Thursday, August 31, 2023

Proof of God


Calvin and Hobbes are relaxing on a hillside, and out of the blue, Hobbes asks probably the most important question ever.

Calvin thinks a moment and then comes up with a totally unique bit of apologetics.

Believe it or not, Calvin is right. God IS out to get him. And he's out to get each of US, too.

No, not in the way Calvin is thinking about it. God is not the Great Cosmic Killjoy chasing us down to inflict wrath on anyone who dares to step out of line...or color outside the lines. But he IS pursuing us with a heart full of lavish love and amazing grace. "Not wanting anyone to perish." (2nd Peter 3:9)

Borrowing from an 1890 poem by Francis Thompson, Yahweh has been called "The Hound of Heaven" because of his relentless pursuit of those he other words, us. And make no mistake about it, none of us can hide from him for long.

"Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24 NLT)

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Truth is...The prime example of God being out to get us is that he left the glory of heaven to become a man, perfectly live his life, then die to pay the debt for us NOT perfectly living ours.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

May I Never Know About Jesus Instead of Actually Knowing Him


It's a questionable thing when authors put words into Jesus' mouth that Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John haven't already reported on.

The hit TV series, The Chosen, does it well and clearly communicates that they are using their imaginations to tell the stories of those who were Jesus' first followers. They're not trying to convince anyone that it's a documentary and humbly present their bingeable show as encouraging entertainment, not canonical Scripture.

Conversely, in THE IMITATION OF CHRIST: Classic Devotions in Today's Language, by Thomas à Kempis (Compiled and Edited by James N. Watkins), there are passages specifically labeled as being The Christ talking to The Disciple. The good news is that, so far in my reading at least, these Kempis-written Jesus words have not contradicted anything Jesus actually did say.

The reason I bring it up at all is because I have been dumbstruck by a single sentence coming from the pen of Kempis but attributed to Christ. It has laid me flat and whether they are really the words of Jesus or not doesn't make any difference.

Some have much of me on their lips, but little of me in their hearts.

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Truth is...As someone who has been talking and writing about Jesus for...well...a long time, I dread the possibility of Jesus saying that about me. "Search me, O God, and know my heart today."

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Could There Be a Point to Your Pain?


If it weren't for a nasty childhood, we might never have heard an Oklahoman cowpoke sing about a bright, golden haze on the meadow, or Sister Maria be encouraged to climb every mountain.

According to Laurie Winer's Oscar Hammerstein II and the Invention of the Musical"Richard Rodgers grew up in a house of constant turmoil. His quick-tempered father hated his in-laws, who lived with the family. 'People literally didn't speak to each other in that sad house,' wrote Rodgers' daughter Mary, 'except when they were screaming.' Her father recalled, 'And I turned to this, this kind of melodic construction, the way you turn to food'."

It's nothing new for something terrible to lead to something wonderful.

Jesus and Paul both recognized that suffering and loss forge a deeper and more profound faith in God.

Jesus taught his disciples that embracing suffering for the sake of righteousness not only mirrors his own sacrificial journey but also serves as a means of drawing closer to the divine. Luke 9:23 and 24 records...Then [Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Not that he literally means you have to lose your physical life in order to be a Jesus-follower. The idea is embracing the concept that your life no longer belongs to you, but is subject to the rule of Christ.

Paul, in his letters, emphasized that through trials and tribulations, believers can cultivate virtues such as patience, perseverance, and humility...all of which foster a stronger reliance on God's grace.

Romans 5:3-5: "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

By enduring suffering with faith and trust, individuals can experience the life-changing work of God, leading to profound spiritual growth and an unwavering connection to our heavenly father.

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Truth is...If your current situation is less-than-ideal, if you are struggling in any way, it might help your feelings about it if you start looking for what strength or virtue Yahweh is cultivating within you by allowing it to happen.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Longing for a Quest?


Reading a good fantasy-adventure book or watching movies like The Lord of the Rings can sometimes get a person a little depressed.

John Koenig invented a word for that in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

ringlorn adj. [From ring, a key element in many sagas and myths + -lorn, sorely missing. Pronounced "ring-lawrn."

The wish that the modern world felt as epic as the one depicted in old stories and folktales  -  a place of tragedy and transcendence, of oaths and omens and fates, where everyday life felt like a quest for glory, a mythic bond with an ancient past, or a battle for survival against a clear enemy, rather than an open-ended parlor game where all the rules are made up and the points don't matter.

I've got two thoughts about that:

       1)  Most people in the fictional worlds created by Tolkien and Lewis et al have no idea they're in the midst of a fantastic story. The majority of hobbits living in the Shire went on with their farming without a single thought about dragons or orcs or rings of power.

       2)  For any Christians reading this, we ARE on a great quest. We have been called to carry out the overarching will of the strongest, wisest, most-loving person ever known to mankind. We are the hands and feet of the Creator and Sustainer of Life; determined to defeat the forces of evil and implant Truth, Love, and Harmony in the heart of every wandering soul on the planet.

You want epic? I gotcher epic right here.

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Truth is...Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Playing Music to Unborn Babies


According to This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin, pre-born babies hear sounds within the womb:

"It hears the heartbeat of its mother, at times speeding up, at other times slowing down. And the fetus hears music, as was recently discovered by Alexandra Lamont of Keele University in the UK. She found that, a year after they are born, children recognize and prefer music they were ex­posed to in the womb. The auditory system of the fetus is fully functional about twenty weeks after conception. In Lamont's experiment, mothers played a single piece of music to their babies repeatedly during the final three months of gestation. Of course, the babies were also hearing­ -- through the waterlike filtering of the amniotic fluid in the womb -- all of the sounds of their mothers' daily life, including other music, conversa­tions, and environmental noises. But one particular piece was singled out for each baby to hear on a regular basis. The singled-out pieces in­cluded classical (Mozart, Vivaldi), Top 40 (Five, Backstreet Boys), reg­gae (UB40, Ken Boothe) and world beat (Spirits of Nature). After birth, the mothers were not allowed to play the experimental song to their in­fants. Then, one year later, Lamont played babies the music that they had heard in the womb, along with another piece of music chosen to be matched for style and tempo. For example, a baby who had heard UB40's reggae track 'Many Rivers to Cross' heard that piece again, a year later, along with 'Stop Loving You' by the reggae artist Freddie McGregor. La­mont then determined which one the babies preferred.

"How do you know which of two stimuli a preverbal infant prefers? Most infant researchers use a technique known as the conditioned head­-turning procedure, developed by Robert Fantz in the 1960s, and refined by John Columbo, Anne Fernald, the late Peter Jusczyk, and their col­leagues. Two loudspeakers are set up in the laboratory and the infant is placed (usually on his mother's lap) between the speakers. When the in­fant looks at one speaker, it starts to play music or some other sound, and when he looks at the other speaker, it starts to play different music or a different sound. The infant quickly learns that he can control what is playing by where he is looking; he learns, that is, that the conditions of the experiment are under his control. The experimenters make sure that they counterbalance (randomize) the location that the different stimuli come from; that is, half the time the stimulus under study comes from one speaker and half the time it comes from the other. When Lamont did this with the infants in her study, she found that they tended to look longer at the speaker that was playing music they had heard in the womb than at the speaker playing the novel music, confirming that they pre­ferred the music to which they had the prenatal exposure. A control group of one-year-olds who had not heard any of the music before showed no preference, confirming that there was nothing about the mu­sic itself that caused these results. Lamont also found that, all things be­ing equal, the young infant prefers fast, upbeat music to slow music.

"These findings contradict the long-standing notion of childhood amnesia -- that we can't have any veridical memories before around the age of five. Many people claim to have memories from early childhood around age two and three, but it is difficult to know whether these are true memories of the original event, or rather, memory of someone telling us about the event later. The young child's brain is still undeveloped, func­tional specialization of the brain isn't complete, and neural pathways are still in the process of being made. The child's mind is trying to assimilate as much information as possible in as short a time as possible; there are typically large gaps in the child's understanding, awareness, or memory for events because he hasn't yet learned how to distinguish important events from unimportant ones, or to encode experience systematically. Thus, the young child is a prime candidate for suggestion, and could un­wittingly encode, as his own, stories that were told to him about himself. It appears that for music even prenatal experience is encoded in mem­ory, and can be accessed in the absence of language or explicit awareness of the memory."

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Truth is...Do NOT talk to me about "clumps of cells" or "potential life". A human is a human, no matter what his or her stage of development.