The Rise & Fall of a Nation

Solid (and prophetic quote):

These provocative thoughts were set down by Professor Alexander Tyler around 1770 – seven years before the birth of the United States.

May we, as a nation, be careful not to repeat this pattern of history:

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.  These nations have progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;

From spiritual faith to great courage;

From courage to liberty;

From liberty to abundance;

From abundance to selfishness;

From selfishness to complacency;

From complacency to apathy;

From apathy to dependence;

From dependence back into bondage.”

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,…” (Psalm 33:12)

Regardless of one’s political leanings, we must pray for our nation.

Prayer-Meeting

Nick

I Can Only Imagine (movie): Review

I encourage you to go see it for the following reasons, followed by a word of caution:

Unlike some Christian-themed films, this one is in no way manipulative, coercive or sensationalized.

Not once will you feel “preached to.”

The director has done a masterful job of making this a film simply about the story of one boy’s painful childhood – and how God can use the pain and dysfunction in our lives on this messed up planet to create something extraordinary and, dare I say – joyful.

It’s not mentioned in the movie, but several times I reflected upon Joseph’s words to his brothers, “What you intended for evil against me, God intended for good.” (God transformed Joseph’s crippling pain into purpose and joy.)

In my opinion, Christianity wasn’t even the primary theme of the movie. Again, the director did a superb job of telling a story, allowing the audience to absorb the story at their own pace, and then, only if they want to, consider the spiritual implications.

What was the primary theme of the movie?

Forgiveness.

Bart Millard suffered deeply at the hands of his dad while growing up. When Bart was grown, his soul beaten and bruised, he had a choice to make – (1) live the rest of his life out suffering psychological bondage, driven by his hate for his dad, or (2) forgive his dad, regardless of how much pain he had endured.

And the director never once portrays forgiveness as easy. It’s a war in your mind and soul. The director gives complete respect to this truth.

All of that said, i offer this one caution:

If, like me, you suffered years of abuse as a child at the hands of a physically violent and verbally abusive father, the movie will most certainly be triggering. You will find yourself, like I did, weeping, gripping your chest and, at times, experiencing very real and traumatic flashbacks. You will want to have someone you love – and who loves you deeply (scars and all) – next to you.  My wife, Michelle, held my arm the entire movie.

As I left the theater (emotionally exhausted), I told Michelle, “I’m so glad I forgave my dad.”  (Read me story here.)

I can only imagine what my dad is doing now in heaven. Free from addiction. Free from anger. Free from his own pain.

And, because I’ve forgiven him, I’m free too.

“What (the stuff of life) intended for evil against me, God intended for good.” Christ wins.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Discipleship of the Mind

Theology

When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment he purposefully made it clear that God was to be loved with the mind as well as the rest of our human faculties. (cf. Matthew 22:37)

In his book, “The Passionate Intellect,” former atheist, Alister McGrath (Oxford; Ph.D., Molecular Biophysics), calls the intellectual pursuit of God “the discipleship of the mind.” To anyone who would dismiss theological study as boring, uninteresting and dry, he offers the following:

“Christian theology is one of the most intellectually stimulating and exciting subjects to study, rich in resources for our lives.”

He continues,

“It has the capacity to excite, inspire and illuminate the human intellect , giving it a new passion and focus.”

I couldn’t agree more.

But, modern day believers (not all, but the vast majority) are, biblically illiterate and intellectually lazy, allowing their minds to be slowly consumed by mind-numbing social media.

C.S. Lewis, former atheist and one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, said,

“God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of being a Christian, I warn you: you are embarking on something that is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.”

Writing a blog he titles, “How the Church’s Anti-Intellectualism Will Be Her Jailor,” Michael Sherrard agrees:

[The intellectual laziness that characterizes much of North American Christianity] “has caused a slumber – a slumber in the proverbial classroom, and the church is now awakening to an exam for which it is not prepared… Now many believers are ill equipped to speak about anything that does not have a mascot. And in that regard, society should place us at the kids table.”

Ouch.

Love the Lord you God with all your…mind,

Nick

The Joy of Helping the Hurting

Relief-Slider-2

The most familiar biblical image is most likely from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

Helping the hurting.

I cannot begin to estimate the number of people my wife, Michelle, and I have counseled since the suicide of our son, Jordan. Countless people who have, themselves, suffered the loss of a loved one due to suicide.

The first one to contact us happened within the first week after Jordan’s death.

Recently, I was counseling yet another precious individual who is suffering from what psychologist refer to as “complicated grief” (grief associated with suicide).

And I am, dare I say, grateful that I can.

My friends, Jesus didn’t pull any punches when, on the night before he would be crucified, told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble (complicated grief, unspeakable suffering, depression, pain, etc.); but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  (emphasis mine)

Michelle and I have, over time, found that, after Jordan’s death, we had a choice to make: (1) live in despair, crawling up in a ball of pain and simply count time until we die, or (2) dump every last ounce of our pain on Christ, allowing him to take our pain and use it to give others hope which, in turn, gives purpose to our pain.

We chose “option 2.”

Every one of your reading this has experienced tremendous pain in your life. Never ever underestimate the power of your story to give hope to those who come behind you.

Paul encouraged the hurting Corinthian believers, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

Because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, there is hope.

As Billy Graham once said,

“I’ve read the last page of the Bible, it’s all going to turn out all right.”

The psalmist wrote, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Love to you all, Nick

Evil & Guns

EVIL & GUNS

I’ve resisted posting about the massacre in Florida until recently as there is no shortage of postings.

There is much to say. There is nothing to say.

You want to scream. You find yourself unable to speak.

Those who quickly politicize the tragedy are foolish and near-sighted.

This is first and foremost a problem, not of gun-control, but of the human condition.

To be clear: I am a strong advocate of the 2nd Amendment.  And I am also one who strongly believes the gun laws in our nation are deeply flawed, need changing, and, presently, are not at all what our nation’s founders had in mind.

However,….

Don’t be fooled – stricter firearm regulations would in no way curb mass killings. One blogger put it best:

When evil wants guns, evil will find guns.

Just as deranged individuals can illegally assemble explosives, or drive vehicles into crowds of people, they can – and will – acquire firearms they desire.

The human condition of evil and outright depravity is nothing new. Throughout history, psychopaths have done their bidding.  Some 600 years before Christ would be born, Jeremiah wrote, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…”

Theologically, since the day Adam forfeited the management of earth to Satan in Genesis 3, evil has reigned. (Keep in mind, in Matthew 4 & Luke 4, when Satan told Jesus he would give Jesus the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would but bow down and worship him – which Jesus refused – Jesus did not dispute Satan’s claim of his temporary ownership of planet earth. Paul called Satan “the god of this world.” John wrote that “whole world is under the control of the evil one.”) This is precisely why Christ allowed himself to suffer Roman execution, and why he is returning to redeem what is rightfully his. Until that final consummation by the risen King, evil will continue to reign.

And, by the way, for those who would snap, “Why would God let Satan have control of earth??” This was mankind’s decision when we, in essence, in Gen 3, told God to “shove off.”

But God could not contain his love for even a rebellious mankind – even when we had him murdered on a cross outside Jerusalem. “But God so loved…” still.

So, in sum, guns are inanimate, and therefore not the problem. The blame falls squarely on the fallen condition of mankind. I’ve seen the posts claiming “we don’t need ‘thoughts and prayers – we need gun control.”

Dear friends – we need both.

Congress and the public can debate more strict gun laws while we, simultaneously, lift to Heaven the hearts of the grieving parents and loved ones who are suffering unspeakable pain.

Maranatha – Come, Lord Jesus, nick

The Faith of Atheism

In Conversations with Carl Sagan, Tom Head records Sagan (astronomer, astrophysicist, and ardent agnostic) as saying,

“An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence.”

It is no secret that, despite the reasonable evidence, ultimately, belief in the risen Christ is by faith – we’re told this repeatedly in scripture (cf. Ephesians 2:8)

My only objective here is to remind everyone that atheism also requires strong faith. In fact, atheist Michael Ruse, in his review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and similar books,

“The material being churned out is second rate. And that is a euphemism for ‘downright awful’.”

The existence or non-existence of God cannot be proven in a laboratory. This is by God’s own design. Dr. Andy Bannister rightly stated,

“The claim ‘only science can discover truth’ is self-refuting, as the statement itself cannot be verified using science.”

I think Ravi Zacharias, echoing a quote by 17th century French physicist, Blaise Pascal, said it best:

“I often put it this way: God has put enough [evidence] into this world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough [evidence] out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason alone. Faith and reason must always work together.”

nw

NOTE:  The quote referenced by Pascal in the above blog:

“If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous . . . There are two equally dangerous extremes: to exclude reason; to admit nothing but reason.”

Newsweek: Where Do You Go When You Die?

As I study the biblical worldview of the afterlife (which I’m convicted is true) I’m always curious to see what mainstream culture thinks about it all. So, when I saw this tweeted article – Newsweek giving credence to the possibility of life-beyond-death – my interest was piqued.

Most of the article cites what scientists are finding truly fascinating: human brain cells continue to function for hours after death. Scientists in no way argue that when a person is “dead” they may, in fact, be “mostly dead,” to borrow a term from The Princess Bride. They agree when a person dies, they’re dead. But this discovery of post-death brain activity intrigues them nonetheless.

Human consciousness is one of the “Achilles heels” of the psycho-physical/natural reductionist worldview (the argument for human existence being purely natural, void of anything supernatural, or outside empirical evidence – this worldview would include the disbelief in any form of an afterlife i.e. when we die, we cease to exist.)

No respected physicist/scientist on the planet claims to be able to define, much less explain, human consciousness & cognition. Presently, this remains beyond human explanation. No doubt, this is by God’s own design.

Citing “near death” experiences, the author writes,

[The scientific findings] seem to suggest that when our brains and bodies die, our conscious may not,…”

Indeed, according to God, they don’t. “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” the author of Hebrews warned. That does not sound to me like, after death, we cease to exist.

Of course, those who would scoff at this biblical warning are wagering there is nothing beyond death.  This, in my opinion, is a bad bet.

I’ve included for you here the final 4 paragraphs of the Newsweek article – which I find the most interesting part of the piece. (The article in its entirety is linked below.)

“In a 2016 study published in the Canadian Journal of Biological Sciences, doctors recounted shutting off life support for four terminally ill patients, only to have one of the patients continue emitting delta wave bursts—the measurable electrical activity in the brain we normally experience during deep sleep—for more than 10 minutes after the patient had been pronounced dead; no pupil dilation, no pulse, no heartbeat. The authors were at a loss for a physiological explanation.

Parnia’s research (Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at New York University Langone Medical Center) has shown that people who survive medical death frequently report experiences that share similar themes: bright lights; benevolent guiding figures; relief from physical pain and a deeply felt sensation of peace. Because those experiences are subjective, it’s possible to chalk them up to hallucinations. Where that explanation fails, though, is among the patients who have died on an operating table or crash cart and reported watching—from a corner of the room, from above—as doctors tried to save them, accounts subsequently verified by the (very perplexed) doctors themselves.

How these patients were able to describe objective events that took place while they were dead, we’re not exactly sure, just as we’re not exactly sure why certain parts of us appear to withstand death even as it takes hold of everything else. But it does seem to suggest that when our brains and bodies die, our consciousness may not, or at least not right away.

“I don’t mean that people have their eyes open or that their brain’s working after they die,” Parnia said. “That petrifies people. I’m saying we have a consciousness that makes up who we are—our selves, thoughts, feelings, emotions—and that entity, it seems, does not become annihilated just because we’ve crossed the threshold of death; it appears to keep functioning and not dissipate. How long it lingers, we can’t say.”

Read the entire article here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick