Is My Faith Really Blind?

I have to apologize for not getting this post in earlier, but yesterday I felt the need to be a fun dad and take my kids to the zoo. I don’t know what it is about zoos, but children always seem to enjoy themselves at them. Truth is, my inner child came out while I was there and I thoroughly enjoyed myself as well. It really is something to be able to see the king of the jungle up close and personal. Most of the times I have gone to a zoo the lion is so far away I feel like I cannot even get a real idea of the true size of these powerful creatures. Yesterday he was at the front of his enclosure. He was sitting a good 20 feet away! There was nothing sitting between he and I accept for a piece of glass. It truly was amazing. As we continued our journey we go to see a variety of God’s creatures. We saw more bats that I care to see, beautiful peacocks all over the grounds, king penguins which always capture my attention to see their beauty under the water. Speaking of under the water, we got to go through an enclosed aquarium enabling me to see sharks swimming above my head (not exactly a view I want to see outside of the aquarium). All day long we enjoyed seeing God’s handiwork. As the day drew to a conclusion we decided to catch a move at the IMAX on lemurs. After all, who doesn’t love lemurs? They are playful, cute, and according to my youngest they look like kitties. To top it off the voice of the iconic Morgan Freeman was heard throughout the film. He has such an easy voice to listen to. (I’d love to get a recording of him reading the bible). This is where the day took a turn that was inevitable. The movie began discussing the link between primates and humans. It discussed how millions of years ago this and that happened. It discussed how the lemurs evolved on Madagascar.

It never fails that while my children study about what fascinates them, they are taught about evolution. And it never fails that while I try to teach my children about creation, evolution, and whether or not this universe was created by God or evolved over billions of years that I am looked as the odd one. Perhaps some of you feel will feel that I am off base when it comes to teaching my children creationism. Some contend, like Bill Nye, that creationism stunts the growth of science, children’s maturation and is generally bad for society. Men like Bill Mahr have made a career at poking fun at those that believe that an almighty God created this world in six days. The mock our world view and how creationists are close minded and how the Christian world view is tearing apart the fabric of American society. They talk about how only be embracing science can a person truly be free.

Really? I am supposed to believe that they don’t have a world view that prohibits them from looking at this world through any other lens that evolution? The truth is, we all come to the same facts with a presupposition. Paul even warned that would be the case in his first letter to Corinthians. The Jews saw the preaching of the cross as foolishness because they could conceive a crucified saviour. The Jews believed that the Messiah was to come with certain signs. While Jesus certainly worked signs, the Jews were looking for a Messiah that would cast off the shackles of Roman tyranny and re-establish the state of Israel. That Israel would return to its glory days of David and Solomon. When this didn’t happen, when the professed Messiah died, when Jesus didn’t fit their preconceived ideas about what the Messiah was supposed to be they rejected the message (I Cor. 1:22-23). The Greeks certainly seemed interested in hearing the message (Acts 17:19). The Greeks were all about the accumulation of knowledge. They revered wisdom. Men like Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato were greatly revered in their society. But they had preconceived ideas. One of which was that they didn’t believe in a resurrection. So, when the message of Jesus’ was preached they scoffed at the idea (Acts 17:32). You see, the issue is not whether or not evolutionists or creationists have a preconceived idea. We both do. Evolutionists will see this world and the bible through the eye of one that doesn’t believe that a god exists. A creationist will look at the same facts and the same bible and the same world through the eye of one who does believe such a God exists. What we have to determine is which preconceived idea is the right supposition to take into any study that we engage in. Whether a bible study or a study of the sciences.

Let us go now to the question I proposed in the title of the article. Is my faith really blind. No. No it isn’t. When I go to a zoo I see the wonders of God’s creation. In fact, God said that if you need proof of his existence just look around. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made (Rom. 1:20).” When I see the intricacies of the human eye I don’t see evolution, I see a master builder. When I see the beauty of a sunset I don’t see the accidental accumulation of gases that bend light in a certain way, I see a master painter. When I see the majesty of the cosmos I don’t see billions of years, I see a God who wants me to seek Him, find Him, study Him, learn Him. My faith isn’t blind. I see my master, my creator, my God just fine.

 

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Raising Godly Children

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It has been sometime since I talked about raising children. As a father of four it is something that I take very seriously. In fact, the thought that I am doing something terribly wrong terrifies me. I so desperately want my children to grow up to be God fearing people. As I wrote about before, I have taken a new approach to raising my children. I have been emphasizing the role of faith, hope, love, purity and integrity in the lives of my children. Rather than talking about what they mean or just showing them examples of those who have been faithful, loving, hopeful, pure and trustworthy I have been trying to help them how to apply these qualities in their daily life.

When discussing love we talk about ways in which they can manifest that love towards someone else. If we are talking about loving God we talk about different ways in which we can show God we love him. For instance in John 14:15 Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” We will spend the night with each of them giving an illustration of what commandment that should be keeping. When necessary we will look at scripture to be certain that is something that we are commanded to do.

When discussing hope we discuss what hope empowers them to do. When we truly think about it hope is why we do anything. The farmer plants hoping that the crops will grow. We go to work hoping that we receive a paycheck at the end of the week. We repent hoping that God will keep his promise and forgive us of our trespasses. In our home we look at various promises God has made to us and what they might encourage us to do as a result. Again, the aim is to make it personal.

When discussing integrity we always talk about different ways they can show me that they can be trusted. Sometimes they talk about doing their chores without being told. Sometimes they talk about not fighting or always telling the truth. While they are not perfect (which one of us is perfect?) I can trust them now more than I have ever been able to do so before.

When discussing purity I do not limit myself to sexual purity. While this is important, my children are too young to make this a focal point. Instead we talk about what sin is, who it impacts our life, what it does to our relationship with God and so on. Here over the past month we have been looking at II Cor. 7:11 where Paul describe what godly sorrow really looks like. My children have been learning the difference between simply saying “I’m sorry” and true repentance.

When discussing faith we tend to look at the sermon I preached earlier that morning. (Faith is always done on Sundays). I try to help the children make personal applications to their lives. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, our children need to know that the sermon was meant to help them as well. My children who can read and write are expected to take notes and then give feedback on the sermon later in the afternoon. In fact, before we make any personal applications, they tell me what they learned in the sermon.

Through all of this I make certain my children understand that this is not about my will or their mother’s will. It is about God’s will. It is not just me that wants them to be faithful, loving, hopeful, pure and trustworthy. God does. It is not about whether I am the president of the NFL (No-Fun-League). It is about being righteous before God. It is not about me as their parent, but God as their Father, Lord, Master, Creator and Savior.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because Thursday after discussing integrity with my children, my daughter told me she really needed to talk to me. She told me that he hasn’t proven herself to be trustworthy by her actions. She violated a trust that her mother and I had given her. (As I mentioned earlier I was aware that my children are not perfect and from time to time they inform me when they fall short of God’s expectations). I was ready to forgive her when she told me that she needed God’s forgiveness. More specifically, she needed to have her sins washed away (Acts 22:16). I don’t want to get into all the specifics of what she had done that she needed forgiveness of, but she hadn’t been able to sleep well at night for awhile now (something her mother and I were already aware of). She couldn’t wait another night, she needed salvation right now.

I by no means am a perfect father. But I am one that believes that the greatest accomplishment my child can ever have is putting Christ on in baptism (Gal. 3:26). And before she went to bed Thursday night she put to death the old man of son so that she could raise up a new creature (Rom. 6). On Thursday night, my daughter determined that being a woman of faith, hope, love, purity and integrity was exactly what she wanted to be.

The Joys of Fellowship

Mike Divis from the Sioux City church of Christ in Sioux City, IA come to Grinnell, IA last week and presented a series of lessons for us all week. Most of his lessons centered around some false assumptions we as Christians can often have concerning our faith. The lessons were very thought provoking and challenged me to make certain that my faith is based upon God’s word and not some feeling I might have in my heart. As Paul wrote in Rom. 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” But, this article isn’t really about those lessons. It is about how our week of faith and fellowship came to a conclusion. On Friday night brother Divis preached a lesson on loneliness. As a person who has struggled with depression, this lesson was dear unto me. I have fought this battle many times in my life and sadly I have been on the losing end more times than I like to admit. I have been where the great prophet Elijah was in I Kings 19. Elijah prayed to God that he wanted to die. He asked God to take his life for he was convinced it no longer had value (I Kings 19:4). In the preceding chapter he was on such a spiritual high, only to have his world come crashing down around him because of Jezebel. He was worn out, he was spent, he was tired of going at it alone. Death seemed like a pleasant dream compared to the harsh realities of his life.

I at one time was in a dreadfully lonely place. The worst it ever got was when I was a freshman in college. When I was younger I was never adept at making friends. In grade school I had one friend. In high school I had two friends. Most of them befriended me, took me under their wing. When I went to college I went to Florida College, a fine institution whose teachers and students changed my life. But, when I first got there I was a mess. I was already suffering with depression and I convinced myself before I left that Florida College could be a fresh start. I could change everything. The problem was I brought myself to Florida and with it all the problems of being “me.” I didn’t change myself. I expected everything to change when I get there without making any efforts of being different. I continued to struggle to make friends. I was away from my family for the first time. I hadn’t really identified with a local body of saints, although I was always attending somewhere. So, instead of the depression lifting, it got deeper. One night, sitting in my private room I had my fill of life. I wanted to die. I prayed for God to let me die. And, I wept. Thoughts of suicide actually filled my heart. Then, one of my dorm mates knocked on my door and walked right in. He was the friend I needed that night. I don’t recall how long he stayed in my room that night, but it sure felt like a good hour. What I do know is that by the time he left, I wasn’t alone any more. Don’t get me wrong, it took me more time to get out of this hole I dug myself in, but that day I learned something really valuable. As a Christian, I am never alone. 4 years later, I was ready to graduate, a changed man. I had more friends than I could count. I have friends not just in Florida but all across this world. They have been there for me through the years.  When I returned home from college I learned another valuable lesson.  I had family at the local church too.  They have loved me.  They do love me.  They are as much family as my flesh and blood.  I was never really alone.  I was just unable to truly appreciate the joys of fellowship.

Yes, there are times when loneliness tries to work its way back into my heart. But then, Sunday roles around and I am surrounded by God’s loving family and I am reminded I am not alone. I loved the lessons that brother Divis presented all of last week, but what I loved most was the opportunity to be edified by and to edify my friends, my family, my beloved. Every night I felt the warm embrace of a fellow Christian. Every night I heard the laughter of my fellow worker. Every night I prayed with my brothers and sisters. And when I laid my head down on my pillow each night, I rested for the cares, worries, and threats that loneliness carries with it were far from my mind.

 

Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity

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         This weekend I happened to read the story of an American couple that was adopting a child in Ukraine. It told of their story of getting out of the country and how they just barely got the adoption process finished. They were one of the lucky ones in the past couple of months. I have also read stories of American couples that didn’t get to adopt their new children. These families had hope that a new one to love would be brought into their homes. They had been anticipating having a new child. They had prepared their hearts to love a new one. They had prepared their homes for the addition to their family. And they had to return home alone, without their new child to an empty room (and for some an empty house). Anyone who would argue that this is nowhere near the same as losing a child to a miscarriage know nothing about the adoption process. These prospective parents just lost a child. The hope of a new family was shattered. These children had hope of actually having a mom and dad, brothers and sisters. These children had hope of living in a country where the political scene is not nearly as volatile as it is in Ukraine. These children had a hope of a life much better here in the States than what they now have in Ukraine. Their hope of a new life was shattered.

            It is in times like these that it is easy to say that these persons who were torn apart have a right not to hope. They have a right to be angry. They have a right to question what God is doing. They have a right to demand answers. They have a right to be discouraged, downtrodden, saddened, and even depressed. While I have never lost a child while trying to adopt, my wife and I did have a miscarriage. Most people don’t know that about us because we didn’t tell anyone what happened. No one knew that she was pregnant, she wasn’t showing yet, and was just a couple of months along. It was easy not to tell anyone yet. I look back on that time and have often wondered what they little one would have been like. I have often wondered what he/she would have been named. Even now, I get a little teary eyed thinking about it. So, when I tell you that I understand who those who have lost feel, I really do. I am one of those that lost. And I tell you this, it is really easy to say, “I have a right to be angry.”

It wasn’t until that happened that I began to understand the story of Job. No, I didn’t lose 10 children. But I did lose one. I looked at his story, and I understand at least on some level the pain he was feeling. His children were dead. His children he loved were dead. Nothing could bring them back to him. They were gone. And that is when it hit me. There was nothing he could do to bring them back. All the anger in the world would not bring his children back. All the sadness in the world could not bring his children back. He could question and doubt God until the cows come home and he still didn’t have the power to bring his children back from the dead.So what good does getting angry, or depressed, or hopeless do? It does no good. In fact, it does just the opposite. It does a whole lot of bad. Anger, depression, and hopelessness robs you of your strength and more importantly, it robs you of your faith. Job could have allowed the loss of his children destroy him. But he didn’t. Not because he was some sort of superman that could overcome. He didn’t allow it to destroy him because he trusted in God. He placed his hope there. Not in his kids. Not in his possessions, but in God.

My friends, I cannot pretend to know God’s will. I cannot know all the trials that you are undertaking. What I can know is that hope in God can get you through. Let me show tell you two others stories men who lost their children. In Gen. 22 Abraham was told that he would have to take his son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loved and sacrifice him upon the mountain that God would show him. Look again at that wording. It was Abraham’s son. His only son (Ishmael was already gone). Isaac, the son of promise. The son he loved. There was little doubt this would be an emotional experience for Abraham. And yet as we read the story Abraham didn’t seem to bat an eye. He took Isaac, laid him on the altar and was ready to sacrifice him when the angel of the Lord spoke to him. In Heb. 11:17-19 we read that Abraham reasoned that God could raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham was already convinced that Isaac was dead. In his heart, Isaac was as good as dead. His hope was set on God. God would make it okay. God would give Abraham what he would need to get through this difficult task. I can only imagine the relief that God provided when the ram was seen caught in the thicket. David also lost a child in II Sam. 12. As the child was sick David fasted, he mourned, and I imagine that he pleaded with God to have mercy on that child. But, the child died, just as David was told would happen. When David heard the news of his child’s death, he arose washed himself, and went and worshipped God. When his servant’s questioned David about what he was doing David said, “Now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me (II Sam. 12:23).” David knew there was nothing he could do to bring this child back. Mourning, fasting was useless. His hope was rooted in seeing his son again, not in this life, but in the next. It was this hope that enabled David to stand up, wash himself and worship his God. Take hope in this. Take encouragement in knowing that there is a place of comfort where the saved will see each other again!