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

He’s Not a Tame Lion

Revelation, chapter 4, begins with the disciple, John, being transported beyond spatial-temporal human existence into the throne room of heaven itself and the eternal presence of Almighty God.  For John, it’s an awe-inspiring, terrifying scene as he begins recording for us the drama that will unfold immediately before the terrible judgment of God on a sinful, rebellious world.

On John’s description of the “flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder” surrounding God’s throne, one scholar comments, “this is not a sign of nature but a firestorm of righteous fury from the awesome, powerful God upon a sinful world.”

What’s my point?  (Good question)

Modern culture tends to see the Jesus of the Bible as merely a “nice guy.”

The 20th century, British apologist, Dorothy Sayers, offers some insight:

“The people who crucified Christ never,… accused him of being a bore – on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations (us) to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him ‘meek and mild’…”

But, the “nice – Jesus is my homeboy – Jesus” our modern culture likes to envision doesn’t exist.

It never did.

“Nice guys” aren’t vilified by the religious leadership of the day.  And, further, “nice guys” certainly aren’t given over to Roman execution.

The Jesus of 1st century Judea was certainly loving, kind, and generous.  But he was also uncompromising in his gospel message to mankind, delivering, on one occasion, a blistering message to the Pharisees, and, on another occasion, a message so pointed and “uncomfortable” to his listeners most of those who had been following him told him to, in essence, “take a hike” and left for good.

Jesus had no patience for sin when he walked this earth – and nothing has changed since then.  After saving the woman caught in adultery from the death penalty, he made certain to give her a sobering command:  “Stop sinning against God.”

In Revelation, chapter 5, Jesus is described as the “Lion from the tribe (or bloodline) of Judah.”

And he’s not a tame lion.

In his Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis includes a conversation between his characters, Mr. Beaver, and the children who’ve recently stumbled into Narnia.  The “Christ representing” lion, Aslan, is the topic of discussion and Mr. Beaver is attempting to describe him:

Mr. Beaver said, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you…  He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

The first time Jesus came was as a Suffering Servant.  The next time  – he’s coming as Reigning King and Righteous Judge.

In his book, Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yaconelli sums up what our modern culture has either forgotten, or lost altogether – our humble reverence and healthy fear of God:

No fear of God. No fear of Jesus. No fear of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we have ended up with a feelgood gospel that attracts thousands … but transforms no one.

It is time for Christianity to become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, “Fear not”; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or doctrine or theology, but the constant awareness of God’s terrifying presence in our lives.

The nice, nonthreatening God needs to be replaced by the God whose very presence smashes our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. A healthy, childlike fear should make us more in awe of God than we are of our government, our problems, our beliefs about abortion, our doctrines and agendas, or any of our other earthly concerns.

Our God is perfectly capable of both calming the storm and putting us in the middle of one.

Either way, if it’s God, we will be speechless and trembling … and smiling, too.

It’s time to become people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He dares to hold us in His terrifying, loving presence. How did we end up so comfortable with God?

How did our awe of God get reduced to a lukewarm appreciation of God? How did God become a pal instead of a heart-stopping presence? How can we think of Jesus without remembering His ground-shaking, thunder-crashing, stormy death on the cross? Why aren’t we continually catching our breath and saying, “This is no ordinary God!”?

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

 

 

 

Drawing Near to God – And What It Cost Him

Understanding what it means to be able to “draw near to God”…

There are people in important roles whose office I could call today and be told either it will be days or weeks before I can see them, or that I can’t see them at all.

Not so with the God who spoke the Cosmos into existence.

The Old Testament Law was given by God not to make us perfect but rather to show us how utterly imperfect we are in our sin.

An important part of that Law was the role of the Levitical Priests (Old Testament priests were members of the tribe of Levi). The priests were instructed by the Law to intercede for mankind. In other words, outside of God choosing to speak to an individual like Daniel or Gideon, or prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, regular people had no intimate access to God. Only priests had that privilege.

Think about that for a minute.  In Old Testament times you and I couldn’t talk to God. We had to wait our turn and go through a priest.

Additionally, only once a year, the high priest (the highest rank of all Levitical priests) – and only the high priest -had permission to enter the Holy of Holies (a designated inner room in the Old Testament tabernacle) to offer blood from an animal to atone for the sins of mankind. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin,” the author of Hebrews wrote.

This entering of the Holy of Holies was no casual or hurried experience.  Jewish tradition cites if the high priest did not keep every single required step in this process he did so at the risk of immediate death – this is how seriously God has always taken the atonement for the sin of mankind.

Bottom line: the Law kept mankind outside the intimate presence of God.

But God so loved the world…

The author of Hebrews wrote, “the Law made nothing perfect, but on the other hand, a better hope is (now) introduced through which we draw near to God.”

This was revolutionary news to first century people.

God introduced his new covenant. The need for human priests was fulfilled in the perfect life, death and resurrection of our true High Priest, Jesus Christ.

At his death, the veil in the Old Testament tabernacle that separated the designated human high priest from the Holy of Holies – which symbolized God’s intimate presence – was torn in two from top to bottom signifying the immediate arrival of the new covenant of God with man through Christ.

No longer did mankind need a human being to intercede to God on their behalf. “There is (now) one mediator between God and man,” Paul wrote, “the man, Jesus Christ.”

To the Ephesians believers, Paul encouraged them with this life-changing good news: “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Now, because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, you and I can approach the throne of God boldly. About anything. Anytime. Anywhere. No wait time. No line to see him.

Stop for a moment and visit with God today. He loved us so much he gave his only Son up to Roman execution so that we might have intimacy with him – and he with us.

Love you all, Nick

The Valley of Vision

The Valley of Vision: a collection of Puritan prayers is a book of prayers I have in my library. The Puritan Movement took place primarily during the 16th & 17th centuries.

As with any “religiosity” the corrupt heart of mankind can twist God’s Word to mean what they want it to mean – hence, the completely unbiblical actions of the religious leadership surrounding the Salem Witch trials during the Puritan era.

However, although the wicked events claim most of the press, most Puritans were just like us: broken people trying to navigate this sometimes painful and chaotic thing we call life. The prayers in the book mentioned above, and cited below, represent the fervent prayer-life of these precious, broken people. Enjoy and be inspired… nw

“O incomprehensible but prayer-hearing God,

I thank you for the riches to me in Jesus – for the unclouded revelation of him in your Word where I behold his person, character, grace, glory, humiliation, sufferings, death and resurrection.

I come to you with nothing of my own to offer – no works, nothing of worth, no promises. Just me.

Deliver me from the natural darkness of my own mind, from the corruptions of my heart, from the temptations to which I am exposed, from the daily snares that attend me.

O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between what I receive and what I deserve – the heaven I am bound for, the hell I deserve.

O God, it is amazing that we can talk so much about our mere human power and goodness when, if you did not hold us back at every moment, we would be devils incarnate.

Nothing exceeds your power. Your might is infinite, your grace limitless, your name glorious.

Let angels sing for sinners repenting, for prodigals restored, for Satan’s captives released, for blind eyes opened, for broken hearts healed, for giving us hope in a sometimes hopeless world.

Destroy in me every lofty thought. Break my pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds.

Let my words and actions be firmly rooted in your Word.

I ask great things of a great God.

Amen”

“Behold, he is coming…”

“Behold, he is coming…” (Revelation 1:7)

I read a post the other day written by a person vehemently lambasting those who hold to the promise of Jesus’ second coming.  They wrote,

“Never mind that every preacher has been peddling that ‘we’re now in the end times’ bull-[crap] for 2,000 years now. And tragically, several billion people still haven’t realized it’s a con.”

Frankly, I don’t fault this person for their reaction. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have predicted the return of Christ at least 8 times since 1874. Edgar Whisenant made a ton of money when gullible people (including many Christians) purchased his book, “88 Reasons the Rapture Will be in 1988.” When 1988 passed, he promptly came up with 89 reasons Christ would return in 1989. (Horrible theologian; great business man.) And, I’ve lost count of how many times, recently, groups have spent a great deal of time and resources posting huge billboards with silly messages like, “Save the date: Christ is returning [fill in the date].”

Satan is a brilliant strategist, using these types of futile and biblically illiterate predictions to create a “chicken little” effect on the populace. Simply put, Satan would like us to dismiss the imminence of Christ’s return altogether. And these relentless predictions certainly help achieve that purpose.

Scoffers will scoff (2 Peter 3:3-4). Haters will hate. They most certainly have every right to do so.

But, for me – I can’t get around the reliability of Scripture.

If God’s promises to us through the Old Testament prophets regarding Christ’s first coming were fulfilled so accurately, I am compelled to believe His promises regarding His second coming will come to pass in the same fashion. (Given God’s track record for fulfilling prophecy I sure wouldn’t bet against it.)

How and when this will take place is enveloped in mystery. If anyone claims they have it figured out – thank them for the visit and walk away

One responsible theologian wisely wrote,

“While scripture teaches repeatedly that Christ is returning, the specifics regarding how and when it will occur are, by the testimony of Scripture itself, set in the midst of incomprehensible mystery. This is by God’s own design… Remember, despite the wealth of detailed prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus’ first coming, only a few people recognized it accurately. It could very well be that every one of the modern ‘experts’ in Bible Prophecy will turn out to be wrong about the timing and the details of Christ’s Second Coming as well.”

In a sermon preached in 1887, Charles Spurgeon, reminding his listeners of the present & future hope we have, confidently preached to a packed church in London,

“I have heard the chariot wheels of the Lord’s approach, and I have endeavored to set my house in order for his reception. I have felt the shadow of that great cloud that shall attend him, chilling the fervency of my worldliness. I hear even now in spirit the sound of the last trumpet, whose tremendous blast startles my soul to serious action and puts force into my life.”

Three times in the final chapter of Revelation, Jesus, in essence, says, “I’m on my way.”

The first time he came – he came as our Suffering Savior. The next time he comes – he comes as the Righteous Judge.

My friends, consider his love for you.

Maranatha, Nick