Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Should Have Been Obvious

I've never been accused of being the sharpest pencil in the box, but it really shouldn't have taken six and a half months and the second daily reading in Why Did I Lose My Job If God Loves Me? for me to come to this particular realization.

Jumping off of James 1:2-4 ("Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."), author Rick J. Pritikin writes:

I'm often asked what I consider to be the toughest part of the career transition journey. I usually reply with "How much time do you have?" But the truthful answer for me is that the toughest part of the journey has been learning more about myself than I was ready to accept. That seems to be a universal response. Most of us would be just fine without knowing how much fear we really harbor within ourselves, how low our self-esteem really is, or how much our previous job, with all its perks, formulated our net worth as a person.

In the rest of the day's reading, there are two thoughts that jump off the page for me:

1) "I know that when a door closes, I'm not being punished, but protected."

This relates to what has been my prayer from the start: "Only open the door you want me to go through, Lord."

2) "...embrace the toughest part of the journey so that you may experience the best part of life now, as well as when he provides that new career opportunity."

Truth is...this is a new revelation for me. I need to remember that this time of joblessness is not a period of having my life put on hold until the next thing comes along. No. This is part of my life, too! I need to live it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jobless? Yes. Hopeless? No.

Have I told you that I got laid off from my full-time job as a Technical Writer back in September? (Why yes, I see here that I have.) It wasn't the first time I lost a job, so it's not entirely new ground for me to walk on, but it's a new world since the last time this has happened.

I'm older...which carries with it an undercurrent of preconceived notions. But I also have a broader range of work experiences and successes...which should make me more marketable than I've ever been before.

In the midst of this emotional balancing act, a book jumped into my lap: Why Did I Lose My Job If God Loves Me?: Help and Hope During Career Transition, by Rick J. Pritikin. I've never actually asked that question, but the book cost next to nothing and, like I said, pretty much jumped off the shelf at me...so I bought it.

It's set up as a once-a-day devotional, and the very first day's reading made it abundantly clear that this purchase was smack dab in the middle of what God wanted me to do.

Titled "This Is for My Good?", the main point is that God specializes in using the tough times of our lives to grow us into the people He wants us to be, not the least of which is people who are more fervently in contact with Him. The Scriptural springboard for the piece is Psalm 18:6..."In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears."

I believe I've usually believed that any rough spots in the road have been for my gain. But I think I have accepted/expected that so much that I've never spent a lot of time "wrestling with God" about it. Oh for sure, the experience of the loss of my first vocational ministry was traumatic and worrisome, but I'm not sure it ever really resulted in more intense or intimate prayer.

Even now, when I have many earthly reasons to believe that I'm not going to be offered a writing position anywhere, I don't find myself pleading with God - more just trusting that He'll work it all out the way He's always done in the past.

Truth is...that sounds like it's so spiritually mature, but I'm not sure whether it's not just laziness.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

One Plus Three Equals One

Math isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate its dependability and usefulness for conducting business transactions...but there are some things that cold, hard numbers just can't communicate.

For instance, consider what is most probably my favorite bit of Scripture. If it's not too flippant to think of God having a greatest hits album, this would certainly be on it. It's in the second chapter of Paul's letter to the Christians in Galatia, verses twenty and twenty-one.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (NASB)

It was these verses that led a friend of mine and I to write a song called "The Four of Us," about no longer living for myself, but allowing Jesus...in fact, the whole Trinity...to live through me. You can hear a demo of it by clicking here.

"That's how I know we are one, just the four of us: Father, Son, the Ghost, and me."

Truth is...the resurrection of Jesus isn't just about Easter and it isn't just about Jesus.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Extraordinary Claims - Extraordinary Evidence

This past Sunday, all around the world, people of faith celebrated the resurrection of Jesus...a fitting remembrance of what Christians claim is a piece of history and what others scoff at as legend or myth.

Because the idea of someone rising from the dead is so extraordinary, and perhaps because the resurrection is so vital to the Christian faith, the first Easter has endured multiple attacks. One particular request by critics is examined in the following paragraphs from pages 320-321 of the book I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek.

Some skeptics might admit that the Resurrection is possible, but they say it would require extraordinary evidence to believe it. That is, since the New Testament makes extraordinary claims - such as miracles - we must have extraordinary evidence in order to believe those claims. This objection seems reasonable until you ask, "What does 'extraordinary' mean?"

If it means beyond the natural, then the skeptic is asking the Resurrection to be confirmed by another miracle. How could that work? In order to believe in the first miracle (the Resurrection), the skeptic would then need a second miracle to support it. He would then demand a third miracle to support the second, and this would go on to infinity. So by this criteria, the skeptic would never believe in the Resurrection even if it really happened. There's something wrong with a standard of proof that makes it impossible for you to believe what actually has occurred.

If "extraordinary" means repeatable as in a laboratory, then no event from history can be believed because historical events cannot be repeated. The believability of historical events can only be confirmed by looking at the quality of the eyewitness evidence and the nature of the forensic evidence in the light of the principles of uniformity and causality (covered in chapter 5). Besides, atheists who demand repeatability for biblical miracles are inconsistent because they do not demand repeatability of the historical "miracles" in which they believe - the Big Bang, spontaneous generation of first life, and macroevolution of subsequent life forms.

If "extraordinary" means more than usual, then that's exactly what we have to support the Resurrection. We have more eyewitness documents and earlier eyewitness documents for the Resurrection than for anything else from the ancient world. Moreover, these documents include more historical details and figures that have been corroborated by more independent and external sources than anything else from the ancient world. And as we've just reviewed, we also have more than usual circumstantial evidence supporting the Resurrection.

Finally, the skeptic's presupposition can be challenged. We don't need "extraordinary" evidence to believe something. Atheists affirm that from their own worldview. They believe in the Big Bang not because they have "extraordinary" evidence for it but because there is good evidence that the universe exploded into being out of nothing. Good evidence is all you need to believe something. However, atheists don't have even good evidence for some of their own beliefs. For example, atheists believe in spontaneous generation and macroevolution on faith alone. We say faith alone because, as we saw in chapters 5 and 6, there's not only little or no evidence for spontaneous generation and macroevolution, but there's strong evidence against those possibilities.

Furthermore, skeptics don't demand "extraordinary" evidence for other "extraordinary" events from history. For example, few events from ancient history are more "extraordinary" than the accomplishments of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). Despite living only 33 years, Alexander achieved unparalleled success. He conquered much of the civilized world at the time, from Greece, east to India and south to Egypt. Yet how do we know this about Alexander? We have no sources from his lifetime or soon after his death. And we have only fragments of two works from about 100 years after his death. The truth is, we base virtually everything we know about the "extraordinary" life of Alexander the Great from historians who wrote 300 to 500 years after his death! In light of the robust evidence for the life of Christ, anyone who doubts Christ's historicity should also doubt the historicity of Alexander the Great. In fact, to be consistent, such a skeptic would have to doubt all of ancient history.

Truth is...the evidence backing up the claims of these few paragraphs require the several chapters the authors used, and I don't expect this excerpt to change anyone's worldview...but if anyone is motivated to investigate further, I'll consider this post well-received.