The Walk

2020-08-08 The WalkMy wife and I walk around our neighborhoods, about three to four miles almost every day.  Rising at 7am, my brain doesn’t have to engage while she gets ready, I “snack” a breakfast and a coffee, and we go hiking for an hour or so.  By the time we get back, I am almost awake and ready to take on the day’s tasks. 😉

My Master and I also take a “walk” together almost every day.  But our “walk” covers a lot more ground, usually going around the world.  We start by “visiting family” which extends past my biological relatives to “adoptees” who are as dear to me as my own flesh and blood: from Lexington, we “drop in on” some “family” in Mongolia, back through New Jersey, Peoria, Illinois, Waverly and Marshalltown, Iowa, Kansas City (both sides of the river, from Liberty to Overland Park to Olathe), pass through Phoenix and Yuma, Arizona and wind up north in Edmonton and Calgary.

2020-08-08 US Map

Then we begin a “trek” around Lexington, visiting our neighborhood, the University, our church leadership, our Boomers’ fellowship, and locals of our church and community, reaching out to Winchester and Versailles.  From there we make a loop around the US, starting with friends in China Outreach Ministries in UT (Knoxville), down to Dallas and Houston, Texas and then east to Birmingham and Selma, Alabama.  Continuing east we stop in Atlanta, drop down to the University of Miami and skirt along the coast up through Savannah, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina, Virginia and through a suburb of Washington, D.C..

Stops in Philadelphia and New Jersey take us up to ‘The City’ (New Yorkers are so provincial; they think that is sufficient designation for Gotham 😉).  Jump up to Boston, then turn west to COM at Penn State and up to Toronto.  The westward segment continues through Michigan where we take a sharp hook south to visit three families in Ohio, all from acquaintance at First Alliance Church originally.  We swing back north to Industry, Illinois, Chicago Land and Madison, Wisconsin, meandering south through Iowa City and St. Louis.  A further southern excursion to Branson, Missouri and then it’s up to Kansas City, Kansas again to see some others who are not in my family.  A zig up to Omaha and a zag back to central Kansas takes us then over to Denver.

From there we head north to Libby, Montana, on west to Ellensburg, Washington from whence we head south to Chico, California before going coastal to San Francisco and LA.  A jaunt back east into the Phoenix valley and we conclude our US “tour.”

The second leg of our journey goes around the rest of the world.  We start in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia before sailing north to Viet Nam and universities along the Pacific Rim.  We stop in Hong Kong, move east to Taiwan, then north to Fukuoka and Tokyo, swinging back west through Korea and Jilin, China.  We head south through Beijing and visit Yiwu City and Shaoxing.  There are a four other cities in China that we “visit” by identifying the residents as I do not know in which cities they live, but He knows.

2020-08-08 The World


We go back north to Mongolia, this time to spend some time as there are lots of friends from our 2013 semester at MIU and students with which we are still involved, with a short stop in southern Russia where one of my former students went home.

The next stop is in Dhaka, Bangladesh where my best friend in all my life has lived since shortly after graduating from college.  Then we go east to Nepal and south to India where we have several friends, before moving further west to see friends in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  We hit each of the “stans” north of there before sojourning through Iran and the persecuted church there.  We then go through the unrecognized country of Kurdistan on our way to Istanbul.  Before leaving the Mid East for Europe, we stop in several nations there, bordering on Israel and our final stop is in Even Yehuda.

The north route to Bulgaria takes us across the Bosphorus and on to North Macedonia and Albania.  We then visit some friends in Austria and Germany before crossing the English Channel for a stop in London.  Our final stops are on the African continent where friends live in Tunisia, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Tanzania.

As we pass through each of the cities or countries listed in our travelogue, the Lord and I talk about the people I know in these locales.  It may be just to ask for mercy, mentioning their family name, or there may be events in their lives of which I am aware, asking for Father to give them some special attention.  Sometimes we will pause for some time with some of our friends as I try to listen to His “still small voice” for what He wants to say about them.  But each one is prayed over.

Don’t think I am some kind of saint to do this walk.  “Lord knows better than that!” my mother used to say. 😉  Rather it is what He has asked me to do, and how do you say, “No” to a Master?  To One who loves you so much that He went to the cross for you?  To One so magnificent that John could barely find words to describe Him in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

When you know Him, you stumble along trying your best to please Him, and if He asks for something so simple as a cup of water to give to a thirsty soul, well, you give it.  I still mess up plenty, like a baby crying for milk and pooping in its diapers, but He loves me.  So I find our walks refreshing, even though I do most of the whining and gurgling.  But He loves me.  If you do not get anything else from this blog, please recognize that He knows and loves you, too.

So next time you go for a walk, let Him come along.  He wants to be with you wherever you are.  Can you just imagine what it will be like someday when we all see Him face to face!?

The Right View: Joe Biden Pre-election and Mail-in Ballot Myths

A quick search online will expose Tony Perkins as a controversial figure.  However, my views tend to coincide with Mr. Perkins, his controversies arising from principled stances on what he believes.  So I will use his two blogs of July 21 2020 for this guest blog.  However, keep in mind that as Christ-followers we must find the perspective of Randy Alcorn, writing in Heaven (the book, not the address 😉 ): “Christians should be involved in the political process, and we can do much good, but we should never forget that the only government that will succeed in global reform is Christ’s government.”   And some of the links, like the ones to CNN, Fox News or the Washington Post, are particularly interesting.

A Veep of Faith?
July 21, 2020

Based on his comments, Joe Biden’s never had much use for evangelicals. As far as he’s concerned, they’re “virulent people,” the “dregs of society.” But those “dregs” also vote. And Joe’s hoping they’ll forget what he’s said and the policies he pushes long enough to support him.

It’s an ambitious strategy, trying to win over a group of people you’ve spent the last several years insulting. And yet, Biden’s campaign is leaving no election stone unturned, including, it turns out, the president’s staunchest base. In an interesting announcement from the former vice president’s camp, Biden confirmed he’s hired former Republican Josh Dickson to oversee his “faith engagement.” The liberal media, which, like Biden, usually has nothing but disgust for orthodox Christians, rushed to applaud the move, suddenly finding some use for the religion it usually maligns.

The press’s flattery wasn’t lost on everyday people like Patty McMurray, who couldn’t believe the same CNN that routinely mocks Christians was rushing to “prop up Joe Biden as some sort of deeply religious man.” Then again, they probably don’t see his faith as a threat, since it never seems to translate to policy. Deputy Political Director John McCarthy admitted that evangelicals “might disagree on a particular issue” (or 20), but insisted that “for faith and values voters,” Biden’s “spiritual authenticity is the quality they’re looking for.”

As Scripture points out, who can know a man’s heart? Maybe Joe Biden, a self-identified Catholic, is personally spiritual. But “authentic?” Surely, no one who’s followed his four-decade career could conclude that Biden shares Christians’ values where it matters: in the public arena. And yet even Dickson himself tried to sell the former vice president as the real deal because he “love[s] our neighbor” and “care[s] for the poor and vulnerable.” But what does he consider children in the womb, if not vulnerable? This is man running on a vision, not only of abortion-on-demand, but abortion right up until — and perhaps after — birth. To cap it off, for those Americans who do have a biblical or moral objection to abortion, he says they should still have to pay for them with their tax dollars. How does he square “authentic” faith with those radical positions?

The reality is, FRC’s David Closson points out, that “while Joe Biden is touting his faith and courting evangelicals, his policies remain odious to anyone whose view of the world has been shaped and formed by Scripture.” Last year, the one-time defender of the Hyde amendment traded his 40 years of integrity for the support of groups like Planned Parenthood. From there, he swore to appoint only rabid abortion activists to the bench and bulldoze every state pro-life law. He told nuns they’d have to fund birth control, churches they’d have to cover abortions, and U.S. taxpayers that overseas abortion would be our newest export. Someone please explain how this is a candidate that can connect with Christians “through a shared worldview?”

And that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of his radical LGBT advocacy. Biden, who brags that he forced Barack Obama’s hand on same-sex marriage, is so outside the mainstream that his first act as president would be to gut religious liberty — destroying Christian schools, Catholic hospitals, and nonprofit charities from food banks to homeless shelters. We’re talking about a piece of legislation, the Equality Act, that hunts down and punishes the same evangelicals whose vote he claims to want! One that also ends women’s sports, girls’ and boys’ bathrooms, Christian counseling, privacy laws, conscience protections, millennia of biology, medical ethics, parents’ rights. If you can imagine a man in every girls’ shower and a drag queen in every library, that’s Joe Biden’s priority. “This is our soul, da** it,” he said. “This is who we have to be…”

Now, there are some who will say that Joe Biden is a more acceptable choice to Christians because he’s less brash and confrontational than Donald Trump. But if a kinder, gentler Biden was what Americans were expecting on the campaign trail, a gentlemanly statesman is not what they got. Biden’s tirades in local town halls have been the stuff of internet legend, as he berates, profanes, and shouts his way through the heartland. If Biden is supposed to be the angel to Trump’s devil, no one told him. As for his personal conduct, there are at least eight women who would question that he’s more suitable choice for the office than the current occupant.

“Obviously,” Michael Brown said on “Washington Watch,” “people have to vote their conscience, and they have to do what they feel is right before God for their own lives. But the big question is, what are we actually voting for?” Evangelicals don’t support Donald Trump because he’ll hold up a Bible — they support Trump because his policies are based on what’s inside. No administration in history has done more for Christians in America and around the world than this president. And I’ll be the first to admit that, four years ago, I didn’t think that was possible. No one is rationalizing or excusing Trump’s failings. But consider what he’s accomplished for the unborn, religious liberty, Israel, persecuted minorities, the military, our economy, the family. He’s had a backbone of steel to push back against LGBT extremism, political correctness, America’s enemies, and the world’s tyrants.

This isn’t blind allegiance on the part of evangelicals. This is reasoned support for a political leader who has made and kept his campaign promises. As for Joe Biden, it’s going to take a lot of outreach for Democrats to prove that he’s even mildly sincere on the evangelical issues that matter. So far, as his record shows, the only way faith has been a “central part of [Biden’s] persona” is his willingness to attack it.

Unsigned, Unsealed, and Undelivered: The Perils of Mail-in Ballots
July 21, 2020

It’s a “myth,” USA Today insists. “Rare,” writes NPR. Either way, the New York Times argues, “it doesn’t affect elections.” That’s interesting, the Heritage Foundation points out. Because they’ve counted more than 1,285 cases of this rare myth of voter fraud that doesn’t affect elections in the last four years — and they’re convinced: that’s not all of them.

Cheaters have prospered — and they’ll continue to prosper — voters worry, if the Left’s campaign for universal mail-in balloting succeeds. According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, a plurality of Americans worry that the Democrats’ idea makes the election “vulnerable to significant levels of fraud.” A majority of them — 60 percent — want to vote in person this November, the latest sign that George Soros’s plan to steal the election isn’t fair or popular.

With more than 70 lawsuits underway in states across the country, Democrats seem intent on forcing their way to a different system. But, as Hans von Spakovsky pointed out with Sarah Perry on “Washington Watch” last month, that won’t score them any political points. This isn’t a partisan issue anywhere except DNC headquarters. By and large, every American wants some form of election integrity, and this system — which we already know from this year’s primaries and local elections — is ripe for abuse.

“If you talk to liberal activists and liberal leaders of the Democratic Party, they’re all against voter I.D. If you actually look at the polling, you find that everyday folks — no matter whether they’re Republican, Democrat, Independent, no matter whether they’re white, black, Asian, Hispanic — a majority of them say voter I.D. [makes sense]. So their constituents don’t agree with the views of their leadership.” The same goes for voter fraud, he said. In the polling he did for his book with John Fund, “we found that African-Americans were more concerned about voter fraud in communities than other voters.”

And why shouldn’t they be? Democrats are talking about a system with no witnesses, no voter ID, no certainty that their vote would even be delivered. If Americans thought 28 million missing votes over the last four elections were bad, imagine no accountability or supervision whatsoever! True the Vote Founder Catherine Engelbrecht prays it doesn’t come to that. “This is engineered chaos,” she warns. “We need to see it for what it is. This is not an effort to make sure that those who’ve been affected by the pandemic are going to be able to cast their ballot in a secure and well-defined process. It’s anything but that.” It doesn’t matter if you’re dead, incarcerated, illegal, or unregistered, Catherine points out. Every active or inactive voter would get a ballot. “Then you throw in all the dysfunction that is the U.S. Postal Service … and it begs the question, why are we doing this if not but for intentional manipulation to a certain end,” Engelbrecht said.

As FRC’s Ken Blackwell has argued, we can’t let anyone exploit this crisis to take away the integrity of our elections. “This pandemic may seem like it’s changed everything, but it has not changed the rules of our constitutional republic. Let’s keep it that way.”

Nearing the End

The End.jpgHalf way through December, the year winds down to the end with only two weeks left to go.  I am planning to cease blogging for some time after January 6, and hope you enjoy reading the last few blogs.  I have no idea how WordPress will handle my lack of blogging, if they will cut me loose and/or delete blogs when I quit for a while.  But I suppose I can always come back and open a new one if these blogs disappear.

What will next year hold?  Some will die.  Some will prosper.  Some will experience searing pain.  Some will be comforted.  Some will rejoice, some will mourn.
Since no one knows the future,
    who can tell someone else what is to come?
As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
    so no one has power over the time of his death.”
(Ecclesiastes 8:7-8)

Of course, what we really mean when we ask such questions is “What will next year hold for  me?”  We are such a selfish lot, only concerned with our immediate comfort and conditions.  Did God intend for us to be so self-absorbed?  With seven billion of us here, plus the approximately seven billion who have been here and gone, I seriously doubt it.  That’s 14,000,000,000; that’s a lot of zeros; and some of us feel more like zeroes than others. 😦

Sunset.jpg

Back to the Garden (because I love the stories of Genesis, hidden somewhat in the gray mists of the ancient past).  Adam and Eve seemed blissfully unaware of their own condition until the Serpent came along and needled Eve into wondering if The God Who Is There was holding out on them.  The issue was trust.  Who would she believe?  The God who had supplied everything “very good” for them, or this lovely creature who said there was something missing.  (See Genesis 3.)

We know how that turned out.  And it has been that way ever since with the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve (or of Noah and his nameless wife, if you prefer).  The baby’s first cry is for comfort as he/she is removed from the warmth and darkness and quiet of the womb.  In an instant the infant becomes the center of its unknown universe, and everything in his/her life will be about “ME.”

Solomon.jpgSo what advice, what considerations, can I lead your mind to as we wind down another year?  “The Preacher,” Solomon, said it better than I ever could:

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them,”
before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,

    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.
Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,

    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
Now all has been heard;

    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7; 12-14)

The End of the World 1.jpg

Happy New Year.

It took a miracle.

2018-11-25 Milky Wav Over Devils Tower

Last week () I concluded, “So go ahead and ask me to pray, but don’t expect any miracle.”  But there are some problems we face that will not be fixed without a miracle!  Where can we go with things that seem insurmountable: loved ones who refuse to trust Jesus, church leaders who do not care if they deafen their attendees, friends with progressive illnesses for which there is no human cure; international issues over which we have no say?

Based on John 6:35-69, Jesus may have not been such a wonderful teacher as some surmise.  Actually, He was the best teacher ever, but His discourse at this juncture did not win any trophies or marks for “Best Teacher of the Year” award.  Instead of motivating His disciples to deepen their understanding of what it meant to follow Him, many of them grumbled and argued and turned away.  It did not improve His case when He asked the Jewish followers, for whom cannibalism was anathema, to eat His flesh and drink His blood!

Then He asked the Twelve, His Apostles, “Do you want to go away as well?”  Peter, always quick to spout off, answered for the group: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”   So to whom else can we go?

But when we pray, do we expect a miracle?  When Ken prayed for Yolanda’s baby, wracked with meningitis, maybe some of us did, maybe some of us didn’t (see November 18, 2018).  But the baby was well by the next day.  When we prayed for my 45 year old sister-in-law to be healed from cancer, many shared a sense of faith that a miraculous healing was just waiting for us to see her.  Then she died two days after we arrived.

When Hannah prayed for a child, she prayed for years, enduring the scorn of her neighbors and her husband’s second wife (See 1 Samuel 1).  The high priest, Eli, not the most sensitive guy in the Old Testament, thought she was drunk as she was praying silently with tears.  (Be glad he is not your worship pastor!)  But Father spoke through this haphazard priest and he prophesied that her prayer would be answered with a resounding Yes from God.

How do we pray and not doubt as we are instructed in Matthew 21:21?  We must pray with the same faith Hannah had, trusting that God will answer in His time with either a Yes, a No, or a Wait, even if our hearts are breaking as we wait.

The faith we have to exercise is the same as Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, better known by their Babylonian monikers, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.  Faced with certain doom from the king’s fiery furnace if they did not worship his statue, they answered his charges, If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)  Trust God without compromise.

So go ahead and ask me to pray.  I am not holy or specially good that He has to listen to me.  There is no magic connection or unusual power in my prayers.  But if you want me to share your burdens, ask me to pray.  I will just talk with The God Who Is Here, a constant Presence (See ) who keeps reminding me how inadequate and incompetent I am without Him.

And you can talk with Him, too.  Anyone can (Acts 17:27).  And you might experience a miracle.

John Peterson’s song has been on my mind a few days, but rather than offer one link to Youtube, here you will find four renditions, from acapella to reggae.  Enjoy whichever one touches your heart.

It Took A Miracle By John W. Peterson

My Father is omnipotent,
On that you can rely;
A God of might and miracles,
‘Tis written in the sky;

Chorus
It took a miracle to put the stars in place,
It took a miracle to hang the world in space,
But when He saved my soul,
Cleansed and made me whole,
It took a miracle of love and grace!

Tho’ here His glory has been shown,
We will not fully see;
The wonders of His might and throne,
Until eternity!

The Bible tells us of His pow’r,
And wisdom all way through;
And ev’ry little bird and flow’r
Are testimonies, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I doubt, therefore I might be.

With apologies to the great French mathematician and philosopher, Descartes: “Cognito ergo sum” translated “I think, therefore I am.”  So though my existence is not in question, there is a lot about this existence that is.

Questions 2I doubt that the Bible is true.  I doubt that there is a Creator.  I doubt that we live after this body dies.  I doubt that there is anything beyond what we see and experience in this life.  Perhaps we are only creatures of an eternal evolution; everything is continuing as it has for all time and there is no purpose, only existence.

How does one handle these kinds of thoughts that enter the mind uninvited?  When they come in as you feel discouraged or disconnected?  When life has handed you lemons and your attempt to make lemonade winds up a broken pitcher and a puddle on the ground?

To come out of this downward spiral you have to return to the basics of what you know to be true:
First, that you exist.
Second, that you are not the only one to exist; there are lots of others around you.
Third, that this existence is not new; we were not born in this minute.
Fourth, that the world has been around for a long time.
Fifth, that some of those others have recorded what happened to them.
Sixth, that not all of them are liars.
Seventh, this downward spiral will lead to disillusionment and hopelessness.
Eighth, there is a better way: listening to those honest recorders before you.

Resurrcetion 1This takes us back to the crux of history, that event that overshadowed all others when it occurred and changed all of history.  The Resurrection of Jesus, called the Christ or the Anointed One.  Paul must have experienced something of this disconnect to have penned “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)  There have been times this statement confused me.

We who follow Jesus have mostly good lives.  Many of us, especially here in the West, have little persecution (yet).  We enjoy each other’s companionship and share worship experiences and many of us even “hear God speak to our hearts.”  Not that many claim to actually hear a voice, but such strong impressions that seem to come from somewhere outside ourselves invade out thinking.  To the one that has experienced this, there is no question in his or her mind, God has spoken!  And we are filled with joy and “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7) regardless of external circumstances.

So how does Paul conclude that if we are wrong, we are of all people most to be pitied?  Consider the insane man who thinks he is living in a palace with sumptuous banquets and lavish comforts when in reality his trailer home is overrun with mice and cockroaches nibbling at his droppings of crackers and cheese.  Would we not pity this man?  In this same way, if the resurrection of Jesus did not occur, we are certainly crazy people, believing in angels and demons and a Creator who loves us and will provide eternal comforts for us.  We are to be pitied.

But Paul does not leave us in this pitiable state!  In the next sentence he points out the reason: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)  So it all hinges on this: did Jesus arise from the dead or are his remains rotting away in some forgotten Judean grave outside Jerusalem?

Someone once said, “There is more historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for the truth of George Washington being our first president.”  I am not sure how this speaker evaluated the evidence, but Jesus’ resurrection is one of the most authenticated events of history.  This is not true of any other religious figure’s miraculous events.

Gautama Buddha’s miraculous walking that produced lotus blossoms under every footstep reads more like a fairy tale than real events.  That he lived around 500BC and the earliest mention of him shows up around 300 years later suggests a long time for legends to develop, especially given the often differing and conflicting narratives about him.  His oldest “biographies” are dated between 300 and 500AD, 800 to 1000 years after his life.

Examine each of the other figures of major religions and you will find gaping holes in historical validation, especially of major events marking the initiation of their teaching.  Even in the 19th century, the stories of Joseph Smith and his experiences with Moroni, the angel who gave him special glasses to enable his understanding of the “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics” are conveniently uncorroborated by anyone else.

Jesus resurrection falls into a whole other category with its historical evidence and validation by eyewitnesses who lived with him and wrote what they heard and saw.  “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)  And not just Peter, but many women, James, His brother, and all of the apostles and then more than 500 others who were most likely present at His ascension saw the risen Jesus.

Do not take my word for the historicity of these events.  Read them for yourself in the biographies of Jesus, called the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Read Paul’s exposition of the good news that Jesus arose from the dead in 1 Corinthians 15.  Then look at the skeptics who doubted but became Christ-followers:  Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict and He Walked Among Us.  Read Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ in which he details how he thought the resurrection was a fairy tale that any good reporter could debunk . . . until he tried and became a follower.  Look at C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy and Mere Christianity that describes his logical process of not believing in God and being angry at God for not existing, until he found Jesus was really present in his life.  Consider Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morrison, a British lawyer annoyed that his wife was becoming “one of those religious fanatics.”  He attempted to show how a legal mind could not accept the resurrection and it would be laughed out of an English court.  Instead he found the evidence clear and convincing that Jesus was alive.  And this list could go on of authors and seekers who attempted to shut down the silliness of believing in the resurrection and wound up following the One they at first disdained.

Beyond these intellectual analyses, there are the experiences of millions whose lives have been transformed by encounters with Jesus, through prayer, involvement with miracles, comfort for unbelievable suffering, revelations by visions or dreams, all consistent with the teachings of the Bible.

So when we begin to doubt, as often happens when life does not go the way we hope, we must come back to what we knowI told you the most important truths: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say; that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day, as the Scriptures say.” (1 Corinthian 15:3-4)

Chuck Colson.jpgI leave you with this quote from Chuck Colson, who was one of the most powerful and feared men in the Nixon administration in the 1970s, involved in what became known as Watergate.  “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate 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.”

Marked by Prayer (Part 5 –Knowing the God Who Is There)

Over Bregenz2Faith is often used as a term to define a system of belief, e.g. “What faith is he?”  At other times it is used to express wishful thinking, “Oh, I just have faith that I will get the job.”  Most commonly, it is the acceptance of something for which one does not have proof, “Just have faith it will all work out.”  A little boy, once asked to define faith, answered honestly, “Faith is believin’ somethin’ you know just ain’t true!”

But in the Bible these definitions are insufficient.  Certainly, last among them would be believing something which isn’t true.  Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the solid substance of something expected, the evidence of something as yet unseen.  Dictionary.com’s first definition is “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”

For an excellent 30 minute word study, do a search by entering “faith” into the text box on Biblegateway.com.  Of interest is that most of the Old Testament references come up with “faithfulness” which suggests that faith is something more than just believing, that is, in terms of mental agreement.  You will find this word study most rewarding if, as you read the references, you replace “faith” with “steadfast trust”, or in the case of “faithful” read “steadily trustworthy.”

This same exercise can be done for “believe” or “belief;” just substitute the word “trust” for greater understanding of the passage.

Why do we make so much of “faith” and “believing” as we come to prayer to the God Who Is There? Because “without faith [steadfast trust] it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe [steadfastly trust] that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” Hebrews 11:6.

There is much more we could discuss about faith, but let us move on to Whom we pray, i.e. Who do you trust?  Some skeptics will say it does not matter to whom one prays; it is the mental energy exerted in prayer that moves the “Energy” of the universe on one’s behalf.  But such impersonal efforts are more along the lines of karma as it is found in Buddhism or Hinduism.  We would include here philosophies of Jainism, the Sikhs, Confucianism, or teaching of the Tao.

God has specifically revealed Himself, from the creation of the world to His final revelation in Jesus, called the Christ.  He is not hiding nor silent as some suspect.  He is not an absent landlord who started the “timepiece” of the universe, and then left it to run on its own.  He is not a grandfatherly policeman in the sky, looking for whoever is having fun, so He can yell with a lightning bolt, “Stop that!”

SpaceEPSON MFP imagePaul told the Romans that “what may be known about God is plain, because God has made it plain. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” Romans 1:19.  Consider the amazing vastness of the universe and stand in awe of His might and greatness.  Consider the details of DNA or atomic structure and wonder at His brilliance and organization.  Look at a sunset or moonrise or the loveliness of a flower or your wife, or the birth of a child, and worship Him for His gentle tenderness and beauty.

He more clearly revealed Himself in history, first to Noah, then to Abraham, and to his son, Isaac followed by Jacob and the twelve tribes that came from him. He finally revealed Himself in the man called Jesus, who was God in the flesh. Now here is a mystery which we can only begin to understand.  After all, the only way a being could fully understand who God is would be to be God. (Isaiah 40:13-15).

Thus we can only understand what He has taught us about Himself.  To Adam and Eve He was their Companion in the cool of the day, instructing them in gardening and animal care.  To Noah He was the Righteous Judge who came to cleanse the earth from the violence and immorality of mankind.  Burning BushTo Abraham He was the Promise Keeper who was faithful [steadily trustworthy] to give him and Sarah a “child of promise” in their old age, rather than a child born by natural means while he was still virile.  To Moses from the burning bush, He revealed a Name by which He could be called, I AM That I Am.

Now each of us had a beginning.  Each of us is the result of our parents’ actions, all the way back to Adam and Eve.  But He has no beginning!  Even the created universe had a “big bang” for a start, but He was already there! Before anything, He is the I AM, the First Cause.  Is there any question as to why we cannot comprehend Him, when we can barely begin to understand what He has made?

And in Jesus He revealed Himself as the Savior, the one who was the Son of God. His sonship is not something He acquired when He was born from a virgin mother.  Nor do we imagine something as crass as God, who is a spirit, having sex with a woman. (Luke 1:35).

TrinityThe Father, Son and Holy Spirit was the One True God from eternity, existing in a relationship within Himself, somehow three persons in one being.  The difficulty we have in wrapping our minds around this is due to our limited human experience.  Among us, every being is one person and we cannot imagine more than one person to one being.  But when God said, “Let us make man in our image . . .” He was not playing with delusions of importance the way a royal refers to him or herself in the plural, “We are not amused.”  Rather, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was conferring within Himself, among Themselves, to make a new creation.

The significance of this is made clear in Jesus words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6.  He had earlier said, “I and Father are one,” which the Jewish leaders recognized as a claim to be God.  No one in any religion has ever made a claim like this, Mohammed, Buddha, Zarathustra, Guru Nanak, Confucius, nor Hindu.

When you read His biographies there is no opportunity to treat Jesus as a good teacher, a prophet, or a grand example.  In Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis said, “a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; else a madman or something worse.  You can call Him a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us now be done with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great moral teacher.  He has not left that option open to us.  He did not intend to.”

In Prayer, Timothy Keller states, “The implications of the Tri-unity of God for prayer are many.  It means first that God has always had within Himself a perfect friendship.  We know of no joy higher than being loved and loving in return, but a triune God would know that love and joy in unimaginable, infinite dimensions. God is therefore filled with perfect joy, the fierce happiness of dynamic loving relationship.”  This enables us to encounter in the one true God a Fatherhood, a Brotherhood, and a Spirit of adoption, such that when we “believe [steadfastly trust] that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” we will encounter Him, not as a subject for theology, and not as a ritual of certain positions or times for prayer.  Rather we will meet Him as Moses did on the mountain and know Him for who He is.

So where do we pray?  See you next week, March 29, 2015.