Catch 22? Meet God’s Catch 33!

A mission for the mindless

“We’ve all heard of a “Catch 22”. It’s a situation where no matter which option you choose, you’re always wrong, always in trouble, you’re still stuck. It was made famous by a novel with the same name. As the saying goes, “you’re d—-d if you do and you’re d—-d if you don’t”!

But have you ever considered the implications of the following: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14:8

The Apostle Paul, here, introduces us to what I like to call a “Catch 33“! Similarly to catch 22, in a catch 33, the system is also rigged. However, it favors Christians. It favors those who have put their Faith, Hope, and Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, life for the Christian is a win-win proposition. In living, we honor God, and in death we honor God. Now, we are in no means a death cult; Christians want to live abundant lives (John 10:10) but we do not fear death.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Click To Tweet

Catch 22: The fear of the hopeless

The number one fear that all unbelievers have, and have in common, is the fear of death, as you can see from the rampant panic on tv. Newscasters continuously introduce all of us to all sorts of new boogiemen: a new disease that is going to decimate the world’s population or the next threat from Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, a food shortage, climate change, hurricanes, earthquakes, asteroids, the “wrong” politician for the job; in a sense, they’re disseminating fear over the one thing no-one has any control: the future.

Catch 33: The hope of the fearless

Christians, on the other hand, have “cheated” the catch 22 system: Jesus defeated sin on the Cross and Death by his resurrection and we are heirs of those victories. Life doesn’t startle us nor does the fear of death paralyze us. There’s a very beautiful secular Italian song where the lyrics speak directly to this phobia; the lyrics, translates literally, read: whoever is not afraid of death only dies once!

Chi non ha paura di morire, muore una volta sola. Click To Tweet

What a beautiful doctrinal Christian Truth! Jesus himself taught us not to fear the first death. The second death is the truly dreadful one: the death that leads to eternal separation from God! If you fear the first death, chances are you are not a Believer. Otherwise, there is something “off” about your walk with God.

Catch 22? Meet God’s Catch 33! Click To Tweet

What’s the catch?

Fear and anxiety will come calling your name. When they do, strengthen yourself in the Lord. In chapter 1 of his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

As Spirit-filled, Bible-believing,  born-again Christians, it is our responsibility to live in the light of this truth: whenever those around us, whether at work, at home, at school, or (more often than not) at church, lose heart over the challenges of everyday life, we must be the people in their lives that they can look to and see someone who hasn’t, who isn’t and who doesn’t lose not only their composure but more importantly their compass, their anchor, their focus, their Hope: Jesus Christ!

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Click To Tweet

Shepherd and Friend – Jehovah Rohi

Before he became king, David was a shepherd. Before David wrote the Psalms, he pondered them in his heart. For many years he observed the sheep and studied their behaviors.

Imagine David, out with his flock one day and, as a stroke of lightning, as he tended his own sheep, he pondered the following: (please read with emphasis)

Psa 23:1-6 BSB
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The realization that God is his Shepherd must have totally changed his perspective on… just about everything. I pray that, like David, you too have come to a deeper understanding of who God is: Jehovah Rohi, God my Shepherd.

Why Sheep

If you were looking for a simple example as to why evolution can not hold up, consider sheep. Sheep are weak, easily confounded and without any natural defense mechanisms. Lambs are even worse. Without the protection of the shepherd, a small pack of wolves would put to death hundreds of sheep in just a few hours. Thankfully, God made Shepherds.

Why Shepherds

The Shepherd lives for the sheep. He defends the lambs, leads them to safety, collects the strays and puts their feeble minds at ease and if necessary dies for the sheep (John 10:11).

Debilitating Doubt

Where Doubt Hides

There’s a scene in the Left Behind movie series where the pastor is standing on the pulpit looking out into an empty congregation; the Rapture occurred and, believe it or not, he was…left behind! He goes through a monologue where He’s talking to God about “how could it be” that he would stand up there week after week and, of the whole congregation, the shepherd was the one who’s faith wasn’t genuine. As he’s reasoning with God, he comes to the understanding that, after all, “knowing and believing are two different things!”

Faith & Doubt

How many times have you found yourself in that very same situation: you read all the books, you can quote all the right verses and can argue with the greatest of Pharisees as well as the biblically uneducated; you’ve brought dozens to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, you’re the head of a ministry, give regularly and with conviction and, when it’s all said and done, it all amounts to nothing more than mere religion. Somehow, everything you know to be true about God feels like “head knowledge” and that’s all! Of all the people around you, you’re the one with doubts and skepticism! How could it be? How did you get here?

[Tweet “you’ve led dozens to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, you’re the head of a ministry, give regularly and with conviction and, when it’s all said and done, it all amounts to nothing more than mere religion.”]

Where Doubt Lives

Well, the simple answer is that we all get there from different directions: Peter and Thomas were there with Jesus during His earthly ministry, and even they doubted; what chances do we have of going through life free from the debilitating effects of doubt! It has been said that “If you’ve never doubted, then you never really believed in the first place”. If that isn’t just merely editorial, we must be in good company. Many of the great fathers of Apologetics began life as atheists, agnostics, deists, or came to Jesus from other belief systems. Men like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and Thomas Aquinas, to mention a few.

If you've never doubted, then you never really believed in the first place Click To Tweet

Forgiveness & Doubt

Unfortunately, being in good company doesn’t always make for a good party; surely Hell will be full of A-Listers but I doubt that any of them would choose to stay if given the choice to leave, no matter how many blue bloods are roasting with them. Knowing that Peter denied Jesus three times or that Thomas needed to put his finger in Jesus’ side before proclaiming “my Lord and my God”, does very little to shore up my standing during these moments of crisis.

Two thousand years later I have just as many questions as hairs on my head. If I can just go back in time a week or so before this thought pattern began; before I entertained any of these questions for longer than the 2 milliseconds that they are usually allowed to stick around for, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. Luckily  Thankfully,  2,000 years ago, Jesus was thinking of messy, fickle humans like you and I and through us a lifeline. His reply to Thomas tells us what Jesus thinks of our faith; my faith and yours!

If I can just go back in time a week or so before this thought pattern began before I entertained any of these questions for longer than the 2 milliseconds that they are usually allowed to stick around for, I wouldn't be in this… Click To Tweet

Doubt’s Hindsight

How many of us say to ourselves: “if I had been in Peter’s or Thomas’ shoes, I wouldn’t have doubted as they did.” We think of ourselves as having more faith; or at least the sort of faith that would have believed under those circumstances! We’ll never know if that is true or; if permitted, we’ll have that answer as well on the other side of Eternity. Perhaps, it’s for the best that we were born when we were. After all, Jesus’ response to Thomas gives us lots of credit for fighting the good fight in our modern concrete jungles. in the very next verse, Jesus said,

Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed. - John 20:29 Click To Tweet

In God’s eyes, our faith is stronger! We were given a different set of facts, a different set of signs and wonders than what the apostles were given. Granted, some of us may have very well seen the dead rise, or cancers cured or limbs grow back but, for the most part, our faith is based on personal experiences with the Word and its Truth working in our lives. The Apostles and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time were there: the Apostles marveled in awe; the Pharisees pouted because He was healing on the Sabbath so it must have been from Beelzebub.

In the end, no amount of evidence convinced the large majority of Jesus’ countrymen that He was the Christ. Jesus himself said in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” Stuart Chase, I believe, said it best when he commented that for those who believe, no proof is necessary, for those who don’t believe, no proof is possible”.

If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. Click To Tweet

Today’s Doubters

As Christians, as humans, as thinkers, a bit of doubt and skepticism is par for the course. God invites us constantly and consistently to “reason together“; He is not afraid of your difficult questions and He’s certainly won’t be insulted that you have doubts. There’s no reason to keep your doubts to yourself and let them fester. Consider this: you’re keeping your doubts to yourself (not addressing them with God) because you don’t want to offend the same God that you doubt exists, or loves, or cares, or sees? If He’s real: He cares, He sees, He loves and is longing to address your needs; if He’s not real: the answers to your questions (along with the questions themselves) don’t matter.

[Tweet “Consider this: you’re keeping your doubts to yourself (not addressing them with God) because you don’t want to offend the same God that you doubt exists, or loves, or cares, or sees?”]

The future of Doubt: Faith

Dear friend, doubt is debilitating only if you let it. You’re not an atheist, believe me. You’re a thinker; you are who He created you to be. The God we serve is not a figment of our imagination: He doesn’t stop existing when we stop thinking about Him or have doubts; we serve Him still, in the doubt, through the doubt, in spite of the doubt and, just as important, because of our doubts. The biggest victories in my Christian walk always came after such moments; when God stepped into history, again, for me, and showed me just how real He really is. The only figments of imagination are, truly, us! We exist only because of Him. He constantly thinking of us, sustaining us, supplying life, and holding Nature together so that we may exist in it.

The biggest victories in my Christian walk always came after such moments; when God stepped into history, again, for me, and showed me just how real He really is. Click To Tweet

Come, let Us Pray Together!

What a day that we be, when my Jesus i will see, As He takes me by the hand and takes me to the Promised Land. What a day, Glorious day that will be!

Has your need to “know” and “understand” driven you to madness yet? How many times so far: once, twice, more? I agree that the heart of the apologist is to know and to understand but we should never loose sight of what our subject matter is: God! It is, by definition, impossible to know him fully, at least in this current life. The Bible teaches us that:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known”. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Even the greatest apologist of all times, the Apostle Paul, knew that what really saved people was not “head knowledge” but the move of the Spirit in their lives. In fact, when speaking to the Corinthians, Paul writes:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you declaring unto you the testimony of God, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom.For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not stand on the wisdom of man, but on the power of God.– 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (bold and underline are mine).

What a powerful revelation from the Apostle Paul: “that our faith should stand…on the Power of God”! Sometimes we might feel that we have an obligation to dump all of our knowledge on someone to win the argument and prove to them the rationality of our beliefs, almost as though it were up to us to defend the Word of God. That, fortunately could not be farther from the truth. In fact, it’s the other way around: it is the Word of God that defends us as we “put on the full armor of God…for we wrestle not with flesh” and since we do not wrestle with flesh, our battle cannot be and cannot be won in the body but through prayer and the reading of the Word. An unbeliever is not merely the person standing in front of you but the spirit of unbelief that is inside of them and that spirit is just as knowledgeable as you are which means that the only thing that can save that person is God through a miraculous work in their life.

The next time you find yourself at your wit’s end with trying to wrap your head around the whole Scripture or find that your apologetic is not working the way you thought it would, remember that apologetic is not a part of it not the only part and the battle is certainly not yours!.

Acceptable Sacrifice

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. – Romans 12:1

The Bible teaches us that we are to bring sacrifices to God that are worthy of He who is receiving them. But what can we possibly bring to God that is an acceptable sacrifice; once Jesus paid the price for all of our sins, what can we possibly give God something that is new and fresh and worthy of being received by the Creator of the Universe? Just like the old saying “what do you buy a man that has everything”?

The Psalmist David (Psalms 49:14) as well as the writer of Hebrews (13:15) teach us to bring “sacrifice of Praise”. Praise is the only thing that we can bring to God that He will accept; we give it out of our own volition that is spotless and clean in His Presence. Because it comes from our spirit, it is “pure and undefiled” worship; it is not out of material goods which, technically, we received from Him in the first place.

God the Father wants us to want to worship Him in spirit and in Truth. God created us so that we may have a relationship with Him. Relationship with God is no different than relationship with humans, it requires time, effort and sacrifice. Now sacrifice is not intended to be some sort of self-inflicting pain ritual but rather a willful decision to give of yourself to the other person. What better way to worship God in an undefiled Temple than to offer up sacrifice of praise, which is after all our “reasonable and acceptable service“.

Is God real?

It seems that when we are young in the Faith God shows Himself in very personal and tangible ways so as to reassure us that what we have believed in is real. I can still remember one of my earliest incontrovertible proofs of God’s presence in my life: not just in my mind but able to control circumstances of even the smallest things around me.

One day, as it was my custom, I would go into my sister’s apartment to pray with her. For some reason or another, my sister wasn’t available to pray with me at the time. I decided that I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to spend time with the Lord so I closed my eyes and started to pray.

I’m easily distracted so I make it a point to always keep my eyes closed, it’s not because of some hyper-religiousness. As I was pouring out my heart to the Lord and thanking Him for His Mercy, I saw a pretty little bird, more like a white pigeon (at the time, I wasn’t aware of the term “dove”). This pigeon was in a very narrow and deep canyon that had opened up right in front of me. It was just sitting there on this rock ledge. The vision ended as abruptly as it had begun. I continued to worship for a while longer and it was then time to go into God’s word.

As we always did together with my sister, I asked God to guide my hands to what He had for me that day. I prayed over the Bible, put my thumbs on the pages and split the Bible open. The Bible opened to Songs of Solomon Chapter 2. I had never read nor heard of this book in my young Christian life. As I began reading the chapter, I got to verse 14 that reads:

O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the crevices of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your countenance is lovely

When I read that, I was so overwhelmed that I got out of my chair and went running and screaming to my sister: “Stella!, Stella! Come, quick”! She came running thinking something had happened; the way I was screaming you would think the house was on fire. When we finally met in the stairs I brought her to the kitchen table and I started explaining to her what i had seen and how I opened the Bible up and, pointing to it, how it opened exactly to what I had seen in my mind. She praised God with me and she shared her own recent experiences with the Lord as well. We sang hymns and closed in a word of prayer.

There’s lots of arguments that people put forth why they don’t believe God exists but, as you can imagine, none of them are valid to me. I know that I know that I know; there’s no way to duplicate, replicate or simulate what I experienced that day and so many other times after that.

If today you find yourself, like that Bible verse says, between a rock and a hard place, God wants you to know that He loves you and He thinks you are beautiful; He’s calling you to Himself. Wherever you are today, call out to Him and say: “Dear Jesus, I know You can see me where I am as I am, come to me Lord, change my heart, change my life, I make you my Lord and Savior. I can’t do it without you. Amen”.

 

The God of my sister: Part 1

When your own Walk gets overrun with weeds, it’s good to know there’s someone’s footsteps you can follow.

Everyone’s journey to God is unique and special; mine brought me through a series of shady valleys, deep wooded forest and dry deserted places. Beside the unfailing Grace of God, what was always there to point me back home was the opportunity to observe my sister in her own journey of faith. The following meditation is a retelling of some highlights in my walk in Christ and to Christ and how, by His unmerited favor, He provided faithful stewards of His Love to bring me back on the Path. As always, I pray that you will be blessed and share it with at least one other person. May God richly bless you. I call this:

The God of my sister

To be honest, I would have to say that I met Jesus several times. The first time I met Him, He changed my heart: I was arrogant and loud and self-confident; I was of no earthly good without any heavenly value. I was a Evolutionist, a Darwinist and, for the lack of a more accurate word, an agnostic. I believed the same way any secular person believed: tangentially and only on special occasions. Believing was a matter of tradition not a lifestyle. We paid lip service to a God that had no real place or space in our lives. However, one day, in the middle of what I would call the best time of my young life He showed up to Sunday dinner in the guise of my brother-in-law’s uncle and his family.

We were living in Italy at the time; it was the first in our series back and forth moves to and from the United States. My sister, her husband and my young nephew had gone to visit family in Milan and they, in turn, had invited them back to our house in Tuscany. My sister had spent a several days with them in Milan and had accepted an invitation to their church. Suffice to say that she came back a different person from her trip. She started talking about Jesus as if He was actually a person you could relate to on a daily basis. She told me stories people had shared with her during her trip along with a few of her own experiences during her ten-day stay. She told me of miraculous healings and of divine interventions into people’s personal circumstances and of inexplicable coincidences that could only be explained by intentional design. This went on for weeks. The person that returned home from this brief vacation was not the same person that had left from our home just a few weeks prior.

For as long as I could remember I always looked up to my sister. Ever since we moved to the States, she was always the one who took care of everything: bills, documents, school. She was the only one that spoke any English; she had taught herself basic conversational English in the few months before we left for New York using a neighbor’s college textbook. Smart as a whip, astute as snake, she always knew what the right answer was. It was exactly this part of what I knew about her that troubled me the most: the answer she had didn’t sound like the right one any longer: this could only be a grievous  misunderstanding on her part, a single flaw in what could otherwise only be described as a flawless record on her part. So, the day my brother-in-law’s relatives came to visit us, I was ready. Textbooks and quotations at hand from scholars and scientists from all walks of life, I would prove to this man and his family how terribly misguided they were and I would, in my own special, magnanimous and selfless way, walk them back to the truth of science and reason.

When they arrived we all introduced each other and we had lots of wonderful conversations about personal history and origin and as much small talk as we could muster until eventually, we slowly but surely made our way to the most important topic on their hearts. They were very pleasant, cordial and reasonable. The husband shared his testimony and spoke of Jesus, I countered with evolution; he spoke of his testimony, I countered with the Big Bang. The conversation went on for hours and I have to say that not once did he show any sign of frustration on his part; he was at least twenty years my elder and still spoke to me with eloquence and gallantry. My mom came into the living room, signaled to my sister, and we all went into the dining room to eat dinner.

That’s when it happened. Of all the years I had spent at my father’s table we had never once said Grace, ever! This man, Dino, turns to my father and asks if he could pray for the meal. My father, from his part, had no objection: we had never prayed but we were still “catholic” so we wouldn’t dare say no. He starts praying. He makes this long list of things he’s thankful for, talking to God as if He could actually hear him. He thanks God for the food and the warm reception and the engaging conversation and for the safe trip and prays for our family and our salvation. At this point, something came over me; it was like guilt and release at the same time. I started to weep and wail uncontrollably. I cried like I had never cried before. I can still remember saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. As his prayer came to a close and everyone saw me balling my eyes out in my seat, him and his wife came and hugged me and told me “it’s okay, you’ll be okay. Jesus loves you”.

That was the day I met Jesus for the first time. That was the first day in my whole entire life that I wasn’t alone. There was now this “presence” in my mind that I couldn’t explain; my thoughts were no longer on their own in my brain, there was something else, someone else there: I didn’t know what it was but I knew I was safe. I was just a boy and that was a long time ago. But that day something else happened: I realized my sister’s record was still intact. Whatever she had experienced, whatever she had seen and heard actually did happen. She was right about this Jesus, someone that now that I had encountered Him for the very first time I knew she had found the path, the True Path, and our lives and the lives of our families would never be the same.

Of course, we all know that whenever the Lord sends someone to seed and water and nurture, the enemy of our souls sends someone or something to steal, kill or destroy; and believe me, things did come and in a hurry. As believers, however, we are reminded that “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose”.

Please stay with us over the next few days as we continue to testify of the Goodness of God the Father through His Son Jesus and how, on a lonely, dark night he kept a young man from the pit of despair.

God bless you.

 

Thanks for Nothing

Too often, the things that don’t happen are more important than the things that do happen!

When was the last time we made a full list of the things we are thankful for? I don’t mean the “cover all my bases” kind of prayer, I mean a sincere, heart to heart, confession of gratitude for even the things that didn’t go our way? We pray that this meditation blesses your Walk as it has blessed ours. As always, please don’t keep it to yourself: if you find anything wholesome, commendable, as the Apostle Paul said, please pass it on. God Bless you. We call this:

Thanks for Nothing

I remember my first Thanksgiving. It was 1988 and it was our first year in the States. We went over to a family gathering at a relative’s house and ate massive amounts of food: turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing but also very non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes: shrimp and lasagna and tiramisú. We ate to our heart’s content and then…had some more tiramisú! We never gave “thanksgiving” any thought; for us and so many other families like ours, I fear, just like any other holiday, the reason for the holiday was buried under gifts and plans and “x-mas” and “gobble-gobble” and trips and food and football games and everything else except the holiday. 

For so long, thankfulness for the food at the dinner table was implicit, taken for granted and more often than not, never reached its final destination: we would say things like: “thanks, Mom, that was delicious!” or “Wow, Dad, the oranges from the grove are amazing this year!”; God wouldn’t even get an honorable mention. We never even gave it a second thought.

It wasn’t until many years later when we gave our hearts to Christ that we finally took the time to understand and appreciate the meaning of the word and the value of being thankful. We began praying at every meal, something that had never ever happened in our home before under any circumstances. Finally, thanksgiving and gratefulness became part of who and what we are because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. It was never lengthy, just long enough to say what we were thankful for, give some specifics and thank Him for every little thing along the way. We made it a point to ensure that it wasn’t repetitious; we had walked away from empty prayers and meaningless repetition. So many times, my Dad would start to say Grace but it was in such a low voice and he would get so choked up that we would just smile and pick up along the way and finish off altogether with a family “Amen!”. I always felt that my dad’s few, simple and tear-filled words were his way of making up for all the meals he had gone without giving thanks: he was both giving thanks and asking forgiveness for missed opportunities to be thankful.

For a really long time I thought it was enough: being thankful for what you had, whether little or much, like the old hymnal says, knowing that God was in it. We made every attempt to express gratefulness from the most sincere place and with gladness of heart, thank God for His Majesty. Again, I looked to my father as my example. He’s an old and quiet soul with decades of wisdom and humility, as well as a simplicity of heart but a very astute mind. So many times, he would just take a deep breath, let out a deep sigh and say “Thank you, Jesus!”. Those three simple words encompassed so much meaning and complexity and yet expressed with the genuineness of a farmer. That was the type of prayer I wanted to offer up to God, a prayer that in action and words acknowledges God’s Sovereignty and fully accepts His will.

As the years went by and the more my faith grew, the more my eyes were opened to how many things there was to be thankful for: every breath I took, every moment of rest where I could close my eyes without fear, every loving family member, every caring friend, every moment of happiness, every day among the living and so on and so on. Being grateful brought its own satisfaction and filled my heart with gladness and laughter. Understanding that God is sovereign not only in the long-term Plan but also in the moment-by-moment brought me to a reverence and an awe of God. The phrases we would hear preachers and pastors alike say so often like “If God were to call you Home right now, would you be ready?” took on new meaning. What if He called me right now, would I be ready? I learned to thank Him for not only saving me but for keeping me: I realized that it was only by His Grace that I stayed the path. As in all human conditions and situations, churches are not immune from strife and contentiousness and all sorts of things that may disrupt a church over the years. I had seen so many affected by various strife and lose heart, lose touch and lose faith. I can honestly say that it is by His Grace alone that I have not forsaken the fellowship of the brethren or fallen back into my old ways or found new ways of messing up. And for all of that I gave thanks.

That’s when it hit me! I understood that God honored the sincere gratitude of my father’s prayers, that He honored the detailed gratitude of my prayers, but there was still more. My father and I were was still missing the other side of the coin: we gave thanks for the water and the food and the clothes and the strong family and the cool summers and mild winters and bountiful harvests and the fresh air and all the rest but something was still missing.

As Christians we’re almost programmed to think that good things come from God because He is Good and therefore bad things come from the Devil because he is bad. Therefore, we only thank God for good things. We don’t thank Him for the bad things when they happen or the bad or worse things that never happen. We’ll go around rebuking the bad and thanking God for the good as if God isn’t the Master of it all. I came to realize that the Earth is truly the Lord’s and the fullness thereof! With a new-found contentedness in my heart I started thanking God even more for the good things in my life, for the horrific things that never took place and for the bad things that could have certainly been worse. 

With this new level of understanding, I started thanking God for “nothing”. I thanked Him for things never took place: accidents avoided by Grace, catching the “late” bus that kept you from being at the wrong place at the wrong time, ringing the “wrong” doorbell, not getting in a friend’s car. Thinking back I could only stand in awe of the fact that, against my better judgement, I’m still in one piece, breathing, without a criminal record, married to a beautiful women with three amazing children, with a great job and a solar disposition. It could’ve just as easily happened that all the things that didn’t take place played out and I could’ve been miserable, penniless, divorced, addicted, away from the Church, unfulfilled and/or dead. I recently came across someone I hadn’t seen in 17 years. As is customary with “blasts from the past”, you spend most of the time catching up on the people that were important to both of you at the time. After a major download of unbelievable twists and turns, this person shared with me this priceless jewel: “lucky for you, they didn’t want anything to do with you anymore!”.  

Giving God thanks for “nothing”, I believe, is to truly understand the innumerable ways in which He provides for us. Whether it’s the things we don’t want to happen that turn out to be a life-changing blessings when they do or the things we do want to happen that, for our benefit, never pan out. This lesson was a very expensive one for me: It took a difficult time and a very dark place in my life for me to learn that the things we as humans believe are important and necessary in our lives don’t even begin to compare to the things God knows are important and necessary in our lives: passed up for the promotion? Be thankful. Lost a friend along the way? Be thankful. Suffered an illness? Be thankful.A loss of a loved one? Be thankful. Truly in ALL things, be thankful! He knows what you need and He is a better Planner than you are! He know where you’re headed, what you need to get there, who you’ll need by your side, and what “pre-existing conditions” you will have to have gone through to prepare you in mind, body and spirit, for when you get to where you’re going.

The idea of giving thanks for the wrong you’ve suffered, the bad breaks you endured and for the scars you’ve picked up along the was is as crazy, and yet as simple, as to believe in a God who loves us enough to send His Son to die in our place so as to restore a relationship with us! These “light afflictions” as the Apostle Paul described them, are not a necessary evil but a necessary good to prepare us, to bring us, often times kicking and screaming, closer to God with a deeper and more free-willed dependency on God and a more intuitive surrender to His will, understanding that truly ALL things work for good for those who fear the Lord and are called according to His Purpose.

We never want to leave off without giving you an opportunity to make Jesus the Lord of your life. Just say: “Dear Jesus, I repent of my sins; come into my heart; I make you my Lord and Savior”. Dear friend, if you said that simple prayer, we believe you got Born Again. Find yourself a good Bible-Based church, keep God first place and He’ll show things you haven’t even dreamed of. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The Faith of the Atheist

In a recent post, we were discussing the reasonableness of believing in God or, at least in “a god”. We discussed that believing in god from a temporal perspective is, in the least, highly favored by math and physics: since time must have begun at some point for there to be”today”, the reasonable conclusion is that either an external entity created space and time or, from a deist point of view, space-time created itself: either conclusions point to an “un-caused cause”; some of us refer to that as “God”.

We also discussed how, as a response to this unassailable truth, atheist will say that although what happened before the Big Bang is currently unknown, they trust (or have faith) that science will eventually find an answer. Now, coming from individuals that pride themselves on being evidence-based, this statement and others like it fly straight in the face of what they’re trying to prove: that there is no superior “thing”. Unfortunately for them, they do believe, or trust, in something greater: in their case, it’s science.

Now, in reading the previous post, a friend commented on Twitter that “you don’t have to believe in God to have faith”! To that, I can only reply: absolutely false! In fact, the Bible teaches that each of us (believers) were given a measure of faith [Romans 12:3]. However, the verse applies to believers! The faith in this verse refers to how believers should be honest judges of themselves in accordance with this faith that was given to them by God: meaning, if you are an layman don’t think yourself a pastor!

You see, the world, like my atheist friend, mistakes and misuses the word “faith”; they’re actually referring to trust. You have heard, certainly, people say things like “I have faith in my family” or “I have faith in my children” or “the government”. In fact, what they’re saying is that they trust their family, their children, their government, etc.. Trust is based on evidence. For example: I trust there is a God, ( I have evidence of this fact), I have faith in His Word (for which I need no evidence). People trust their family to do right by them; once that trust is broken, it takes faith on their part to trust again; faith that things will go back to the way they were.

Faith, the Bible says “…is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” [Hebrews 11:1]. The write of Hebrews makes it explicitly clear that faith is so much more than trust, it is the “assurance”, some translations read, of something not yet materialized: faith is evidence in something that is still far-off, not yet occurred. Faith is the Power of God’s promises; having faith, even as much as a mustard seed Jesus said, is the difference between being able to move the mountain or not!

You see, the term “faith” which unbelievers refer to and the world uses so interchangeably with “trust” lacks the power aspect that we as believers have come to expect and understand regarding the promises of God. For example, politicians make promises all the time and people put their trust in them and their promises all the time, unfortunately, they lack the power within themselves to enforce those promises on their own: they win elections based on promises and lose re-elections based on un-kept promises; spouses make promises to each other: to love, honor and cherish, and even those promises are too often only empty words. The faith placed in humans by humans is ephemeral, and unenforceable. Promise like “I will never leave you”, or “I will always take care of you” are emotional checks written by known fraudsters given to others who are they themselves hoping against hope that this time, it will be different.

Among humans, a promise made is as good as a promise broken, but the experience of a Born Again Christian is altogether different. The mature Christians build their lives around the promises of God, humanists build their lives on the promises of other people as well as the ones they make to themselves: I’m going to lose 20 pounds, I’m going to finish my degree; then, life and circumstance happen to us all. A stressful year at work and with no time to exercise, the treadmill collects dust; an unexpected baby on the way and the money that would have gone towards those last few credits now goes to replace the crib and stroller you threw out thinking you wouldn’t need anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, Christians make promises too and we take them very seriously, just like everyone else. In fact the Bible has some very strong advice: first on not making promises and second, on not breaking promises made, without being too wordy. It’s easier not to make a promise than to keep one but once the promise is made. In fact, the Bible teaches us [Matthew 5:33-37]:

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne;35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

So, one would say “what does this have to do with what we’re talking about”? The answer is simple. If we who are believers are strongly discouraged from making promises, taking oaths, swearing allegiances and the like and we believe in God, what hope is there for the promises, oaths and sworn allegiances of those who don’t believe. Please don’t misunderstand, my claim is not that Christians are better suited but simply that if those who believe that there is a higher power don’t take it upon themselves to enter into such bondage because of the risk of breaking such oaths, what chance is there for those who don’t believe?

In the end, what we’re actually talking about is self-sufficiency. The faith of the atheist is built around the self-sufficiency of mankind: I will do this, I will do that! These are all promises made to oneself for oneself by oneself. It is at the center of the heart-cry of every Caesar that’s come down through the ages and at the core of self-indulgence: me! The Christian perspective is built antithetical to this where “me” is third, under others, second, and God, first. Here’s why:

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” [Luke 12:16-21]

For Christians, making plans is a part of life just like everyone else. However, the key differenve is this: when secularists make plans they just, as Christians would say, “name it and claim it”; they manifest their intentions and work towards them wholeheartedly. In the Christian worldview this desire to make plans and see them come to life is not less present or real, the difference is that they’ll add a modifier: “Lord willing”! Christians understand and have come to terms with their own inability to be self-reliant. The secularist will say, just like the Christian, “I want to buy a new house next year” or “I think I’ll publish a short novel”; both of those things are great ideas for someone that is looking for fulfillment, but the Christian knows who, ultimately, is in charge, and it’s not them.

The crux of the matter is this: the secularist, the Darwinist, the naturalist, the atheist doesn’t ultimately recognize any higher authority than themselves. That is exactly why they claim to have “faith” but place it in secular frames of reference: the marriage, the kids, the friendships, the career, the family, etc. When, all if these things, in the fullness of time frustrate and delude them, what is left, too often, is someone whom deep inside knows their is a Creator but is angry because of the circumstances of life: they would have wanted Him to show Himself in those situations to prove His existence. But, unfortunately, God is neither a pet nor He is mocked. Had He helped you, you would have just as easily assigned it to a chance occurrence or a change of heart in others: that would not have improved your condition, only strengthened your resolve. My dear friend, if you are reading this and recognize yourself in these situations, believe that you are not here by accident. God loves you and is talking to you; don’t harden your heart any longer. We encourage you to repeat this simple prayer:

Dear Jesus, I repent of my sins. Come into my heart, I make you my Lord and Saviour!

Friend, if you prayed that simple prayer, we believe you got “Born Again”. Find a good Bible-Based Church, keep God first place, and He’ll shows things you couldn’t even dream of!

God bless you!

Let My People Think!

Not “from”, nor “since”, but “IN”

I once heard it said that “if you talk to God, you’re religious; but if he talks back….well then, you’re just crazy!”

Too often the Church has been pigeon-holed into such corners by fast-talking and fast-thinking Bible deniers and have found themselves either feeling or being defeated or, even worse, converted! But the Truth, thankfully friends, is of a very simple nature. The Word says that “God has set eternity in the hearts of men” so that we may search for Him and find Him. God made the universe complex and intricate and immense so that, in the end, there can only be one takeaway and only one takeaway: A design points to a Designer!

Atheists will argue “everything comes from something, except in the beginning where it came from nothing” or “in the future we will know”. If that isn’t a statement of faith, I dont know what is! Then, they also take the liberty to ridicule us for saying “in the beginning, God“. Well they can’t have it both ways: they can’t ridicule believers while they themselves are believers of a non-god!

You see, what they fail to realize is that their beliefs are based on faith as well; just because their faith “is in nothing” they think themselves not religious: their God is, in effect…”nothing”. Just like the “Nothing” in the Never-ending Story, it’s still something: it advanced destroying everything in its path, leaving only darkness and space void of any sibstance at all. Where there was once morality, it replaces with subjectivism; where there was once “knowable Truth” it replaces with post-modern relativism. Now, in all fairness, I’m not saying that “all atheists” are immoral and relativistic. In fact, many will argue that they are “good people” and they would be right. Their problem is that they wouldn’t be able to define “good” or why they are “good” without having to borrow from absolutist religious tradition and worldviews. They may argue that goodness is “innate” without being able to point to the source of this goodness. In fact, their argument is made even more difficult to sustain in light of darwinistic arguments in favor of “survival of the fittest” and “selfish genes”. In essence, their argument points more and more to a “fallen” nature of man, as in the Judeo-Christian worldview.

So let us undo this overly generalized myth about atheists once and for all. They are not more rational, better-educated, super-partes, more objective scientific minds than your average believer in general and/or Christian specifically.

Their belief system starts after the initial moment of creation: they either chose not to engage it as an intellectual necessity (meaning “only the simple” would attribute it to a God) or just claim that there is not need for a creator because the universe could simply be ever-lasting and self-existing.

Here is the problem with that theory: in an effort to deny the existence of God, they have just created a different God. Part of the most basic definition of a God or deity is that it must be uncaused, meaning that it didn’t originate from something else. Here’s some basic math: the eternal past cannot exist or today would never be a reality! There would be an infinite number of days before getting to today. Ergo, today would never happen. So, since “today” is a reality, time must’ve had a beginning: either caused by an extern agent (God) or self-caused (being God). Therefore, whether you believe in a creator god (or gods, which we will address in a follow-up post) or believe the universe is self-causing, you are, by definition, not an atheist! If you believe that “something” has either always (unhinged from the constraints of time) existed or was and is self-existing, you are, by definition a believer in a “god”: an un-caused cause. Therefore, to say that there is no “need” for there to be a creator or something responsible for the “birthing” of the initial moment of creation is not just intellectually unnecessary but intellectually dishonest.

So the solution is really simple: either god created the big bang or the big bang created itself and therefore fits the definition of “god”. Either way, this just proves that there is no such thing as an “atheist”; at best, one may be “agnostic”, meaning “not enough information” or not enough information as to “which god” is the “real God”. For now, we will leave this particular piece for another time.

The Bible says that “in the last days, people will have a form of religion but deny its power”. This is the reason why people will say things like “I believe in God, just don’t believe Jonah was in the belly of a whale for three days” or that “Jesus couldn’t have been born of a virgin”. Unless your definition of “All-Powerful” is separate and distinct from everyone elses’, an All-Powerful God is able to make both of those two situations happen without much ado about nothing. Even an “atheist” would concede that everything came from “something”. Now if this “something” is so powerful that it started the universe, which is a miracle in its own right, why are people so perplexed when we hear of more recent “miracles”? It sort of works like this:

-The universe came from nothing. It came “into being” while creating the Laws for “being”: it broke, bent or suspended the Laws to create the Laws.

-A miracle is a suspension or a breaking of the Laws of Nature. Example would be: resurrection, turning back time, holding time still, levitating just by thinking it, etc.

-The story of Jonah and the story Jesus’ birth are therefore beliefs that can be held by perfectly rational people without a need to ascribe religious beliefs: if an agnostic scientist can make room in his/her mind for the Laws of Nature to be suspended, bent, or broken, the same can be said of that scientist’s view on Biblical accounts of miracles.

As you can see, none of this takes a degree in Astrophysics to see how plainly and how easily this argument can be made. So why is it that people struggle so profoundly with this simple Truth? The Bible teaches us that for those who blaitantly refuse the Truth “God has handed them over to a reprobate mind” so that they would not believe even when it is made as plain as day. The Bible also teaches us that “to live like there is no God makes you a fool”. What this simply means is that it’s better to believe and be wrong than not to believe and be wrong.

So, whether it is based on faith in God, simple math or a simple thought experiment, regardless of your personal hang-ups with God, it is better to believe than not to believe! Therefore: believe, search for Him and you will find Him when youbsearch for Him with all your heart. And lastly: be saved!

God bless you!