Illuminations

Today’s post is simply a selection of seven entries from my quiet time journal (2002-2008)—things the Holy Spirit has illuminated as I’ve prayed and read the Bible. It’s always such a blessing to go back and re-read my prayer journal. It helps put things in perspective—God’s perspective—as I read about problems that seemed to loom so large at the time, but that God has now solved through answered prayer. Seeing the past through the lens of the present is probably not far from how God views us at all times. We despair as we wait and wait and wait for God to move. But for Him, past, present, and future is always just…the present. He is not confined to time. We must remember that as we wait on Him.

God’s Cable Connection

It’s a whole lot easier to be sure about God’s will when it’s something the flesh doesn’t want, like the call to ministry. But when it’s something the flesh likes and wants, like a new house, you wonder if it’s the Spirit or the flesh spurring you to do it. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) It’s not that I don’t want to trust God. It’s that I don’t trust me, my God receiver. Sometimes the static of the flesh makes it hard to get a clear signal. Lord, give me a direct, high speed, cable connection to You. Then, give me the willingness to act on what you tell me. The Bible is that direction connection, but there’s so many “channels,” it’s hard to find the right one at the right time. At that point you’re helplessly left to the mercy and grace and love and faithfulness of God. Just pray and ask for the Cable Guide, the Holy Spirit. Special thanks to the Cable Installer, Jesus.

I want to be someone who…

  1. Quotes Scripture in conversation
  2. Is more excited about Jesus than anything else
  3. Is a constant soul-winner
  4. Meek, yet not afraid to speak
  5. Has break-through ideas
  6. Never wastes a moment
  7. Never misses an opportunity
  8. A bright Christian, personable, positive
  9. Wise
  10. Remembered as someone who loved God, loved family, loved people
  11. Made an eternal impact
  12. Thinks pure thoughts

Oh, how short I fall.

How to Recognize the Kind of Wisdom That Comes from the Lord (James 3:17-18)

  1. Pure, undefiled
  2. Peace-loving
  3. Considerate, gentle, courteous
  4. Submissive, reasonable, yields to reason
  5. Full of mercy, compassion
  6. Full of good fruit
  7. Impartial, unwavering, whole-hearted, straight-forward, unfeigned
  8. Sincere, without hypocrisy, free from doubts

Seven Truths About Sin

  1. Sin is destructive.
  2. Sin is deceptive.
  3. Sin is attractive only because it is a lie.
  4. If we knew, agreed with, and trusted (knowledge, assent, trust—KAT) the truth, we wouldn’t believe the lie, and sin would lose its attractiveness.
  5. We should seek to know the whole truth.
  6. We should agree/assent to it.
  7. We should trust God and decide not to sin, but to choose the truth, which will result in our good and His glory.

Therefore, to the degree that we know, agree with, and trust absolute truth, we will not sin.

Saturate your mind with God’s Word, the only source of absolute truth.

Staying Clean

Sometimes it’s easier to resist temptation? Why? I’ve noticed that it’s at times when I feel clean and confessed up before God. It’s like right after you’ve taken a nice shower. You don’t want to do anything that will make you sweat or get dirty. But when you’ve just mowed the grass, you’ll dive into any dirty ol’ job. Holiness breeds holiness. And sin breeds sin. One good decision fosters another. And one bad decision fosters another. The Bible will keep your from sin. And sin will keep you from the Bible. So stay clean and confessed up and next to God. You won’t want to get dirty.

Christ Is the Door

I’ve always heard things like “Christ is the answer,” that He Himself is the solution to overcoming sin. I always thought that was just Christian rhetoric and jargon. But I heard an illustration about a shepherd being the sheep gate, that the shepherd literally lays down in the gap in the fence and himself becomes a living gate. Christ Himself is the Door. (John 10:7-9) How? When you’re tempted to sin, don’t try to focus on the “do“—performing the right behavior. Don’t focus on the “be“—having integrity and character and purity. Focus on Christ Himself. Know that He loves you and will never let you go, no matter how repulsive your sin, no matter how repetitive. His unconditional love is motivation like no other to do right and be who we should be in Christ. Call on His resources, His power to overcome temptation. Appropriate it. Let Him fight for you. He is the Doorway. He Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is.

God’s Love and God’s Favor

There’s a distinction between God’s love and God’s favor. Just like there’s a distinction between joy and happiness. Joy is unconditional and results from the awareness that God is the sources of all that is good. Happiness is conditional on happenstance. Likewise, God’s love is unconditional and flows from the endless sources of His holiness and devotion as our Creator and God. God’s favor is conditional on our obedience, the raw material from which He fashions blessings. I want to please and grow in favor with God. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) Imagine that…there was a time when God had less favor for Jesus than He does today. But God’s favor with Jesus never decreased. It only increased because He never sinned. Oh, that I could be more like Jesus.

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Did God create man or did man make god?

The commentary below was a response I wrote to an article entitled “Science and religion: God didn’t make man; man made gods” which originally ran as an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times (July 18, 2011) and was republished by the Lexington Herald-Leader (July 20, 2011). Citing recent research that supposedly unravels religion’s “DNA,” the article by J. Anderson Thomson and Clare Aukofer argued that man invented gods because we needed them and that faith in the supernatural is just another evolutionary adaptation to help us survive. I wrote the Herald-Leader editor and asked if they would publish a rebuttal, and they agreed, but gave me only 700 words. You can read it along with all the reader comments (72 comments at the time of posting) here. The version below is the full version not edited by the paper to make it fit, along with some other expanded content that I included after reading some of the responses to my commentary. I would love to hear your comments.

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Imagine a world without religion.

That’s what Thomson and Aukofer, the writers of the recent article “God Didn’t Make Man; Man Made Gods,” ask us to do. Then they point to several radical, negative examples, such as Osama bin Laden, in an attempt to write off all religion.

OK, let’s imagine life with no religion. Most hospitals wouldn’t exist. Many of the best universities in the world wouldn’t exist. Many of the charities. Perhaps even the United States themselves. All these institutions and many more were founded in the name of religion, namely Christianity. If this kind of selective thinking is the basis of the so-called scientific research that Thomson and Aukofer offer as evidence that man created God, then I put little credibility in their conclusions.

There’s nothing wrong with their scientific methods and observations. It’s the conclusions that are wrong, because they filter their results through the assumptions of the theory of evolution. For example, some of their research found that humans have an innate need for attachment and for protectors. Since the writers begin with the assumption of evolution, they interpret this as evidence that humans created “super parents”—gods—to help them cope. But if you begin with an assumption that the Bible is true, the same experiments would support the Scriptures’ truth that man was created in the image of God. God wants fellowship. That’s why He created us. He wired us with the need to live in community and in families. And He built into each one of us a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill.

Take another one of their findings: that even infants have a built-in sense of morality, an “evolved” trait, they assume. Yet the Bible tells us in Romans and other places that God built into each of us a sense of right and wrong—a conscience—that points us to God. It’s one of the ways He has revealed Himself to us.

My point is that there’s nothing wrong with their empirical evidence. It’s their interpretation that’s wrong. They come to erroneous conclusions because their presuppositions come from their authority—the unproven theory of evolution. Christians come to different conclusions because our presuppositions come from our authority—God’s Word.

Even their overarching proposition fails to pass the logic test. On one hand they say faith is a bad thing for the human race. But their argument wouldn’t pass a freshman logic course. Because on the other hand they argue: Evolved traits make creatures more fit to survive. Faith evolved. So the only logical conclusion is that faith is something that makes us more fit, a good thing for humans.

It’s beyond the scope of this letter to debate the shortcomings of the theory of evolution, but my point is that all science—properly interpreted—supports God’s Word.

There are limits to what knowledge can be obtained and proven using reason and empirical evidence. History can’t be proven this way. And supernatural truth cannot be proven this way. Therefore, the man who says he will only believe what passes the judgment bar of human reason and empirical science is selling himself short. There is much more to God’s universe than that.

Of course, I could rehearse all the classic philosophical arguments for the existence of God—the cosmological argument that says there must be a first cause: God. Evolution and science don’t explain the existence of matter. Faith in God does.

There’s the teleological argument: The world is highly complex and organized. Take the human eyeball, for example. Like a fine watch, something that intricate argues for a Designer, not something that fell together in time as the result of a series of birth defects/mutations. From galaxies to solar systems to eyeballs to atoms, there is so much order and complexity in the universe that it takes much more faith to swallow the theory of happy accidents (evolution) than that the Supreme Being designed it all.

There’s not space here to go through all the arguments for God. And there’s really little point. God has revealed Himself clearly to us through His Word—the Bible, through creation, through our conscience, through history, and supremely through His Son, Jesus Christ.

In fact, no man can with intellectual integrity truly claim to be an absolute atheist. An absolute atheist says that God does not exist. But what man would claim to possess 100% of all possible knowledge? Say you claim to know even 50 percent (quite presumptuous). You would still have to admit that God might exist in the portion of knowledge that you do not have. Therefore, there are no true atheists, only agnostics, who can truthfully only say, “I’m not sure if God exists.”

If you’re not sure, then you should look in places in which reason and empirical evidence do not shed light. That is faith. Science has limits. It says, “Seeing is believing.” Faith has no limits, because it says, “Believing is seeing.”

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My commentary generated a lively online discussion. And after reading the reader comments on the Herald-Leader website, I was surprised by two things: 1) The high number of people who commented. In less than 48 hours, the story had 72 comments. I read the Herald-Leader online most every day, and that’s a lot for a piece that was practically buried on the op-ed page. 2) How overwhelmingly negative the comments were: 3:1 negative to positive. I had imagined that my fellow Christians, also angered by the original article that attempted to dismiss God as a mutation of our imagination, would flock to my defense. After all, Kentucky is still in the Bible belt, isn’t it? Or have we loosened our belt? Anyway, of the 72 comments to date, 48 were against me, 16 for me, and 8 were neutral or no particular position. And of the 16 in support of me, probably half were from my daughter Ginger who loyally–and quite articulately–defended her Daddy and her Heavenly Daddy.

I don’t have the time to respond to every comment, but most were centered around the same themes anyway. So after reading all the comments, here are my observations and rebuttals:

1. I’m amazed at how militant self-proclaimed atheists are about their, uh, beliefs (?), uh, non-belief (?). You would expect an evangelical Christian to be passionate and proselytizing. After all, we sincerely believe that Jesus is the only way to avoid an eternity in hell, and we are commanded and compelled to rescue as many people as possible from the burning building. But why does an atheist care what anyone else believes? If they truly believe there is no God, what difference does it make to them if I believe? I don’t care if a child believes in the tooth fairy. The fact that atheists are getting more and more militant about their worldview and more and more antagonistic toward Christians is characteristic of the “New Atheism,” led by “the Four Horsemen of the New Atheism,” Christopher Hitchens (who several readers mentioned), Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. These four men have recently published best-selling books on atheism. If you’re looking for a concise primer on New Atheism, I can highly recommend Atheism Remix by Dr. Al Mohler.

2. I’m amused that evolutionists have such a huge blind spot when it comes to seeing that they, too, are “believers” in a faith system. They think their system is based on facts, but the mysteries of the universe are so vast, and all they have are a few random puzzle pieces for which they have extrapolated a fanciful theory, filled in with broad presuppositions and conjecture. Science hasn’t even begun to answer fundamental questions, such as “Where did matter and energy come from in the first place?” Nor specific questions, such as “Why are there no transitional fossils?” The mysteries of life forms are mind-boggling. Scientists cannot begin to create life in a laboratory. How can they be so sure they have figured out how life formed in the beginning? That’s true arrogance. And that’s true faith—in science fiction. I’ve often said that it takes more faith to believe that a fine-tuned athlete like John Wall (brain, senses, muscles all coordinated perfectly) just fell together through a series of accidents, than it does to believe that a Creator designed him. Yes, evolutionists live by faith, too.

3. I’m annoyed that that so many readers are putting their faith in the fact that 99% (or whatever number they happened to pull out of their hat) of scientists believe in evolution, so that makes it true. Truth isn’t true because of popular vote. If it is, then I’d like to turn that on them and say, OK, Christianity is true because more people follow Christianity than any other faith system, including atheism. Christianity is true because it is fact. Many readers don’t get that. They think that faith and fact are two separate worlds. Nonsense. The Bible is true because it is fact. And faith follows fact. You don’t commit intellectual suicide to become a believer. You can read much more about this in excellent books such as Josh McDowell’s, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Lee Strobel’s The Case for…series. Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis resources. The Bible stands up to any truth test.

  • The Internal Evidence Test: The Bible has complete unity among 66 books written by 40 authors over 1,500 years in two continents and three languages. The only explanation is that there is one ‘Publisher.” God. There’s much more evidence, such as the more than 300 prophecies that were fulfilled by Christ.
  • The External Evidence Test: Ancient historians and modern archeologists have confirmed the historical accuracy of the Scriptures. The Bible is scientifically accurate, too. After all, it was written by the One Who created the world and science. Two millennia before scientists discovered that they were wrong all along about the earth being flat, Isaiah wrote, “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth…” (Isaiah 40:22). How did Isaiah know the earth was a circle? Because God inspired him to write it. God wrote the Bible. He knows a little more about the world than scientists. Is it possible that today’s scientists just could be just as wrong about evolution and the big bang?
  • The Bibliographic Test: The Bible is supported by more manuscripts by far than any other piece of literature from antiquity. The New Testament has 24,633 extant manuscripts. 2nd place: Homer’s Illiad with 643.

What’s my bottom line in all this? It’s this. The authors of that original article, God didn’t make man; man made gods are partially right—man has made a lot of gods (little “g’). They’ve been doing it since the Garden of Eden. And man himself is the chief of all these gods. All man-made gods have one thing in common: they are made in the image of man. As I’ve studied the man-made gods of ancient cultures (Roman, Greek, Sumerian, etc.), I’ve observed that they are all made in the image of their creator—man—with the same attributes as man. They’re petty, jealous, bitter, unforgiving, and on and on—just like man. And salvation always comes the same way. Man makes a way to God. The atheists are right: man is better off without these gods.

Only one God is different. The true God, the God of the Bible, Yahweh, the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. He is not made in the image of man. He is all-loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving. And instead of man finding a way to God, God came to man in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s what sets Christianity apart from all the other religions. “Religion” is man striving, climbing a mountain to find God. Christianity is God coming down the mountain—Mt. Calvary—to save man. That’s no man-made God.

So take your pick. God, Who made man in His image. Or man, who made god in his image. God, Who came to man. Or man, who tries to make it to god. As for me, I’m not smart enough to make a god. But I’m too smart to ignore the God Who made me.

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 53:1)

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)

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Dream Dinner Party

If you could host a dinner party and invite 10 people—who have lived or are living—who would you invite?

This intriguing question was posed to me by my daughter Ginger recently, and I’ve been thinking a good deal about it. The only real criterion would be: who would be the best dinner company? Not necessarily the most influential people. Or the most intelligent. Or my most beloved. Or people with which I agree on every point. And certainly not pedantic bores who would talk about things they know nothing about or things they know too much about.

My top 10 would all be people from the Bible, so I decided to make two lists: 1) Bible guests, and 2) Non-Bible guests. Also, I decided not to include Jesus on either list. He would just be there. He doesn’t belong on a list with anyone. He is the List. He would be there, and He would help me host the party. He would literally be the Life of the party. Also, not to hurt anyone’s feelings, my list contains no close friends or family members, not because I wouldn’t enjoy their company, but because I have other opportunities to converse with them. Also, one other consideration…each guest gets to bring a companion, so the party is already up to 20, plus me, Tina, and Jesus, plus both Bible and non-Bible lists, so the party is really up to 43. I guess it’s hard to keep it to just 10. But anyway, here are my lists:

Bible Guests

1. Adam (and his companion Eve)—Yes, I believe Adam and Eve were real people. Some people try to dismiss the Creation account and Adam as myth. I not only believe in literal Creation (see my post about Creationism here), but I also believe Adam was a real man, the first man. If he wasn’t real, what then do you do with Paul’s masterful passage, Romans 5:12-21, where he says sin and death entered the world through one man, Adam, and grace and life entered through another man, Jesus Christ? Pull a thread in Scripture in one place, and you create a snag in another.  A few people try to argue that God used evolutionary processes to create human life, but they still try to contend there is a literal Adam (read such a view from Tim Keller here, as well as an excellent rebuttal by Mark Coppenger here). This contortion seems the most contrived of all. So let me get this straight…after millions of years of monkeys evolving, one day, one “monkey” finally crosses the line and qualifies as a human and is no longer an animal, and God awards him a soul and names him Adam. I bet his “mother and father” were so proud they went ape. Are you kidding me?! That’s going a little too far to accommodate Darwinism. So I’d just invite Adam and Eve, and then they could tell everyone in person what really happened (as if people who won’t take God’s Word for it would believe this pair!)

2. Noah—Another personality that some people try to mythologize, but one in which I firmly believe. After all, the flood explains the fossil and geological records much better than evolution does. I want to hear all about the ark, the culture that laughed at him, and how he maintained such a godly walk that he and his family alone were chosen by God to sustain the human race.

3. Moses—Wouldn’t it be interesting to watch Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments with him and get his take on it?

4. Joseph—His life mirrored Christ’s in so many ways. I could learn much about patience and forgiveness from this amazing man.

5. David—A writer who loved God yet sometimes failed Him, who endured disappointments yet enjoyed mountaintop experiences, David is perhaps the Bible personality with which I can most closely identify. I would love to spend an evening with him. Thankfully, one day I will have all eternity.

6. Solomon—I’m dying to ask him, “Dude, why did someone with your smarts marry so many women?”

7. Nehemiah—The consummate manager, I believe I could learn a lot about faithfulness from this steadfast man of God.

8. Mary, mother of Jesus—There’s so much I want to learn about what Jesus was like growing up, during those “silent years” before His public ministry.

9. John the Apostle—What a theologian! I could listen to him preach all night long.

10. Paul—No surprise there. The guy wrote a third of the New Testament. I’m sure there’s much more he could say, not that God needed revealed, but that would still be plenty interesting.

Honorable Mentions

Job, Joshua, Samuel, Daniel, Peter

Non-Bible Guests

1. Ernest Hemingway—Hemingway to me is the real-life, 20th century embodiment of “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” Journalist, war hero, author, world traveler, lover, sportsman, and big game hunter, Hemingway would fill the evening with captivating stories that would almost make it a waste that nine other extremely interesting people were also present.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald—I thought long and hard before I included two people from the 1920s, and two novelists at that. But Fitzgerald is my favorite writer. After all, what dinner party would be complete without this ol’ sport, and frankly, Zelda might end up being the most entertaining person at the party.

3. Socrates—Who else but the one who taught Plato, who in turn taught Aristotle, who in turn taught Alexander the Great, who created the greatest empire ever? Why would you invite anyone else?

4. Ben Franklin–His wit and wisdom would keep the room in stitches.

5. Winston Churchill—As I continue down this list, I realize what a terrible waste it would be to have all 10 of these individuals for a party at the same time. I could spend a year with each one. Maybe a couple with Sir Churchill.

6. Bill Gates—I would be as interested in his philanthropic efforts as his entrepreneurial ventures.

7. Al Mohler—The only other guest who is still alive. If the others weren’t available, you could just invite Dr. Mohler, who could probably tell you as much about the other 10 as they could themselves, especially Churchill. Dr. Mohler is so brilliant I think even Socrates would feel like a schoolboy listening to him. Absolute genius.

8. Martin Luther—How fascinating it would be to hear his perspective on the Reformation—and the 21st century American church.

9. C.S. Lewis—One of the greatest 20th century Christian minds. Anyone who could write both The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity has got to be engaging dinner company.

10. Adrian Rogers—I had the privilege of serving with him and knowing him personally for 10 years, and the time was much too short. Looking forward to an eternity with him, but even an evening now would be priceless.

Honorable Mentions

Teddy Roosevelt, George Müller, William Randolph Hearst, Josephus, Jack London, William Shakespeare, Woody Allen, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Vance Havner, Max Lucado, David Ogilvy, Howard Hendricks, George Barna, Jerry Bruckheimer, Mike Huckabee, Oswald Chambers, Queen Elizabeth I, Leonardo da Vinci, Franklin Graham, Walt Disney, Adolph Rupp

Conspicuously absent

Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Muhammad, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy (Jackie, however, is welcome to come without him), Franklin D. Roosevelt, Barack Obama, Mike Krzyzewski

Now that you’ve read my list, I’d love to hear yours. Please comment with your 10—or 20!—dream dinner guests. Or better yet, let’s get together, and we can talk about it over dinner.

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Know Fear

God scares me to death.

I don’t make that remark flippantly. Or irreverently. Or as hyperbole.

I state it deliberately.

God literally scares me to the point of mortifying sin and self. And that’s a good thing. Not a bad thing.

Fearing God is not a popular notion these days. You don’t see a lot of best-selling books about it. Or seven-part sermon series. Or TV evangelist fear-fests.

We’re afraid of fear.

People prefer thinking about God as a gentle Father. Or a Friend. Or a Savior. Or a Healer. Or a Prayer Granter. And certainly He is all those things.

But the same divine attributes that make Him such an amazing Father, Friend, Savior, and more are the very characteristics that make Him worthy of fear.

He is omnipotent. Omniscient. Omnipresent. Holy. Jealous. Infinite. Self-sufficient. Just. Sovereign.  And yes, wrathful.

Scary.

After all, this is the God who struck a man dead for simply trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling off a cart! (1 Chronicles 13) Of course, they were disobedient for putting the Ark on a cart in the first place. But the bottom line is: God is holy, God is powerful, and God is wrathful—a combination that certainly evokes fear.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Fear has all kinds of benefits. I just mentioned wisdom. The Bible also connects the fear of the LORD with understanding, praise, instruction, avoiding being a fool, departing from evil, honor, humility, good counsel, might, stability, strength, treasure, and salvation.

Fear is a lot like the sensation of pain. Pain might be perceived as a negative. Until you realize that pain tells you to remove your hand from a hot stove. Tells you to go see a doctor when something’s not right. Keeps you from doing something stupid like jumping off a tall building or grabbing a live wire. Were it not for pain, many of us might be dead.

Fear has helped me “depart from evil.” God reminded me as He did Job in Job 28:28: “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

I remember a time in my life when I had fallen into the grip of sin that had a particularly strong hold on me. I could feel it sapping my strength, leading me away from God, and enslaving my mind, will, emotions, and spirit. For about a month I was in a free fall. Then for about the next three months, God unleashed the longest string of bad things that I can recall ever happening to me. Rapid fire. Almost daily. It brought me to my knees. There was no doubt in my mind that God was taking me to the woodshed, getting my attention. Scaring me to death.

“For if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

“Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

Many translations use the phrase “put to death.” I like the King James: “mortify.” It captures the feeling of being scared to death, “mortified.” Which is precisely what the fear of the LORD should properly do.

The fear of the LORD should make us scared to death to sin. That’s OK to say, all you who can’t conceive of a wrathful God. Remember, that fear, like pain, can be a healthy thing, often, the most gracious thing He can do.

Growing up as a kid, I was scared of my Dad. He had a temper. And I didn’t want to set it off. I did a few times. Like the time he told me to clean up my mess in the garage, and I let him know that I would get around to it when I was good and ready. I didn’t exercise a lot of wisdom on that one. And he gave me a dose of understanding. And trust me, he mortified my rebellious attitude.

My heavenly Father gave me a lesson I won’t forget. I won’t forget the pain and fear I experienced. But I dropped that sin cold turkey, and don’t plan on testing God on that one again.

I’m sure there are a few reading this who think I have a warped sense of God. Like He’s just sitting around waiting for us to mess up so He can zap us with a punishment. First of all, if we are His child, it’s not punishment. It’s discipline. Discipline has as its objective to bring about repentance and restoration. Punishment seeks only vengeance and judgment. God punishes those who are not His children. He disciplines those who are. Hebrews 12:4-11:

 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

The fear of the LORD is designed for our benefit, not His sick pleasure. If you think of God only as the forgiving, merciful, gracious, long-suffering Father, you are the one with the warped view of God. God has many dimensions. He is merciful, yet wrathful. Long-suffering, yet angry. To be friends with, yet to be feared.

And make no mistake, when the Bible says fear, it means fear. Scared to death. Don’t water it down. It’s not just respect. Not just reverence. Fear. The kind of fear that makes you drop that sin like a live wire.

A few years ago there was a popular slogan floating around pop culture that said, “No fear.” It was hip to pretend that you were afraid of nothing. There was even a clothing line called “No fear.” How foolish. Fear isn’t a thing to fear. Fear is a thing to embrace.

Why don’t we fear God like we should? Often, it’s because He is long-suffering. He doesn’t always zap us the minute we sin. There’s a principle in Scripture called the “Law of the Harvest.” Its tenets are: 1) You always reap what you sow; 2) You reap more than you sow; and 3) You reap later than you sow. It works both in the positive and negative. Sow a kernel of corn. You will reap several ears—a few months from now. Slip into sin. You’ll reap the whirlwind—maybe not right now, but soon enough. Satan uses that delay to fool us. We think we’ve gotten around God. But the discipline is coming. And praise God for it. Without it, we might just keep our hand on that hot stove till we’re fried. So be afraid. Be very afraid.

But look carefully at what God said, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” It’s the beginning. Not the end-all. It’s an immature believer who goes through life doing the right thing only because of the fear of consequences. That’s a good start. But go beyond fear as a motive. Let love be the end motive. As a boy, fear may have been my main motive for obeying or serving my Dad. As I grew up, love became my motive. Today, my earthly father is in Heaven. But oh, how I love him, and what a privilege it would be today for me to go clean out his garage.

There was a bumper sticker a few years ago that said, “Know God. No fear.” Clever, but not the best theology. Sure, God can remove illegitimate fears about this life and of the fear of death and hell. But to truly know God is to know fear. And ironically the fear of the LORD brings peace that passes understanding. Let God scare you to death. And in the process, He will lead you to life.

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The Year of Purpose

I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.

—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I’ve had this quote on my bulletin board since high school. It captures why I love writing, why I feel the need to write, and why I started this blog.

Going back to my teenage years, I’ve written a theme for most every year of my life. Sometimes in advance. Sometimes retrospectively. I think it’s important to slow down and reflect on life. And writing helps me do this.

2011 is The Year of Purpose for me. I’m trying to focus on making sure that every activity I spend time on is fulfilling the purpose for my life. It’s a lofty goal. And one of which I often fall short.

I often start my Year on my birthday, rather than on New Year’s Day. After all, that’s when I started. Recently, I turned one year shy of a half century. And about six years short of getting free Senior Coffee at McDonald’s. I can hardly believe what an old geezer I’ve become. But that only underscores the importance of making sure we squeeze every drop of life out of each passing year.

In looking back through some old prayer journals, I ran across a couple of entries I thought bore sharing. The first is a quadrant chart. I tend to think visually, and I’m fond of these charts that help me to see life at a glance.

I went through my typical week and made a list of all the activities in which I spend my time. I use the term “spend” very deliberately. Because that’s exactly what we do. Each day we get 1,440 minutes deposited in our life account. (Of course, no one is promised a single minute from now, but you know what I mean.) We make choices throughout the day as to how we spend them. Periodically in our life, we make major decisions in our life that pre-decide many of those choices. For example, when you accept a position of employment, you pre-decide how you will spend many of those minutes. When you get married, or have children, or become a Kentucky basketball fan, many of those choices are now virtually made for you. So I believe it’s important to periodically take inventory of those choices—the major ones and the minor, discretionary ones—to make sure you’re not spending your time without purpose.

In the chart below, there are two axes:

  • Horizontally, a continuum of Enjoyment
  • Vertically, a continuum of Fulfillment, as in fulfillment of my life purpose

Of course, you need to know what your purpose is, and that’s a whole ‘nother blog—or two. But in truth, we all have the same basic purpose—and it’s not about you. It’s all about God. Our purpose is to bring Him glory. In the words of the Westminster Catechism: “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Or as I’m learning in John Piper’s excellent book Desiring God, “to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” Subtle change. Profound difference.

So you might say the vertical axis is “Glorifying God” and the horizontal axis is “by enjoying Him.”

I encourage you to make your own chart and plot your own points. The object of life is to live as much as possible in Quadrant #1. Second best is Quadrant #2. Try to stay out of #3 and #4.

Sometimes, nay, often, it’s the attitude that needs adjustment, not the activity. But we need to strive to make sure that we’re living in Quadrant #1 most of our life. If not, make some adjustments—in your attitude and/or your activities. When making your chart, be honest, as I have tried to do. This is not an exercise in how things should be, but how they truly are.


I mentioned I had a second entry from my prayer journal that I would like to share it as well. Again, I encourage you to make your own list like the one below. Reflect. Repent. Restore. Renew.

If I was 90 looking back at my life, here’s what I wish I’d done:

  1. Memorized more Scripture.
  2. Taken advantage of more opportunities to witness and cared less about what people would think.
  3. Had more people over for dinner.
  4. Watched less TV; read more books.
  5. Taken an interest in other people more.
  6. Prayed more.
  7. Learned more about God from the Bible.
  8. Slowed down more to reflect on life.
  9. Been more positive. Seen the good in things.
  10. Passed along more compliments.
  11. Smiled more.
  12. Created more art (photography, paintings, etc.)
  13. Written more out of enjoyment.
  14. Started more family traditions.
  15. Showed my love for Tina more. (These are in no particular order!)
  16. Made my quiet time/devotions more intense.
  17. Been more intentional about witnessing to old friends, neighbors.

I’ve never understood or really believed people who say they have no regrets. I guess they mean that everything worked out for the good—even when if it started out bad. God often does that (click here for an example). But I can’t say I have no regrets. I regret every wasted minute that I didn’t bring glory to God by enjoying Him more. And there have been far too many of those minutes. May this little reminder help each of us to have more reflection and fewer regrets. If it happens, it won’t be by accident. It will very intentionally be on purpose.

P.S. Wondering what the photo of the airplane at the top of this post has to do with anything? If you want to know your specific purpose in life, while you’re glorifying God, discover what kind of airplane you are. If you’re wide and heavy, you’re probably made to carry cargo. If you’re fast and nimble, you’re probably a fighter jet. If you’re full of seats, you’re probably a passenger plane. There are all kinds of different planes. One-seaters. Two-seaters. Lear jets. Gliders. The Concorde. Everyone is unique. Don’t try to carry cargo if you’re small and fast. And don’t try to fight battles, if you’re broad and large. Don’t try to fulfill a purpose you’re weren’t designed to do. It’s not that difficult. Look how God designed you, aim high, and then soar.

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The Handwriting on the Wall

Graffiti

A vandal took a can of blood red spray paint a few nights ago, and scrawled on the walls of our home a love letter from God.

I’m quite sure God and love were the furthest things from his mind as he assaulted the front and both sides of our 168-year-old house with his graffiti. And I must confess, God and love were not my first thoughts when I discovered it the next morning.

But after the shock, the anger, the fear, the sense of violation and injustice subsided, it became perfectly clear that the handwriting on the wall was God’s.

House graffiti

Not that He caused it, but that He took something man clearly meant for bad, and turned it into good.

“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

God has a way of doing that. He was in the recycling business long before it was cool. He takes things that are diabolical, diseased, distressed, depressed, deprived, disgusting, discarded, dying, dead. He takes them and salvages them into something good, glorious, golden, great, grand, gleaming, gainful, gracious, godly.

He did it with my life.

And He’s done it in my life—over and over. The graffiti on the wall is just the latest example (more later about how He’s done that). But there have been many other times. Take for example the time the Southern Baptist Convention voted to merge the agency I worked for with another organization, effectively eliminating my job. We were distraught. Angry. No evil intended, I’m sure, but it felt that way. Yet a month later I was working at a church in the perfect position, a position that later helped me launch my own ministry. God meant it for good.

It’s no secret that our daughter Ginger was conceived out of wedlock. And the Planned Parenthood office offered to help us “take care of it.” Evil. Now we have not one but two wonderful daughters and two sons-in-love who love the Lord. Glorious.

I could go on and on. But I wanted to write specifically about how God has acted in this latest instance with the vandalism. Here are just a few of the ways He took a bad situation and produced good for us and glory for Himself:

  1. He protected us physically during the night it happened. Also, no property was harmed other than the damage caused by the paint.
  2. We have met and strengthened relationships with neighbors. Some have been in our home for the first time, and we’ve been in their homes for the first time. We bless the Lord for these important steps as we have been trying to reach our neighbors for Christ during our five years here. Hopefully, they have seen a peace and attitude through all this that points them to Christ.
  3. Prayers have gone up for the individual(s) who did it. They may never have been prayed for otherwise. (By the way, we have no idea who would have done something like this. There are are no words or symbols, only scribbling. The police think it was probably random.)
  4. We have been depending on God and His grace more during this time, spending more time with Him, focusing more on Him—things He wants all of the time.
  5. Pending the final decision by our insurance company, we may get our entire house painted for the cost of our insurance deductible. (Of course, our gain is the insurance company’s loss, and ultimately all of us pay for vandalism through higher premiums.)
  6. We have received encouragement and blessings from so many friends and neighbors, many of whom have graciously offered to come and help us clean up the mess.
  7. We—and others—have been reminded again of how God takes bad things and recycles them for good.

I’m quite convinced that nothing happens to us that God doesn’t allow. And if we can just be patient and wait for Him to do His work, we will see how it becomes something good. 100% of the time.

It reminds me of a story about a woman who was driving late one evening through a strange town when her car died in a  neighborhood where you don’t want to be alone at night. It was raining hard and very dark, and as she sat inside her car trying to decide what to do , she noticed a large man walking towards her car. She didn’t like the looks of him and locked the doors. He walked past the car, looked inside at her, and then turned back around. She didn’t want to look up, but he tapped on the window. She ignored him, focusing her attention on her cell phone. He knocked harder on the window and was talking to her, but she tried to tune him out and the rain was so hard she couldn’t hear anyway. He began to pound on the window and rock the car, screaming at her, and she began to panic and cry out. Finally, the man picked a stone and broke out the window of her car, reached inside the car, grabbed the door latch, and flung open the door. The woman screamed and fought as the man grabbed her and dragged her out of the car, both of them falling to the rain-soaked pavement. Just then, a locomotive screeched by on the rails, only a few feet away from the man and woman, as the car bent around the front of the train and slid sideways down the track. The woman’s car had stalled on the train tracks. The man was trying to save her life.

How often do we claw and fight our way though life as things happen to us. Some, evil things caused by evil people. Some, trials engineered by God to make us stronger. Some, temptations crafted by Satan to make us stumble. Some, consequences of the sinful choices we make ourselves. Yet in each case, God can take the bad thing and turn it into something good.

He did it for Joseph in Genesis 50 (click here for an excellent message about this from my pastor, David Prince). He’s done it for me. He will do it for you. Just look for the love letter from Him. It can show up in the most unexpected places.

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The Extinction of Creationists

I’m one of those dinosaurs who still believes in a literal seven days of Creation.

That’s right. I still believe that God created the heavens and the earth in seven literal, 24-hour days. How quaint.

We seem to be a vanishing breed, teetering on the brink of extinction. After all, can any educated, intelligent person defy millions of Darwinian scientists and still hang on to the incredulous notion that God just spoke it, and bang, it came into existence? Ex nihilo?

Yes, I do.

I write this post to answer the question, “Are you out of your mind?”

Because the answer to that question is “Yes.” I am out of my mind. Because the mind—human reason—is precisely the reason that Creationists are on the endangered species list. And perhaps this simple essay will keep just one or two from falling into the tar pits of Rationalism in which the judgment bar of human reason is the Ultimate Authority. Let’s look at Myth and Truth.

1.Myth—The Creation account (Genesis 1-2) is not meant to be taken literally.

Truth—Genesis 1-2 is literally true.I believe the Bible—every word of it—and strive to interpret it as its original audience would have interpreted it. And that means literally in most cases. In the case of Genesis 1-2, it’s definitely literal. That’s how Moses intended it to be taken, and of course, that’s how his readership took it. But, you may say, can’t the word “day” (Hebrew yom) mean both a period of time or a 24-hour day? Sure, it can. But never when used with an ordinal (first, second, third, etc.), as it is in Genesis 1-2. The 359 times “day” is used with an ordinal in the Bible, it’s always literal. And never when modified with “evening and morning,” as it is in Genesis 1-2. The 38 times “day” is used with “evening and morning,” it’s always literal. And never when used in the plural, as it is in Exodus 20:11 (when God gave the Fourth Commandment about the Sabbath [very literal language being used there!]), “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth…” The 845 times “day” is used in the plural, it’s always literal. 359 + 38 + 845 = 1,242 solid reasons to take Genesis 1-2 literally. What kind of contorted hermeneutic can you use to get around that!

What really amazes me are Christians who believe in God, yet think it too fantastic that the world was created in six literal days. I wonder how they ever get past the first four words of the Bible: “In the beginning God…” Once you get past the fourth word of the Bible, “God,” everything is possible. If Creation is a metaphor, what other miracles in the Bible are merely symbolic? It’s a slippery slope—more about that later. So now the question becomes…OK, I believe God could have created the world in six days, but did He? Or did He use evolution? Read on…

2. Myth—Creationism and Evolution (Darwinian, macro evolution) can be reconciled.

Truth—I’ve already addressed the Day-Age Theory above that supposes the seven days were seven geological ages. It’s not supported by any Scripture in any context. The second main theory posited to mesh the Creation account and Evolution is the Gap Theory. This theory proposes that there was a big gap of billions of years after Genesis 1:1 or in between each day of Creation. Again, this violates the literal language I’ve already mentioned above, but in addition, it violates the important Biblical principle that sin, and therefore death, entered the world as a result of the Fall. Romans 5:12 tells us that sin entered the world through Adam, and death through sin. There was no death or sin before Adam. So to say there was a gap(s) before Adam in which billions of organisms, including man, died and left fossil records does not line up with the rest of Scripture.

3. Myth—Creationism doesn’t explain the fossil record.

Truth—Imagine a worldwide, catastrophic flood, in which millions of gallons of water and mud quickly covered the earth, killing all plants and animals. The pressure from all that water preserved fossils and created layers of sediment, which explain what geologists find today. In fact, the flood explains how these creatures were preserved in such detail, with little rotting or decay, much better than Darwinian scientists can. Fossils are created by rapid, catastrophic change, not slow processes. (By the way, the flood is no myth either. Just look at all the flood stories that it spawned in various cultures, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh.)

4. Myth—The earth is billions of years old.

Truth—The earth is about 4,000 to 10,000 years old. Again, the flood accounts for much of the apparent aging of the earth. It was an epic event that forever changed, “scarred” the earth and its organisms. But, you say, don’t carbon dating methods prove otherwise? Carbon dating makes a huge assumption: that the decay rate of carbon isotopes has been constant throughout the supposed billions of years. But scientists have only been able to measure that rate of decay for about 70 years. How can they be sure the decay rate has been constant? They can’t. I lost a pound yesterday. Does that mean I’ll wither away to nothing in six months? I highly doubt it. Out of one side of their mouth, they talk about the huge changes and evolution that has occurred on earth. Out of the other side, they say the decay rate has been constant. And speaking of scientific contradictions…

5. Myth—Evolution explains the development of life.

Truth—Evolution takes more faith to believe than Creation. 1) It doesn’t explain the origin of life nor the origin of matter. Some scientists insist on reproducible evidence. Why then can’t they animate life from non-living matter? That’s what they claim happened in evolution. Why can’t they explain why there are no transitional fossils (that show one species morphing into another species)? Because it can’t happen. An organism reproduces “after its kind” (Genesis 1:24-25). How do they explain that mutations, essentially birth defects, make a creature more fit for survival? Mutations are harmful. How do they reconcile their contradiction of science’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, which essentially concludes that time would be the enemy, not the hero of evolution? How do they explain the complexity and intricate design of say, a human eyeball? That it fell together by chance? That takes much more faith than to say a Creator, an Intelligent Designer, designed it.

6. Myth—Only unintelligent, uneducated people believe in Creation.

Truth—Some of the most intelligent people I know are Creationists. Al Mohler. Adrian Rogers. Henry Morris. The list could go on and on. Creation vs. Evolution is not a battle of intelligence/education vs. ignorance. It’s a battle over authority. The Bible vs. Darwinian Science.

7. Myth—Only unscientific people believe in Creation.

Truth— The numbers of Intelligent Design scientists are on the rise. Just ask Ken Ham and his staff. He developed the Creation Museum, an excellent, scholarly, and fun experience in support of the literal Creation account. Creation vs. Evolution is not a battle of the Bible vs. Science. All science, properly interpreted, supports the Bible. And the Bible is 100 percent scientifically accurate. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t think the earth is flat any more than today’s weatherman thinks it’s flat when he uses terms like sunrise and sunset. In fact, the Bible mentions that the earth is round in several instances, such as Isaiah 40:22, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth…” Science is the friend, not the enemy of the Bible. Here’s a good video that helps make my point.

8. Myth—Most people believe in Evolution.

Truth—You got me there. Today, sadly, that seems to be true. Only four in 10 Americans believe in strict Creationism. See the results of a recent Gallup poll on this. But so what? I’m not really threatened by that. God’s road has always been the narrow one. And majority rule has no bearing on truth. If it did, then the Truth would always be changing. Because 200 years ago, Darwin was a toddler, had been baptized in the Anglican Church, and lived in a society that almost unanimously believed in Creationism. My point is how many people believe or don’t believe something has zero bearing on the truth. The moral relativism of today’s culture is plenty evidence of that. Again, the issue is not popularity. It’s authority.

9. Myth—Only old people believe in Creationism.

Truth—I have no facts to support this, but it’s probably largely true. I know plenty of young people who are Creationists, but sadly not as many as there used to be. But that’s a function of public education’s bias towards Evolution. And really proves nothing except that Truth is under attack, and Evolution is currently fashionable.

Taking the Offensive

Up until this point, I have been on the defensive, which is Biblical: “Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” 1 Peter 3:15. But let me take the offensive now for a moment.

Several events in my life precipitated this post, and one was a recent news story in the Lexington area about a University of Kentucky astronomy professor who was passed over for a promotion because he is a Christian. His suit contended that administrators assumed he was a Creationist, which he later denied. He ended up settling the case for $125,000. (By the way, if you’re wondering why most scientists are so stubbornly committed to the theory of Evolution, it all comes down to money. A scientist who supports Creationism has as much chance of survival in his career as a woolly mammoth in Miami.) Anyway, as a I posted a comment on the news site reporting this story, I ended up in an online commenting conversation with a man called “Nathan” who had a lot of problems with Creation and as it turned out, ultimately with God Himself. You can read the comments for yourself here, if you’re interested (I’m lthompson777).

The reason I brought that up is that it recently reminded me how hostile people are toward the Bible and God, and it really all starts in the Garden of Eden. There’s where the first Fall occurred, and today that’s where many still fall from God. Satan still slithers up and subtly says, “Did God really say?…” Doubt in God’s Word is a slippery slope toward Agnosticism and Atheism. It all starts with a belief that Creation is not literal. And it’s all downhill from there…one slippery step after another. Here’s the “evolution” of an atheist:

1. The Bible account of Creation is not literal, not true.
2. The Bible is not scientifically accurate; evolution is.
3. Much of the Bible was not written when and by whom it claims; it’s contrived.
4. The Bible is not historically accurate.
5. The Bible contains truth, but only as it relates to salvation. Maybe even just moral issues.
6. The miracles of the Bible are symbolic, not literal.
7. Hell is not real.
8. The virgin birth of the Bible is a metaphor.
9. The resurrection is symbolic.
10. Christ is an idea, a concept, a myth perpetuated and exaggerated by His disciples.
11. God is a concept, a crutch for the feeble minded.
12. Man is god; reason is the only authority.

Why am I so passionate about believing a “far-fetched” story that the entire universe was created in six days? Because everything rests on that. Everything about Evolution is diametrically opposed to God. The Truth is man is not another animal. We are created in God’s image. God didn’t create a world where death, disease, and decay existed before man. God created a perfect world. “It was good….It was very good.” Death entered the picture when man chose sin. God doesn’t condone survival of the fittest. He uses the weak and displays His power in our weakness. Evolution turns all that upside down. Man is just another animal sharing the planet. No one knows where he came from or where is he going. He makes his own rules and changes them as culture changes because life is just an accident anyway. There’s no Designer, no purpose, no hope, no life in the end. Just death and mutation. No one to be accountable to. And no one to save man from his own destruction.

I know I’m a dinosaur.  I know my kind is becoming extinct. (By the way, I believe dinosaurs existed, were on the ark, and became extinct soon after the flood because the enormous food supply they demanded was in short supply.) But I hope this relic of a post will be a fossil to some explorer who is seeking Truth. Perhaps they will find in it a snapshot of reality as it used to be, and the Truth that always was, always is, and always will be.

Good Resources

I’m no expert in these matters, but I firmly believe that there’s a valid answer and a solid response to every question and objection that Darwinian scientists throw at us. Here are a few good resources to get you started in looking for those answers. Please feel free to comment and add your own. And comment with questions, objections, and support.

Answers in Genesis

Southern Seminary Magazine-Winter 2011

Creation Museum

Creationism.org

Institute for Creation Research

The TalkOrigins Archive

Christian Answers

Answers in Creation

Creation Moments

CreationWiki

Creation Apologetics & Research Ministry

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