Saturday, March 29, 2014

Living like Christ

"Americans have a higher opinion of gay people than they do of evangelical Christians, according to a new poll from the Human Rights Campaign."  -The Advocate

This statement is the first line in a recent article.  Isn't it sad that we have departed so far from what we were called to by Christ?  We were called to be a light to the world, salt to our culture and instead we have left a bad taste in the experiences of our culture.  

We don't need better P.R., but rather we need to go back to the gospels and follow Jesus around once more.  Instead of being seen as critical, judgmental and condemning we are called to love as Christ loved.  He ate with "publicans and sinners", we instead criticize them.  He drew the hurting, lost and struggling, but we seem to be too busy for them. 

I'm not trying to criticize the Christian community, obviously the culture has done that for me.  What I hope to do in my own life is live in such a way that when those who don't know Christ commentary my life they will say, "He loved others like Jesus did, he loved me."

May that be our common goal, our passion, to live like Christ and once more recapture the love that touched the world 2,000 years ago and turned it upside down.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Formulaic Faith

Much of what I see, that is called Christian today, is simply formulaic faith to make life easy, "blessed" and happy for the culture we call Christian.  I know that's a big statement, but I wonder how many of us realize that most of the books in Christian books stores are about "How to" make everything work just right for us and make our lives comfortable.

How to have a happy marriage, how to lose weight, how to raise good kids, how to deal with depression....and on the list goes.  With just the right formulas we can fix everything and life will be great! But that's not how life works, it's not about holding our tongues just right, doing the right things and then like the right formula, magically everything is wonderful and life is good.

Formulaic faith does not work!  You can't just "confess the right things", have daily devotions, pray every day and be nice to people and expect God will "bless you".....whatever that means.  (By the way, this phrase, "I am blessed", is a purely American idea.  I've not heard it anywhere else.)  But back to the topic...there is no formula to make everything perfect.....even when you do everything "just right" life goes wrong, you might get sick, you kids could "turn out bad", your marriage could fail....there is no magic to this. 

We live in a broken world full of broken people and things go wrong, people sin, we still get sick, our kids still go crazy and make us crazy and once in a while a marriage partner says, "I don't want to do this anymore."  When those times happen we naturally ask, I've heard it, "What did I do wrong???"

To be honest, as a loving parent you don't have to do anything wrong to have a rebellious kid.  To be in a marriage there is no magic formula to make it work.  It's hard work by two good people who both want to work on it.  We still get sick, no matter what we say with our mouths.  We still live in a broken world and there are no formulas to make this life "bump free perfect."  It wasn't meant to be.

The question is this....when something goes wrong...are you looking for the right formula, the right book, the perfect solutions so everything will add up and life will be perfect or are you trusting God and resting in him even if the world around you falls apart?

Formulaic faith does not work.  Trusting God with a host of questions and doubts in hand does.  When things go wrong we don't need the perfect book, the ideal list of things to do, the perfect words to say, we need to sit at God's feet and trust him, rest in him, with all of our problems, all of our doubts, our rebellious kids, our broken marriages, our crumbling lives and simply say, "Lord, I don't know what to do but trust you.  Will you help me?"  

And with that simply prayer you have done the one thing that makes everything add up!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Current status.....

This is me today, but I feel like the photo below....
I'll be back when I'm feeling better.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

God's museum

If you have ever been to a museum you will find it is full of the world's best works, pottery, sculpture, paintings.  

Only the best for a museum will do. We, as visitors to these solemn places, admire with amazement the works of art created by hands much more gifted than ours.  

How did they do that?  What amazing skill!  That must be worth a fortune! And we come away in awe at the artistic skill of men and women through the ages.

God has a museum too.  But his art work is much different.  We would never pay to see what he is most proud of.  In fact, like the precious collection of a little child...with valued items to him that only make us smile, God's valued treasures amaze us....not because of their great quality or beauty, but because of their utter worthlessness.

Here's God museum collection- 

"God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”

This is the artistic work God values.  Not awe inspiring, is it?  
And yet, to our surprise, as we walk through God's museum it is filled with flawed works of art, cracked pots, torn paintings, ruined statues, used by the great master for his glory. 

His museum is full of flawed and worthless pieces that he can be glorified through. 

If you know him you are one of his prized possessions, not because you are so good or beautiful, but because he can look good through you.  You see, you don't have to be good enough to be in God's museum...he's not looking for that kind of just have to be cracked, broken, worthless to the world, but available to him.  Then you will find yourself in his museum of precious works of art.  A vessel, cracked broken and worthless to everyone else, but highly prized by God.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Current news about blogs

Here's the latest about blogs- people don't read them!  Wow, that was a surprise.  To be honest most of us write for ourselves, not so much for others.  But if people aren't reading blogs anymore what is a better way to communicate?  How can we share our thoughts, our lives, our stories and be read by those who need them?  

It seems Facebook fills some of that void, but Twitter and Instagram seem to be the new content zero sites people are using. What a day we are in.  Everyone is on the internet, but few are actually using it for information.  Now it's purpose is entertainment and communication.

So, what do us bloggers do?  Shall I continue?  Should I find another vehicle to communicate?  It seems, if no one is reading this, that the efforts are indeed for me alone, but if they help me is that enough?  And, at the moment, I would say yes.  These blogs have been a journey for me, a story of what God is doing in me.  If they help someone else great.  If not, I will write them anyway.  God can sort all of that out.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Encountering Christ

Do you realize that you may be the only encounter with Christ some will ever have?  What are you telling them, by your words and deeds, about who Jesus is?  Are they drawn to him or pushed away?  

It's sad that, far too often, we Christians push people away from the one they need most by our words and deeds.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Quote of the day

God's plan is completely different from what you could ever imagine and much more glorious than you would ever expect.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

I just finished Nabeel's book about his conversion to Christ.  It is a profound insight into the challenge for a Muslim to become a Christian.  If you know anyone of the Muslim faith and love them as friends or family this book will help you understand the struggles and hurdles they have in coming to faith.  I loved the book and recommend it.

An honest opinion on evolution from an "insider"

I don't often post science articles, but this is one I was fascinated by.  It comes from one of the leading scientists in the country and it's far too honest for his own good, but it's refreshing. If you're interested in this type of interaction I think you will enjoy his thoughts. -Mike

(Here is the source for this piece- )

A world-famous chemist tells the truth: there’s no scientist alive today who understands macroevolution

Professor James M. Tour is one of the ten most cited chemists in the world. He is famous for his work on nanocars (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia), nanoelectronics, graphene nanostructures, carbon nanovectors in medicine, and green carbon research for enhanced oil recovery and environmentally friendly oil and gas extraction. He is currently a Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Rice University. He has authored or co-authored 489 scientific publications and his name is on 36 patents. Although he does not regard himself as an Intelligent Design theorist, Professor Tour, along with over 700 other scientists, took the courageous step back in 2001 of signing the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism”, which read: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
On Professor Tour’s Website, there’s a very revealing article on evolution and creation, in which Tour bluntly states that he does not understand how macroevolution could have happened, from a chemical standpoint (all bold emphases below are mine – VJT):
Although most scientists leave few stones unturned in their quest to discern mechanisms before wholeheartedly accepting them, when it comes to the often gross extrapolations between observations and conclusions on macroevolution, scientists, it seems to me, permit unhealthy leeway. When hearing such extrapolations in the academy, when will we cry out, “The emperor has no clothes!”?
…I simply do not understand, chemically, how macroevolution could have happened. Hence, am I not free to join the ranks of the skeptical and to sign such a statement without reprisals from those that disagree with me? … Does anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution? If so, I would like to sit with that person and be taught, so I invite them to meet with me.
In a more recent talk, entitled, Nanotech and Jesus Christ, given on 1 November 2012 at Georgia Tech, Professor Tour went further, and declared that no scientist that he has spoken to understands macroevolution – and that includes Nobel Prize winners! Here’s what he said when a student in the audience asked him about evolution:
… I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist: if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules. I understand that if I take Nature’s tool kit, it could be much easier, because all the tools are already there, and I just mix it in the proportions, and I do it under these conditions, but ab initio is very, very hard.
I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you. Is that OK, for me to say, “I don’t understand this”? Is that all right? I know that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand anything about organic synthesis, but they understand evolution. I understand a lot about making molecules; I don’t understand evolution. And you would just say that, wow, I must be really unusual.
Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science – with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public – because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said – I say, “Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?” Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go “Uh-uh. Nope.” These people are just so far off, on how to believe this stuff came together. I’ve sat with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. Sometimes I will say, “Do you understand this?”And if they’re afraid to say “Yes,” they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.
I was once brought in by the Dean of the Department, many years ago, and he was a chemist. He was kind of concerned about some things. I said, “Let me ask you something. You’re a chemist. Do you understand this? How do you get DNA without a cell membrane? And how do you get a cell membrane without a DNA? And how does all this come together from this piece of jelly?” We have no idea, we have no idea. I said, “Isn’t it interesting that you, the Dean of science, and I, the chemistry professor, can talk about this quietly in your office, but we can’t go out there and talk about this?”
If you understand evolution, I am fine with that. I’m not going to try to change you – not at all. In fact, I wish I had the understanding that you have.
But about seven or eight years ago I posted on my Web site that I don’t understand. And I said, “I will buy lunch for anyone that will sit with me and explain to me evolution, and I won’t argue with you until I don’t understand something – I will ask you to clarify. But you can’t wave by and say, “This enzyme does that.” You’ve got to get down in the details of where molecules are built, for me. Nobody has come forward.
The Atheist Society contacted me. They said that they will buy the lunch, and they challenged the Atheist Society, “Go down to Houston and have lunch with this guy, and talk to him.” Nobody has come! Now remember, because I’m just going to ask, when I stop understanding what you’re talking about, I will ask. So I sincerely want to know. I would like to believe it. But I just can’t.
Now, I understand microevolution, I really do. We do this all the time in the lab. I understand this. But when you have speciation changes, when you have organs changing, when you have to have concerted lines of evolution, all happening in the same place and time – not just one line – concertedlines, all at the same place, all in the same environment … this is very hard to fathom.
I was in Israel not too long ago, talking with a bio-engineer, and [he was] describing to me the ear, and he was studying the different changes in the modulus of the ear, and I said, “How does this come about?” And he says, “Oh, Jim, you know, we all believe in evolution, but we have no idea how it happened.” Now there’s a good Jewish professor for you. I mean, that’s what it is. So that’s where I am. Have I answered the question? (52:00 to 56:44)
Professor Tour’s online talk is absolutely fascinating as well as being deeply moving on a personal level, and I would strongly urge readers to listen to his talk in its entirety – including the questions after the talk. You won’t regret it, I promise you. One interesting little gem of information which I’ll reveal is that it was Professor Tour who was largely instrumental in getting Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to reject Darwinian evolution and accept Old Earth creationism, shortly before he died in 2005. It was Tour who persuaded Smalley to delve into the question of origins. After reading the books “Origins of Life” and “Who Was Adam?”, written by Dr. Hugh Ross (an astrophysicist) and Dr. Fazale Rana (a biochemist).. Dr. Smalley explained his change of heart as follows:
Evolution has just been dealt its death blow. After reading “Origins of Life”, with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear evolution could not have occurred. The new book, “Who Was Adam?”, is the silver bullet that puts the evolutionary model to death.
Strong words indeed, for a Nobel scientist. Readers can find out more about Professor Richard Smalley’s change of views here.
Why should we believe macroevolution, if nobody understands it?
Now that Professor Tour has informed the world that even Nobel Prize-winning scientists privately admit that they don’t understand macroevolution, a layperson is surely entitled to ask: “Well, if even they don’t understand it, then why should we believe it? How can we possibly be obliged to believe in a theory which nobody understands?”
That’s a good question. And it’s no use for Darwinists to trot out the standard “party line” that “even if we don’t yet understand how it happened, we still have enough evidence to infer that it happened.” At the very most, all that the current scientific evidence could establish is the common descent of living organisms. But that’s notmacroevolution. Macroevolution requires more than a common ancestry for living organisms: it requires a natural mechanism which can generate the diversity of life-forms we see on Earth today from a common stock, without the need for any direction by an Intelligent Agent. But the mechanism is precisely what we don’t have evidence for. So the question remains: why should we believe in macroevolution?
The decline of academic freedom
Given the massive uncertainty about the “how” of macroevolution among scientists working in the field, you might think that a wide variety of views would be tolerated in the scientific arena – including the view that there is no such process as macroevolution. However, you would be sadly mistaken. As Professor Tour notes in his online article on evolution and creation, an alarming academic trend has emerged in recent years: a growing intolerance of dissent from Darwinism. This trend is so pronounced that Professor Tour now advises his students not to voice their doubts about Darwinism in public, if they want a successful career:
In the last few years I have seen a saddening progression at several institutions. I have witnessed unfair treatment upon scientists that do not accept macroevolutionary arguments and for their having signed the above-referenced statement regarding the examination of Darwinism. (I will comment no further regarding the specifics of the actions taken upon the skeptics; I love and honor my colleagues too much for that.) I never thought that science would have evolved like this. I deeply value the academy; teaching, professing and research in the university are my privileges and joys…
But my recent advice to my graduate students has been direct and revealing: If you disagree with Darwinian Theory, keep it to yourselves if you value your careers, unless, of course, you’re one of those champions for proclamation; I know that that fire exists in some, so be ready for lead-ridden limbs. But if the scientific community has taken these shots at senior faculty, it will not be comfortable for the young non-conformist. When the power-holders permit no contrary discussion, can a vibrant academy be maintained? Is there a University (unity in diversity)? For the United States, I pray that the scientific community and the National Academy in particular will investigate the disenfranchisement that is manifest upon some of their own, and thereby address the inequity.
It remains to be seen if other countries will allow their young scientists to think freely about the origin of life, and of the various species of organisms that we find on Earth today. What I will say, though, is that countries which restrict academic freedom will eventually be overtaken by countries which allow it to prosper. There is still time for America and Europe to throw off the dead hand of Darwinism in academic circles, and let their young people breathe the unaccustomed air of free speech once again.
(UPDATE: Here’s a link to my follow-up post, Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details. It amply refutes the simplistic charge, made by some skeptics, that Professor Tour was conflating macroevolution with the question of the origin of life.)

Quote of the day

“Time exists in order that everything doesn’t happen all at once…
and space exists so that it doesn’t all happen to you.”
 ― Susan Sontag, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches

Friday, March 07, 2014

Working on the basics

I don't think I will soon get away from one theme in my life.  It's not because I've mastered it and am gloating in my success, but honestly it's because it is my greatest weakness and the thing that God is working on in me more than anything else. 

What I'm seeing is that as I focus my attention on the basics of my faith all the cultural religious habits begin to look silly, artificial and frankly a waste of time.  Here are a few examples of the Christian cultural issues that really don't matter in eternity: who is president and what I think of him, any specific sin or life choice of a non-believer, who is right on non-essential doctrine issues, etc.  (I have a long list in my head, but you get the idea....much ado about nothing that will matter in 100 years.)

So, I am drawn back to the basics.  What are the basics, the essential things that God commands me?  And, most important, how am I doing on the first things, let alone talk about a myriad of other useless topics.  And so I look at scripture and the basics, the mains things become clear and I have to tell you that we avoid these like the plague because we, as Christians, are so bad at them.

Here are the basics, the essential...if you don't get these right then don't bother with anything else,

Mark 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 

31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The Lord is constantly drawing me back to these basics and I have to be honest, I am trying, but I'm not doing very well (don't tell anyone that, ok?)  These are daunting!  They are vastly more important than we think and clearly, in the culture I live in, the Christians in the world I see are getting an "F" on these most important basics!

How have we boldly declared what God wants to the world when we can't even do the basics he commands us?  How can we claim to tell the lost world what is right and wrong when we aren't even doing it?  No wonder they scorn us and laugh at us....we have become the ultimate Pharisees!

And so, as the good Pharisee I so easily become, I come back to the basics and ask God to rekindle my love for him.  I have to start there.  And that is one of my great desires, but also one of my weaknesses.  Yes, I love God, I've given my life to serve him, but I see so much in how I live out my life that says I don't really love him at all.  If I did, how could I act that way?  In the reality of my own weakness I come to him and ask, "Dear Lord, rekindle my love for you. Teach me how to love you, not just in word, but in how I live, the decisions I make, the way I treat my wife, my kids, the people around me." 

Because what I know is this- my love for God is reflected in how I treat other people. Loving others is a reflection of my love relationship with God, so if I'm harsh, unloving, angry with others, hurtful to those around me it is a reflection of my relationship with God.  

Here's how John describes it,

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

How do I know I'm doing well with my love walk with God? I'll love others.  That's the test for my walk with him, it's reflected in the face of other people...the people HE made and loves and died for....the Muslims who angrily wish my death, the lost who glorify their sins, the rich who use their wealth to dominate others, the people we think most vile...those people are the testing ground for my love for God.

They will show the world, and they will know, if I really love God by the way I treat them.  How am I doing?  Not well, but I know that and I'm working on today, my goal is to once more passionately pursue God and fall in love with him all over again, and out of that will come a love for others that can only happen as he does it through me.

I think it's time, for everyone who claims to be a Christian, to go back to the basics and make sure we have those done well.  When we do then we will reflect the Jesus everyone wants to be near.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Faith or obedience?

Faith is the topic of the day in many churches around me.  It's the theme of one movement that has grown in the last few decades.  Faith has almost become a deity of its own in these days and many preachers proclaim, "If you only had enough faith..."

But, I challenge that theme.  Yes, faith is important, but it's not as important as we hear many proclaim.  It's not what Jesus focused on.  So, let me declare clearly that it's not critical how much faith you have, but there is something more important....and here it is from Jesus,

Luke 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Did you catch it?  Did you see how quickly Jesus dismissed the request for more faith.  His reply was basically this- you don't really need more faith, that's not the critical thing, but let me show you what is....and then he begins a seemingly unrelated story about servants, but it's not unrelated, it's the key to the request by the disciples!

Jesus told them this- you don't need more faith, you have enough, you have all that's needed to live for me, but what's critical is obedience.  When I tell you to do something will you do it?  Obedience is the focus for Jesus, not more faith.  So, how have we missed that in our day?  It's because we don't want to talk about obedience.  We want to do as we please and simply "believe God" and see the world changed.   

Jesus is declaring to his 12, as they request more faith, that he's more interested in obedience.  But what glamour would there be in "The word of obedience" movement?  We seem to like the glitz and glamour of "The word of faith" teachings because we can "be like God".  But did anyone notice that when God showed up here he came as a servant?  He washed feet, loved the lost, touched the lepers, he "always did what his father asked".  

Obedience is the key to a growing believer, not faith.  How wonderful to be able to say, when we see him, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’

So which is it?  Which is more important to God? Faith or obedience?  Clearly the victory goes to obedience.  It's the life Jesus modeled and it's the life he asks us to live. *

*Let me clarify, lest I be called a heretic- without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is essential, but after we have believed what does he ask of us? And that is the theme of this post.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

What would we say?

Jesus would have gone to Ellen's house for dinner and had a good time. 

What would we be saying about him?

Sunday, March 02, 2014

The furious longing of God

What do you do when you can't sleep in the middle of the night?  Read a book, of course, it will put you back to sleep quickly.  But sadly and happily I didn't pick one of those. I picked a book I hadn't read yet, "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning.

Wouldn't you know it this would be a book that wouldn't put you to sleep, but wouldn't let you sleep till you finished it.  I read the whole thing and am overwhelmed with awe at the love of God once more unpacked by Manning.  How do you write about the love of God in a way that makes even the atheist want it?  Write like Brennan Manning.  

I won't try to unpack this amazing little book, but will simply invite you to read it and allow his words to soak into your soul.  The words are life giving and encouraging.  This is a must read for every struggling child of God....and doesn't that include us all?

Saturday, March 01, 2014