on Coca-Cola as there were dozens of empty 2-liter bottles of it everywhere on the floor.

   I tried desperately to reach him but he was out of his mind.  I could not reason with him on anything.  He was convinced that he had the answer to all our companies problems if we would just give him a few more weeks.   It was the saddest thing I had ever witnessed in my life.  Here was a good friend of mine who had been a great engineer at one time now reduced to a crazy person who was convinced in his own mind that everyone else had the problems and not him.

   When Jesus hung on the cross, he said to the people who put him there,
"Father! Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!" 
   He was very much like me trying to reach my lost friend.  In his case, we are very much like my friend.  Our minds are so twisted by our sinful flesh that everything to us is really upside down.   We claim that everyone ELSE (including God himself) has the problems and we are completely right in our beliefs.  God tries to reason with us and help us to see how much we need him to fix our minds and our souls.   We cannot do it on our own.  Like my friend, our minds cannot fix themselves.  They are like broken computer processors that think there are problems everywhere in the PC but the real problem is with the processor.  In our view,  we think we have it all figured out.  We know what is best and what is not.

Adultery?            That's just a new loving relationship being formed to replace a broken one.
Homosexuality?  That's just an alternative lifestyle.
Pornography?      That's just self-expression
Lying?                 That's just an alternative form of the truth.
Stealing?             That's just an attempt to reapportion wealth from those who don't need it.
Intoxication?       That's just acceptable form of release from the cares of the world.
Abortion?            That's just fixing a female medical problem.

   This brings to mind another verse in the Bible.

"There is a way that appears to be right,
 but in the end it leads to death."   
-- Proverbs 14:12

Only God's Spirit and Love can bring true healing to our minds.  If only we will let him

POST NOTE: my friend did get help in the end and is doing much better today