Amputation

I thought about this some last night in our struggle with sin and the goal being to reflect God. I ponder how many times God is a good surgeon who has to perform a spiritual amputation on us. What happens is that we get something in our character that does not belong in our nature. The only way God can deal with it is to remove it from us.

<> How many times may we resist this working in us? Could it be that the times that we resist God the most are simply because he is wanting to help us the most? How often does a child resist the doctor with the needle for fear that it will hurt when the parents and the doctor both know that yes, it will hurt, but the pain is only temporary. The long-term will be for the best of the child.

Are you like that at times? Am I like that? Do we not have internal struggles of the soul that seem so overwhelming that we just cry out for mercy and beg God to remove these thorns in our flesh? However, they still remain. Could it be that a quick removal is not what we need? Could it be that we need to learn to develop skills in resisting temptation that will enable us to not have to face amputation so often?

What do we do when these struggles come up then? What do we do when we know something is wrong and yet do it anyway? I think it’s best to not run from God. He is the only one who can help us as painful as that help may be at the time. When the struggle comes up and we have wars within, we should not deny it. Instead, we should go to God as the only one who can help us and beg him to help us recover from it. This should be done not expecting an instant cure. God can do that, but I don’t think that’s the way he prefers to work. We live in an instant society that wants everything now. I don’t see God acting that way.

Let it come. The screaming pain you feel might be the birth pains that will enable you to be the new person you will be. God has begun the new life within you. That new life will be completed, but it will not be a peaceful process. There will be much anguish. Do you think if they could that the pot, the gold, and the silver would all cry out in pain from what their shapers put them through? However, we know the end result is worth it.

<> Dear reader. Submit yourself to the hand of the surgeon. He knows how to operate.

Reflecting Him

Have you ever thought about sanctification? What all does it mean to be sanctified? What does it mean to be holy? I would like to put forward a suggestion based on the idea that we are made in the image of God. I believe this integral part of our design shows us how we are to be in relationship to him.

I do not believe the image of God is physical. God is not material in his essential being.  I do believe though that many of his attributes are put in us though to a far less degree. We have the attributes of power, knowledge, rationality, relationality, wisdom, and sexuality for instance. We are male and female in his image so masculinity and femininity would reside in God.

In saying that last part, I do believe there are some attributes more reflected in the males and some more in the females. I believe the males are the leaders and they reflect more attributes of strength and leading. Females though reflect the beauty of God and are the jewel of his creation.

What makes a female so beautiful? It’s life. All that she is shows her to be a picture of life. She is vibrant and shining. She has in her what is needed to develop a life and to sustain it. Of course though, that new life I think needs a father and it definitely needs a father to get started.

We must go on though to this idea of sanctification. I believe that God does not turn us into himself. This is not a Hindu Nirvana concept where you get absorbed into God and cease to exist. This isn’t the Buddhist Sunyata idea where your goal is to reach the void where you cease to exist altogether. In the end, you are to reflect God.

Yet in reflecting God, you will still be you. Your essential you will not cease to exist. Instead, in reflecting God, you will be more you than ever before. You will be you as you were meant to be. What you are is to be whole and good. Anything that does not reflect the image of God does not fit.

Thus, I look at my life and I see pieces that don’t fit. I see parts of me that are being cut away. I find them painful. I find there is much that I would prefer to keep with me. I find I have raised up in me issues I don’t understand and I ponder that maybe these are coming forth so God can deal with them and I can be allowed to live the life he meant for me to live.

Everything must go. I must reflect him as he is. In the end, I will be the one that he looks at and he sees himself reflected. In the end, you will be the same way if you willingly submit to him. It is painful indeed, but he means your good in the long run. No one likes sitting in the dentist chair, but in the end when we have a beautiful smile, we are indeed grateful.

So it is with this. Perchance you are complaining about it, but it might be the only way. The only way you can really recognize his sanctification in your life is for you to go through it. It will then be that you are more willing to trust him in the long-term. It is by his grace that you will be set free. It won’t be painful, but it will be beneficial.

The weaver is weaving his tapestry and the needles will hurt at times. The silversmith is purifying you in the fire that will burn, but you will reflect his image. The potter is shaping and molding you, but you will have rough handling. Slowly, you are being turned into a work of art reflecting the great artist.

<> Indeed, it will be worthwhile.

Know it all

I’d like you to think about some things you LOVE to talk about. I always enjoy discussing philosophy and theology. I can enjoy discussing other things though like Smallville, Monk, House, Zelda, Final Fantasy, etc.

Some of you are extroverted. I’m an introvert through and through. If you’re a new person to me, I won’t be too friendly on our first convo as I have to “feel you” before I can really chat. However, if you came up to me and said “So did you see that latest Smallville that was on?” I think you’d find I come out of my shell much quicker.

It’s something we all have. There are some things we naturally like to talk about and it means so much to us that other people have such an interest in them as well. When those kinds of topics come up, we believe we have found kindred spirits and are more apt to move to other discussions as well.

What does that have to do with anything? Plenty. Last night at my workplace, I had a few minutes. I found one of my coworkers was studying microbiology which led to us conversing some on that topic. The next one I talked to was studying abnormal psychology. That led to some chatter as well.

Each of these are pathways. These are pathways to connect to people so they will be more open and willing to listen to you. You don’t have to be an expert in the field. You just have to show some interest and know basics. If you pick up some obscure bit of knowledge, try to remember it. It could help out.

<> If you don’t know something and people care about it, they will usually be more than happy to fill you in. If you came to me and asked “What’s this doctrine of the forms I keep hearing about from Plato?” I’ll be more than happy to spend some time with you to discuss it.

<> Once you’re in with that person, it makes them more receptive to the gospel. As another bonus, you learn to become a good listener and you learn some cool stuff as well which improves your intellectual skills.

Conclusion: Learn, Listen, and apply.

Epic History

Tonight, I started reading a work in history. I’ve been into video games all my life, so as I read, I kept hearing in my own mind the opening of “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” where the story is told. After all, this was an epic battle that changed history.

Some people are wondering what battle it was. Was it the 300 that held off the Persian army? Was it one of the epic battles between the Spartans and the Athenians? Was it an account of the Jerusalem War? Was it the troops landing on the shores of Normandy?

When I say “epic battle”, I’m betting that’s what most people think of. However, the battle I was reading about and haven’t finished reading the intro to yet, is the battle of Saint Augustine against the Donatists.

These kinds of battles are just as epic, but they are not generally fought with physical weaponry. These are clashes of ideas. These are wars though that have shaped history. When the apologists stood up for the cause of right to pagans and others, they were fighting battles that would effect us forever. If you want evidence, consider how vastly different history would be if Acts 15 had turned out differently.

This is something exciting about history we can forget. It involves real people fighting real battles. Did Augustine know that we would be reading his writings 1600 years later? I doubt it. Yet here we are.

Now consider the battles you are fighting today for the cause of Christ. What you say may not seem to make much difference, but you too are writing history. You too are making a difference like Augustine did. You may not be as famous as Augustine, but consider some points.

Not as many people have heard of Ambrose in comparison to Augustine, but history would be different if Augustine had not encountered this man. Fewer still have probably heard of Augustine’s mother Monica, but those of us of the faith believe that it was this woman praying for her son to convert that led to his conversion. If you’re a female, would you not be just as honored to know that you’re the mother of a great hero in the church?

In more recent history, most people have heard of Dwight L. Moody, but how many people have heard of Edward Kimball. Kimball though was Moody’s Sunday School teacher and when he shared his testimony with Moody, Moody was weeping and converted. A line can be traced from Moody to Billy Graham. How is it Billy Graham has touched so many? Simple. One man named Edward Kimball spoke the truth.

Today, what you do is not insignificant. It is not forgotten. Christ promised that if you give a cup of cold water in his name, it will not be forgotten. Take joy in your work laborer. You labor not in vain.

Who Art in Heaven

As we continue the Lord’s prayer, the next part is about the Father who art in Heaven.

The first portion to look at is “Who Art”. This should all stop us in our tracks as we ponder it. When we make a statement like “God exists,” reality is totally altered. Imagine what it would mean to your worldview if there was no God?

How much would it mean? If your worldview has very little change in it, then you think very little of God? If your worldview is changed drastically, then you think very much of God. A question like that can get us to see how much we think of God.

Is your source of morality to be found in God? Is your source of truth God? Is your source of all that is good and just God? Is God the reason you get up everyday? Is God the reason you enjoy your life?

And let’s remember the who part of this. We are dealing with a person. (In Christianity, God is actually tri-personal.) This is not some it out there. This is not a pantheistic notion. This is a theistic notion. God has personality. He is even described as the father from whom all fatherhood comes.

What is meant is that it is not proper to say “I’m a father and have a son and that’s kind of like what the Father and Jesus are.” Instead, we should say the Father has the Son, and the way I am is meant to be like that. We mirror God. He does not mirror us. We reflect his image. He does not reflect ours.

And where is this God? In Heaven? Solomon said the very Heavens cannot contain us. God is not relative to Heaven though. Heaven is relative to God. We have a foretaste of Heaven on Earth because God is here, though he is not manifest here.

Why mention he’s in Heaven? Because God is with us, but God is also separate from us. God has watch over the whole cosmos. He is not a being limited by time and space. Time and space are subject to him as he is Lord of all.

However, this God who is out there is not wholly out there. He is the one who has revealed himself and fills the Earth as well. He has revealed himself in the Son most of all. Our lives should be changed entirely by the recognition that the deity chose to partake of the Earthly life. The incarnation is mind-blowing.

Again, if it isn’t to you, maybe you aren’t taking it seriously. Is today the time for you to take “Who art in Heaven” seriously?

Hope and Grief

In the midst of the Augustine I’m reading now, I got out of my library a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “A Grief Observed”, a book I had bought years ago but never started reading until last night and as I started it, one thought came to me.

 I wish I had read this sooner.

I was thinking back to a loss of mine last year. I remember going through a time of grief. I’m sure it can’t compare to that of Lewis who had lost his beloved wife to cancer, but I could tell that we both knew grief.

I believe people in grief want hope most of all. I thought about that last night and thinking about personal struggles of mine. I remember thinking, “God. If I could really know for one second that I will overcome, I believe I could truly be happy.”

Being in grief is like being in a prison cell. You almost wish the prison cell had no windows for if you couldn’t see normalcy outside your cell, you could convince yourself it didn’t exist.

Yet this cell does have a window and you can see outside of it and it seems quite unusual that someone will even try to see into your cell. You see normalcy going on and you grieve wondering if you will have that again.

What would make all the difference? If someone came over to you. Imagine what it would mean if someone saw you as normal as well. Even if they couldn’t help you out, to know that you are seen would be great enough.

Lewis once said, and it might be in this work, that it is more important that Heaven should exist than that any of us should make it there. Kreeft calls that a statement that will need years of unpacking.

Lewis’s point is simply that hope needs an object. Even if the object is not reached, there is an object that hope looks forward to. Bibilcally, hope isn’t wishful thinking. Certain events are called hopes. Hope in the Bible is that which is looked forward to in certainty but has not yet arrived.

Biblically also, we do have the promise of hope in all our circumstances. We are not really alone in the prison cell. The triune God of Scripture is there with us, even at times when we can’t feel his presence, a term I hesitate to use anyway.

Thus, to those in grief I say, look out the window. It will soon be yours and even better than this!

Problems I see in evolutionary thinking

Yeah. I’m going off course from my thoughts on prayer here, but hey, it’s my blog so my choice. I decided to do this after listening to some debates today on creation/evolution. I was just amazed at what I was hearing on the side of the evolutionists. It seemed my main critique had been quite accurate.

The debates I heard had William Provine vs. Phil Johnson and Jonathan Wells vs. Michael Shermer. Keep in mind that I am not a scientist please. I do not deal with the scientific evidence that much. I deal with the philosophical underpinnings. The scientists can debate the other all they want.

It appeared that the only way to believe was to assume only naturalistic theories. They would repeatedly say “Well what method do you see God using?” It would be fiat creationism generally, but that doesn’t count since it’s not naturalistic. In other words, any counter theory on origins must be naturalistic before it can be accepted. That’s the point though. Naturalism can’t explain it.

I was particularly fascinated when the topic of morality came up and someone asked a question to Provine. Provine replied that whatever your background is, keep it up. The questioner said “My background is murder and rape, and it was that because I believed that life was meaningless and had no value.” Ouch. It’s very hard to refute an argument like that.

Someone came up though and asked what thiesm has contributed since methodological naturalism has put a man on the moon, cured diseases, etc., and that it seemed to him that the worst events in history had been done by those who were strong believers in religion.

Now I found this a very odd statement to make. First off, in naturalism, there is no objective basis for determining that an action is evil or good. You have to borrow from theism in order to do that. My point felt further established when Provine complained about the intolerance of Christianity. By what standard is this being condemned?

I would also say that naturalism has not given such things to us and Christianity has not done the worst evils in the world. People who have been naturalists and Christians have done such acts. I do believe though that one can lead to a conclusion more logically than another. Look at it this way.

In naturalism, man is a cosmic accident with no value bestowed on him from outside. In Christianity, man is a divine creation and bears the image of God and is someone whom Jesus Christ loves and died for. Which one of these best results in my seeing my neighbor as someone of value? Which one of these best results in living out the life of love?

However, I can think of the great benefits theism in that sense has brought us. I believe if we thought of the things that matter most to us, they wouldn’t be brought by science. Which do I enjoy more? Do I enjoy my computer, or do I enjoy more the people that I meet through it and the bond of friendship? Do I enjoy books more, or do I enjoy the knowledge I find within books?

The most valuable things in my life are the things that I do not detect with my senses. They are love and friendship and hope and joy. I would much rather have happiness in Christ than all the riches in the world. These are the things that science cannot bring me. Science is a good no doubt as the material world is good and science studies that, but my greatest happiness comes from theism.

I lastly recall hearing the line in the Shermer debate of “If things here need a designer, well doesn’t the designer?” This throws a naturalistic view on God though and makes God part of the creation in that he consists of “parts.” One doctrine of God is his simplicity. It does not mean he is easy to understand. It means that he is complete and has no parts. You could say he is “Simply holy” for instance, in that he is completely holy.

Material things are put together. Immaterial things are not. God is immaterial and thus, God is not designed. Now if they want to say that things need a designer, then we can say that we need a designer. If they want to say not all things need a designer, then we can say God does not need one.

Overall though, the most stunning aspect is the aspect of morality. It seems that these words of right and wrong and ought and good and evil keep popping up. Always watch for those friends. Always. I’d even say an intellectual virtue is given that implies that you ought to be honest with the evidence. Now I agree, but what is the basis in naturalism?

My conclusion? I can still rest easy tonight as a creationist.

<>

Our Father

I was thinking about prayer last night. Maybe many of you are like me and you get a lot of your praying in at night.  I started pondering that the reason God asks us to pray is that it does make some sort of difference. I do not believe God would ask us to participate in an exercise of futility. God wants us to pray. I don’t think it’s always to change the external world directly. It could more change the internal world that will in turn change the external world.

My mind immediately cries out then that it would be great to know the best way to pray. I immediately think then that we have been told how to pray. I do not believe the Lord’s prayer is a prayer that we repeat vainly. (Interesting isn’t it that we are told to avoid vain repetition, yet we vainly repeat the Lord’s Prayer often.) Thus, I want to spend the next few blogs looking at the Lord’s Prayer.

It begins with “Our Father.” (Interestingly, the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that the Jesus Seminar put in red in their five gospels work.) What does it mean to how we pray when we are told that we are to begin with “Our Father?”

The first thing to notice is that this is an address to someone outside of ourselves. Meditation is spoken of in Scripture, but it is not in the sense that the Easterners would consider it. In pantheistic systems, meditation is more for looking inward. For the Christian, meditation and prayer are focused on that which is outside ourselves, which would be God.

I also notice that this is done in a community context. This is not saying “My Father.” This is saying “Our Father.” Unfortunately, we don’t tend to do well with group prayer. The only time I see a real group prayer usually is with my Bible Study group where we’re all close-knit. In other cases, we’re too rushed and we just give a general prayer. (How many times do you think you could just quote the prayer that will be said at Thanksgiving?)

If we are to pray biblically, then we need to be open with each other. Of course, this is hard for us to do today. What if somebody thinks less of me? How do I know I’m not the only one going through this? Won’t I be embarrassed? Does anybody really care about what I’m going through?

Considering that last one, if no one really cared, first off, you wouldn’t care. Secondly, why should you pray because that assumes that God cares. Thus, you already have two that do care. Why are you to automatically assume no one else cares? Finally though, if God does care about something, it seems that everyone else who thinks something doesn’t care is wrong.

Thus, we need to be with our community. When we are with our community, we also need to be praying. Could this be one reason why churches don’t grow though? There really is no connection? You can walk into a room with your “church family” and feel like no one knows what’s going on.

Who are we to pray to? Our Father. This is a truly amazing claim. Jesus is the one who told us to address God as Father and he used regularly the term “abba” which would be “Daddy.” This was reserved for intimate conversation. Indeed, prayer is intimate conversation.

We are told the Father loves us. We are told the Father cares for us. However, one thing we need to remember is that the Father wishes for us to be like him as well. We are not naturally his. We are his by adoption. He did not have to save any of us. He chose to save some of us though. That can be believed whether one is a Calvinist or Arminian. None would be saved unless God wanted to offer salvation.

Maybe we need that image in mind when we pray. God is the Father and not the grandfather. A grandparent might often spoil their kids, but a Father doesn’t. The Father loves us, but he also disciplines us. He’s love, but he’s also holiness. We don’t have command over the Father. The Father has command over us.

Thus, we have two words in a prayer. So much more could be said. I believe a whole volume could be written on these words. I hope I’ve said enough tonight to get you thinking though.

A does not cause C

I struggle with obsessive-compulsive beliefs. At work today, we had something all over the register. It was believed that it could have been vomit or spittle, and I think at the end it was agreed to be spittle. I’m gone. I’m heading to the rest room to wash my hands at a pace that would make Clark Kent catch his breath.

One problem where this happens is in the area of religious thought. I think of what I have an MP3 of Gary Habermas saying. Habermas asks how many people have doubted their salvation before. I have heard him speak on this live and I raised my hand and was amazed at how many other people raised their hands as well. He ties this in at one point with factual doubt.

He talks about someone hearing a lecture on the resurrection and the evidences for it and saying “I’ll never doubt again!” Then the question comes of “How long do you think that’ll last?” The answer is, until a thought comes of “What if Habermas doesn’t know what he’s talking about?” Then, “What if he knows but he’s wrong and he’s just ugly and stupid?” It leads to, “What if the resurrection really isn’t true?” and then concludes in “I’m doubting the resurrection. I must not be a Christian.”

How many of us have done this? We’ll come up with strange beliefs and then think, “Ah! All of a sudden I see so much evidence for this!” If we were thinking rationally, we wouldn’t see that, but our emotions overpower our rationality and in fact, they do not allow us to think rationally.

Habermas asks us to make a distinction and realize that A does not cause C. He speaks of Actions and Consequences. We seem to connect the two together automatically. Habermas says that there is a letter in between for Beliefs. What happens to us is not as bad as what we say about it.

<> Consider the dilemma a single guy like myself has to face in being unlucky in love. You ask a girl out. She says no. Alright. That’s one. You ask another out. She says the same. You ask another out. She goes out but breaks it off after the first date. You come across one and you have a good relationship but she breaks it off also.

Now the best thing to do is to realize that this kind of thing could be normal. Now maybe sometimes, you are a jerk and you do have a problem, but is that always the case? How we handle it will depend on the beliefs we interpret from the actions. If I interpret them as saying “I’m unlovable and will never get married,” well don’t be surprised if my confidence is shot. If I instead say “I didn’t win that time, but there are millions of lovely ladies out there and I only have to marry one,” I could do better.

Another case involves being on break tonight in our break room and having a friend in ministry come in and one of the grandmother types in jewelry. Now my friend is one of those that is quite fundamental in my eyes and freaks at the thought that I love Harry Potter for instance. In some ways, around others in my field, I always feel inferior. Even as I sit here, I can’t think of why I should feel that way.

<> Well, the lady in there talks to me later and says she’s so proud of me and is glad that I’m going into the field I am and compares me to her late husband who was so in her words “Full of the Spirit.” I’m listening and realizing how erroneous my beliefs were. I had allowed a B to come in based on an A that wasn’t accurate and was causing me to have a view of myself that I was, as Habermas says, downloading.

What’s the cure tonight then? Watch what you tell yourself. Watch the beliefs that you give yourself. See if you’re not making up cases that aren’t true and that if you were thinking straight, you’d realize aren’t true.  Don’t you want to live your life according to true beliefs and not false ones?

Good news for the night! You could be wrong!

Farewell Bruce Metzger

Last night after I wrote my blog, I was informed that Bruce Metzger had passed away. Metzger was in his 90’s and was still on staff as far as I could tell. My first hearing of him was in Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ as an expert on the transmission of the biblical documents and I was quite impressed. I have since then read his book on Revelation called “Breaking the Code”, his lexicon for Greek students, and “The Bible in Translation.”<>

<>Metzger will be missed on this Earth. I thought last night of the phrase of “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” Right now, the world is crying, but Metzger is rejoicing.

Dear Christians. My blog is short and sweet tonight. Metzger left us a legacy as well. I think whatever path we’re following, we should follow it with that much devotion to Christ. I would hope that the phrase I’ve just put up will be true when I die as well one day. If you hope the same for yourself, then start living accordingly.