Revel in Creation

revel in creation

The Creator desires our worship. Man ought to revel in the glory of His creation. Indeed, to do so is to celebrate His omnipotence and infinite creativity. No other being in the universe can bring something into existence from nothing. The Creator is the grand and sole first cause—all else is effect.  No other being is so glorious and creative—God’s genius and splendor exceed even our wildest imaginings.  And that exuberant truth is worthy of celebration.

Satan has staged an ignominious coup d’état of the Creator’s magnificent creation, and though this usurper has plunged our reeling planet into an abyss of sin, suffering, and death, every atom still bears the mark of its Creator—every cell of every living thing on this wide earth, every law of physics, and every star in the sky shouts incalculable evidence of their Creator.

It is the blind who do not see the Creator’s signature, but they who do should revel in joy and sheer amazement at all they behold, and worship in simple adoration.

The Problem of Evil

The Problem of EVIL _ FINALThe person who rejects God based on evil’s existence has an insurmountable dilemma: if evil exists, God must also exist.  The problem of evil is not a challenge to God’s existence; rather, it is inevitable proof of it.

Belief in evil necessitates belief in God.  If evil exists, the converse is also true: good must exist.  And because both good and evil exist, a moral lawgiver must exist.  The person who denies the existence of God erodes the premise for any code of right and wrong.   Either God exists and we have the problem of evil, or there is no God and no ultimate right and wrong.  There is no final basis for right and wrong, no scale for good and evil, without moral law.  If it’s true that good and evil exist, the corollary truth is that God must exist.  We can’t have it both ways—if there is a moral law, there must be a moral lawgiver.

Nature neither necessitates nor dictates morality.  From amoebae to lions, there is lawless hunting and killing, which is neither right nor wrong.  Mere animal instinct exists and reigns.  But not so with humans.  Man possesses an innate sense of justice, law, and moral conduct.  This universal knowledge of right and wrong necessitates a lawgiver, else we would be mere animals.  To argue that society alone instills a sense of right and wrong is absurd—culture may shape moral conscience, but it can neither create nor dispel the intrinsic sense of right and wrong man possesses.

To deny God exists because of evil in the world doesn’t solve the problem, it only creates a larger one.  The very fact that man has the moral consciousness to postulate God’s nonexistence because of evil is proof that God is real—the atheist’s avid protestation that a “good God” cannot exist because of evil in the world is sufficient proof that He indeed does.

Ultimately, one does not need to defend belief in God against evil’s existence, but rather must defend belief in evil against God’s nonexistence. Instead of posing a predicament for Christianity, the problem of evil is one of the most universally recognizable proofs that a moral lawgiver exists.

The quandary of evil which prompted Epicurus to formulate his famous deduction of God’s nonexistence in 300 B.C. persists today, and drives many to the same faulty conclusion.  It is good to be angered because evil exists. But consciousness of evil should catapult us toward, and not away from, the very Lawgiver Who must exist since the problem exists.

In the end, the problem of evil is not a problem for the Christian because he has the answer; the problem of evil belongs to the naturalist.

Why the Resurrection is Paramount

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The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is arguably the most significant event in human history.  Of course, Christ’s resurrection is intrinsically interwoven with His birth, life, and death—but the absolute test of whether or not Christ’s teachings are valid and defensible is His resurrection.  If Christ had not resurrected from the dead, His life and teachings would be absent the final stamp of validity; indeed, all would be lost—the premise of Christianity would be eroded and the entire Gospel would crumble faster than a sandcastle when the tide comes in.

The Christian faith rises or falls with the resurrection: if Christ rose from the dead, we have everything, but if He did not, we have absolutely nothing.  The whole of Christianity is hinged upon the literal, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus as an actual event in history.  This inescapable conclusion is the thesis of the Apostle Paul’s dissertation on the resurrection which he gave to the Corinthians:  “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1Co 15:14).

Those who call themselves Christians and yet deny the bodily resurrection our Lord espouse an absurdity; Christ clearly foretold His resurrection, utterances which His disciples admit they did not understand until after He was raised, and to account His resurrection as allegorical is to render powerless the Gospel and erode the entire tenets of Scripture.  A New Testament without the resurrection would place it alongside Aesop’s Fables or Gandhi’s writings—or perhaps lower, for its account would be of someone who was deluded about himself and who intentionally duped others.  Such an account would not be moralistic literature, but crass and dishonorable, which Paul confirmed when he flatly states that if Christ were not raised, “we are found false witnesses of God.”  (1 Co 15:15).

An essential aspect of Christ’s resurrection, aside from its very underpinning of the Christian faith, is the hope it gives in the face of death.   Have you ever heard the agonized soul cry of someone who grieved without hope over a departed loved one?  I have, and it is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life.  Our Western society has trimmings which soften and mollify the cruel reality of death, but in many cultures, death comes with a starkness that leaves mourners empty, utterly hopeless, and often senseless with grief.  Those who labor among peoples who are unreached with the Gospel testify that about the most painful and agonizing part of their entire work is witnessing the wailing and hopelessness that accompanies burying the dead.

In Bruchko, Bruce Olson tells of such an encounter while living and working with the murderous Motilone tribe in South America.  A Motilone had been bitten by a poisonous snake and had died.  Bruce came upon a scene of desperation and despair.  The dead man’s brother had dug a deep hole in the jungle floor, and with disheveled hair and wild eyes, was calling into the hole, “God, God, come out of the hole.”  He believed his brother was lost and without hope, and was trying to intercede and find God for him.  Motilones never cried or even whimpered under the greatest pain, but this man was beside himself, uttering excruciating yells and cries.  He had been shouting into the hole since sunrise, and came up to Bruce with eyes empty as night, exclaiming, “It’s no use.  We have been deceived.”  That moment was a turning point in Bruce’s ministry, and using that experience, he presented the Gospel to the Motilones in a way they could comprehend.

The reality of death without hope is also poignantly illustrated in the story of the Mouk tribe of Papua New Guinea.  The typical Mouk response to the Gospel was extraordinary and singularly impressive: at the time a village comprehended the Gospel, nearly the entire populace spontaneously erupted in joy and with exuberant celebration, often lasting for hours.  The Mouk of one such village, after an initial display of joy, suddenly began weeping and mourning; when asked by the perplexed missionary of the reason, they gave their stirring reply.  They were weeping for all their ancestors and loved ones who had died without knowledge of the Gospel.  They were weeping because the Gospel had come too late—generations too late.

And I wept, too, as the heart-wrenching reality of eternity without Christ sank deep into my being.  Lost, doomed, dammed.  Without hope, and forever gone.  In the story, the Mouk rejoiced again after a period of grieving.  But I could not rejoice so soon, and my heart still grieves for the Mouk and countless other people groups who lived and died—and who to this day live and die—without knowledge of Christ.

This pointed grief is precisely what Paul referenced in his case for the resurrection: if Christ were not raised, then we are yet in our sins, those who died are perished, and “we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Co 15:17-19).  To the Thessalonians, he explained that because of the resurrection, we Christians do not grieve for those we died in Christ “as others which have no hope.”  (1 Thess 4:13).

No wonder that Paul, after outlining the litany of hopelessness had not Christ resurrected, interjects with triumph, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”   (1Co 15:20).  Since Christ has arisen, the dread power of death is destroyed.   The resurrection is a coup d’état on the grandest scale; when Jesus’ body was restored from the grave, the inexorable grip of the enemy was shattered.  What this portends for man is staggering: the universal fear of death is broken, and the gaping grave is no longer victorious.  Because Christ arose, we who believe in Him shall also.  He is the firstfruits; the full resurrection harvest of the righteous of all the ages will follow.

Death is a miserable foe; though the power of death is destroyed and its sting is removed, in the present order, Death still conquers.  But for those who embrace the last Adam, its triumph is momentary, and shallow.  We know that upon the return of our Lord Jesus, graves will burst and our earthly bodies will be transformed “like unto His own glorious body.”  (Phil 3:21).  Then Death, the last enemy, will be forever vanquished.  There is no way to express our triumph and humble praise more aptly than to rejoin with Paul: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Co 15:57).

The True Measure of a Man’s Greatness

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IF THE GREATEST commandment is to love God, and the second to love man as oneself, then it follows that the measure of a man’s greatness must be in how well he has followed this law of love.  His greatness cannot be accounted merely by what he performs—that is, neither by personal piety and acts of worship (prayer, Bible reading, fasting, corporate worship, etc.) nor by outward religious duties (visiting the sick, acts of charity, etc.).

The inward protest immediately arises, “But I do those things because of love—love for God, and love for man!”  Perhaps so, and that is precisely the issue which has been laid bare and must be burned into our heart, mind, and soul: “Why do I do the things I do?”

A Christian performs acts of piety and deeds of love because he has a heart of love; he does not have a heart of love just because he does these things. This distinction is narrow, but definitive; it becomes the great motivational divide between that which is eternal and that which God considers nothing.  God stunningly reveals that eloquence, great prophetic ability, superior spiritual knowledge, great manifestations of faith, giving to the poor, and even martyrdom are nothing if not prompted by love (1 Cor. 13:1-3)—a sober reminder, indeed, of the great divide.

This measurement reduces all we do to the least common denominator of love.  A river can only accommodate as large a vessel as its most shallow depth permits.  The motive of love instantly becomes a pass of Thermopylae through which all our actions must maneuver.

Jesus Himself clarified this true measure of a man’s greatness: the greatest among you will be your servant (Mt. 23:11).

A man can serve without loving but he cannot love without serving. In either instance, he serves by compulsion.  In the first, by an outward compulsion—either coercion or fear of man.  In the second, by an inward compulsion—the law of divine love.

Truly, the greatest of these is love.

REACH 2017: I Can Tell Something is Bothering You

Here are my presentation notes for I Can Tell Something is Bothering You, a session at REACH 2017 on issues facing our Anabaptist youth:  I Can Tell Something is Bothering You.

I plan to post additional survey results and further analysis on replies to the following open-ended questions:

  • What do you appreciate about our Anabaptist heritage?
  • Is there anything about our Anabaptist heritage/culture that you struggle with?
  • What do you fear most about your future?
  • What is the most painful thing that ever happened to you?

Unanswerable Questions

question answer cloudI AM LEARNING that it is okay to ask unanswerable questions: Why am I suffering? Why is God silent?  Why doesn’t He answer my prayers?  Why doesn’t God perform a miracle?

WHAT IF the questions I am not able to answer are the most important ones that I ever ask?  What if they have more significance than the questions I have answers for?

It’s not so much the questions I ask, but Who I ask them to, and ultimately—who is doing the asking.  In other words, what kind of person is doing the asking?  And sometimes, the answer to that question is the only one I can provide.

ALL MEN ask unanswerable questions, though not all are honest enough to acknowledge their asking.  The Greatest Man shouted the greatest “Why” question ever from atop Golgotha.

On what basis are unanswerable questions the most important?  The answers I provide show who I am—and at the end of the day, that truly is of utmost importance.

Pricks from Thorns

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Thorn Pricks

Pricks from thorns, but oh—the fair roses!

Sleepless nights, but oh—the joy and peace which comes in the morning!

Weary days and darksome ways, but oh—the faith and trust engendered!

Failure and disappointment, but oh—the grace and mercy God pours unending!

Dusty, thirsty journey, but oh—the eternal glory just around the bend!

Meditations of an Insomniac

the night outside

If you are unable to sleep,
it is best to lose all sense of time and the passage of slow hours.  Turn the clock away from your bloodshot gaze.

Watch not the constellations wheel in the heavens above, nor the moon plow its unwearying course through the night sky.  Such contrivances only serve to excite the fevered mind and remind the weary body of its pitiful plight.

Turn instead to worship, and muse on things pleasant.  Ponder the goodness of God, and meditate on the splendors of His Person.  See how He has brought you to repentance, and bask in the wonders of grace. Commune upon your bed with the One Who loves and knows you best.

Recall sweet scenes from yesteryear, and life’s summer days of joy and gladness.  Conjure aspirations for tomorrow, should your days be continued.

Fix the heart and mind upon that which is greater than yourself.  Don’t focus on your failures and disappointments.  That will only bring further sleeplessness.  Turn instead to God’s grandeur, to the beauties and wonders of nature.  Worship.  Even if sleep does not come, an ultimate good was served by the night’s passage.

And remember, insomnia has very rarely killed anyone–but worry’s ax has felled many a fellow.

Escape From the Dungeon of Discouragement

 dungeon of the soul

Each of us faces times of discouragement, when all is dark and we are chained in a dungeon of the soul, with little hope and seemingly no escape.  Here are a few simple steps I’ve found which lead out of the darkness.

Invest in the lives of others. When I serve, I am blessed.  Relationships, relationships.  People are always more important than things and hobbies.

Remain optimistic.  There are innumerable circumstances which lure a person into despair.  Don’t succumb.

Cultivate a longing for Christ’s presence and heaven.  This earth is only a prelude.

Enjoy beauty and nature’s serenity.  There are few woes not lightened by a half hour’s walk in the wood or field.

Trust the Heavenly Father.  God is in control.  Really, He is.  The sovereign God of all the universe has not abdicated His throne.

Remember the little adage, “This too shall pass.”  I often add a second line: “Then who will I have become?”  In other words, my response to life is more important than the problems of life.  And after all—my response is about the only variable of life I can control.