Search This Blog

Showing posts with label Christian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian. Show all posts

Friday, April 14, 2017

WHY

   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?

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.


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.

Why DAYS and not BILLIONS OF YEARS

     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

POWER = FORCE * DISTANCE / TIME. 

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.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Karl Marx was right

   I don't like to quote socialist/communists like Karl Marx but even a broken clock is right two times every day and so is Karl Marx.

    Marx once referred to the religion as the "opiate of the masses".    His view was that religion (Christianity in particular) was responsible for the masses not getting angry and mounting a massive revolt against the upper class and rulers.   With words like,
  • "Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth" 
  • "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God!" 
  • "Money is the root of all kinds of evil"
  • "Forgive as you have been forgiven"
  • "Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and give unto God that which is God's"
      How can you get a group like that to stage a revolt?   But it's not so much a drug of religion that keeps people from revolting, but the understanding that this world is passing away and a much better one is on its way.   Like a guy driving an old clunker is not going to get too upset when it breaks down because his new BMW is being delivered and on its way.   You have a different perspective because of your faith in God.

    As I watch this election it seems to me that as our country becomes less and less Christian (and I include so-called Christians that are more concerned with their worldly wealth than with heavenly wealth) we see people becoming increasingly angry towards one another.   Everything seems to hinge on the "next election" and whether or not "their guy (or girl) gets into the White House".   No matter what after this election I can tell you this:  HALF the country will be angry and the other HALF will be elated.  One half will call the other illegitimate and the other half will be called bitter haters.  Recently I saw a story about a guy who video taped himself running over TRUMP signs on the side of the road.   He was caught by the police and he said he thought it was his "moral duty" to run over the signs.   REALLY SIR?   MORAL DUTY??  My guess he hasn't darkened the doorway of a church in his entire life (at least I hope not).  Personally I would like to see someone put their sign in front of a boulder or brick wall and see him plow his vehicle into it just to teach him a lesson in "morals".   At a TRUMP rally a man sucker punched a black man who was disruptive and was being removed by security.    Why did you have to do that??    Others have jumped on stage and hijacked a candidates microphone and taken over their speaking engagement.  Was it their "moral duty" as well?

    George Washington referred to religion as the necessary "third leg" of a 3-legged stool for Democracy to work.  In recent decades people have been taking a saw to that third leg and now it's almost gone completely and our democracy is teetering on collapse (something these leg cutters want to happen).   Each President who has taken office for the first time has paid homage to our countries ability to peacefully transition control from one leader to the next without violence (sometimes referred to as a "peaceful coup").   This "peaceful coup" is based entirely on our religious beliefs that no government provided to man is without God's will.   That's a hard concept for many (even Christians like myself) to get behind.   How can you support what we might see as an illegitimate government or leader?  

    Let's see how Jesus handles an unjust political system.  First we see Jesus himself put himself 100% in control of the government as he is taken in the night to a Jewish court called the Sanhedrin and even though it is against their own law to try someone at night he allows it to go on.   He then is sent to Pilate and allows his ruling to be decided by an angry mob rather than a just judge.  He goes to his death as it is the Father's will.  When he's on the cross in agony he summons enough energy to stand up on the nails in his feat/ankles and say "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do".   Even after he raises from the dead he doesn't tell his disciples to get even with the Romans for his wrongful death.   He moves on like it's nothing.

    In the book of Acts, we see Peter, Paul and other disciples thrown into prison as well in much the same way.   They are unjustly scourged  to teach them a lesson and they are overjoyed by God allowing them to suffer for the faith as well.   They didn't yell obscenities back at their jailers or floggers and tell them "You just wait until the power pendulum swings back our way and WE are in control!".  No, instead they sang hymns in prison knowing tomorrow they may die a horrible death on a cross like Jesus did.

    Sadly, too many Christian leaders have thrown their collars into the ring with a variety of political parties and leaders today as well.  They too have taught their followers that it's time to "take back your country".   Well last I read, taking anything is paramount to stealing.  Are we doing God's work or are we fighting against him?   Are we too focused on the things of this world and not focused on the things of God?   Paul says,
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"
    We should be spending our time praying that God's word would be effectual in the people's heart and not wasting our time praying for God to get our "guy/girl" into the White House.   We should be praying for our children's hearts and minds to not be contaminated by this worlds view on God and not be praying Hillary goes to jail (even though she deserves too).    We should be praying for Hillary and Obama that God may reach them too (even if we think their heart is too hard to listen).  We should be praying that God's will should be done and not our will.

    Let me put it this way....

    If God can reach 10 times more people with the Gospel when times are tough and money is scarce, then shouldn't we be OK with an economic collapse?   Too many Christians today want only God's blessings on them so they can have it easy.   They fear homosexuality (and other sins) taking over our country because God might take his blessing (ie - protection from bad times) from them even though Jesus has already paid for all of those sins on the cross and the only sin left unpaid is unbelief in him.   If God does take his "blessing" from us it isn't to punish homosexuality (or any other list of abominations) but instead to wake up this world and drive them to their knees to repent and be saved.

    So what do you pray for when you watch the news?   Are you hinging all of your hope and faith on this years election?   If Hillary gets elected will you feel God has abandoned you?   Will you be angry at God and go off and sulk in a cave like Elijah?   Or will you move on to what God wants you to do next?

   I myself used to get angry listening to the news and frustrated with how the Obama administration is trying to transform our country into a socialist cesspool.  I spent hours reading news stories and watching Fox News.   I would send articles to friends on Facebook and wait for their replies.  In 2012 I was elated when the GOP regained the Senate but later dismayed as still nothing seemed to get done and Obama continued to move forward with Executive Orders.    I waited with anticipation the rulings from the Supreme Court on gay-marriage and also on ObamaCare, only to have my hopes dashed by their ridiculous rulings in which Roberts seemed to contort himself like a yoga-master to make the rulings fit the Constitution in some way.

    I came to peace when I read Jesus words,
"All authority has been give to me in heaven and in earth".   
      Those words showed me that those sitting in Washington DC are not the real rulers of this world.   Christ rules and is allowing these charlatans to fill in until he comes again.  So what if Hillary gets into the White House!   Let her have her few years of fame.  So what if the GOP collapses into a pile of crap!   God still rules and this "temporary tent" will be replaced some day.   No longer do I worry about this "next election" or if people will forget their Constitutional rights and fall to tyranny.   As for me and my house, nothing changes, we will serve the Lord.  Though we may be scoffed at and ridiculed and treated like dirt.   It's okay.  And I have good company in that view as well.   As Paul writes,
As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    This doesn't mean that I stop writing blogs or I stop looking for leaders who are good and honorable.    But I can stop fretting over what will happen if things continue to deteriorate. I will let the "opiate" of God's love and forgiveness guide me and not fall victim to the unholy angry masses who surround me. 










Tuesday, September 8, 2015

We need to see more than just Christian movies

     Recently there have been a large amount of new Christian movies that have hit the scene.  Most of the movies are the product of Kirk Cameron who grew up on TV's sitcom "Growing Pains".   Starting with the movie "Fireproof" Cameron has capitalized on a small group of evangelical Christians who feel their views are not emulated well in Hollywood.   As a Christian I feel compelled to see these movies and support these artists and producers.   But I don't see it that way at all.  Most of these movies follow a common and almost predictable plot line.  First there is the main character who is either a coach (Facing the Giants) a fireman (Fireproof) or a policeman (Courageous) whose family life is falling apart while their work life is in shambles   Next comes their pastor who challenges them to return to God's word after which everything thing changes. Their wife returns back to them, their children do better in school and their work becomes amazing. In the end everything works out gloriously and even the villains are saved. 

     But that is not how life really works nor is it guaranteed by God in his word. Jesus often even showed quite the opposite when he talked about being hated and being chased from town to town on account of him.  While I appreciate people trying to reach a dying world, the problem is that almost 100% of the people who see these films are already saved and therefore don't achieve their goal. 

    Another reason I don't support Holy-wood is because I am sick and tired of seeing Christians cloister themselves off like a bunch of monks so they don't have to touch the world they walk in.  We have christian music, schools, movies, radio stations,TV stations, bookstores, gyms, coffee shops, dating sites, businesses, and even cruises!   How can you relate to your neighbor if you have NOTHING IN COMMON WITH THEM!!  Here is how your conversation will go with them if you cloister yourself off and only see Holy-wood movies

Jim:     Hey Bob have you seen that new movie The Matrix?
Bob:     No.  I only see Christian movies. Did you see Fireproof?
Jim:     No.  Too religious (alternative:  "Never heard of it")
            (End of discussion)

     This is not how Jesus intended for us to live.  Instead he said exactly opposite when he told us to:
                    "Be in the world but not of the world".   
     How can you be "in it" if you don't participate "in it"?   Granted that doesn't mean I am free to go to strip clubs and the like, but it doesn't mean I sit at home and watch re-runs of  "The Walton's" every night on DVD either.   We have to find a happy medium here and for my Holy-wood is not where the line should be drawn.  To me, it's like saying that you can only discuss your faith if you are inside a church building and since your neighbors never want to go to church with you then ....oh well...guess you never will have that chance to share your faith then.  Of course we see that as an absurd path of logic but often that is exactly what we do.

    St. Paul exhorts his readers to "Always have an answer for the hope you have inside you"

    Translation: Find answers to questions as they arise as we live in this world

    Let's take the conversation earlier and see how it "might" play out differently

Jim:     Hey Bob have you seen that new movie The Matrix movies?
Bob:    Yes I did.  I saw all three.Pretty intense movie I must say.  I wouldn't take my kids to it but I found it interesting
Jim:     Yeah. me too.   I liked the story line
Bob:    Yeah I did too.  I found it very biblical in nature
Jim:     How?
Bob:    Well the names for example.  Trinity is the name of our Christian God. Father,Son and Holy Spirit.  Then their is Neo, which is Greek for NEW so he is kind of like Jesus.   He has the amazing powers no one else has.  Smith is sort of like the Devil that he has to fight.   In the end, when he is connected to the matrix and laid out in a cross formation and is fighting Smith its just like Jesus.  The Bible says of Jesus, "He who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that the power of sin could be destroyed once and for all".   That is just like Neo turning into Smith at the end and then destroying Smith from the inside.  Then their is Zion, which is also a biblical name for Jerusalem, and they cry out at the end "The war is over!".  We as Christians believe too that the war with God is over.  We are no longer enemies but his children now.

Jim:  Wow!  I missed all of that.  Do you think the writer intended that?
Bob:  I don't know.  Maybe.  It just seems all to coincidental to be an accident.  I think he is trying to get across a deeper message of salvation possibly.

And the conversation goes on from here....

I am not saying that every movie we go to has a direct application of the Gospel, but we should try to look and find ways of using our culture to reach out to a dying world.   Take for example St. Paul when he visited Athens.   Did he only go to the synagogues?   Apparently not.   When he visited Mars Hill to talk to the philosophers of his day, he mentioned their temples and even gave them credit for being very religious.   He also quoted one of their poets which means he either read their writings or attended their plays.   He uses this as a spring-board to the Gospel.  A way to connect to them.  In other writings Paul talks about athletes running with no clothes on which could mean he attended these competitions personally (something most Christians today would avoid like the plague).

    We, like Paul, might not agree with all of our world's "poets" but we must take want God gives us and use it wherever and whenever we can.  Who knows maybe a rap-artist might even have some social commentary that we can use to talk up our faith.   We must be more like Paul who even though he doesn't agree with all the greek poets writings, takes what he can and even gives credit to them.   We miss these chances when all we have to say is bad things about our culture and nothing good.  How do you think these Greek philosophers would feel if Paul approached them like this instead

Paul:  Hey I have been here for a week but could only hack walking around your city for a day because its covered with these shameless nude statutes of these "so-called" gods which really aren't gods at all but are stupid idols you guys think are so great.   I was also invited to go to a poetry reading but because I heard the poet was a heathen who has no religious background I told my friends that it would not be good for me to ingest that tripe.  But hey!  While I am here let me tell you about this man I follow named Jesus of Nazareth who is the Son of God and was crucified by you gentiles and was raised to life 3 days later.

How many do you think would have stayed around to hear?   None.

Yet that is how we sound too.


    

Monday, March 16, 2015

We need more Ambassadors

    What comes to mind when you think of an Ambassador?

    Some common attributes:
  • Lives in a foreign country
  • Speaks their language (if not completely... at least some)
  • Seeks ways to build bridges to those cultures from our country
  • Nominated by the President
  • While they live there, they are always a U.S. citizen
  • Communicates the Presidents Foreign Policy to their leaders
  • Participates in their culture to a certain degree (parties, festivals, seminars etc)
  • Maybe has a family connection to that country (ancestors came from there)
   Ambassadors play a vital role in our foreign policy so it is important to nominate people who can express those views in a way that does not offend the people he is trying to reach out to.   Also, they must be people-persons (extraverts and not introverts) who like to get out and meet people.   If they think they can just go and live in the Embassy the whole time they are there they are seriously misguided in their thinking.

   In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul writes:
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
    Paul could not have picked a better word (led by the Holy Spirit how could he not!).   We are ambassadors for Christ in our lives.   As we live out our lives in THIS world, we are living in a foreign land reaching out to a foreign people be receive the reconciliation that God is giving them.   Jesus in his high priestly prayer prayed for his disciples to "be in the world, but not of the world".   Like an ambassador who while living in a foreign country must always remember they are citizens of the U.S. and they represent the President at all times, we too are always God's children.  Also, while an ambassador can go to parties, luncheons and other meetings, at the same time he can not participate in activities not allowed by the US.   For example the ambassador to the Netherlands cannot use drugs or go to brothels even though those activities are legal in the Netherlands they are not legal for us in the U.S.    It is a delicate balance he must maintain at all times.

    An ambassador must also learned to speak the truth to the leaders in those countries when asked about US concerns.   He cannot for the sake of  "friendship" minimize problems we have with their country.  If an African country is committing genocide or sea-piracy we cannot pretend it doesn't matter to us in the US.   They must be told that if things don't change the US will get involved and it won't be a pretty sight.  So also, we as Christ's ambassador's must speak the truth to those around us.  We cannot pretend the Bible is mum on various topics that are of concern with them.   However we must strive to remain friends with them and be there for them when the time comes.  Like the ambassador to a somewhat hostile country staying connected to them until the day comes when a volcano erupts, or a tsunami hits their coast, or dam breaks and wipes out a village, we can be there to help and give them aid.   We too, need to be engaged with our non-Christian friends and neighbors ready to help them in there day of need.  

Be IN the world but NOT of the world!

    Embassies are like miniature US retreats for the ambassador.   Many embassies provide them with American food, books, TV and entertainment for while they live there.  In fact,even the very soil they live on is considered to be US owned and is guarded by US Marines with that conviction.  But embassies are not meant to be where the ambassador spends 100% of their time, but only serve as a retreat for him/her.    Likewise, we as Christians seek to create Virtual-Embassies where we try to separate ourselves from the world around us (man has always sought to be closer to God by separating themselves from other humans).   But this is not what God desires for his people at all ("Be in the world, not of the world").  We do this by closing ourselves off from those around us who are not Christian by creating Christian-schools (K-college), Christian-day-cares, Christian-music, Christian-radio, Christian-TV, Christian-movies, Christian-books/magazines,  Christian-clubs,  Christian-gyms, Christian-coffee-shops and even Christian-dating-sites.    How are we to reach a world we have nothing in common with?   An ambassador that secludes themselves away inside the US Embassy and never venturing out into the country they are sent to, is of no use to the President who sent them.  So also, we are of no use to God who has sent us ("As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you!"  John 20:21) if we don't engage with the world around us. 

What we an learn from Paul

    Paul writes in  1 Corinthians 9:20
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
    Here we see "Ambassador Paul" giving us advice on reaching the world around us.  Nowhere in the book of Acts does Paul illustrate this better than when he was asked to speak at the Areopagus to a group of Greek philosophers.  Paul went and gave them a short dissertation on the Christian faith, but he did not quote scripture to them at all.  Instead he quoted an inscription on the base of an idle ("TO AN UNKNOWN GOD") and one of their own poets ("We are his children").   By doing this, he showed them that he was connected to them and engaged with their culture and not some nut-job-preacher from another country.   In fact he only gets to talking about Jesus until the very end of his speech to them at which point they tell him that they want him to come back later and some who heard him received the Gospel and became followers.   We can see from other writings by Paul he took part in the Gentile life as he uses analogies from athletics (running, wrestling and boxing) and even quotes Greek philosophers ("The stomach is made for food and food is made for the stomach" - 1 Corinthians 6:13).  Paul uses these worldly-props as springboards for the Gospel to reach as many people as possible.   When we choose to disengage with the world we lose these opportunities altogether.  We may try to relate our world to them but much will be lost in translation.   Like an ambassador trying to use a "American football" as an illustration to a country that knows only soccer,  they just won't understand what they are talking about.

    Will it mean that we might have our sensibilities offended some?  Probably.  Paul undoubtedly attended Olympic sporting events given the numerous times he talks about running a straight race and throwing off everything that might entangle him.   These foot races were run entirely in the nude and woman were barred from viewing them (except the Vestile Virgins).   Did Paul grow up seeing these races?  Probably not, but he obviously did now as a missionary and God was able to use his attendance to give his people a visible form of how we should conduct ourselves in our Christian life. 

Modern day opportunities

    Recently I was watching the last episode of the Matrix trilogy (for some reason I never got the chance to watch it before).   When I did I was astounded at how much of the movie's ending mirrors that of the gospel.   If you have not seen it, I urge you to go and see it for yourself.   Not only do the characters names have Christian meanings (Trinity, Neo) but also the hidden city of the free-humans is called Zion.   In the last scene when Neo is taking on Smith (who represents Satan) in the virtual world controlled by the machines, Neo is laid out on the ground in front of the mainframe (which represents God) in a cross formation with wires connecting him to the virtual world.  The machine wants to rid itself of the Smith-virus but it cannot without a human to "bridge the gap".   Neo realizes that the only way to destroy Smith is to let him kill him and destroy him from the inside.  Neo becomes Smith and then destroys Smith ("He who knew no sin, became sin for us") and the mainframe machine says "It is done!".   The people in Zion rejoice saying "It's done!  The war is over!  The war is over!".   

    What a wonderful springboard for us to reach our non-Christian friends as they will not go see a Christian-movie, but they will talk to us about one of their most popular science fiction movies of all time.  But we can't talk to them about it unless we have first seen it.   Does the Matrix contain graphic violence and foul language?  Of course it does.   But if Paul can watch naked men run across and open field, I think we should allow ourselves the opportunity to watch movies or listen to music that connect us with the world around us.

   It's time for us to venture outside the Embassy and engage with the people we are sent to share the Gospel with around us and be the ambassadors Christ wants us to be!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How God's word has changed my view on homosexuality


   I recently wrote a blog called,  "What's your bungee cord made of?"  in which I layout that all of us have sins that pull us back away from God and the life he wants for us to have.  For the rich man who comes to Jesus looking for the one thing that would put him in good standing with God ("What must I do to inherit the Kingdom of God?"), its his wealth that pulls him back and keeps him chained.  I too like the rich man have been chained as well in many ways.  Like most men, sex is a very potent drug that tugs at our very being and in our society it is used everywhere to get our attention.  I recently went to the gym and could not believe what the woman next to me was wearing as "gym clothes".   She looked like she just stepped out of a Victoria Secret catalog for their push-up bra line.  There she was, jogging (not walking) on the treadmill next to me.    I strained to keep my eyes looking straight ahead at my TV screen as she bounced along (she was voluptuous to say the least).  But I had a choice:
  • Keep trying to look ahead ... but peeking whenever I could get a chance 
OR
  • Move to another treadmill.  

    My option was the second one...but not without a lot of contemplation of #1 first and I must be honest that it took me much longer to come to this decision than what it should have.   Did I feel superior in making this decision?  No, not really.  In fact it made me realize even more how sinful I really am that I could not stay put where I was.   Like a laser-pointer in a presentation it brought to my attention even more how weak I am  (maybe that is what God meant when he told Paul, "My grace is sufficient, because my strength is made perfect in weakness") .

    After writing the previous blog I have a had a lot of time to contemplate how Jesus handled the situation with the young rich man.   It says, "he looked at him with love".   Not anger or righteous indignation.   Either of which he would be totally entitled to but yet he did not.   And even when the man left "sad",  Jesus did not point at him and say anything angry or negative to him.  Did he call for the man to be stoned?  No.   Instead he makes a very truthful and sadly profound statement when he says, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God"  and then later "It is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God".

     I think Jesus said this with a tear in his eye (though the Gospel doesn't say so).   We too will come in contact with many people who will "walk away sad" after hearing the Gospel.  Either they will think it too easy to be true or too difficult to accept.   We are all given choices in our lives to either follow Jesus or stay attached to the things in this life we want more.  Jesus understood this more than any of us and yet he still went to the cross for the rich young man as well.   We too must have the mind of Christ as well and have compassion for those who choose NOT to walk with us and let them walk away in peace.

    Another section of verses that have greatly influenced me are from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister[c] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”[d]
     Here Paul lays out for how the church should deal with those who are sexually immoral, greedy, swindlers or idolaters.  But note the little phrase in verse 10 where he says, "not at all meaning the people of this world".   To the people in the legal profession this is called, an exception clause.   He even shows them that to  avoid these people in the world would require you to hop on a rocket move yourself to another planet.  Instead the people should be avoided ONLY if they pretend to be followers of Jesus and are in the church.  There is the line in the sand that Paul draws for us to pay heed to.   He later in verse 13 even goes on to remind them that "God will judge those OUTSIDE (the church)".

    Does this mean we don't speak the truth to the homosexual community?   Not at all.  Just as Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth to the rich young man ( I wonder how many lackeys the rich young man had following him were unwilling to tell him this truth Jesus was telling him to his face).  But we must do so in love.  We must be willing to confess our own weaknesses and sins and show them that it is BY GOD'S GRACE we are forgiven and that we are made righteous by what Jesus already did for us on the cross.   We need to understand however that they have some very strong "bungee cord" attached to them and that it will take a miracle of God's grace to help them walk away.   


    Recently my wife and I were in Carmel CA on vacation.  We were being served by a young man who by his own way of speaking you could not but notice he was gay.   In the past I would have probably opted to go find a different place to eat, but because of God's grace I was able to smile at the young man and allow him to serve us our food.   Did we talk about faith or anything?  No, we did not.  He was there to work and serve others and to do so would keep him from doing so.  I did pray for him that God would reach out to him some way through those around him.  Maybe some already have, I don't know.    I just pray that whoever does talk with him someday has this mindset and not one that seeks its own self-righteous indignation as I might have a few years ago.