Holigram

Richard scowled at the framed poster displayed on an easel at the entrance to the gift store.  “What a sham!” he nearly shouted.

Startled by Richard’s outburst, a passerby named Peter asked, “What is?”

“This poster, it’s an utter sham!” Richard replied.  “These big gift store chains think they can dupe the public into buying overpriced junk by making ridiculous claims for their merchandise.  I mean, look at this thing; it’s just a mess of recurring jagged lines in shades of blue and they want $30 for it.  It’s not even original art.  It’s a poster for crying out loud!  I’m a realist and if I buy a poster, I want it to actually look like something.  I have a framed poster of the fjords of Norway that’s gorgeous and I only paid $15 for that one.  What are they trying to pull?”

“Well,” Peter began, “the caption at the bottom says, ‘Stalkers of the Deep.’  Perhaps all that blue and wavy lines is supposed to represent water or something.”

“Oh boy, I guess there really is one born every minute!” retorted Richard.  “It can’t be water, the lines are jagged, not wavy, and the patterns repeat at specific intervals.  Besides, even if it is supposed to be water, why would someone pay $30 for a print of a bad abstract of water when they could get an actual photo of the ocean for $15?”

Peter, now feeling a bit patronized and quite a bit curious said, “Alright then, if it bothers you so much, why don’t you just confront the manager of the store?  Maybe he can explain what makes this poster so special.  There must be some reason they think it’s worth that much.”

“Puh, go in there?  I don’t think so.” responded Richard in disdain.  “I don’t need their cock and bull explanation.  I’ve got two eyes and I can see what’s going on.  Besides, that little flunky in there won’t be able to do anything about it anyway.  I’m going to blog about it to warn others against these big conglomerates and the way they manipulate the public.”

Peter stood for a second looking at Richard and then at the store.  He said, “Well, now I’m curious, so I’m going to ask.”

“Suit yourself.”  Spat Richard as Peter entered the store.

Moments later Peter returned holding a piece of paper.

“What’s that?” Richard asked suspiciously.

“It’s a leaflet about the poster.  It says it’s a 3-D sea life scene which was generated by a computer.”

“Really?” Richard quipped.  “How gullible do they think we are?  3-D?  Maybe I’m nuts but it looks pretty 2-D to me.  And sea life…where?  Show me!  It’s not there.  I have eyes, you know.”

“I don’t see it either.” Peter admitted.  “The leaflet says you have to look at it the right way and that sometimes it takes a long time before some people can see it.”

Grabbing his head, Richard yelled, “Now they’re blaming me because I can’t see it!  Well isn’t that convenient!  I suppose they’re selling a beautiful suit inside which only the wisest people can see.  Can’t you see what they’re doing?  You can’t win with these people!”

“I don’t know,” replied Peter, “this is a reputable company and the people inside seem nice enough.  Maybe it’s like when you see a dragon in the clouds or your rug looks like an angry face.  I’m sure they are sincere.”

Crossing his arms and turning from the poster, Richard responded flatly, “That’s up to you.  Feel free to join the impressionable hoard.  I’ll go the way of reason and common sense.  Let me ask you just one more question: Would you put that thing on your wall?”

“Well, no.”  Peter answered sheepishly.

Richard began, “Okay, then, I rest my ca_”

“Oh, wow!” A voice from behind Richard interrupted him in his moment of triumph.  He spun around to see a young woman looking at the poster and pointing.

“Look at those sharks!  It’s like they’re coming right at me.  How much is this poster, $30?  What a steal!  I’m so putting this up in my room!” the young woman exclaimed.  With that, she took the poster inside and bought it.

As she walked out of the store with the poster under arm, Peter called out, “Did you really see all of that in that poster?”

“Of course.” the girl replied, “Didn’t you?”

“Uh, yeah, it was great.” was Peter’s tentative response.

Richard muttered under his breath, “Delusional.  So sad.”

Psalm 1 {Guest Post}

A new friend, Zane Gilley, who now ironically is an atheist has sent me a couple of poetic adaptations of the Psalms which it is my pleasure to post here at the savant spot.  Enjoy!

Psalm I
Blessed be the man who doeth these things three:
Walketh not in the ungodly counsel,
Standeth not in the way of sinner’s feet,
Sitteth not in the seat of the scornful.
But he places his devoted delight
In the holiest laws of Jehovah.
He, all through the day and throughout the night,
Reverently meditates on the law.
He is like a tree planted by rivers
Of the liquid life giving sustenance.
He beareth fruit in season and offers
Lasting shade for those who under him chance.
Whatever he sets forth to do prospers
Giving the life of his neighbors enhance.
With the ungodly these things are not so,
For they are likened unto the dry chaff
That the winnowing wind that God dost blow
Carries away from the godly with wrath.
Therefore these men ungodly shall not stand
During the final day of God’s judging,
Nor shall these unholy ones have a hand
In holy righteous saints’ congregating.
For the mind of Jehovah Almighty
Knoweth the blessed way of the righteous,
But the accursed way of the ungodly
Will with gnashing of teeth ever perish.

 

You Can Keep It

In the wake of various rallies which have taken place over the weekend regarding religion and the free exercise thereof, a question springs to my mind: “Who Would Jesus Protest?” Before you throw that question out as irrelevant, remember that Jesus lived and ministered in a highly-charged political environment. Jesus interacted with several political entities especially at the end of his life. Consider the following reading from the Gospel of John:

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  (John 28:28-37 NIV)

This discussion involves three parties.  Two of them believe in Yahweh – the “Jewish leaders” and Jesus.  Two of them struggle over political influence – the “Jewish leaders” and Pilate.  Just one both worshipped Yahweh and bowed out of the political wrangling, even though the outcome had bearing on his very survival.  His reason: “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.  But now my kingdom is from another place.”

What if those who today claim to serve Jesus Christ stood up and said, “You can keep it!  We don’t need your support and we don’t fear your opposition.  We will neither compromise our values nor fight over them.  You are free to take away our rights, our dignity, our livelihood, and our very lives.  You can keep it all because our kingdom is not of this world.  In the end we will be vindicated and victorious.  Just wait and see.”

Religious Unbelief

The Bible warns against unbelief but not against atheism per se.  How could the writers of the Scriptures have warned against atheism?  There weren’t any atheists.  I’ve heard commentators on a local Christian radio station aim Psalm 14:1 (“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”) at atheists.  Of course the implication becomes, “Atheists are fools.”  However, should you have met the 10th century B.C.E. Jewish citizen to which the psalmist referred, he would have confessed to a belief in the existence of God.  The psalmist was not saying that avowed atheists are fools.  He was saying that fools secretly (in their hearts) suppress their awareness of God.

So who are the fools?  The rest of Psalm 14 describes these religious unbelievers as those who elevate themselves by pushing others down.  Such people by their actions deny God as their source.  They may claim to believe that God exists, but they do not trust him to supply them with security, sustenance or self-worth.  They maneuver and manipulate to get for themselves what others have or might acquire.  Such people pray and attend religious services but they do not expect God to respond to their petitions.  Instead, they engage in these activities to further establish their superiority.

As a case in point, consider Jesus’ very telling question addressed to the religious elite of his day, “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44 NIV)  These men who stood at the peak of the religious establishment of their day were unbelievers according to Jesus.  From their lofty perch they congratulated each other on their moral superiority and derided everyone else.  They traded genuine engagement with the Basis of their being for the illusion of relative worth.  Rather than find the favor of God, they fed on the “failures” of those whom they defamed.  “They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the LORD.” (Ps. 14:4b NIV)

Faith, real faith, is a foreign concept.  People will seek any alternative to humble reliance on God.  Each alternative counterfeits the genuine treasure of our existence.  The most dangerous counterfeits most closely resemble the genuine article.  Those who accept religious achievement as heavenly currency are among the most desperately deceived.  Beware religious unbelief.

Poker Face

“Something’s wrong with me?”, Jamie, my wife, said over the phone.  “I can’t straighten my legs.  What am I going to do?”

What was she going to do?  What was I going to do?  I was out on my route.  I couldn’t leave.  I felt helpless.  She was at home taking care of our two young children and she could barely walk.  Besides, I could hear the fear in her voice.  I worked extra hard to get home as quickly as possible.

When I got there, my concern turned to alarm.  Both of her legs were bent at a 75 degree angle.  She could neither sit nor stand comfortably.  I’ll never forget the sight of her hobbling up the five stairs ascending from our den into our kitchen.  As she ascended those stairs, I descended into despair.  “What could this be?  Some degenerative disease?  Why would it come on so suddenly?”  All of these questions raced through my mind.  I considered taking her to the doctor, but I had absolutely no faith that they would be able to help with such a strange problem.

We had plans that evening to eat at the home of our close friends and fellow believers, so I gingerly loaded her into the van and away we went.  After dinner, I related to my friend that I had been reading a book by Smith Wigglesworth on divine healing and I suggested that he and his wife join me in praying for Jamie.  We put her on the couch and I prayed like I had never prayed before.  Instead of asking that she would be comforted in this difficult time or that the doctors would discover the cause of the problem or even asking if God might be willing to heal her, I said, “We speak to these knees and in Jesus name we command them to be healed.”  When she stood up, she announced, “I’m better!”  The next day my family went for a hike at a local state park.  She’s not had any trouble in the eleven years since that evening.

That day I got to peer behind the veil of the material world to see what’s going on when we pray.  We’re involved in a high stakes poker game with the “father of lies.”  Jesus has told us that we have a winning hand, but as we look across the table at those mirrored glasses and that look of derision, our nerves can get rattled.  We push a few chips to the middle of the table – a five minute request qualified by lots of “if it be thy will.”

Satan responds, “It will take more than that if you want to see my cards.”

Our palms begin to sweat.  We wonder, “What if I stake all my faith on this hand and I’m beaten?  What will happen to all that I claim to believe?  What will happen to the faith of other people if they observe God’s promises fail?  Do I dare to stand?  Wouldn’t it just be safer to fold and cut my losses?”  So, we fold.  We walk away from the table with slightly less faith than we came with but at least we didn’t risk it all.  Meanwhile Satan sits at the table with a smug smile, holding a pair of deuces.

To all of us who too often fold in prayer, I commend the words of the apostle Paul, “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  (Eph. 6:10-11 ASV)

Less Debating; More Discipling

This is an amazing video with some great thoughts thrown in. Just a reminder about how easily we’re thrown off course from carrying out the Great Commission. If we make disciples (I mean Christ followers) we will combat abortion!

Ben Moushon

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  John 8:7

Like many of the Evangelical Political issues that have overtaken the presidential elections this year, the debate over contraception coverage in the healthcare  baffles me.  And like so most of those issues, it seems like a loud majority is making uninformed assumptions about and trying to control the vast majority.  When the truth is Christians aren’t statistically much different than the rest of society.  There are similar percentages of Christians having premarital sex, watching pornography, abusing alcohol, getting divorced, abusing their spouses, stealing, lying, murdering, committing adultery…

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Indigenous Believers Speak Out Against C5/Insider Movements

Just another example of why “cutting edge” methods which we receive second hand have no value. The mission starts where we are. We must do it! We must reach those we know and equip them to reach people they know, trusting in the power of the gospel and Jesus’ presence with us to handle cultural barriers for us.

The other side of the story

Western missionaries are removing “Son of God” from Bible translations produced for Insider Movements. Hear Asians talk about the impact, in their own words.

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Do You Know Jack?

I’ve recently been discussing the idea of truth with an acquaintance. Is it possible to know the truth? Where is truth to be found? We can discover truths by observations in nature or Scripture, but the challenge becomes assembling truths into a coherent model of reality or the truth. Of course, nobody knows how many truths there are to be discovered, so any claim to academic knowledge of the truth must be qualified.

But Jesus promises that those who persist in following him not only can but WILL know the truth. Look at what he says in this familiar passage:

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

What could he mean? Was he wrong or naive? The answer lies in the definition of the Greek word for “to know” which is used here. Like many other languages, ancient Greek had two words for “to know.” The one used here refers to personal, experiential knowledge as in, “Do you know Jack?” So Jesus promises that those who follow him will know the truth like someone knows a good friend or their spouse.

Finding the truth then becomes a practical pursuit rather than an academic one. Truth becomes the property of the humble rather than the intellectual. Best of all, those who know the truth in this way have just begun an eternity of joyful discovery of limitless truths.

I just found this on the blog role. Great to find people who will do your blogging for you 😉

Not What I Expected

It’s ridiculous that I love Jesus.

I didn’t want to for so long- and I successfully avoided it for almost 20 years.  There was so much stacked against the idea of believing:  doubt, cynicism, the weird stories about His life.  But most of all, it was Christians that kept me away from Christ.  You know, the mean ones.  The hypocritical ones.  The “you can’t come to church looking like that” ones.

So here I am, 5 years in, and I don’t want to be the kind of Christian that keeps non-believers from Christ.  I want to be a reflection of the purest love I’ve ever known- the kind of love that makes no sense, takes risks, and forgives quickly.  The kind of Love that spends time with non-believers, with no agenda.

Christ follower:  If we really believed the truth and tragedy of this world; that people need Christ, and without Him, there is…

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Honey, If You Love Me…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the reasons that people have for disbelieving God or for questioning his nature. I myself have struggled and continue to struggle with doubts. In fact, I struggle to believe those who say that they have not struggled with doubts. It’s hard to believe in God. Bad things happen. Prayers go unanswered. Then there are the contradictions between the biblical narrative and scientific discoveries. Not to mention contradictions between the biblical narrative and the biblical narrative. Finally, and most devastatingly, there are the walking contradictions, those who claim to follow Christ yet do violence to his name through their behavior.

We’ve all encountered contradictions in various forms. What we do with them will shape our souls and the course of our lives. By spending some time recently reading literature from unbelievers, I have discovered a pattern in the way they tend to process these contradictions. Their thinking tends to follow an “if, then” heuristic. For instance, “If God is all-powerful and completely good, then why is there suffering?” That’s a great question to ask as are many others posed by those who do not believe in God. It’s a logical question. I respect people who ask good questions and I feel indebted to them for helping to take my thinking to a higher level. I don’t want a faith which is untested or based on assumption.

Having said that, I want to challenge the atheistic challenge by suggesting that drawing conclusions from the “if, then” heuristic presupposes that all variables are known. For instance, a child whose parents take him to get a shot might question the love of his parents for him since he has built a heuristic that says, “If you love me, then you won’t hurt me.” We can easily see that while for this child the dilemma is very real, the contradiction exists only in his faulty perception of reality. Here is another example which I found in Scripture the other day: “The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” (Luke 23:36-37) Roman soldiers standing at the foot of the cross could not possibly understand how or why a king would submit to crucifixion. They possessed a heuristic which said, “If you have power, then you will use it in your best interest.” Looking back at this event through the lens of redemption, we can easily see that not only did the cross not challenge Jesus’ identity as the Christ, it validated it. So, there was more to be understood and the soldiers reached a conclusion too early.

Perhaps in the debate over the existence of God, some humility is called for. Perhaps at the beginning, we should all acknowledge that there is much we do not know. I’d like to challenge myself and anyone else who will accept it, to allow contradictions to elicit further discovery rather than premature conclusions. After all, the first definition for “heuristic” in Dictionary.com is, “serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of further investigation.”