I’ll Bet!

2020-05-16 Pascals Wager

I say daily prayers with The God Who Is There and as I get older, I feel a sense of urgency to encourage others to consider the claims of Jesus and what that could mean to their lives.

My mother used to scold me when I would use the phrase, “Well, I’ll bet that . . .”
“You should never gamble; do not bet!” would be her retort.  But here is a bet which I’ll bet even she would approve 😉.

Consider “Pascal’s Wager.”  (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/)  In its simplest form it is the challenge that one who seeks to believe that God exists and lives as such will have lost very little if he is wrong compared to one who does not seek to believe in God and will miss Heaven if he is wrong.  In contrast the former will gain Heaven if he is right, and the latter gains very little if he is right.

Of course, Pascal’s Wager does not address the issue of whether one truly believes God exists or genuinely submits his life to a Creator. (See Hebrews 11:6 and .)

This blog is not out of any sense of being “holier-than-thou” or having any advantage.  Very few of you know anything about my life before Anita, and frankly, I plan to keep it that way.  It was not a good time in my life, and I was not a very good person.  But Someone got hold of my life and led me to changes that have showed how much He loves even the worst of sinners. (Romans 5:7-8; 1 Timothy 1:15)

The wonderful thing about Jesus is His exclusiveness and His inclusiveness.
He is exclusive in that He claims to be the only way to get to know the Creator God.  He is inclusive in that anyone (even I!) can get to know the Creator God.

One of the strongest arguments against following Jesus is that He only appeared to His disciples, people who might have a vested interest in proving He arose from the dead.  However, all of them suffered immeasurably and most were killed because they would not renounce their claims to have seen Him alive after His crucifixion.  This lends credence to the idea that they believed what they had seen.

Chuck Colson, Nixon’s ‘hatchet man’ went to prison for his crimes and there met Jesus.  He says of his experience: “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate [the criminal enterprise for which he was in prison] proved it to me.  How?  Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it.  Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned or put in prison.  They would not have endured that if it weren’t true.  Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks.  You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years?  Absolutely impossible.”

The attached page (https://wordpress.com/page/capost2k.wordpress.com/16919) gives more perspective on this issue in that it details views of skeptics who do not believe in Jesus, but grudgingly admit that the disciples saw “something” though they admit they do not know what.

So I’ll  bet that if you try Pascal’s Wager, you may find more that you bargain for.

Who Are You Praying FOR During This Wuhan Virus Crisis?

2020-04-04 Rosenberg Survey 2
This is a time that people all over the world are becoming more aware of spiritual realities than at almost any time in my life.   Why?  Because we are facing a global health crisis unlike anything since the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920.  Infecting over 500 million people, that pandemic caused between 50-100 million deaths! (50,000,000-100,000,000)

In the current crisis, as of April 4 reliable reports are that more than 1.2 million (1,200,000) have been infected and more than 65,000 have died.  If there is a silver lining, it is that over 250,000 have recovered, meaning the death rate and toll will likely be much smaller than the Spanish Flu, but it is still a life-changing event in our generation.  And the numbers of those infected and deaths are suspect, even though from “reliable” news sources.  The media can only report what governments give them for data.  They could be much higher.

2020 -04-04 Roseberg SurveyAt Joel Rosenberg’s website, he reports on a survey his organization commissioned for McLaughlin and Associates to conduct here in the USA.  To summarize a couple of points, almost half of the respondents see this global health crisis as supernatural intervention in world affaoirs, just shy of the number who believe God has nothing to do with it.  Most interesting is that of the non-Christian respondents 22% of them acknowledge looking for answers in the Bible or online Christian/spiritual resources. (See above bar chart.) You can view the details of the survey here:

https://www.joshuafund.com/learn/news-article/coronavirus_pandemic_is_a_wake_up_call_exclusive_joshua_fund_poll

It is vital that the Church seize this opportunity to invite, educate and guide the spiritually hungry.  But what of the 63% of non-Christian respondents who say this crisis has not changed their interest in spiritual things?

We must pray for them, also.  And note, we must learn to pray FOR them, not against them.  In the words of Jesus, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:44-45

This is not an easy thing for many of us to get our minds around, but praying FOR our enemies is on Jesus watch list to see if we are becoming sons and daughters of our Father.  More on loving your enemy can be found at .

But this is not just a New Testament idea.  Jesus prefaced His command with, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” (Matthew 25:43)  We have no Scripture that uses this dictum, but it was likely a saying of the Zealots.  The Dead Sea Scrolls show the Qumram community was taught to “love all the sons of light … and hate all the sons of darkness,”

However, the God of the Old Testament made the same demand on the Jews of history as Jesus was calling His disciples to.  Leviticus 19:34 called on them to love the stranger among them as they love themselves.  And in the Law, Exodus 25:4-5 called on the Hebrew to help his enemy, even though it was someone he hated.

Then Solomon came along and penned this poetic advice regarding one’s enemy:
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
    and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
for you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and Yahweh will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21-22)

For a long time, I thought this meant that if I was kind to an enemy, heaping coals of fire on his head would mean I reeeaally “got him good!”  By being kind, I was going to make him so miserable, he would see the error of his ways.  You know, really stick it to him!

But then a wiser man than me pointed out that fire was a valuable commodity in Solomon’s day.  No pilot on a gas stove; no matches from the Safeway store; no camp-fire lighters at Dick’s Sporting Goods.  When you finally started a fire with sticks and twigs and lots of elbow grease, you kept it going as long as you were home.  You saved embers each day so the next day the fire could burn bright again for cooking food or purifying your knife or warming yourself and family against the next night’s cold.

The movies make it look so simple as though anyone could start a fire to mount on a catapult and attack an enemy.   But I challenge you to go outside when the weather has been nice and dry and try to start a fire the way Solomon’s servant would have.  Fire was a precious product, not one you would likely share with an enemy.

When you gave some “fire” to someone, it likely would not be a burning stick, but embers from your fire pit.  Carrying it in front of you would result in the sparks flying into one’s face, so they would load the precious heat into a pot or basket that could be carried on one’s head.  Now, if that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is!  “Heap burning coals on his head!”

So Jesus reaffirmed the love of God in the Old Testament, and told us to pray FOR our enemies.  Now, who is your enemy?  Muslim terrorists?  Hindu nationalists?  A superstitious shaman?  How about Nancy Pelosi?  Donald Trump?  Chuck Schumer?
Bring it closer to home, the guy who cut you off at the light?  A rude neighbor?  A boss?  A smelly coworker?  A family member?

We are to pray FOR them, not against them.  So I wonder, who are you praying FOR during this crisis?  Next week we will look at HOW do we pray FOR someone evil or with whom we thoroughly disagree.

Who Are You Telling About Jesus During the Wuhan Virus Crisis?

A message of peace.
A message of love.
A message of hope.

Last week, I asked if you were “going to church” during this drawn-out ordeal.
Canceled travel plans, kid at home, many lost jobs, isolation from almost everyone, meetings zoomed instead of in person, friends who die alone, friends unable to pay respects because of the constraints.

But as David and Miriam of Ohio mentioned in a Zoom meeting of Simple Church Alliance yesterday (http://simplechurchalliance.faclex.com/), this could be an amazing opportunity for the Church to show the world the peace, love and hope of Jesus.

It feels like the world is spiraling out of control.  Governments seem powerless to do anything besides add band-aids of financial assistance as though that will solve the problem.  But the virus continues to consume our attention, our neighbors’ lives, and run rampant over the usual routines.  When will it end?  Where is the hope?  How can we feel at peace?  Does anyone love me in this time of isolation?

As Christ-followers we have the unique opportunity to offer peace in the middle of the storm.  Martin Luther encouraged magistrates and government officials to stand fast in the plague that ravaged Europe in 1527.  In a letter to the Wittenburg Christians, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,”  he maintained that those in service to others “must remain steadfast before the peril of death.”  Not only government and health care workers but anyone who was able to serve the general good.

However, he did not suggest we expose ourselves recklessly to disease and in the final analysis left the matter up to conscience: “devout Christians [must] to come to their own decision and conclusion” whether to flee or to stay during plagues, believing one must follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  I suspect he intended that if one did not know Father well enough to know the “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13) he may as well leave.  If one did know Him, He would guide, not Martin Luther or government.  The actions of assistance to the sick should come from grace, not obligation.  Such is the peace Father offers us in the eye of the storm.

The Eye Of The Storm by Ryan Stevenson

 

 

Along with this peace and giving motivation to it is the love of Jesus.  The “disciple who Jesus loved” told us near the end of his life, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19)  To express the love we have received from a Savior who gave His life for each of us should be one of our primary goals, not just in the face of a health crisis, but all the time.

Who, upon receiving a medical breakthrough for himself would not share it with others in need?  Who, upon finding he could prevent his house from burning down would not show others how to do that?  Who, upon receiving a great gift, unrequested, unsought, and undeserved would hoard it all to oneself?  See the lepers of of 2 Kings 7 for an illustration of how one should respond.  When you know a wonderful secret, you do not want to keep it secret!  You cannot wait for the opportunity to share it with those who might benefit.

And what greater “secret” could we who follow Jesus possess than the way to overcome “the last enemy”? (1 Corinthians 15:26)  It is a blessing that the Wuhan Virus does not destroy young lives as easily as it attacks us older folks.  For a short time, a morbid attempt at humor ran on twitter: #boomerremover.  Children and young adults should be taught that they have received an unexpected gift.  Another virus could just as easily reverse this effect, killing the young and sparing the old.

But the feeling of invincibility that comes from being young is an illusion.  No one here gets out alive. (December 6, 2015)  We will all face the Specter someday, hopefully for the young, many years away.  But that day will come.

Now, while it is on everyone’s mind, we Christ-followers have the best reason for “the peace that passes understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)  We can give hope so much more than for just a few short years, whether they are one or 100.  We can present a Hope that is more than just a childish wish that things were different: that mom and dad did not get divorced; that my grades were better; that I could get that job; that I will get a check from the government handout.  We can offer LIFE!  Eternal life from the Creator; eternal life in the Son of the Creator!  A Hope that is certain, not just a wish; an anticipation of what we know will happen.

So do not force conversations but be sensitive to that small voice inside when the opportunity arises to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)  Give the distressed peace.  Give the lonely love.  Give the hopeless hope.

“God, I don’t want to die . . . “

Two men’s deaths were reported last week, one 27-year-old John Chau, who has been on national news with an interesting quote.  The other, Jimbo Hawkins, a 47-year-old acquaintance, only on the local news here in Kentucky.

The death of John Chau almost makes me believe the conceit about “fake news.”  Yahoo News, MSN, CNN, GlobalNews, even Fox News, and all the other popular outlets I read capitalized on the statement in John’s last journal entry, “God, I don’t want to die.”

The presentation of this entry in the way the media hyped it made it sound like an insincere missionary being coerced into going somewhere he did not really wish to go, someone who was unwilling to die for the faith he was trying to spread.  Even the Wall Street Journal called him a “proselytizer” as though this was tantamount to cultural murder and forced conversion.

Like Paul Harvey used to say, let’s get to “the rest of the story.”

In November, 2018, after nearly three years of studying the area and the people groups in India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where North Sentinel is located, John chose to violate Indian law and visit the island.  His heart’s desire was to share the love of God in Jesus Christ with people who had been left alone by the rest of the world; people going to hell without hope (Acts 4:12).  So John prayed and journaled: “Lord, is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?”

Then there was the line taken out of context by the media: “God, I don’t want to die.”  Put in context, it reveals a completely different picture:
“You guys [his family] might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people . . . God, I don’t want to die.  Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else to continue?  No, I don’t think so.”
“I think I could be more useful alive . . . but to you, God, I give all the glory of whatever happens,” he wrote, noting that he had asked God to forgive “any of the people on this island who try to kill me, and especially if they succeed.”

This was a young man who knew his Lord and wanted to share His love with everyone, not wanting any to perish without God’s salvation.  Arm-chair critics, even among believers, question the sense of going where he was unwelcomed, violating Indian law, hiring accessories who have now been charged with criminal involvement in his death (over the objections of his family who have forgiven even the tribesmen who killed John).

John Chau.jpg

Laws that prevent us from sharing the Gospel must be weighed against the call of God to do just that.  The Nazi argument in 1935-44 was this: The Bible tells you Christians to obey the law; how do you justify protecting Jews?  We followers of Jesus must remember Acts 4:18-20 when Peter and John were told by the legal authorities to stop preaching in the name of Jesus: “But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ “

Whether John was obeying the Lord in his calling or just playing an adrenaline pumping adventure is between Jesus and John now.  But his intention could not have been clearer.  He wanted to share the Good News of salvation with people who had not heard, perhaps one of the last, if not the very last people group without a Gospel witness.  And he was unafraid of dying for that opportunity.

News of the death of the 47-year-old acquaintance came quite unexpectedly from his mother’s phone call.  Jimbo was walking with a new friend along Winchester Road at 5:30am when the driver of a small truck did not see him in his dark clothing and struck him, rendering him unconscious for the last few hours of his life.

He had lots of problems in his life, but he loved his mother and had prayed with different Christian friends in Quest and First Alliance Churches.  Only God knows the condition of his heart when he left earth, and our hope is that in God’s mercy and grace, he found salvation from God’s judgment (2 Peter 3:9).

I weighed the surprise of these two deaths to those of us who read or heard about them.  Neither was a surprise to The God Who Is Here.  Psalm 139:16 says, Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”  God knew before John ever visited Sentinel Island what was waiting for him there.  God knew before Jimbo ever went walking by the roadside what was going to happen to him.

Why speak of these two very different men in the same blog?  Just to note that death is the common denominator for all mankind.  Whether a missionary engaged in spreading the Gospel or just a hiker along a road, whether unformed in the womb or ninety-five years old, whether rich or poor, we will all “go the way of all flesh.”

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)  So get ready and stay ready.