Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Mystery of Christophobia

There are a lot of good, innocent people in our culture who are accused of being phobic. Certain groups who would compete for power with the majority use phobic accusations with great skill. A phobic is someone who has an irrational fear of something or someone and tries desperately to avoid them. Homophobia is an irrational fear of homosexuals. Zenophobia is a fear of the unknown or of those who have cultural distinctions that differ from ours. Genderphobia is a fear of those who seem hopelessly confused about their sexual identity. One phobia we never hear about in our culture is Christophobia, an irrational fear of Christ or Christians. This phobia is very widespread but is muted by an anti-Christian media because it makes no contribution to their agenda.

Art Spander, prominent sports writer, recently wrote that that Tim Tebow may be a good pick for the Denver Broncos because he has those “immeasurable intangibles”. Spander declared Tebow’s ethic to be superb but the one glaring negative in Tim Tebow is his zealous devotion to Christ. Why would Mr. Spander believe that to be a drawback? Why isn’t it a drawback when Phil Jackson, coach of the Miami Heat, zealously commits to Zen and Buddhist mentalities? It doesn’t seem to be a drawback when an NBA athlete is zealous for Islam.

Franklin Graham was recently disinvited to speak on National Prayer Day at the Pentagon because of his opposition to the radical teaching of Islam. There would be no such reversal if Franklin Graham were Buddhist or Hindu or Islamic. Christophobia, like a contagious disease, has infected all levels of our society. It is rotting its way through our public schools and universities. It has turned great statesmen in our Congress into political wimps who are fearful of offending some fringe group in our society. It infects even our president. Christians wait on the edge of their seats for Obama to specifically name the One he claims to devoutly follow. Sit back and relax, Christians, Obama can’t declare Christ to be his Savior without offending hundreds of millions. So, it won’t happen.

Christ is gradually being purged from the public square. Prayer is banned in public schools. Our Christian holidays are being purged from the calendar. Christophobes have replaced ‘Merry Christmas’ with ‘Happy Holidays’. The Ten Commandments have been taken off the walls of our court houses. Don’t hold your breath waiting for these Christophobes to remove Ramadan from our calendars. Our courts are very sensitive to protect the rights of those wishing to embrace a perverse lifestyle but they are deaf to those who would choose to embrace Christ.

Another Supreme Court justice has announced his retirement. Obama will replace Justice John Paul Stephens with a person of like beliefs. He will especially want to appease the pro-choice faction. The two most likely candidates happen to be Jewish. If he appoints either of these our Supreme Court will consist of six Catholics and three Jews. For the first time in our 220 year history there will be no Protestants on the court. Our media won’t mention it and most American Christians will fail to notice or they will remain apathetic if they do.

What is the mystery behind Christophobia? Why is Christianity now the target of such hatred and unfounded criticism? Why does Islam get a pass? Why do the most radical of fringe groups get ignored but the larger segment of the population who call themselves Christians are targeted with such vehement hatred? Will Christianity become the new “N” word in our culture?

Those who hate Christians also deny the Book of the Christians because the book explains clearly why they fear Christ. A fear of Mohammed is unfounded. He lies dead in a grave. The fear of Buddha is unfounded. His bones have turned to dust. But the fear of Christ is real. They fear him because he is not dead! Christians seem to have a regenerative power that non-Christians fear. Destroy one Christian and two more appear. Opposition and resistance only strengthens Christians. Be assured, all the efforts we are witnessing to stamp out Christianity will surely backfire. Persecution is like fertilization in the garden of growing Christians.

Christophobia is so prevalent because there is an innate fear in every being God created. It is a fear of “the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Many will deny there is life after death but there is a treacherous fear deep in their souls of the One who “has the power to throw you into hell.” (Luke 12:5) A common method of dealing with such fear is to simply extinguish one’s belief in such a God. Atheists tend to become very fearful as they near the end of their lives.

There is a sense of false comfort among Christophobes. The historical Christ they see is a meek Christ, a ‘turn the other cheek’ kind of guy. A man so ‘powerless’ he submitted to the horror of crucifixion. He certainly doesn’t seem to be someone to be feared. But when the trumpet sounds and the eastern sky splits they will see a different Christ. They will see a great warrior-Christ who will come to defend the honor of his Father in heaven. He will set all wrongs right. He will be dashing and magnificent and he will crush the armies of the wicked. The mystery of Christophobia will be swept away in an instant.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Tiger, Courtney and Lindsey are so unhappy.


Have you not wondered why people who have achieved wealth and fame seem to be so unhappy? Tiger Woods goes to therapy for sex addiction. Macaulay Culkin left home at age 17 and was married and divorced by age 20. We are still learning the details of the troubled life Michael Jackson lived. Gary Coleman is still plummeting. Do you remember Brittany Spear's desperate cry for help when she shaved her head several years ago? Lindsay Lohan can't seem to escape the demons of substance abuse. Courtney Love is trying to regain custody of a daughter, Frances, after a judge ordered her taken away and put in the custody of the mother of her father, Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide in 1994.

Most of these unfulfilled celebrities go off for therapy where they seek a solution to their hopelessness. They are victims of there own psychological drives or of the expectations of society. Were they to accept the fact that there is a huge God-shaped hole deep within them that can only be filled with God it would bring great hope to their empty souls. It is what Augustine was referring to when he said, "Our hearts our restless until they find their rest in Thee!" Our guilt pursues us relentlessly and society is unforgiving, just ask Tiger Woods. But God is forgiving and there isn't any sin he is unwilling to forgive. Their frustrations are acted out in bad behavior. Ben Roethlisberger comes to mind. Barbara Brown Taylor said, "…the essence of sin is not (primarily) the violation of laws but a wrecked relationship with God, one another, and the whole created order." Celebrities get the headlines but theycou are but a microcosm of our entire society. We flounder in pointless addictions because we are desperately seeking to fill the God-void deep within our empty souls. Most of us are flummoxed at the discontent we see in celebrities because we, like them, believe the lie that wealth and fame will finally bring lasting satisfaction to one's life.

The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard said that sin is mostly a refusal to allow our identity to be defined by God. Instead, we seek to define our own identity and we set ourselves apart from him. Sin is not just breaking a set of God-given rules, it is also setting up our own gods in place of the one and true God. Whatever it is that we choose to define our own identity becomes our god. Personally, I've had some difficulty with allowing my job to identify who I am. I love what I do, people know me for what I do and I am tempted to allow my job to become my god. When the job disintegrates all that is left is a shell of a man.

I picked up my four-year old yesterday at school and one of his friends said, "Hi, Kameron's daddy." I looked at the director and said, "I used to have my own identity but now I'm just known as 'Kameron's Daddy'. I pray daily that Kameron will grow to be a man who loves and obeys God. Parents who allow their identity to be defined by their parenting skills become empty shells when their children don't turn out as they wished. We must not justify our existence by our profession, or our status as parent or spouse, rather we must justify our existence by the relationship we have with our Creator.

A life that is not defined by God will be miserable and empty, no exceptions!! Celebrities get very depressed and angry because they believe the lie. They seek hard for wealth and fame and then one day they awaken to realize that the insatiable urge to fill the empty hole is still tormenting them. Living with the delusion becomes unbearable for many.

Many patriotic Americans are extremely frustrated because they establish their identity in a loyalty to a country that is no longer what it once was. Many are angered because the political party around which they have built an identity has failed them. I remember the great amount of anxiety and anger many teachers felt when Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia shut down after over fifty years of existence. They built their whole professional career at Baker and they felt they were losing their identity.

The solution to the emptiness such disillusionment brings into our lives is not only to seek release from the penalty we bring upon ourselves for our sins but to establish our whole identity upon a relationship with the only One who remains the same for all of eternity.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Delivered

Delivered!


A large rescue team in Florida searched 5 days for young Nadia Bloom. She was lost in a swamp infested by alligators and mosquitoes. James King, a volunteer on the rescue team said he was responding to a higher voice when he decided to set out on his own. He went eastward from his home and miraculously found the young girl just 90 minutes later. She was delivered…from fear, from alligators, from insects and perhaps, from death. She was delivered to safety and to the loving arms of her fearful parents.

Deliverance means to be rescued from bondage or danger. Those in the secular world have much trouble understanding a Christian when they declare they have been saved. Saved infers preservation, like putting money in a bank or collecting pennies in a jar. Perhaps the better way of expressing what Christ has done for us is to declare we have been "delivered".

In a previous blog I stated the importance of distinguishing true Christians from false Christians. Jesus emphasized making this distinction when he admonished his disciples to "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matt. 7:15) He looked in the eyes of his disciples as he proclaimed this and saw the question there, "How will we know who is and who is not?". Christ answered the unspoken question, "By their fruit you will recognize them…a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." (Matt. 7:16,18)

Instead of asking "Are you saved?" perhaps we should ask, "Are you delivered?" Romans 11:26 says, "The Deliverer will come and He will remove ungodliness." He turns our unrighteousness into righteousness, our putrid hearts into pure hearts. What does the fruit of a true Christian look like? When we are delivered and become followers of Christ, we have "fruit unto holiness." Its foolishness to declare we can't tell who is and who is not a Christian. Christ strongly refuted this. You can look at an Eskimo all dressed in furs and tell he is not from the Congo. You can look at a Japanese woman dressed in her Kimono and tell this is not an Australian Aborigine. We can also distinguish between Christians and non-Christians by observing what they have been delivered from.

Our politically correct world will accuse us strongly of being discriminatory. Christ is discriminatory. One day he will discriminate between the goats and the sheep. It will be the ultimate act of discrimination when he will send the goats one direction and the sheep another. We do a tremendous disservice to God when we 'cover' for the non-Christians by declaring we just don't know. A word of caution, we dare not infringe on what belongs to God and God alone. We cannot know the heart of every man, true. But we can be fruit inspectors as Christ commanded us to be.

So, what have you been delivered from? Have you been delivered from alcohol addictions or drug addictions. Sex and pornography addictions are rampant in our culture today. Have you been delivered? Have you been delivered from sin? 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." It sounds almost too easy.

Have you been delivered from evil. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he instructed them to say, "…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." Have you been delivered from the fear of death, Christ has taken away the 'sting of death'. Have you been delivered from yourself, have you taken off "…your old self with its practices and put on the new self…"

When you are truly delivered your lies are replaced with truth, your sinfulness with righteousness, your fear with faith. You will no longer love the world but you will now love Christ. You will no longer serve a ruthless enemy but you will serve a gracious Savior.

Many will declare it is a free gift. In a manner it is but don't misunderstand. Full salvation and complete deliverance will cost you….it will cost you everything. Christ demands we give him our all. No fifty-fifty deals, its all or nothing. The consequences of failing to confess or accepting his deliverance is eternally devastating. Whatever you do, make your confession real and in so doing assure your deliverance is real. For those who want a superficial relationship with Christ his warning is clear, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

Weeds or Wheat?

Weeds or Wheat

I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania where my father grew a marvelous garden every year. I helped make it marvelous by spending many hours pulling weeds. I once pulled a number of young string beans before my father let me know in no uncertain terms, "Those aren't weeds, they're beans." Sometimes it was hard to tell the weeds from the wheat.

How do you tell those who are Christians from those who pretend to be Christians or from those who aren't Christians? I believe it is the greatest problem facing the church today. The church has been infiltrated by non-Christians. The enemy certainly realizes the advantage of mixing the weeds with the wheat. Jesus knew Satan's strategy and addressed it in the 13th chapter of Matthew. "While everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. The owner's servants asked, 'Where did the weeds come from?'. 'An enemy did this,' the master replied. 'Do you want us to pull them up,' they asked. 'No,' he replied, 'because if you pull up the weeds you may very well uproot some of the wheat.'"

It's interesting that Christ put a damper on their idea of pulling up the weeds (non-Christians). Because judgment falls under the authority of Christ alone he told them that the time for separation will surely come but that time has not yet arrived. He instructed them not to separate them but he certainly was promoting the idea of identifying them. The failure to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians is a problem that is destroying the church today. The fear of being offensive or of being discriminatory has crept deep into the church. Christians are not offensive because of an obnoxious attitude or because they feel they are better than others. They are offensive because they live the truth of the gospel. Christ warned that those who spoke truth and lived truth would be hated by the world. (John 15:18-19) "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

It is very common for people to claim to be Christians today. 80% of Americans make this claim. If this country were 80% Christian we would have turned the world upside-down long ago. Some believe they are Christians simply because they believe in Jesus. Satan and his imps believe strongly in Jesus. Some believe they can earn Christianity by attending church every Sunday morning. Some have had a "feel good" experience in their past upon which they build a 'Christian' testimony.

Miley Cyrus interviewed for a popular magazine recently, "I went to a church camp every summer and I got saved there when I was seven. … I was in my cabin one day, and I just felt happy and I was thinking about Jesus…" I wouldn't know where Miley stands with Christ but I know a "feel good" experience does not necessarily make one a Christian. The question to be asked should not be 'have you had an emotional experience?' but 'what are you doing with your life now?' What sort of life are you living? Is there evidence that your life has been radically changed?

Jesus taught that "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24) We will either be a friend of God or a friend of the world but we can't be both. We must be careful when distinguishing between Christian and non-Christian but distinguish we must. No one convinces another that he is a Christian simply by a solitary trip to an altar or an experience in the baptistery. When Jesus said, "By their fruit you will recognize them…" (Matt. 7:16) he was referring to their daily walk.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We've been sent leanness

We’ve been sent leanness.




“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (I Samuel 8:4-5)

The socialist liberals in our country have been selling us big government for years. We have been conditioned to believe that government is good, it is generous and compassionate toward those who are needy. We love the hand that feeds us. We have become fat and lazy. We no longer teach our young that liberty and freedom and strong individuality are admirable traits of redeemed humanity. We teach them how to survive by jilting the system even if it means sacrificing your integrity.

They have used the public school system to perfection. They have taken over most of the media and the welfare system has been an invaluable tool in their attempt to socially engineer the masses. Now, we have an entire generation of youth who fail to see their capabilities or discover their own ingenuity. They cry out for a king, they want the government to pacify their every need. They want the king who offers to change their poverty to comfort. They want in without paying the price of admission.

Our masses now want to be like other countries. The government has now become our savior. We live in the safest, wealthiest, most powerful and secure country in the world. But we don’t appreciate are inheritance. It’s so ironic that we who live in such a great country are dissatisfied. We beg for change, we want to be like other, more inferior countries. (European) We clamored for nationalized health care and command economies and bigger and bigger government.

“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” – Ronald Reagan

“Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them” (I Samuel 8:9)

God agreed to give them the desires of their heart but he warned them of the consequences that would follow. “He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” – Psalm 106:15. Our founding fathers attempted to establish a country that would be set apart, a peculiar country. It was about blazing a trail where no other country had been.

What sort of leanness shall be sent us? Our military will become weaker under our new king, Obama. We will embolden our terrorist enemies. We will lose our strongest allies and flirt with our worst enemies. Our government will grow to behemoth size. Millions more will be made government dependent. We will take away the initiative and motivation of the successful to create more wealth. Our children will live a lower standard of living than their fathers and grandfathers. Our families will continue to be attacked by leftist ideology. We will continue to abort more and more innocent babies. The government will attempt to take on the responsibility for raising the children. Our schools will become indoctrination facilities to create government-dependent zombies. The sanctity of marriage will be sullied.

How will this new king treat his people? He will “take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots…he will take some and appoint them to plow his own fields and reap his harvest. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves and give them to his servants…and you will cry out in that day because of the king you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” – I Sam. 8:10-18

Saturday, April 10, 2010

We need lots of SON…

We need lots of SON…




Adam’s greatest failure was that he failed in the one great responsibility God assigned to him. He was to tend to the garden. His job was to protect all life in the garden. Of course, he failed miserably. His walls were not high enough nor strong enough. “Briars came up instead of wheat and weeds instead of barley.” (Job 31:40) Sin entered the garden and that’s why we are in the mess were in today.

I’ve enjoyed a delightful Spring Break here in west central Georgia. My family had no opportunity to get away because Shannon had to work this week. Temperatures have been in the mid-seventies. My Azaleas are just about to burst. I’ve spent most of the week playing ‘monster trucks’ with my little boy and working in my yard.

We’ve never had a garden but this year we’ve been strongly considering it. My father was a master gardener when I was a growing boy and I avoided the garden like a plague because if you ever got near the garden while Dad was working it you would find yourself pulling weeds for hours. He loved it but I never really acquired a love for playing in the dirt when all the rest of my friends were out playing basketball and running the woods.

Having failed to learn much from my father about gardening, I walked down to my neighbor’s house yesterday to ask some advice. Where Adam may have failed, George has been a smashing success. Walking onto his place is about as close to the garden of Eden as one can get. I always look for those two Cherubim at the end of his driveway.

George gave me a 20 minute lesson on gardening. You need about eight hours of sunlight. Plants can’t grow in the shade. They need to bask all day in the sun. They need a lot of moisture, especially here in the hot south. Being a preacher, I started making spiritual application to what he was teaching me. We can only achieve spiritual health if we bask in the Son. We need to let that Light from heaven, brighter than our sun, illuminate us. We need this kind of light daily. Its not possible to get too much of His light. But we so often find ourselves in the shadows, wasting our time on things that do not edify. We seem to spend so much of our lives under one dark cloud after another. Those who are spiritually healthy are those who have arranged to live in the light of the Son.

George told me that the soil in our area has a high concentration of clay in the soil. “You’ll have to mix a lot of mulch and top soil and a bit of manure.” Manure? Where do you get manure? Is this something you buy at Wal-mart? I’m starting to have second thoughts about this garden idea. But I am aware of a verse in scripture that talks about soil. Jesus taught that rocky soil is not good for growing, nor is soil packed tight. But seed dropped into good soil could produce “one hundred, sixty and thirty times what was sown.” Sometimes we don’t grow spiritually because the soil in our heart is not prepared properly to receive what God wants to plant there.

George said to keep the garden free of weeds. Now, this is the one thing I remember from working in my father’s garden. I’ve spent many, many Saturday mornings weeding strawberry rows that looked to be about three miles long when I was nine years old. Jesus also taught a lot about weeds. He said they choke out what is good in our lives. He said they should be separated from the wheat and collected into bundles to be burnt. The enemy will sometimes sow weeds in our garden to try to destroy it. Oh, the little foxes that ruin the vine. Must we not be on constant alert to keeps the weeds out of the garden of the soul? My father used to tell his three sons, “What you give your mind to is what you become.” The Philippians were admonished to avoid the weeds and direct their minds toward that which would edify: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” Philippians 4:8

George had a tall fence built around his garden. “Keeps out the critters.”, he said. I know what “critters” he is talking about. The deer have feasted on my Knock-out roses. I’m sure they love onions, asparagus and ochre. Adam failed because he didn’t protect his garden. We have a responsibility to build walls around our own souls and then to build a fortress around our families to protect them from sin. As head of my family I want to be very careful what my family is exposed to on the computer, on the television, etc. I want to check the fence daily to make sure it is secure and impenetrable.

I’m not sure if I will ever have much of a garden but I left George yesterday with a new determine to take care of my soul and the souls of my family members.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Learning From Tiger's Tale



Today is the beginning of the 2010 Master’s Tournament. It’s been going on every year now for about 76 years. Tiger Woods is dominating the airwaves as he finally returns to golf after his Thanksgiving night fiasco that nearly destroyed his marriage.

Americans are fascinated by his story. Some participate in a sort of sick revelry that someone so rich, famous and successful has fallen so far. They feel a kind of warped satisfaction when they see one of their social gods come tumbling down.

Some are fascinated by how human their social gods really are. Tiger, the god of golf, is really just a fallible human like all the rest of us. Many are fascinated by the double life he lived. They search for answers to questions that may never be answered: Did Elin really never have a clue? How will Tiger’s two children interpret their father’s philandering when they are old enough to comprehend? Why is Elin still with him? Would Tiger not be restored to ‘god’ status were he to regain the trust of his wife? Will he ever really recover professionally from the damage done to his reputation?

Unfortunately, it seems Tiger turned to therapy to treat his ‘disease’ instead of turning to God to forgive him his sin. The fascination so many have with Tiger may be caused by the fact that he typifies what is so wrong with so many marriages in America. Tiger was willing to pretend to be someone he wasn’t for the sake of temporary sexual satisfaction. He convinced a dozen women that he was emotionally attached to each of them and he deceived them for no other reason than to satisfy his own selfish desires.

It seems to be the norm in our culture today to desert the old method of courtship in favor of the newer method of dating and instant gratification. The wiser heads of years past realized that the raging hormones rushing through a young man’s body prevented him from thinking rationally. So, a courtship, often encouraged by parents, was the accepted method of finding a mate. The courtship was long enough for the couple to realize if they were compatible. If done successfully under the supervision of chaperones the couple could decide their future without being defrauded by illicit sexual activity.

In our more modern culture that method is considered antiquated. Men, like Tiger, often use deception to capture a woman’s heart. He is very crafty, becoming all things to her and trying his best to satisfy her “Knight in Shining Armor” complex. Many sacrifice their integrity, their honor, their friends and family in anticipation of sexual favors.

After the bond is completed by a marriage ceremony he continues to live his life of deception until the pressure becomes too great. He gets tired of the fa├žade. The day to day pressure of being someone he is not causes him to become an angry and frustrated man. In his attempt to break out of the prison he has created for himself he often turns against the woman he once ‘loved’ or he becomes more and more miserable in his dungeon of compliance. Usually, the result is a painful divorce.

Monday, April 5, 2010

“When sorrows like sea billows role, it is well…”



Horatio Gates Spafford was one of the more prominent citizens of Chicago back in the 1860’s. He had become quite wealthy as a lawyer and a real estate investor. He was a very close friend and supporter of D. L. Moody. Life couldn’t be any better for Mr. Spafford. He had a beautiful home, he was very successful in his profession and he and his wife, Anna, were parents to four lovely children.

But, things began to go badly for the Spaffords around 1870. Their only son died of scarlet fever at the age of four. The Great Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out all of Mr. Spaffords real estate holdings along the shore of Lake Michigan. The family was devastated.

Mr. Spafford was aware of the great toll the tragedies had taken upon his family so he planned a trip to Europe in search of rest and an opportunity to revive their spirits. While in Europe he would assist his evangelist friend, D. L. Moody, who was holding meetings there at the time.

The Spaffords traveled to New York and from there they would board the French steamer 'Ville de Havre'. Mr. Spafford was greatly disappointed when he was called back to Chicago on business. He and his wife agreed that she would go on with their three daughters and he would join them later. Nine days later Horatio Spafford received a telegram from his wife, it read: “Saved alone.”

In November of 1873, the ‘Ville de Havre’ collided with an English vessel, 'The Lochearn'. It only took 12 minutes for the ‘Ville de Havre’ to sink. Among the 226 people who lost their lives were three young girls named Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta. Ann Spafford clung to her daughters as long as she could until the rising waves ripped them from her arms. Ann surfaced from the deep waters unconscious. She was saved by a piece of wood that had floated under her and kept her afloat.

Ann would later declare she had heard a voice that said, “You were saved for a purpose” and then she recalled something a friend had once told her, “"It's easy to be grateful and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."

Mr. Spafford took the next ship out of New York to be with his grieving wife. As the ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Mr. Spafford was called to the Captain’s hold. The captain informed him that they were presently crossing the very spot where his daughters had perished. Somewhere below them the ‘Ville de Havre’ lie three miles deep.

It seemed his heart was being torn from his breast. Mr. Spafford returned to his room and took up a pen and wrote one of the greatest hymns of the church. His inspiration came from the response of the Shunammite woman whose story was told thousands of years earlier in 2 Kings 4:26. She had lost her only son and her “soul was vexed within her.” But, in spite of her tremendous grief, she has a hope and a joy that surpasses all understanding and “it is well”.

These are the words Mr. Spafford wrote that day:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!
Mr. Spafford’s strength is admired and envied by many. But, he also indicates in his hymn how we might also have such strength:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

When Christ forgives sin we become partakers of his strength. When the whole of sin is nailed to the cross old things pass away and all things become new. We are partakers of his nature, we are on a journey toward Christ-likeness.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"I see no God up here."

Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first man to venture into space on April 12, 1961. It is reported that he said, “ I don’t see God up here.” There is no recording to verify that he actually said that but Krushchev propagandized his trip into space by declaring that no God was found in his speech to the Central Committee of the CPSU. Gagarin died tragically in a flight training accident in 1968.

C.S. Lewis said that Gagarin’s statement was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle looking for Shakespeare. God is not like an object that can be found in a particular area of the universe. He is not like some element that can be gathered and taken into a lab for observation and experimentation. He wouldn’t be God if you could localize him in that way.

Timothy Keller portrays God in his book, The Reason for God, as being like a playwright who relates to the characters in his play. As characters on the stage we can know quite a lot about the playwright but only as he chooses to reveal information about himself. God has chosen to reveal just enough for us to find salvation and inherit eternal life. It will take us the rest of eternity to learn all the rest.

What a great mind C.S. Lewis had. On this Easter morning as the sun was rising on a gorgeous day in Georgia, I was reminded of Lewis’ metaphor about the sun. He said that he believes in God “as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” You can’t learn about the sun by staring directly into it. In fact, that will only bring blindness. The best way to learn about the sun is to look at the world it reflects upon.

God told Moses, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God for fear his fragile, earthly body couldn’t endure the beauty of His holiness. (Exodus 3:6) God hides much of himself from us because we couldn’t endure a full knowledge of who he is. David asked God, “How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 88:14) I think God hides his face from us until we shed these earthly bodies and take on glorified bodies that will be able to endure his holiness.

The God of scripture is not someone you will find in your attic. Something of great value is not found so easily. He gives us many clues as to who he is and what he is like but he doesn’t make it so easy to know him. Surely, the ultimate source he has given us to know him is his very son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If you had known me you would have known my Father also.” (John 14:7)

He is the playwright. He creates all the characters and puts into the story. He gives us enough sense to know that all things are not right with this world. He places within us a void that nothing in this world can fill. All of us have a deep need to understand what our purpose is and if there is really any meaning in life. He then presents himself as the substance that can fill the void, as the solution to a corrupt and dying world.

I have heard so many say they are glad they have found Him. Can you ever really find Him? He enables us to have a relationship with him but I’m not so sure that the great and wondrous God that I believe exists can ever really be found!