Tablets of the Heart

Last night, I had one of those sleepless nights for awhile. I was staying up in bed unintentionally, but my mind was going full steam and not reaching any stopping points. Sometimes, it’s quite difficult to be in such a position where one can easily obsess and fixate on things.

I started thinking about things in my own life. I realized that my identity cannot come from within. It has to come from without.  I cannot tell me what I am. Only God can give me my identity and maybe this is why other people are able to see it so much better than myself. It is because they do not have the clay I have.

What do I mean by that? I believe it is in the Socratic dialogue of Theaetetus that Socrates compares our knowledge perceptions to clay in our souls. I’d like to take that and show how I think we take in messages of ourselves. I’d like to suggest that our souls contain message boards that get responses.

There are some messages we receive and internalize over time that get written on the tablets. Now this doesn’t mean that they are verbally said. They probably rarely are. However, certain events come and take place in our lives and we draw beliefs about the world and ourselves based on those events.

Why are we the least likely to believe the good things our friends and loved ones tell us about ourselves? It is because they do not carry around the tablet. They do not have that message that has been so long engraved that it seems hard to deny. We must open ourselves up to those who love us truly though for they could see us in true ways we cannot.

We must also be open to what God says about us. If we believed what he said, we would be unstoppable. I was walking at work tonight and someone with a table set up asked a worker there, “Is that guy as much trouble as he looks like?” Now he’d been joking with me earlier so I knew how to take it.

However, as I thought about it I realized I could go back and knowing I bear the image say “You have no idea how much trouble I can be.” Why? Because I do bear the image and I can make a difference. When you let someone into your world, they will change it in some way. Realizing you are in the image means you realize how much you can change things.

I wish this process was easier, but it isn’t. I looked back over the years and saw many sad messages I’ve internalized about myself. I try now to replace the false ones with truth. It is not done overnight. I think anyone who has really done this at all knows exactly what I am talking about. I have much negativity to overcome, but by the grace of God it can certainly be done.

I urge you to look at that tablet also. What true messages do you have? What false ones do you have? Look and see and pray for healing of that which is false. Listen to your friends and loved ones that don’t carry around the tablet. Maybe they’re trying to inscribe the truth on it if you’ll be more open.

Some Thoughts On Doubt

I had someone IM me today and they wanted to talk about doubt. They’d lost their faith, so to speak, and seemed content in their new life, but at the same time, they wanted back. I read something they wrote on the process later and really got to thinking a bit more about doubt.

Now I have done some thinking on the topic because like anyone else, I do have times of doubt. There are times I wonder. However, I want to assure any reader of mine. Some of you are thinking “Oh. He’s the defender of the faith and he’s doubting! What about me?!” Let me give the assurance then.

When such happens for me, it is emotional. Here’s how I know. It’s not based on rationality. It’s based on fear. It is simply a “What if” question at times.  Those are not based on rationality and they’re snowball effects. You can tell because you can give all the rational reasons you want and it’s “Yeah, it’s convincing, but what if….?”

The main problem is that we treat doubt like it’s a disease. There is something dreadfully wrong with us if we are doubting. Not so. We are simply human beings. Now doubt can become a problem, but doubt in itself is not a problem. It can be a great tool that leads to an even stronger faith than one had before.

Another problem is how the Christian community treats doubt. We think people are unspiritual if they’re doubting. If someone is in doubt, they’re less of a Christian. Biblical people never had doubts. (If you believe that line, you’re not reading the Bible.) We also give these little pet solutions like “Go read your Bible” or “Go pray.”

I’m not against reading the Bible. I’m not against prayer. I’m against them being used as a magical elixir. It makes the Bible and prayer into acts of magic. If you do it enough, then God will take it away. I don’t believe he’s ever promised to do that for us. Prayer and Bible study are not meant to be excuses for laziness whereby we don’t do anything and expect God to do it all.

We all have to eat to live for instance. However, as much as we say God will supply all our needs in Christ Jesus, does that mean that if you want to eat, you should stay home and pray that God will have a pizza delivered to your door? No. You should go out there, work, get money, and then buy the food you need, and who is to say God hasn’t set up the process that way?

Now some study could also be good. If you have rational objections, then you need to honestly look at those. Are there good answers? Now in many questions, you’re not going to find 100% answers. A lot of people think that’s what you have to have. It’s not. I say that you should go with what is most likely based on the evidence.

Keep an eye on your emotions in this time. Gary Habermas has said that men and women both doubt. For women, their problem is that it’s emotional. Their advantage though is that they know that. For we who are men, we will tend to say “It has to be anything besides my emotions!”

No men. A lot of us can have unruly emotions. I ponder that it could be because we are built up with this macho attitude that a real man never shows his emotions. Well what do we do after awhile? We just deny that we have them altogether. However, those emotions are in there and getting more and more mixed up.

To my friend then who is doubting, I say this. “Don’t give up yet.” Now you may say you’re happier now. Irrelevant really. What matters is if your belief is true. Now I have no doubt that as a Christian, you believed the central tenets, but could you have some fake Christianity that was mixed in with real Christianity and so the system didn’t work like you thought it would and that led to a problem? It’s worth looking into.

I also pray for you tonight. I hope you come out of this soon.

Looking Back on 9/11

Today is the day that we in America remember that 6 years ago, we suffered the worst attack of terrorism ever to take place on our soil. We remember that some radical Muslims hijacked planes and flew them into buildings not caring who died so long as their message got out. We remember the thousands who died that day and how New York, and indeed our nation, will never be the same again.

It has been called the JFK of our generation. I remember where I was when it happened. We had just begun to get ready for chapel in Bible College when a professor came in and asked us to be in prayer for a plane had just hit the WTC. I thought it was a tragedy at the time and wondered how it could happen, but I was certainly not thinking of terrorism. It was only afterwards that we learned the second tower had been hit and we knew we were under attack.

For the first time today, I thought back on the speaker that day in chapel. It is a shame, but I have no clue who he was. Indeed, I bet hardly anyone does. I could not tell you a word of the message that he preached. I remember where my thoughts were the rest of the day.

I remember looking up at the sky and not seeing any planes and thinking how that day would be different. I don’t remember many other thoughts. Everything was a jumble. I’m not really an emotional person in that regards. I find empathy quite difficult really. However, I do know that I was thinking some on how wicked our society had become and how some things are clearly evil and how we needed to start taking a stand.

I remember how many of us came together. Churches all over united. No one worried about secondary issues. We were all united under Christ. It is a shame, but I don’t believe it lasted. Apparently, we say we never will forget, but we have forgotten. We have forgotten what it meant for us to be united. We have forgotten the men who enlisted right away so they could fight for their country in response. We forgot that America can be a nation of courageous people who stand for the truth.

But we can remember!

Let us remember! Let us return! This isn’t about politics! This is about good and evil. This is about truth and falsehood! We cannot afford to lose this fight. We Christians have had a tendency to cower every time. The world pushes a little bit each time and we always just give right in.

Let’s remember the heroes of 9/11. Let’s remember Todd Beamer who said “Let’s roll!” He knew he was going to die, but in dying, he saved the day for so many others. Let’s remember the firefighters who rushed into the collapsing towers if they could save just one more person. These were people who looked in the face of death and laughed. They were ready to die for what was right!

Now you might say they had something to fight for and die for. So do we! Surely the gospel is worth fighting for and dying for! Now I don’t mean a military invasion of the gospel. I mean at least standing up in the public square. I mean letting your voice be heard. I mean not being ashamed that you are a follower of Christ since truth is on your side.

Heroes of 9/11. I salute you! Those who lost loved ones, may we continue to pray for you and comfort you. To those who oppose us and who oppose the gospel, I say bring it on. We are not afraid of you. We who follow Christ believe we have the truth, and we should be willing to stand for it, fight for it, and die for it.

The Miracle of Nature

In our day and age, it has often been asserted that we need miracles to show evidence of God. What happened 2,000 years ago is not enough. Now I will not point to modern miracles as those have more than enough skepticism, but the age has nothing to do with miracles. A man who will not believe miracles today would not believe them 2,000 years ago either.

However, I have pondered that what if we are missing the boat entirely? What if we are forgetting that the miracle is the natural system itself. The atheist prides himself in speaking about all that the natural system can do. Very well. Can he explain though what brought about the natural system?

It sadly seems to say that something has been brought about through naturalistic processes does not increase our wonder but often only kills it. This does not prove naturalism false of course, but the atheist does often ask about why God doesn’t seem to do miracles for him today. (I am one who claims I haven’t ever seen or experienced a miracle of the biblical type where God directly intervenes in the laws of nature that I can point to without doubt. I believe they happened in Scripture, but I have not had personal experience of them.)

It seems to me that we are like the story of the follower of the Christian Science movement who woke up in Hell along with some others and when asked what he thought about being in the fire for all eternity simply answered with, “It is not hot. I am not here.” He is thus denying the reality that he is in.

We are like people in the fairy-tale who are saying that no magic is happening around us. We are like people in the Star Trek series who are saying that there is nothing worthwhile to explore out there. We are denying the reality of the world we are in all the while asking for some example of that reality.

Yet look at so many simple things and see if they can be explained in naturalism that we all seem to believe in. Can we explain beauty in naturalism? How about morality? Has anyone really succeeded in morality apart from God? How about the existence of love? Dare I say it, how about thinking itself, for if all thinking is the result of naturalistic processes, then so is that thought.

And what of we Christians who do believe this? Are we going to wake up? Are we going to realize that naturalism has put a spell on us so that we deny the reality we are in? Are we going to come out and realize the joy and beauty of life that fills each and every day and realize that we should celebrate it.

We are Christians. We are not naturalists. We live in a Christian world and not a naturalistic one. Let’s live accordingly.

Thank You Ravi Zacharias

I was thinking back on my life some today and was actually feeling good about it. It might have been the nice server girl at the ice cream place who I wonder if she was trying to flirt with me or just a lot of good things I’ve been hearing lately or my upcoming move to Seminary with a good friend of mine. I thought back on how I got where I am.

I remember being in Bible College and not knowing a thing about apologetics but wanting to witness to atheists on the net. Well, the first major work I consider that started me down the path was Lee Strobel’s “Case for Christ.” Is it any wonder this is the first work I recommend people start with? Then I read Case for Faith shortly after that.

In Case for Faith, I read the fifth interview being with a man named Ravi Zacharias. I was quite impressed with his argumentation style and soon found a book by him called “Jesus Among Other Gods.” I read that book and was immediately hooked on Ravi Zacharias’s style. “Can Man Live Without God?” came soon thereafter and before too long, I was listening to every radio broadcast of Ravi Zacharias and reading everything he wrote.

So when Christmas of 2001 came around and my parents wanted to know what I wanted, what could I tell them but my dream? I want to meet Ravi Zacharias.  Now my Dad is not a man with a lot of contacts or anything, but what Dad will not try to make his son’s dream come true?

So on April 24, 2002, my Dad and I head to Atlanta, GA. (I think the Bible College understood my absence.) I went down and met his staff including writer Paul Copan, whose books I have also read and I highly recommend. I remember waiting at the end of a hallway though and seeing a door and knowing who was behind that door.

And then it opened and my dream came true.

Ravi was incredibly kind and I knew I was in the presence of a saint. He really lives what he believes. He answered questions and we discussed some. He was going to give me all of his books, but I already had them, so he signed them. Then, he gave me several CDs and a video tape of Jesus Among Other Gods and ended with a prayer.

I have spoken to Ravi some since then. It is never long, but I thought about him a lot tonight. Ravi is one of my great heroes now and if there is any apologist I want to follow in the footsteps of, it is Ravi. There are many sermons where I will give reference to Ravi Zacharias as a source for something. I think my speaking style is not the same as his and I deeply admire his passion.

Why do I say this? Because for one, I wanted to give a public thank you, and I really hope that he gets to read this someday. If you get to read it Ravi, you have been a hero in my life who has helped to change me for the better. You are a large part of why I am where I am today.

I hope someday if I haven’t already, that I will be able to influence someone like you did me. You showed me good Christian thinking in a unique way no one else has. Oh there are several great Christian thinkers out there, but there was something about your style that I just latched on to.

I also realize that many times in ministry, you don’t get thanks. I wanted to be sure you got it. I want to thank you greatly for all that you do and if you are ever tempted to give up, please remember that there is one life at least that has been encouraged to go out and change the world because of you.

As for readers here, maybe you should go out and find that one person who’s been a major encouragement to you. Maybe it was a teacher back home or maybe a family member or a friend or neighbor or co-worker. Is there someone who has been a major influence for the good in who you are today?

Why not give them a call or write a letter or email them? You might just give them a smile that keeps them going and changes their world as well.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I had a good friend talking about this yesterday with me. We were discussing what it is like to be a single man and seeking a lady. My friend is already married but told me about a book called “Love and Respect” where it is said that a lady wants most of all to be loved while a man wants to be respected.

There’s a lot of truth in that.

I’m only going to be speaking from the guy’s perspective here though. We all want respect. Last night when I got home, I was ready to relax on the net for the evening but the phone rang. My Dad works at a store not too far from me and really needed some help stocking. Could I come and help?

Anyone who has ever seen me knows that I am in no way on the path to becoming Mr. Universe and could hardly lift fifty pounds without help. Still, I figured I’d go down and do what I could. He’s my Dad after all. So I went in and started immediately bagging ice and then lifting boxes and refilling shelves and the freezer. I spent a little under three hours there.

Now I thought about that compared with my current job. I do menial labor as well, but I enjoyed the work for my Dad even though I didn’t get paid for it. (Well, he did buy me something in the evening, but I did it simply because it was the right thing to do.) What makes them so different?

I can think of only one difference. I was respected in the help I gave. It was a case of “We need you down here. Can you come help?” It is easier for a man to do hours of unpaid work in which he is respected than to go work somewhere else for pay where he does not believe he is being respected.

Women. Understand this about your men especially. Your man wants you to respect him more than anything else for him. For you married women, your man would most likely rather have respect without sexual intercourse, than sexual intercourse without respect. I’m that serious. (Your man would prefer both of course though and he’d prefer you enjoy both.)

You want your man to leap tall buildings for you? Simple. Go up to him and wrap your arms around him and whisper in his ear that he is your man. It is that simple. When your man knows he is your man, he will be willing to cross a burning desert just to get you a glass of water.

I had a professor several years ago that said it would not be much honor to go to my wife and say “You are a woman.” Maybe not, though I think some would appreciate it. If you tell your man something to correspond though, he will be honored. That is his wish. He wants to know what he is your man above all others.

Yet I also thought the same happens with God! In 2 Kings 3, the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom unite to face Moab. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah at the time and he was a righteous king. All of the kings go to see the prophet Elisha to find out how to deal with Moab. I love the way the NIV translates 2 Kings 3:14.

Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you.

I believe Elisha was passing on the respect of God. It’s not saying Jehoshaphat was above God at all. Hebrews 11 tells us about people whom God is not ashamed to be called their God. What a great privilege it must be to be one of those people that when God looks at us says “I’m their God, and I’m not ashamed to say it.”

I also think this is why we men are so competitive. We want to be #1. No man wants to be second place. We all want that respect. We all want to outdo every other man. Watch a group of guys telling stories sometime. Each guy thinks he has to come up with a better story than the others? Why? Because a guy wants respect.

Respect. It’s needed in the workplace. It’s needed in marriage. It’s needed among other guys. It’s even needed in the faith. Let’s start giving true men respect. It can shape them to be the heroes of tomorrow.

Teaching

There is one thing that I have not got to write on yet. It is so obvious that I think it always slipped my mind. That is the joy of teaching. I am always thrilled to set up a dialogue where it looks like I might get to pass on some information to someone. Of course, the reverse is true as well. I love dialogues where I gain it as well.

What I want to write on is the joy of teaching.

Now, that joy is in many ways easier to experience in person. There is something that I call the Eureka Moment. That is where I have been explaining something to someone and then all of a sudden, I see something like their eyes lighting up. They might smile or speak excitedly. They get it. It’s coming home. They have reached the conclusion I wished for them to and then they start giving the ramifications of that.

There is just something great about that. Knowledge is such a wonderful thing and it’s great to see people growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ as Peter says. (2 Peter 3:18)

I have been doing work with a friend of mine for a school project of his. He’ll sign on once a week and interview me on some topic. It is based on the “Tuesdays with Morrie” book. I am the Morrie he has chosen to interview. As I am telling him my thoughts on subjects, I learn more something every teacher knows.

You learn more from students than they learn from you.

It is kind of a selfish reason for doing teaching though not my only one of course. I just enjoy it. I love learning new things though. When a person comes and asks you a question, it gives you a chance to maybe learn something in a way you’d never seen it before. A great friend of mine said to me a few days ago “Can I ask you something about Islam?” That was excellent to hear.

My friends. I invite you to teach sometime if you’ve never done so. There is a great joy in it. It might not be your thing, but I certainly love it, and I encourage everyone to give it a shot.

Jesus did not turn the world upside-down

There is a belief we speak of in modern talk. It is the belief that when the disciples went out after the resurrection, that twelve ordinary men turned the world upside-down. It has never been the same since. I started saying it at the coffeeshop I was at Tuesday night in speaking to the owner. Well, I did say it and when I finished, I corrected it immediately.

I saw immediately the reverse was true. They did not turn the world upside-down. They turned the world right-side up! The world was already upside down in chaos and confusion since the fall. We were already all like sheep that had gone astray and each of us was seeking our own way.

The world had been created good, but it was sin that had messed things up. If the world was a musical masterpiece, sin was a bad note that entered into the harmony. It brought things out of sync with each other. It is because of sin, that we have things that do not belong in this world. (Not necessarily our sin. The sin of Satan as well.)

How can we speak of the world as in proper alignment at that time? How can we speak of it as in improper alignment after Christ came! The victory is ours, though there are of course battles to fight. It is not that the war is lost. It is that some have not heard that it is over or they do not believe it is won. (Or even, the depth of man’s depravity, that some do not believe it even exists.)

No. The resurrection was the great note in our masterpiece symphony! It is from the point of the resurrection that all creation enters a crescendo until we reach the grand finale. It is at that point that all creation will worship him who sits on the throne and the lamb and will praise him.

Paradise has been lost, but it will be restored. Christ does not take us from it. He takes us to it. That which has been wronged will be made right. Christ does not destroy that which is good. He brings it to its total greatness. We would do well to keep in mind that that is what he intends to do with us as well!

I simply wish to make a simple point. Did the disciples change the world with the message of Christ? They surely did! Let us not say it was turned upside-down though. Let us say that it was we who were upside-down, and the gospel is what has turned us right-side up.

Blunt Thoughts On Prayer

There are some times when I come to my blog and I have a simple shoot from the hip approach. It means that I’m not going into a long and thought out argument. These are just things that I am pondering at the time. Now I could have pondered them for a long time, like tonight’s, but I have no “This is all I want to say” tonight. I just want it to flow. My topic will be prayer.

I told a friend of mine tonight that I would really like to improve my prayer life. Why do I say this? I’d like to say that I am a man of prayer, but I know in many ways I am not. I do not leave prayer usually in a happy, happy, joy, joy mood. A lot of this is because I and probably many others don’t have much knowledge on how to do it.

I also think a lot of it comes from pop Christianity. I don’t care for the system on hearing the voice of God and listening for it. I don’t see that taught as normative Christian practice. It is a more modern idea that has been put in our doctrine. I find that those who teach it the most inevitably show that they don’t believe in it either.

So where does my problem lie? My problem is that we find it so difficult. It seems that when I wake up and have to do my duties and fix my breakfast and do some reading and go work 9 hours and come home and relax, that finding prayer in there doesn’t seem to happen until I get to bed.

Once it starts, how long does it go? Is it more spiritual for instance to pray for an hour? We really have no criteria. The command to pray without ceasing would seem to indicate that prayer is more of a lifestyle than an activity. We say the same with worship after all. Worship is not something done at one time in the day but an event throughout the day.

I think about this with people who have what they call quiet time. If you have it and it helps you get closer to God and know him better, great. I just don’t see this in Scripture. I am more interested in a life of devotion than I am interested in doing what is called “devotions.”

Yes. The Bible says early in the morning will I seek you. I don’t think that means though that it’s more Christian to wake up early in the morning. It’s more likely that simply since the ancients did not have indoor lighting like we do today (And sometimes I wish we could get back to those days) that they woke up in the morning and so they began seeking God in the morning.

I do think I would love to get back to such times though because life did seem simpler back then. It seems that the more labor saving devices we have today, the less time we have. We have more books printed than ever before, but we seem to have less time to read them.

When you get to prayer, what do you say? I simply try to say what’s on the heart. That’s it. There are many times I’m honestly not caring too much about requests friends give me. That saddens me, but it’s true. I pray for them anyway. I want to be the kind of person that I pray about. I find it important to know who I am and who I want to be.

Do I see myself as a great lover of God? No. Not really. That is saddening. Do I see myself as a prayer warrior as they are called? Not at all. I recognize room for improvement. My friends would say I’m being too hard on myself. They’re probably right. I suppose I should ask them to pray for me.

What are my thoughts then? I have a ways to go. Why am I saying this? Because I don’t think I’m alone. Chances are, you could be the same way. If so, let me know. Let’s try to help each other out and really develop a doctrine of prayer.

An Irrelevant Objection

I was listening to Eddie Tabash and William Lane Craig debate secular humanism vs. Christianity on MP3 last Sunday. I have to say that I was quite disappointed by Tabash in this one. He suffers from what I call the “Veruca Salt” complex, where he will believe in God when God does what he wants and could only constantly complain about “Well what if my grandmother is in Hell?!”

Now, I don’t delight in people being in Hell, but the whole time I was hearing that, I was thinking that this is the exact opposite of Man or Rabbit. That’s the title of an essay by C.S. Lewis where some people asked if you needed Christianity. Couldn’t you be good without it? Lewis says that is a foolish question to ask. We should ask if it is true. Also, Christ does not call us to be good. He transforms us instead.

Tabash is asking the opposite in reverse. If Christianity is true, it does not matter whether you like it or not. If your grandmother is in Hell, saying “I don’t like it” will not change it. The way to avoid Hell is not to make people ignorant. Jesus came so that we might believe. The way of salvation is belief and not disbelief.

Why is this objection irrelevant? It simply boils down to “I don’t like it, therefore it can’t be true.” Unfortunately, I believe a lot of things that I like that aren’t true. I believe that I have a limited amount of money in the bank. I’d like to say I have millions, but that wouldn’t be true.

In fact, we do choose truth over happiness in that regards. Many of us would be happy believing we’re financially secure. We choose to believe we’re not though. Why? Because it’s true that we’re not. We would rather be true and unhappy than we would be happy and false.

Now if Tabash wants to argue that this is immoral, that’s a whole other line, but that is inconsistent to believe while espousing moral relativism as he does.  From what I could gather though, it boiled down to that Tabash just doesn’t like Christianity. So what? I don’t like a lot of things about it at times. I still follow it though. Why? Because it’s true.

Remember friends. One question must always be asked. “Is it true?” It matters not how much I like or dislike a belief. What matters is if it is true.