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Posts Tagged ‘ultimate issues’

         I enjoy viewing educational YouTube videos, particularly about Science. I recently watched several videos written and narrated by astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is extremely intelligent, articulate, and fast on his feet when replying to detractors. In our culture we listen to experts. They are informed and intelligent so we should listen to them, right? We should ask, “What is your source of truth?” Mr. Tyson claims that his only source of truth is empirical data, information acquired by observation or experimentation. In one of these videos he says1, “Does the Universe have a purpose? I’m not sure, but anyone who expresses a more definitive response to this question is claiming access to knowledge not based in empirical foundations.” He proceeds to claim that the perspective held by religions and some philosophies that the universe has purpose has failed to explain our universe. He then dismantles, or so he believers, all claims that we can know that the universe has purpose. I am among those who believe that the universe does have purpose, being created by God, and I freely admit and proclaim that this knowledge is not based on limited empirical evidence, though supported by it. Mr. Tyson’s logical fallacy, I submit, is to assume that his supposed empirical foundations are sufficient to explain the universe and why we cannot know the universe has a purpose. He overlooks his own presuppositions: we cannot know that God exists, that God in fact does not exist, and that Mr. Tyson operates purely on empirical data.

         Evidence that God exists is all around us as I have shown in past articles and which Scripture declares (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:19-20). In this article I want to present evidence that those who claim that they operate purely on empirical data do not and cannot. In another MinutePhysics video2 Mr. Tyson is discussing the sequence of events that he and many other scientists believe characterized the universe after the Big Bang. In the midst of this storyline he admits that “under these extreme conditions in what is admittedly speculative physics…” Why is it speculative? It is so because there is no way of directly observing a time with those conditions or reconstructing those conditions because they defied the presently understood laws of Physics. This scenario is supposed to be what we know of the past and yet is based on fanciful conclusions based on faith and not observation. He is nearly two minutes into his seven minute history of the universe when he says, “continuing on with what is now laboratory confirmed physics” He then explains how particles decaying and colliding settle things down to the Physics we now observe. The statement is misleading (presumably not intentionally) because it assumes that what can happen in laboratory experiments and does happen periodically in nature is what did happen in mass to set the course of the universe long ago. Such “observations” are conclusions based on hypothetical scenarios, not inevitable results of data. Another example of this type of observation was the conclusion in March of 2014 that cosmic microwave background radiation had “proved” the inflationary expansion just after the Big Bang. But in June of the same year the researchers came to a different conclusion: “Now a careful reanalysis by scientists at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, also in Princeton, has concluded that the BICEP2 B-mode pattern could be the result mostly or entirely of foreground effects without any contribution from gravitational waves.”3 So, the hypothesis concerning the moments after the Big Bang was wrong. The author of this quote explains that many scientists do not conclude that inflationary hypothesis was therefore disproved. Instead, these scientists say this hypothesis is sufficiently flexible to be “immune to experimental and observational tests.” What we are seeing is ‘empirical data’ without observation, which of course is not empirical at all. As Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes say, “ It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

 

1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pL5vzIMAhs “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?”

2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KYTJ8tBoZ8 “A Brief History of Everything”
3 http://www.nature.com/news/big-bang-blunder-bursts-the-multiverse-bubble-1.15346

4 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four, A Scandal in Bohemia

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“Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued,” quoted my pastor of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Paul declared,But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11

As we get nearer to Christ through years of devotion and repetition of trials, we discover more His value and less the worth of all that we held so dearly without cause. The pastor’s quote drove me immediately to a quote of another Christian who had drawn close to the Savior just before his death: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot (This may actually be a quote he had memorized after reading the English nonconformist preacher, Philip Henry, though it is not possible to know.) Elliott was willing to put all of his fears and desires on hold to reach for eternal gain.

Is there a pattern here? Do we value more that which is valuable as we gain a greater glimpse of Him who is valuable? Does that relate closely to the time of our home-going (heavenward, I mean)?

“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!” Keith Green

Bonhoeffer’s and Elliot’s lives were cut short directly as a result of pursuing Gospel-centered lives and Green’s while focusing on spreading the Gospel. It seems that this pursuit of God is dangerous. But perhaps that perspective of saying that it is dangerous is still that of one afraid to totally let go and serve God. Maybe that pursuit of God is really exciting and the seemingly early demise of these believers is the reward of hot pursuit of their goal. If your appointed, that is God ordained, assignment is complete your demise is neither untimely nor problematic, though I am not ignoring the hurt and discomfort it causes loved ones.

We could also quote other saints who outlived most everyone around them while seeking God with all their heart: “If I had a thousand pounds China should have it—if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour?” Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

Still, there is some truth to the difficulty of living for Christ which Taylor, Judson, Carey, and many others would quickly attest. But so did Paul: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” II Timothy 3:12 And G.K. Chesterton confers: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

Watchman Nee was one of those exceptions of the type I am quoting here, “And it is through conflict that God induces the believer to seek and to grasp total triumph in Christ.” (1903-1972; died in prison for his faith)

What are we “normal folk”, Christians not called to foreign lands or extreme conditions, to do? There is much instruction about “ordinary living” but here are verses that show that it too is ordained by God for His glory: But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.” I Thessalonians 4:10-12 The quiet life is not the undisturbed life. If you witness to your neighbors and live in purity before God, someone will notice and be irritated enough to bother you. Recall the II Timothy 3:12 verse above. And no one is a stranger to difficulty in this fallen world. Not for the sake of “some action” in the persecution arena or difficulty district but for the purpose of knowing your Savior and enjoying Him far more than now, don’t be afraid to count what is eternally rubbish as loss to gain what is eternally priceless, knowledge and intimacy with Christ. May God enable you and me to so do, rejoicing in the process and the outcome.

 

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I break the present silence with trepidation because as always I feel compelled to be honest and that is hard when you have also been foolish in the eyes of others. So, I will start off slowly and get around to several points in a circuitous way.

At 4 AM on New Years Day, my precious wife awoke with what I now know to be “having a stroke”. She rubbed her head both front and back, complaining of it hurting and could not recognize me speaking to her. There is so much I am not saying because it is too hard to say, and there have  been many doubts and tears. We finally arrived at the hospital for a 3 night stay. Thankfully the stroke did not effect her motor skills other than a general, temporary weakness. She walked into the ER, spoke in a limited way without slurred speech, grasp numerous nurses and doctors hands and pushed against their resistance. Instead, her language center was arrested. She could not say names, mine, her own, and to her, most notably, her children. She could not understand many instructions which led one doctor to conclude she had motor skill deficiencies because she could not follow his instructions to apply pressure against his push.

I am going to post several poems that came 2 weeks after the events described above that reveal some of my reactions to all that I saw and experienced during this time as a result of seeing my wife’s debilitation and having family push me this way and that. The reflections are obviously focused around my thoughts and struggles concerning the stroke my wife had and are therefore skewed away from the events to my feelings about the events. No one is truly objective afterall though that does not mean untruthful. My first poem is a short one that deals with the immediate “why” question, to which there is no answer other than “He is good”:

I know in my heart that God is good
His Word declares it so
From His works to show
How His providence and care
The abundance He does share
Reveal that He is kind
And powerful and involved and good

If you have not yet concluded by faith that He is good you will probably ask endlessly “Why”, or perhaps, accuse Him, when it is sin in the world that is the cause of so much pain and suffering. Oh, so its sin and not Him. Why didn’t you say so? It is because all good and ill is filtered through His providential hands, otherwise He is not truly God: “I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11) Here it is, pay careful attention, those of you who want to soften God down, “who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good or evil'” (Zephaniah 1:12): “I am the Lord, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” (Isaiah45:6-7) Wow what a tangent! But it is not a false one because His goodness is based on His sovereignty- He is not fickle; He has purpose, much of which He has made known and yet is inscrutable by man. He is good and there is purpose in difficulty and harm we experience.

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Having reviewed the biblical doctrine of the Trinity I now turn to its application by God to all God-ordained social institutions. Because we have refused to understand how God’s character is expressed in what He has created and ordained we try to re-invent social institutions apart from God, effectively destroying them.  I will allow several days for study before I fill in the blanks. (Lest I be called for plagiarism, I must acknowledge the ideas of Del Tackett in “The Truth Project”. I have digested and added my own study and organization to his framework.)  Click on Outworking of the Trinity to start the study.

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About a month ago I was leading our Sunday School class in a quick discussion of what the the Bible says about the Trinity and what it doesn’t. Confusion about God’s triune nature is not merely a theological blunder. It effects how you live because theology has consequences. Misunderstandings and refusals to believe the basics of God’s character and intra-relationship of His persons result in more than difference of conviction. It results in heresy. We cannot fully understand the Trinity because it our logical ability to resolve the interplay of the three Scriptural declarations about who the triune God is. Read my attempt at clarifying the issues involved by clicking on Trinity

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We are drawn to strength and power. Whether it incites fear because of its wildness and antagonism or security because of its protection and deterrent, we are curious and awestruck and enamored by the sight and use of power and strength. Strength is the shear magnitude of force that may be brought to bear on an object whereas power is how fast that strength may be utilized to move or deflect an object. But how do we account for all powerful, omnipotent. Is it just a hypothetical construct? Or perhaps it is a “my dad is bigger than your dad” scenario invented by Christians trying to justify their puny conception of reality. Is it necessary to God’s character and is it true? Does the Bible teach that God is omnipotent?

Having previously discussed God’s infinite character in “Omniscience”, Omnipresence”, and “To Infinity and Beyond”, I submit that omnipotence is indeed a necessary part of God’s nature in order for Him to be infinite any respect and infinite in knowledge and presence in particular. How can He know all things if He is not everywhere at once? And how can He be all places at once if He is not all powerful? Or else on the latter question He is but a background noise in the universe that influences nothing and no one. But He is active. We know that He is because we observe it in nature; we observe it in changed lives; we observe it in answers to prayer. His influence reaches throughout all of Creation and into all spheres (physical and spiritual). So if God is omnipotent, what is possible for Him to do?

God can save to the uttermost. “And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”  And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” (Matthew 19:23-26)  In fact, Isaiah 63:1 says that He is “mighty to save”. ‘

This power of His makes Him the only Sovereign: “Why should the nations say,“Where, now, is their God?” But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” Psalm 115:2-3  

He is so powerful that nothing He does may be changed, for it says, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)  Having seen His power to bring down and rise up, to produce wind and lightning and storm Job declared, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:1-2)  

He spoke the Creation into existence out of nothing, for II Peter 3:5 says, “it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago”. His judgments have been and will be with great and unassailable power. He will form the new heavens and new earth to stand fast forever.

But there are things that God cannot do, or more accurately, will not do. Anything contrary to His nature He will not do. Titus 1:2 gives to us who are trusting His promises great encouragement when Paul reports on our salvation, “the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago”. And James 1:13 proclaims, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Since there is no evil in God, none proceeds from Him nor influences Him. Another discussion seems outside what the Bible proclaims about God. There is a hypothetical argument in Physics that pits an immovable object against an unstoppable force. But if the adjectives both hold true, then these two items have infinite inertia and strength, respectively, making them strictly speaking gods. But the Bible is clear on this point when it teaches that there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). There are several ways out of this problem, but saying there is no God is not acceptable on either logical (look around you man) or biblical grounds (Romans 1:19-20). Perhaps neither of the objects exist (it is hypothetical afterall), or perhaps only one of them exists, or perhaps they describe the same object, namely God. The argument reminds me of another one that the skeptic likes to bring up to throw the believer off kilter and off subject (You need Jesus!). Can God make a boulder so big that He cannot lift it? If the boulder were that big it would be infinite. If it were infinite then it would be god. Then there would be two gods and not one as the Bible declares. And in reality there would be no gods because neither is fully sovereign, so no, God will not make a boulder too big that He cannot lift it.

For the Christian there are a number of daily applications to this concept of God’s omnipotence. We may feel secure. This security is a great gift from God, but this is not the reason we are here. How does God’s power enable us to fulfill His mission, which is our mission? His mission is glory to Himself through our spreading of the Gospel. His omnipotence enables us to defeat spiritual forces through prayer when witnessing and during spiritual opposition. His power enables us through the Holy Spirit’s work to overcome the sin and temptation in our own lives. Witnessing is the hardest thing to be involved in because of resistance from the world, the flesh, and the devil. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)  And we are speaking life to dead people who don’t even know that they are spiritually dead, separated from God. Their non-response, or conversely their antagonism, proceeds from this separation from God. We are in every sense in spiritual battle and need God’s power to overcome darkness in the form of hatred, apathy, skepticism, and our own faltering tendencies.

May God’s omnipotence be pleased to include us in His mission for His purposes and glory and our growth and joy. Amen.

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He is everywhere all the time- ubiquitous location! He doesn’t have to rush to get somewhere because He’s already there. If you can observe all situations in all locations you can know everything. We are so tied down by location. We say, “I can’t be two places at once,” but what about an infinite number of places all of the time? 

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
 Or where can I flee from Your presence?
 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
 If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
 If I take the wings of the dawn,
 If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
 Even there Your hand will lead me,
 And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”  Psalm 139:7-10

David grapples with this transcendent attribute of God in a very personal way. There is no escape from God’s presence resulting in God’s complete control of David’s path. Many find such an arrangement very confining, but David finds His presence and thoughts of him comforting, for “when I awake, I am still with You.” Psalm 139:18b  

So why do we pretend to hide actions from God?

“…she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”  He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”  And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”  Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” Genesis 3:6-13

Adam and Eve hid in at least 3 ways. They sewed figs leaves as coverings. They hid in the garden. Adam hid by standing by passively and receiving the fruit from Eve without comment.Then they hid by casting blame on others: the woman you gave me, the serpent. But God had no difficulty finding their location or their orientation toward Him. God was gracious to give them opportunity to admit what they had done, but they just kept hiding when they began the blame game. God was present during the whole scenario, but gave them free choice to obey or disobey. 

“Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”  He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”  Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.” Jonah 1:7-10

As if he could flee from God’s presence, Jonah tries and the men think he is, or at least is trying. Our lack of understanding of God’s omnipresence is baffling. If Jonah is fleeing but the storm results from God’s pursuit then Jonah is not really getting away and they know it and fear. Our thoughts and attempts are logically inconsistent. We should cease trying to get away, but if we are tempted to attempt it, we should fear. Like the mouse between the cat’s legs, we may run but we are always firmly within His grasp. God addresses the preposterous nature of such attempts: 

““Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord,
“And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places
So I do not see him?” declares the Lord.
“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:23-24

Though God is everywhere He is not just anywhere. We who believe in the God of the Bible are not because of this doctrine become pantheists. God is Creator, not created. He is over, around, within, and beside all created things but He is separate: 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2

He sees the wicked and knows their ways but He dwells with others:

“You felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’
Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you;
For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” Isaiah 47:10

“The Lord is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.” Proverbs 15:29

Besides communicating the immediacy of God’s presence the following passage points out that God is both transcendent in His presence and personal in His presence.

“”For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.”” Isaiah 57:15

Since God is always present with us whether we sense it or not, we may take comfort in His powerful presence. We who have trusted Jesus and belong to God are secure. In some of His last words Jesus promised: 

“Lo,I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 

And because of His presence we should be desirous and careful to act in a way that is pleasing to Him. It is our motivation to be pleasing to Him and because He is near He sees all. He is also near in that He is coming again to take us to be with Him for eternity. 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4

His nearness is comfort to us and dreadful to the wicked.  We should be careful to live for Him out of thanks for all He has done. The wicked should repent of their wickedness and not pretend to be able to hide from Him or avoid His judgment. He is here. He sees. He knows. Take heed.

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