He could clean things up

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Matt Dominick and I were heading back to his house after we had driven up to Twain Harte to help my daughter get out of some snow where she was stuck. Actually, she was not stuck, but just in a place that was downhill, steep and icy. Could not blame her for not wanting to try it.

After getting her out, Matt and I headed back to his house. Near Twain Heart proper were two guys with several bags of groceries standing on the side of the road with their thumbs out. One of them, (the older of the two), was also waving a five dollar bill to entice the passing motorists. I was not surprised when Matt pulled over and told them to get in. Not because they were waving money in the air, but because Matt has a heart for helping those in need.

They piled in the back, along with their bags from the local food closet. First one in was young, late teens or early twenties. The other fellow was probably in his late forties or fifties; he did the talking. First thing out of his mouth was thanking us for the ride because he had to get to Sonora because his son was in jail. Matt pulled away and started driving. They told Matt where they wanted to go, which was only about 10 minutes away.

I asked their names and introduced myself and Matt. Turning toward the back seat, I began to ask questions about where they lived and how long. As I said before, the older fellow was doing most of the talking, sharing his opinions on a variety of topics. Most of it was on the various food closets he frequents. He held the one in Columbia in high regard, due in part to the hot showers they offer to the homeless. He was easy to talk to because he was more than happy to share his opinion.

The conversation changed to places they had lived before. The younger man shared he lived in Mexico for a couple years, and then a year in San Diego. The older fellow named several locations, but he was not happy about being back in Twain Harte. I asked if he returned to Twain Harte because of family. He said all of his family was dead, long gone. So I asked him where they went. He paused for a moment, looking at me and repeated they were all dead and had been for a long time. I asked him again, pointedly, where they went. He thought for a moment and said, “Heaven I guess.” I asked him why he thought that.

He really did not have an answer, but he was bold in sharing he did not believe in Jesus and God. He did believe in some kind of ‘force’ or mystical power that we would all end up going to, or being part of. It sounded very New Age or Hinduistic as he attempted to describe his belief. I had several openings to choose from and opted to share my thoughts on God.

I asked them if they had heard of the Big Bang. They had, and I explained that if we had a Big Bang, you need a Big Banger. I shared in greater detail that time must have had a beginning, because time can’t go back infinitely. I then shared a story I have used before in my blog that helps explain the concept of time going back forever, and why it is not possible.  

I described a scene where if we were walking along a parkway and as we approached a man sitting on a park bench, we heard him counting up from negative numbers, “…negative four, negative three, negative two, negative one, zero!” When the man reached zero, he leaped up from the bench and began jumping up and down yelling, “I did it! I did it!”

Of course we would ask, “Did what?”

The man grinning, triumphantly replied, “It took me a long time, but I finally counted up from negative infinity to zero!” 1

When I finished the example, I asked the two passengers, “What would you think?” The older fellow said nothing, but I was looking the younger man. He was engaged and listening to me. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. I replied for him, “You would think he is crazy.” He immediately smiled and nodded in agreement. “So would I” I said. I explained you can’t count to infinity, and you can’t count up from infinity. Every time someone said they reached infinity, (where you would start), you could just add another zero.

The younger man was taking it in, I could tell the gears were turning and he was considering something he never heard before, or if he had, at least was giving it some thought for the first time.

I went on to explain that we also have scientific evidence that also suggests our universe, and time, had a beginning. I asked them if they heard of the 2nd law of thermodynamics? They nodded and I went on explaining that our universe is moving toward equilibrium. Heat, pressure, density are in the process of breaking down. For example, our sun is burning up hydrogen, but it has not been doing so forever. Same holds for other suns in other solar systems, and other suns in other galaxies. Someone lit the match, but the match can’t keep burning; it will use up its energy. All of it, including time, had a beginning.

When I was done, the younger fellow seemed reflective, but the older man was dismissive. He asked if there was a God, then who made God? I told him that was a good question, and explained we could ask who made the God that made God. I pointed out it was an infinite regression. Just like time can’t go backwards forever, we can’t keep asking who made God.

The older man changed his tact, giving up on proving there is no God. “Well, if there is a God” he said, “he did a poor job, and better clean up this f***ing mess!” He went on to give examples of the evil in the world and how screwed up everything is.

I agreed; there is a lot of evil in the world, and asked the older man, “Could He start with you?” He replied with more examples of evil in the world – he missed my point. I asked him again if God could start with him, cleaning up the evil in the world. He hesitated and answered my question by saying that Ozzy Osbourne should be put in charge, laughing he said, “He could clean things up!”

More to the point, he could clean things up to the satisfaction of the older man. He could continue to live life the way he wanted. No hindering rules, no responsibility, no accountability, no justice, or at least justice according to his play book.

The young man looked confused for a moment and asked, “Who is Ozzy Osbourne?” The old man replied, “It does not matter.” He was right about that. No one could clean things up to the satisfaction of the older man, unless it was someone who would see every sin, every shortcoming, every fault as he did. Of course we can’t find anyone who would agree with us on every matter within our own world view. Even Christians don’t agree on issues such as the death penalty, abortion, gun control, and same sex marriage.

We had arrived at their destination and they piled out with their groceries and thanked Matt for the ride. Possibly I gave them something to think about, maybe not. But it was a good example of what you can do with apologetics in a conversation, and point unbelievers, or skeptics, toward God.

 

Sources:
1. Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York, Riverhead Books, 2008. Print.

 
Creative Commons License
He could clean things up by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

If God created the universe, who created God?

If God created the universe, who created God?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Above image by Raphael from Pixabay

One of the men attending our early Sunday morning apologetic class, Anthony, shared with me that someone actually asked him this specific question.

We started watching the six week Greg Koukl DVD series on Tactics. At the end of the 2nd session, I made eight statements, or claims, that I wanted those attending to think about. The second one on my list was, “If God created the universe, who created God?” So when Anthony heard that one, it reminded him of someone asking him that question.

This question has been around for a long time. What some of you may find interesting is that the response, at least in part, comes from Muslim philosophers. It is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I know it sounds like a mouthful and would not come up when you’re fishing with your buddies, but let me explain.

It is a philosophical argument for the existence of God, which has become popular with Christian apologists in the last 40 years or so. Part of its popularity has to do with the Big Bang theory, which dovetails perfectly with this philosophical argument. The Kalam Cosmological Argument comes in many forms, but a nut shell, goes like this:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause outside of itself.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause outside of itself.
What do we call that cause? God.

If you were to look at a tree in your yard, you could start tracing its cause back, starting with the tree that dropped the seed which sprouted the one in your yard. Then back to the tree that seeded the one which seeded the first. Then to the one that seeded that one, and the next, and the next…you get the idea. Your tree, and everything else that begins to exist, traces its cause to something outside of itself. Nothing that has a beginning can be the cause of its own existence.

Think about it. Not only trees, but cars, dogs, books, flowers, the sand on the beach, and the very earth we stand on.

Genesis 1:1 Over the centuries, most monotheistic religions believed that God was the cause of the universe.

Over time, many began to believe that God was unnecessary for the universe because the universe was static, it always existed. If that was true, then there was no need for God. He could not have created something that was always there. Even Einstein believed the universe always existed and in the process of working out the Theory of General Relativity, his equation reflected the view of a static, eternal universe. But Einstein was wrong.

Einstein was uncomfortable with the thought of an expanding universe. Obviously, if it is expanding, as we move backward in time the universe is smaller. The further back in time we move, the smaller the universe, until we have a point from which we say the Big Bang emerged. This theory is widely accepted among the scientific community today. Not only is it expanding, but the further out we study distant galaxies, we find they are moving away faster than the ones closer to our own Milky Way.

There are other indications to the universe having a beginning. The example of our own sun points out that as time passes, the fuel declines. Eventually, (several billion years from now), our sun will burn up the supply of hydrogen and swell to a red giant. So large in fact, that the orbit of the earth will intercept the sun. 1

If our universe had always existed, then we would have run out of usable energy long ago. Our own sun could not have have been burning forever. D’Souza put it this way, “…if the universe can be compared to a clock, the fact that the clock is continually running down leads to the conclusion that there was a time when the clock was fully wound up. The universe originated with its full supply of energy, and that is the fund that has been dissipating ever since.”2

So the universe began to exist, and we consider the cause God. So the question remains, who created God? If another super being created God, then who created the super being that created God? And who created that being, and on we go, spiraling backward into an infinite number of causes.

That does not work, because if time always existed we would never have reached today. High Ross in his book, Why The Universe Is The Way It Is wrote, “…the universe was brought into existence by a causal Agent with the capacity to operate before, beyond, unlimited by, and transcendent to all cosmic matter, energy, space, and time.”3

In other words, God created time, space, and matter. He is not limited to his creation. He is a transcendent uncreated being. He has no creator and has no need of one, because He created time as we know it. A hard concept to wrap your mind around, but that is the answer to the question, “Who created God?” No one. He never began to exist, unlike our universe.

Scripture confirms this belief. Deuteronomy 33:27 talks of God being eternal. Job 36:26 says his years can’t be discovered. Psalm 103:17 says He is everlasting to everlasting. John 1:1-3 says that all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made. There are other verses in Scripture that attribute God for having made all that exists and that He is eternal.

Ross also wrote, “Such complete freedom to compress or expand time is only possible for a Being who is completely free to operate beyond, or transcendent to time.”4

Finally, in his book Surprised By Meaning, Alister E. McGrath explained how the Christian World view fits nicely to our current observations of the natural world. Christians have never had to adjust to a created universe, or a uncreated Being. “Yet it must be emphasized that Christian theology has never seen itself as charged with the task of inventing an explanation for these observations; rather, they fit within, and resonate with, an existing way of thinking, which proves capable of satisfactorily incorporating such observations.”5

 

 

Sources:
1. “What Will Happen to Earth When the Sun Dies?” livescience.com. Live Science, 1 December 2010. Web. 18 August 2015
2. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print.
3. Ross, Hugh. Why The Universe Is The Way It Is. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008.
4. Ibid.
5. McGrath, Alister E. Surprised by Meaning. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

 

 

Creative Commons License
If God created the universe, who created God? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/.

Doubt

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Doubt. If Christian is honest, that is something we all have had in our Christian walk. Despite my readings in the past couple years on apologetics, which does not mean apologizing for our faith, but defending our faith, doubt still creeps in.

William Lane Craig shares a story in his book, Hard Questions, Real Answers about a student who came up to him after class one day and said, “How come everything you say confirms what my pastor taught?” Somewhat taken aback by this comment Dr. Craig replied, “Why shouldn’t it?” The questioning student replied, “Well, all the other professors in my department challenge my faith.” Craig replied, “Look, I don’t want to challenge your faith; I want to challenge your thinking. But I want to build up your faith.” 1

That is a significant insight into a teacher’s responsibility that I have been guilty of over looking at times. Having taught Jr. High for many years, I have enjoyed numerous meaningful conversations with students about a wide variety of topics. From politics to puberty, I have had opportunities to share my thoughts and beliefs with my students, which often were counter to what the world was teaching them.

As a young Christian, I can remember hearing that doubt is a good thing, it will strengthen your faith. Made sense to me at the time, but I have come to realize that doubt is not a good thing and it is something we need to struggle against.  James 1:6 says, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Certainly Thomas had doubts and Jesus told him to stop doubting. John 20:27, “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” When believers have doubts they need to share them with others and seek answers, this goes double for our youth in public schools or college who are engaged daily with the real world and its counter culture that undermines everything they are taught to believe in church. Those who instruct our youth need to be especially vigilant when occupied with young believers. Teachers need to be careful about raising questions in the form of instruction, but to always present solutions that will employ their minds, and strengthen their faith.

How does someone build their faith? If you define faith as Peter Boghossian, does it is not possible. He defines faith as belief without evidence. Or specifically as, “Pretending to know things you don’t know.” 2

Some Christians view faith as what you have when you don’t have evidence. You just ‘choose’ to believe even if you don’t have reasons, but faith is built by evidence, not the lack of it. As you learn more about the historicity, (historical evidence), of Christ and how testimony outside the Gospels add evidence to the person of Christ, your knowledge grows along with your faith. As archeology supports the historical record of scripture your knowledge increases along with your faith. John Lennox put it this way, “Indeed, faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence.” 3

Just the other day my wife and I viewed a DVD Film by John Christy titled, “My Week in Atheism”. I plan on watching it again and taking notes because many of the topics in the film raised questions that Christians might struggle with. The film is about two friends, one an atheist activist, (David Smalley), and the other a Christian apologist, (John Christy). Despite their opposite world views, the two of them have maintained a close friendship.

The movie explores both world views and attempts, (successfully I believe), to give the viewer a greater understanding of both the Christian and the atheist world views. Even more importantly, why they believe what they believe, and why their world views spill over into politics and create such tension between many atheists and Christians. This film is not about politics, but about moving beyond the rhetoric both sides often offer.

During one session, David asked the question about how an all powerful and loving God would allow a three year old girl to suffer a lengthy illness and then die of cancer. He asked this question because he knew a three year old girl who that actually happened to. In our own church, we have had families suffer such losses, or had children born with severe disabilities. In recent years, at least two families have lost both parents in the prime of their life. Parents who, on all accounts, were living for the Lord and faithful to Christ. For me personally, with my youngest daughter dealing with scoliosis and possibly facing surgery, asking God why and desiring an answer has now become personal.

The suffering we experience in this world is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to the Christian World view. Everyone can agree, if God was all knowing, then he would be aware of the suffering in our world. If God were all powerful, then he would be able to stop the suffering and evil that takes place in our world. If God was all loving, then he would want to do something about the evil he knows about, and is able to stop. Yet, evil and suffering exists in our world, so some conclude an all knowing, all powerful, and all loving God cannot exist. Many use this argument to claim, the God of the Bible does not exist. Philosophers and apologists know this as the ‘problem of evil’.

When addressing the problem of evil, it is important to recognize two difficulties. First is the emotional problem of evil, and the second is the intellectual problem of evil.

When someone has experienced a great loss, or is suffering in some way that causes them emotional and even physical stress, addressing the problem of evil from philosophical or intellectual direction often does more harm than good. It is in our nature, (granted some more than others), to physically console or embrace those who suffer. Many times words are not even exchanged, but just a physical closeness and willingness to share in the suffering, express empathy, is all that one can offer, and often, that is all that the one suffering would desire.

At a time of great loss or suffering, offering trite comments like, “God understands”, or “His ways are mysterious”, or “It is part of his plan we may never understand” do little or nothing to alleviate the pain, even when the person offering such condolences is deeply sincere. They are mistakenly offering an intellectual solution when none is asked for. The time to address the intellectual problem of evil is never when the loss is still causing emotional turmoil.

Often the person who has suffered the loss will, on their own time, bring up the problem of evil and share questions, doubts, frustration, and anger at God, with their close friends or family. It is at that time, friends can discuss the moral dilemma and possibility come to some kind of answer.

After hearing of the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed – might grow tired of his vile sport – might have a temporary fit of mercy, as an alcoholic have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before that operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.” 4

If the aim of someone is to show that God and evil in the world cannot exist together, then the objector of God has to show that God does not have any moral reasons for permitting the evil we experience. Dinesh D’Souza shared this, “Carl Sagan helpfully suggests that in order to dispel all doubts about His existence, ‘God could have engraved the Ten Commandments on the moon.’ Pascal supplies a plausible reason for that he calls the hiddenness of God. Perhaps, he writes, God wants to hide Himself from those who have no desire to encounter Him while revealing Himself to those whose hearts are open to Him. If God were to declare Himself beyond our ability to reject Him, then He would be forcing Himself on us.” 5

Resources:

  1. Craig, William L. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
  2. Boghossian, Peter. A Manual For Creating Atheists. Durham: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013. Print
  3. Lennox, John. God’s Undertaker. Oxford: Lion Books, 2009. Print
  4. Craig, William L. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
  5. D’Souza, Dinesh. What’s So Great About Christianity. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007. Print

Two and Out

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Two and Out. That is a wrestling term I have learned since my son Jed started wrestling in High School. It is referring to wrestling tournaments in which a wrestler who has two losses is out of the tournament. The past couple days were both a two and out for he and I. We both went to Sacramento for wrestling, but I also went to visit some Hindu temples in Sacramento to chat with the Pandit, (priest), and inquire about their religion, beliefs, practices, and how it compares to Christianity.

We were up about 4 AM and I drove him early to school. The team left before 6 AM, but I left a few hours later, after a relaxing morning with some coffee and some time spent Googling the location of a couple Hindu temples. The first one was the Laxmi Narayan Mandir Temple on Elder Creek Rd in South Sacramento off of Highway 99. Laxmi Narayan Temple

When I arrived, the parking lot was about empty, and it looked like there was some construction work going on in the back of the temple. I walked up to a side entrance where a door was slightly ajar. I also noticed quite a few pairs of shoes and sandals outside the door. I quietly opened the door and peered in to a very large carpeted room. Toward the front of the room was a large gold statue, (Vishnu, one of their main gods), very ornate and decorated. Several people were near the front in some kind of ceremony, so I quietly shut the door and retreated.

I walked around the building in the hopes of finding an office or someone I could ask about talking to their head Pandit, but no luck. After walking around, the only activity was in the large room that I first peeked into. So I returned, took off my shoes, and walked in.

What had been going on seemed to be over and I only saw two gentlemen in Hindu garments sitting across the room on a raised platform. I walked across the room smiling and asked if there was someone here I could ask some questions of about their religion. One of the men got up and walked toward me with a rather guarded expression on his face. I stuck out my hand, smiled, and introduced myself. He walked up to me, facing me squarely, and said, “Yes?” while crossing his arms, letting me know he had no intention of shaking my hand. His expression? Probably the same you would give a stranger who just walked up to your child and offered them some candy and ride in their car: angry distrust. My hand was left hanging for a moment and I dropped it. My expression must have changed as we were looking at each other for a long moment, when suddenly he folded his hands together as if in prayer and gave a couple quick, short bows. “Yees, yees” he said. “Pleased to meet you, pleased to meet you.” In a very heavy Hindu accent.

I thought I might as well just spell it out so as not to waste any time. I replied, “I am a Christian and I would like to talk to someone here about this temple and the Hindu religion.” He explained in a very heavy Hindu accent that if I came back Sunday, I could talk to someone who spoke better English. I explained that I lived a couple hours away and would not be back any time soon. He replied that he could answer my questions and just stood there looking at me, arms folded across his chest again. Since I was not planning on a short interview, I asked him if we could sit down and I motioned to some chairs along a wall. I was trying to look as non-threating as possible, since he had left my handshake hanging in midair. I am sure my expression was not one of loving kindness, and I had some ground to make up. He agreed and we sat down, his arms still folded across his chest.

I asked him some personal questions first. Things like:
-Have you been a Hindu all your life?
-Is everyone in your family a Hindu?
-Were you born and raised in India?
After just a few questions like that, he visibly relaxed. I was genuinely interested and did not have to feign a curiosity for him and his life. I am sure he sensed that and was quite willing to share with me, but I had a very difficult time understanding most of his replies. He was born in India and had been raised in a Hindu family. He had been a Hindu all of his life and so was everyone in his family. There was more, but I could not understand him.

I motioned to the statue in the front of the room, and asked if that was one of their gods. He said it was Vishnu and explained to me that they had one god, (this surprised me), but gave an analogy to explain what he meant. He said that some people wear gold earrings, some people wear gold bracelets, some wear gold necklaces. They are all made of gold, but all are different items. This, he said, was the relationship of Vishnu and the other gods. He also explained that they come several days a week to pray to Vishnu and to other gods and that is what they had been doing. He spoke on this for two or three minutes, but unfortunately, I could not understand most of what he said. I can’t complain since his English was a whole lot better than my Hindi.

When he was done, he got up and I thought he was probably more comfortable standing, but I had been concentrating so hard on what he was saying, I had not seen several people come back into the room, preparing for more prayers. It was time for me to go. I thanked him for his time and left with the stares of several people following me out.

My 2nd attempt at locating a Hindu temple the next day took me away from the wrestling tournament. After driving around for well over an hour, I located the Vrindavan Dhaam, but it was not a temple. It was a residence. Unfortunately, the parking was non-existent and I had already missed several matches and was pressed for time to get back. I drove around looking for a place to park, but each cookie cutter house had only one spot in front for a parked car and they were all taken. I was done. Two and out. I am planning on returning for another go, but this time I will call ahead and try to chat with someone ahead of time and set up an appointment.

My son Jed won his first two matches, but then lost the next two, so he was out. I returned and pick him up and we headed home.

Why am I visiting some Hindu temples? With all I have been reading about my Christian faith and the evidence for it, I want to talk to others about their religions and see what evidence they have, what beliefs they hold, what answers they have for some of the tough questions religions have to answer and share it here.

Handcrafting Disciples

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Not long ago I had a parent come in and thank me for something I did for her daughter who is in my class. Her daughter had an assignment with all the other students, and part of the assignment required each student to stand up in front of the class and give a brief report. This student is extremely shy and had already received a zero when she refused to give an oral report. After this happened a couple of times, I talked to her about it. I managed to get her to agree that if I kicked out all the boys in the class, the next time she had an oral report, she would do it. The thought of this made her smile and I had hopes it would work.

A week or two later, the students were giving an oral report on current events and her turn came. Sure enough she refused, then I remembered our ‘deal’. I told all the boys to get out and to stand outside. The boys were confused, but also pleased at the chance to get out of class for a few moments. Sure enough, once all the boys were gone, she was able to do her oral report. With that success under our belt, I told her that next time we would leave just one boy in the class and she could pick who it was. I explained further that each time after that, we will add in one more boy and she can pick who gets to stay in.

Her mother heard about this from her daughter and tearfully came in one morning to thank me for doing something that no one had ever done for her personally, or for her daughter.  She explained that as a young girl, and still as an adult, she was painfully shy and it deeply touched her that I would do such a thing for her daughter, who struggles with the same deep fear of speaking in front of others.

Honestly, I had not really given it much thought. When I came up with the idea, I had no idea how it would profoundly touch the lives of my student and her mother. I was blessed by the fact that she came in and shared with me her story and the struggles that she and her daughter have.

I teach for a living, but more importantly I am in a position to touch lives. It has always been a second nature for me to care about my students and enjoy a relationship with them, to impact them in a positive way with a male figure many of them don’t have in their lives.

The area I teach is rural and poor, with many of my students lacking a father figure, or any kind of positive male role model, to influence their lives. Don’t mistake my accolades in being a positive role model as egotistical. I am well aware of my short comings, you only need to ask my wife, children, or family members to find a laundry list of faults. Nevertheless, despite my fractures, over the years God has confirmed to me that I am doing what he wants me to do. It is not always easy, but it can be deeply satisfying knowing what I do is pleasing to the Lord. I have never experienced that before in other jobs, and the only other time I have had that feeling was most recently in my study of apologetics and this blog.

Pastor John Ortberg said, “If we really want to help someone grow, we will have to help them in a way that fits their wiring. Our great model for this is God himself, for he always knows just what each person needs. He had Abraham take a walk, Elijah take a nap, Joshua take a lap, and Adam take the rap. He gave Moses a forty-year time out, he gave David a harp and a dance, and he gave Paul a pen and a scroll. He wrestled with Jacob, argued with Job, whispered to Elijah, warned Cain and comforted Hagar. He gave Aaron an altar, Miriam a song, Gideon a fleece, Peter a name, and Elisha a mantle. Jesus was stern with the rich young ruler, tender with the woman caught in adultery, patient with the disciples, blistering with the scribes, gentle with the children, and gracious with the thief on the cross. 1

rock-climbing

I came to the conclusion once, that I was done teaching, but you can see for yourself God never grows people the same way. Moses was raised in a palace to serve in the desert. Joseph was raised in the desert to serve in a palace. I heard someone say that the shortest path is often not the best because they may miss out on opportunity’s for growth, allowing God to do a work in their life. Rock climbers often have to ‘traverse’ a part of a climb to reach a way up. Traversing is never the first choice as it adds to the length of a climb, but it is often necessary to reach the peak climbers strive for.

 

There was once a little boy who wanted a bicycle and he was not sure how best he should pray for such a thing. He was watching a traditional service and saw how the minister prayed. So the little boy prayed the same prayer. “Lord if it is your sovereign will, and in your eternal plan that I can get a bicycle, in your time, and according to your will, would you please get me one. I pray amen.”

bluebike

A few days later when nothing transpired, he was watching another pastor on T.V. The little boy tried another prayer. “Lord, I declare my need for a bicycle! I want a nice blue bike, and that it be delivered to my house within 24 hours. I lay claim to it. Amen!”

Again, after a few days without any results, he began to think really hard on the matter. Finally, his mother saw him take a small statue of the Virgin Mary they had in the living room. She was busy, and had not given it much thought till later that night when the boy was in bed. She looked around for the statue, but could not find it. When she returned to the living room, she noticed a note had been placed where the statue had been. The note began, “Jesus, if you want to see your mother again…”

It is a funny story, but many of us, myself included, have gone to great lengths to get something we wanted, and it turned out to be nothing we needed. What lengths do we go to avoid traversing across the cliff when it could be God’s plan for us to take the long road and be blessed by his mercy and grace? What lengths do we go to help our adult children through difficult times when they should be traversing, and we are pulling them straight up the cliff? I have asked myself this many times over the years, and still do concerning friends, family, and students.

Some years back, we knew a young man who could not hold a steady job. Time and again we helped him out. Gave him some money, (I don’t loan money to anyone). Allowed him to stay at our house, fed him, prayed with him. He just could never get his life together. I know others helped him too, but at some point you have to say I am sorry, we can’t continue to care for you. You need to stand on your own. It ended tragically when we finally heard he committed suicide. Did we do the right thing? Should we have pulled him over the cliff? Continued to care for him? Could our efforts to pull him up have caused some in my family to slip down the cliff? Some questions we will never know the answer to in this life.

In 2003, there was a study at Dartmouth Medical School concerning depression in children and adolescents. The finding coming from a secular source was nothing less than astounding. They found that, “…the human person is hardwired to connect. We need close attachments to other people, beginning with mothers and fathers and family and then the larger community we live in. Also, we are hardwired for meaning, born with a built-in capacity and drive to search for purpose and to reflect on life’s ultimate ends. If these two needs are not met, children cannot be expected to be healthy and develop.” 2

The young man I shared about above did not have meaning to his life. He was lacking purpose and did not have any kind of healthy relationship with his mother or father that I knew of. If you are reading this and have an opportunity to impact the life of a young person, I encourage you to take the time and do so. You may find a deep satisfying purpose that the Lord had in mind for you. You may be surprised that you can help handcraft disciples.

 

Sources:

  1. Kinnaman, David. You Lost Me. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011. Print
  2. McDowell, Sean. Apologetics for a New Generation. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2009. Print.

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