Totality: God’s Scientific Signature On Life

eclipse1I jaunted down to Idaho on Monday in a bid to catch the solar eclipse in totality.

Had to take a day off work to do it. 900 miles of driving in 28 hours. The same weekend as a 35-mile hike. I was too exhausted to stay awake on the drive back to town after the event (my aunt drove back), and I got a bit sick at work the following day.

Worth it.

Words suck to describe a total solar eclipse. The awe, the indescribable wrongness of a giant hole-like thing staring down like a glaring eye – it’s bizarre. Chilling. Powerful. The shadow rushed towards and over us from the western horizon. Everything got cold. The corona hung frozen around the moon’s edges like white fishnets (or Bernie Sanders’ hair). It looked – well, three-dimensional. Like real objects blow you away after you’ve only viewed the 2-D pictures.

But the most awe-inspiring part was the scientific articles I read beforehand.

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Reflections on “The Case for Christ”

“Stop blaming me, and the church, and God, and do your job!”

That exclamation from a Christian to the character of atheist Lee Strobel in Pure Flix’s The Case for Christ (based on the book of the same name) landed on my soul like an affirming balm. I wanted to fist-pump. Echoing in those words is the frustration and annoyance of Christians worldwide and down through the millennia.

It’s not that getting mocked for our faith surprises us (as long as we’ve read our Bible). What’s frustrating is how lazily it’s done.

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“God’s Only Excuse is Easter!”

flowersIn Disappointment with God, author Philip Yancey describes a series of conversations with a young friend named Richard, who has turned away from the faith.

One of Richard’s big beefs with the idea of God is the conundrum of suffering. This one gets us all. Why does a loving and powerful God allow suffering, and all that.

Over the last few years, I’ve felt a part of me becoming impatient with that question, as I’ve found too many skeptics to be merely hiding behind it rather than honestly seeking an answer. And there are answers. But I’ve tried to hold off my cynicism and remain understanding, for I know suffering weakens and disheartens. It’s especially true for the skeptic, as they have no hope of an “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8) to sustain them.

After lambasting God for his treatment of Job, his apparent detachment from mankind, and every other angle he can, Richard eventually rounds it out with an interesting phrase:

“God’s only excuse is Easter!”

It was one of those phrases that sums up everything you’ve ever suspected but never quite has the eloquence or brevity to say.

I wouldn’t say Richard is theologically correct in saying that. God has, off the top of my head, at least one other great excuse for allowing suffering: the chance to demonstrate his ability to sustain and empower us in the middle of it. It’s quite Scriptural to say that this is sometimes the sole reason for our suffering: creating an opportunity for him to make our hearts ironclad, untouchable by despair and brimming with joy even in jail or on the sickbed.

But you have to admit: even if Easter were God’s only excuse, it’s a whopper of an excuse.

If the claims of Christianity are true, an afterlife is available whose gladness far outweighs any pain we experience on this earth (Romans 8:18) – and for those who reject it, a penalty whose horror far outweighs any peace, prosperity, or good we achieve on this earth.

Which means that judging God by what happens on this earth is…well, you can hardly call it a worthy verdict.

The ideas of heaven and hell may feel like cheap cop-out and motivation, respectively, for a church trying to boost its numbers. It may feel ridiculously out of touch with our modern era’s respect for what can be seen, felt, and proven. It may feel like the last thing you want to hear in the midst of today’s suffering.

But how it feels has no bearing on whether its claims are true.

That is why the claims of Christianity are too great to ignore, or dismiss as good-for-you experiential truth. They demand examination.

And if the story of the resurrection of Christ truly happened, if it bears examination then it’s all true – making the Gospel a message of enormous generosity, and enormous warning.

Though God is bringing all things together for his own glory first and foremost, he is hardly callous enough to leave our groaning hearts out of the equation. He has promised us rewards. He has prepared a great many things for those who will believe; he asks only that we receive him.

I pray fervently that the unbeliever might examine these claims.

Nine Prophecies in Two Chapters

starI read Matthew’s Christmas story last night. It took no less than two chapters to blow me away.

Reading God’s word is never a chore, for we always uncover something fresh and unexpected. This time, for me, it was the sheer number of prophecies being fulfilled about Jesus before he could even walk. You can’t swing a dead cat in Matthew 2 without hitting a prophecy. These events were seemingly random, sometimes tragic, and it’s difficult to imagine that the prophets who described them even understood how they would unfold. In just the first two chapters, there are a whopping nine prophecies fulfilled, making the likelihood of fulfillment almost astronomical without even accounting for prophecies in other books.

Let’s get into it.

 

#1: The virgin birth fulfilling Isaiah 7:14

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (1:20-23)

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4 Areas Where You Can Travel-Proof Your Child’s Faith

travelproofAs a youth worker with eight years of experience, I’ve known the pain of watching my old students lose their grip on faith.

Sometimes it’s on them; they just decide it’s more interesting to live the way they want. But sometimes the loss looks more akin to theft, being snatched way by the brutal realities of life after high school. They “get out into the world” and quickly find themselves mired in a slog of doubt, and the strength needed to wade through is rare.

It’s interesting – as I’ve prayed over and grieved these friends, I’ve seen their struggles fall into categories. This is encouraging, as naming the battleground is sometimes half the battle. These are categories that many youth groups address with all their might, but there simply is no substitute for a parent’s influence – your influence – in your child’s life.

I humbly offer some brief thoughts, in the hope that they might help you build a faith that will survive travel and the post-high-school world.

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The Uncertainty of Life and the Certainty of Death: A Tribute to Joey Feek

joey

A few months ago, I started work as a legal assistant at a law firm, where we represent a lot of folks near death. Occasionally, I’ll be poring through a file and find a Last Will and Testament staring back at me, marked with that austere font associated with death. (I really don’t care what’s written on my tombstone – just write it in Comic Sans. Lighten the mood a little.) Many of the clients with whom I converse aren’t in the greatest of moods. They’re contemplating their mortality for the first time, and it’s scaring them, throwing them off their game, making them impatient and grasping.

They’re looking for something on which to seize.

I’m reminded of an article I read recently, lamenting that modern worship songs rarely speak of death, as the old hymns did. It made me think. Those were the days the world respected God. Now it thinks it’s evolved past the need for him, but I don’t buy it. Death will usually make anyone pause. A high-rise window, a worrisome lump, or a twist of the wheel is sometimes all that stands between us and the unknown. There are no atheists in a foxhole, and all that.

The world is looking for something on which to seize.

Enter Joey Feek.

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A Message to Unbelievers on “Keeping the Faith to Ourselves”

messageI hear it all the time. “It’s fine to believe what you believe – just keep it to yourself,” you say. “Faith should be a personal thing.”

Or the more crass version: “Religion is like a [male body part]. Any guy can have one, but once you start waving it in people’s faces, it becomes a problem.”

Noted actor Denzel Washington is a Christian. He has been praised in certain circles for not “wearing his faith on his sleeve”. Apparently people see this as a sign of maturity and restraint on Mr. Washington’s part, a demonstration of how religion should be lived.

If you are one of those people, I come to you in friendship. But I honestly must question how much you really know about our faith.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Imagine for a moment that you had terminal cancer, but nobody told you. Your doctor withheld the diagnosis. Your family didn’t call attention to the warning signs. Your friends said they “didn’t want to upset you”. Would you be grateful and appreciative?

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