27 June, 2007

NT Wright: The Resurrection of the Son of God

The Jews experienced a number of changes in their basic beliefs about resurrection over the centuries. By the time of the second temple, they had quite a fragmented set of ideas on the subject. The Pharisees believed that there would be a general resurrection of believers at the end of time (and often did not believe unbelievers would rise at all). The Saducees believed there was no resurrection. Other Jews had brought in the Platonic belief that the body was inferior and was best shucked off to live as eternal spirits.

The pagans also had changed their beliefs on the subject. Before ending up at the Platonic solution, they went through centuries of believing the dead were at best half-spiritually alive, and that they would never rise again. The dead forgot everything they ever knew, and lived comatose lives of spiritual misery forever. Plato did come along, and he did change all that. He taught that the dead were forevermore spiritual, and that they were infinitely happier than they had ever been while trapped in their mortal bodies.

Given this matrix of Jewish conflict on the subject, and complete pagan denunciation of the mere idea of resurrection, how Christianity come to embrace the idea of resurrection with one voice and in complete agreement? Why did they alter the Judaism from which they emerged such that the resurrection would be of two parts (first Christ, and later all His brothers and sisters) and such that it encompassed the whole idea of the triumphant kingdom?

NT Wright's answer in The Resurrection of the Son of God is, because Christ actually, eternally rose from the dead.

Wright makes a number of points. Most emphatically, he declares that resurrection is not life-after-death. There is definitely life after death, though most gospel writers are fuzzy at best about what that life is like, but that is not resurrection. Resurrection is life after life-after-death. Resurrection is when a formerly alive person dies, goes on to experience life-after-death, and then is brought back to live again on this planet with a new body - a body that is both physical and yet transcends the abilities of the former body and is somehow spiritual too. Heaven, he states, is not where we spend our eternity. Heaven is a realm unimaginably near to our own, and that intersects with our own in a number of ways, and our resurrected bodies will be comfortable interacting with heaven even while they live here on earth.

Wright explores every pertinent ancient source on the subject of resurrection in general, and on Christ's resurrection in particular. When he has completed his argument, you have insight into the beliefs of first temple Jews, second temple Jews, intertestamental apocryphal books, ancient pagan philosophers, later pagan philosophers, Paul, other writers of epistles, gospel writers, extra-canonical gospels, other Christian aprocryphal books, classical heretics, and finally the gospels' easter accounts. His historical analysis concludes with a thorough exploration of "necessary and sufficient" cause. He demonstrates that Christ's resurrection is sufficient to cause a movement like Christianity to emerge, and furthermore that an event like the resurrection actually happening as described is most probably necessary for the Christian doctrine of resurrection to emerge.

Throughout the entire book he maintains a consistent level-headedness that is a delight to read, and grants his opponents reasonable dignity, even as he tweaks their noses from time to time.

I won't kid you. At 730 pages, this book is probably not going to float everyone's boat, but if you've ever wanted to make a serious argument that the resurrection proved Christ as God's Son, you need this book. Wright defines the argument much more closely than anyone else I've ever read. He will keep you from over-promising on the meaning of the resurrection while arming you beautifully to defend the points you actually end up staking out.


25 June, 2007

Things that are Real

To a child, lot's of things are real. I don't mean like a child thinks Barney's real, when he's really imaginary. I mean real as in substantial, weighty, worth living and dying for. The ten minute drive to the store to buy a coveted toy seems real. It's a never-ending agony. A hershey's kiss seems real, and many a little-'un will wear a parent out to get one, even though it's gone in one quick bite.

In a flash these little things are gone, and it's as if they never existed. They were never real, but it's only obvious in hindsight. The trip to the store is barely a memory during the ride home with the new toy safely in little hands. The candy is gone, and it feels like there may never be candy again. The little pains and pleasures that seemed so huge seem to just dissolve, and leave us wondering whether they were ever real at all.

The parallel to grown-up Christian life is obvious. It's obvious, but it's not easy.

What is real about our lives? Going to the county fair and getting a HUGE thing of cotton candy is not real, but the Dad who gave it to you is. Having your behind blistered ends quickly enough, but finding out Dad could look at you like that goes on and on. You forget how annoying it was for your little sister to always ignore you, but the memory of that one time you stood up for her against that bully lives on forever.

The car I own is a vapor. It not only could be gone tomorrow, it will be. My "first car" is barely a memory worth dredging up, much less all the ones after it. The passengers in it, though....

(And no, there was never a girl in that car.)

All the things in my life are clouds blowing in, taking form, and blowing on again. And the people are, too. They take shape, and then they blow on through.

And then I share a moment of the Lord with someone, and an anchor pin is driven into my heart and connected to theirs. There is a thread tied on that will never pass. In all eternity, that moment will stand like granite. I will forget my bosses, but I will remember the ones with whom I connected over Jesus Christ. I will always remember the little joker I showed how to make the harmonica play a song. I'll forever remember his eyes lighting up, and him yelling, "I'm doing it!" and disappearing into the crowd to show his Mom. I hope to share that moment with him again a few thousand years from now. Little Joker there is no vapor.

I wonder which things in my life are just pretty smoke. Which prayers will I happily forget ever happened? Which handshakes will I treasure for eternity? Which gifts will I wish I had given to another, and which labors will prove to have been richest?

When Jesus watches my life, I wonder how much of what He sees is real.

19 June, 2007

A quick song

Any edits before I present to the group on Thursday for edits?

In Him there is no night
In Him there is no, "No"
Death fell before His might
And where he's gone we go.

He came to save His own
He came to seek the lost
His face set like a stone
He paid each stripe we cost

This world won't care for me
It knows I'm not from here
And when life's end I see
We'll neither shed one tear

To kingship He's been raised
His kingdom we've become
In blood our trail He's blazed
His love has overcome

A Thought

One of the guys in our small group asked me to write a song. So, I'm plinking along, and it occurs to me. Maybe the kingdom of God is not about small things, but about slow things. Or both, of course.

Here's the picture.

Remember the Ents in the Lord of the Rings? How they decimated Saruman's kingdom by the power of roots growing through stone?

God's kingdom is powerful, and power of the kingdom is love. And it really, really topples kingdoms, but it's great weapon is love.

Just a thought.

The Day of Small Things

Zechariah 4:10 (whole chapter)
For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

The commentators (I cannot get past thinking of them as commmon 'taters) disagree on some stuff about this passage and agree about other stuff. They are all sure, for example, who Zerubbabel is - but they don't agree ;-). For my part, I cannot imagine He is anyone but Christ.

They all agree, though, that the plummet (what we hicks call a plumb-bob) means that Zerubbabel is being very careful about His work. A plummet is used to make sure every wall is exactly straight. They also agree that the 7 eyes of the Lord mean that He will not be surprised by His enemies. He knows everything that is opposed to Him, and has accounted for it.

Most surprisingly, though, they all agree that the day of small things was the day that the work was beginning. It was the time of the early church, but it is over now.

I used to agree with them.

I need to set some kind of a baseline for the discussion to begin. The chapter as a whole is about the Messiah building His kingdom. This verse is meant to encourage and exhort those who might be uncomfortable with how little progress is being made toward its completion. Even in the day of small things and little progress and invisible growth, the Messiah is building straight walls, and sees every move of his enemies.

The work may be small, but it is true.

Today, though, (and all the 'tators would seem to agree) is not the day of small things.

Today, Christianity is the largest religion in the entire world, almost doubling its nearest competitor in size. Very nearly one out of every three people on this orb calls themselves Christian. And I only wish I could get some kind of reference numbers on the budgets of the different religions. I would be shocked to learn that Christianity were not raking in money faster than anyone can count it.

The thing is, I don't see anything that says the day of small things ended.

I will be honest with you. I didn't always feel this way. I wanted to see the home church kick the denominational churches' butts, and I wanted the truth to conquer the hierarchies. I'm probably trying to understand why things are not going the way I think they should in the Christian world. But as I watch the world go by, and as the dreams of my twenties continue their long fade to black, I just don't see anything large that seems to express the kingdom faithfully.

I see great things happening, but I don't see the kingdom - or maybe I see too much of it. The visible church is doing commendable things, but Christ seemed to think His kingdom would be small, invisible even.

For better or worse, I have learned to doubt big things. Big things seem always to be human things. It is taking me a while to learn not to despise small things, but it's coming. I am starting to wonder if a garden is not a better thing for the kingdom than sending a missionaries overseas for two weeks with a plan to post 10,000 handbills in preparation for the showing of the Jesus Film. I'm wondering whether supporting our neighbors, and resisting our evil neighbors, isn't a greater thing for the kingdom than supporting a national house church conference.

When I look around, I keep seeing small things making a difference, and big things making noise. I see wonderful Romanian believers taught to doing everything just like the Americans, and slammed when they don't. And I see Christian empires extending their reach as far as their budgets will take them.

I received a quote via email today, and it really seems to fit here:

An extract from the autobiography of Plenty-Coups (1848-1932) a chief of the Crow Nation:
Their wise ones said we might have their religion, but when we tried to understand it we found that there were too many kinds of religion among white men for us to understand, and that scarcely any two white men agreed which was the right one to learn. This bothered us a good deal until we saw that the white man did not take his religion any more seriously than he did his laws, and that he kept both of them just behind him, like helpers, to use when they might do him good in his dealings with strangers

Our bigness makes it impossible for us to be one without compromise. Our separateness makes it impossible for us to fully support each other. Our disunity shames our Lord. And so the push is on throughout the Christian world to inspire unity.

Maybe we should quit seeking unity, and start seeking smallness.

17 June, 2007

These guys really amaze me

These guys are doing things with bicycles we never even dreamt possible.

Kids today have a lot to be proud of. They really are better educated and able to do hundreds of things we could never compete with. They have my respect.

16 June, 2007


If you hit the escape key enough times, you can lose an entire blog post irrecoverably.

You ought to try it some time.


Greed Keeps Fear in Check

Despite new market jitters, skewed incentives whet appetites for greater risk. ...

Such were the headline and first sentence of a Wall Street Journal article last Wednesday.

I don't really have anything brilliant to say about this, but ... ummm ... huzzah for the sixth deadly sin?

Christianity Uber Alles

Christian unity may be its own worst enemy.

Over a century and a half ago a gentlemen wrote the famous words, "Deutchland, Deutchland uber alles." By translation they mean, "Germany, Germany over all." A little over a hundred years later Adolf Hitler grabbed hold of those words, and misused them to reinforce a nationalist fervor that the world came to regret.

Hitler sold that song as meaning that Germany should rule all of Europe and the world.

The original author meant something very different, and something pertinent to the discussion of Christian unity. At the time the lyrics were written, Germany was a collection of 30 states. The song was an encouragement to the heads of those states to value the federal nation of Germany over needs of the scattered states. The idea was not that Germany should be greater than France, but that Germany should be more important than Prussia or Hanover or Hesse.

Even so, in our time the cry is going out to value Christianity over Baptistry, Methodism, Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Unity Uber Alles.

I could be less excited, but I don't know how. :-(

It causes me pain to oppose this movement, but I do. I know we have one Lord. I wonder out loud why we have 20,000 churches? And even I wonder why I find myself opposing the attempt to put Christianity above denominational fifedoms? I think I hate denominations as much as anyone, so why would I advocate their continuance?

Let me give you my scariest explanation.

According to adherents.com, there are 1.9 billion Christians, 1.1 billion Muslims, .8 billion Hindus and .3 billion Buddhists. That's over 4 billion religious people (leaving almost 2.5 billion people on the other side.) I see those numbers and I ask myself what makes the Western religious people Christian, as opposed to just religious and Western?

I think everyone here will allow me to postulate that there is no spiritual truth in Hinduism or Buddhism, and only the vaguest shadow of truth left in Islam. I can grant there is some spiritually real stuff happening to those people, but it's all spiritual lies. YHWH is not interacting with those people in any saving way. And yet there are 2.2 billion people adhering to their religions.

The conclusion I reach from that observation is that people need to cling to religion. People want religion, benefit from it, and will adhere to a religion quite aside from any value it really has. 2.2 billion call themselves adherents of religions that are actively wrong about the story of the universe and knowing God.

So, what's so special about the 1.9 billion that adhere to Christianity? They grew up in Western culture, and adhere to their own home religion. What's so surprising about that? The rhythm of a religion is a soothing, useful thing, and they want to be soothed.

I'm going to do some invalid things with numbers here. I'm not trying to make a mathematical point, but an illustrative one. Across the whole world, 63% of people are religious, even if most may cling to a false religion. Almost 2 out of every 3 people on this planet choose to identify with a religion. In America, that would be 200 million people or so. Americans actually claim to be a little more religious than that. 84% of Americans claim to be Christian, and only 10% to be non-religious one way or another. That would be 250 million Americans who claim Christ. If we subtract out the 2 out of 3 people, or 200 million, who are probably just religious enough to join the national religion, whatever that might be, we are left with 50 million. 80% of people who call themselves Christians are probably doing just that, calling themselves Christians.

I have no idea whether 50 million is a reasonable number. Are there 50 million people who actually know Christ, love Him, keep His commandments, and will be commended by Him at the last day? I don't know. Again, I'm just trying to illustrate a point, not count noses.

I'm not sure that I've really said anything controversial yet, so with that groundwork laid, let me get started. I believe those 200 million religious people are the louder faction of Christianity. When we talk about lukewarm or nominal Christians, we usually end up drifting into thinking about people who "only come to church on Easter." Someone called them EACs - Easter and Xmas - Christians. That group does not frighten me.

I'm scared of the ones who sacrifice their lives and who vanish into monasteries. Many of the world's religious people become priests, and dedicate their lives to their religion. They follow the rules of their faith assiduously. They are wise and famous like the Dalai Lama, and they change the world like Mahatma Ghandi. And they do not know God. They labor in obscurity, and sell everything they own for their god. Some of those 2.2 billion people are seriously impressive people. These religions did not get 2.2 billion adherents by being lukewarm.

And some of these ambitious adherents, these religious people, change the world in the Name of Jesus. Some of the 200 million religious people in America are doing amazing things for Christianity - but they aren't doing the will of the Father on earth as it is done in heaven. They are doing what religious adherents all over the world do. They are making the world a better place by using the tools of their religion. I just don't want to live in their better place. I want to live in the kingdom of God's Son.

Uniting Christianity under the banner of "one faith" is a losing idea when the ones doing it don't know Him. And yes, I do believe that the percentages work the same at the top of the denominations as at the bottom. 80% of the people at the top probably don't know Him. And by that I mean 80% of the top of "my" denomination, not just "yours."

I don't know. Maybe you will call me paranoid, but here I stand.

In my next post, I'll look at the second reason I fear Christians when they unite.

13 June, 2007

Bumper Sticker Ideas

Bonobos do it
So it can't be wrong!


Stupid IS
You reading this bumper sticker at 65 mph


Just sitting around talking with my son, and those two came to me. Figured I should share them.


Also, we were talking about the meaning of life, and how God gives us pain not for the purpose of taking it away, but so that we can prove how great His love is. [Yes, we were talking, not just me soliliquizing.]

He asked, "What about people who just have naturally sunny dispositions?"

I thought for just a second before I answered, "They can't be saved."

He rolled for a solid minute. It was pretty funny.


Oh, well. As long as I'm confessing inappropriate jokes, I may as well tell this one too.

Dad: I need that USB memory stick I let you borrow.
Son: Ummm. I.... Ummm. I ate it.
Dad: (It's important to see the somber face, and dead-straight delivery) Then you'd better hurry up and shit me a USB memory stick.

Nothing is funnier than pure shock. He didn't expect me to have an answer, much less one he'd be proud to have thought of.


OK. I apologize for doing that to ya'll. You may return to my usual blog.

12 June, 2007

Faith versus Confidence

I was calling my previous posts, "raw." Well, they were first drafts for sure. Here, let me give you one that I really think should be a post some day with illustrations, feeling and a point, but that I'm pretty sure will languish.

This is really raw.

In our culture, stepping out in faith is stepping out in blind optimism. A mature man doesn't step out in faith, but in confidence - and that confidence requires a reason. Even so, our faith needs to be a confidence in God, not a blind leap.

Any faith that doesn't have a reason is no faith at all.

10 June, 2007

My Hero Fell Today

OK, it's just my tennis hero, so it had no effect whatsoever on my day. In fact, I had the best day I've had in a month. Smiled almost all day long about almost everything. It's a good thing, and a little rare of late.

My take on the match is suspect. I absolutely watched with my heart as opposed to my head, and I am a putzer when it comes to the technical side of tennis. Nonetheless, why keep my mouth shut?

Point 1:
James Blake's precision power game beats Nadal's high percentage defensive game. It's classic rock, paper, scissors. Federer is rock that scissors cannot harm, Nadal is paper that smothers rock, and Blake is scissors that slices paper.

We've all watched Federer try to beat Blake at his own game, and he can't do it. When Federer and Blake both come out ripping laser forehands, Blake goes up two breaks fast. It's only when Federer settles back down into his own game, gives up on the laser tag, and starts confusing Blake that he comes roaring back. Federer can play "scissors," and can hit laser forehands, but not as well as he can play his own game. Federer is no Blake.

What Federer found in Hamburg was that he could beat Nadal by being Blake: flatten everything, go for broke and focus vertically instead of on angles. Hit deep, move in, control the baseline and the pace. What he found in Paris was that he's not good enough at that game to get 'er done against a dialed-in Nadal. But then we already knew that, because he can't even beat Blake at that game.

Federer's unforced error count was caused by trying to do something amazing. He was trying to play Blake's game in a GS final. It was not natural for him, but he did a convincing job.

Point 2:
[Has everyone read Dune? If not skip this massively obscure sub-analogy to the already obscure metaphor. ;-)
Do you remember Paul's knife fight with the young Fremen? He kept getting into a winning position, then not finishing the duel because he slowed down at the moment of the kill. It was because Paul was trained to fight against a shield that could only be penetrated by a slow blade. Even so, Federer....]

Federer achieved 10 break points in the first set, and failed to capitalize on any of them. I agree that this is not because Nadal hit 10 perfect winners (though he probably hit 6 or more!)

With break point on his racket, Federer repeatedly switched back to playing "rock" again. He earned the break opportunities by playing "scissors", but at the critical moment he reverted back to his natural style, "bide, baffle and bait." But Nadal cannot be baited. Federer's game is to lure his opponent into hitting something crushable. Nadal will not be lured into that mistake.

It's not that Federer played badly on 17 break points; it's that he played "Federer" when he needed to keep playing "Blake."

Federer played FANTASTICALLY for a man playing completely outside his comfort zone. He was trying to do something no one else has done for 89 consecutive matches - beat Nadal on clay. To do so, he stretched his game convincingly, but not yet forcingly.

Federer is the best human to ever play this game, but he's still only human, and that man on the other side keeps on proving it to everyone.

Nadal is also playing outside himself. I'm not really sure whether Nadal is also trying to add "scissors" to his game, or trying to add "rock." I think he'll have more success with scissors, because it's closer to his natural style. And scissors works on grass and hard. But, I don't think they will work against "rock."

Nadal's impressive growth makes the next 4 months really, really scary.

I could not be happier!

(How was that on the obscure metaphor scale?)

09 June, 2007

The Lord's Prayer in Songs

Last night I was feeling particulary verklempt and spent, so I did the Lord's Prayer with a harmonica. It was really nice. So, I tag anyone still reading my ramblings to let us all know how you would do the Lord's Prayer in songs.

Our Father which art in Heaven
[I've Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop]
Hallowed be Thy Name
[Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest Name I Know]
Thy kingdom come
[Crown Him With Many Crowns]
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
[Make My Life a Prayer to You]
Give us this day our daily bread
[I Know Whom I Have Believed]
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
[Just As I Am]
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
[My Soul has Found a Resting Place]

A Man and His Destiny - Or - Silly Games are the Best

Rafael Nadal stands between Roger Federer and the history books. If he wins, the world will acknowledge him as the Greatest of All Time. Tomorrow morning, at 9:00 AM Eastern Time, Roger will try to move Rafa somehow. He should fail. I don't think he will.

Rafa could win tomorrow. Truth be told, he has the skills to win the next three slams. If that happens, Roger is not even the greatest of our time, much less all time. If that happens, Roger slips to the level of a Richard Gasquet, who is beautiful to watch but cannot get the job done. If that happens, I will plead for Roger to find just "one more gear," because I want to believe that classic form and using the whole court beats raw power and grim determination.

Here's my thing.

Deep in my heart, I believe that Roger is a high-strung, emotional player, while Nadal is more a force of will. I believe Federer's game swoops and swoons because that is who he is, and Nadal's game blasts unrelentingly because that is who he is.

I think they both play a very smart game, almost in the same way. Federer is smart about what game to use against you, and Nadal is smart about which of your weaknesses to hammer over and over and over. That's almost a moot difference, but Federer will show you something new until he finds the thing you don't like, and Nadal will hit all your defenses until he finds something he can break down. Federer changes tools and Nadal changes targets.

Red clay exposes Federer's weaknesses while damping his strengths. Grass allows Federer to mask his weaknesses, and amps his strengths. So everything says Nadal should find the chink in Federer's game on Sunday and eat him for brunch again.

But sometimes Federer swoops. Emotionality means that sometimes you don't just go into the zone, you blow right through it into some magic place. Federer can do that. He could do it Sunday. Everything is lined up as best it could possibly be. He has an opponent he fears, but his fear has finally been tempered by a first win. The taste of blood is still sweet on his lips. The dress rehearsal against Davydenko did not go well, so he won't be over-confident. He's gotten rid of the noise in his ear from his former coach, Tony Roche, so he can concentrate.

This could be the moment. This could be the time that the Matador plays above himself, lures the raging one to chase that fluttering red cape, and slips his Wilson sword into the Bull from Mallorca.

I want to see it.

05 June, 2007

Believing is the New Baby Killing

I was asked to listen to song 1 and song 5 of the new John Mayer CD. I guess the first song won a grammy, and the fifth is about life's deeper hopes. I found the third song to be the most arresting, though.

My comments in > red.

Is there anyone who
Ever remembers changing their mind from
The paint on a sign?

> Great point!
Is there anyone who really recalls
Ever breaking rank at all

> Wow. I wish I'd said this. It is spot-on
For something someone yelled real loud one time

Everyone believes
In how they think it ought to be
Everyone believes
And they're not going easily

> I cannot think of anything more frustrating.
> He's right. Nobody moves easily from their position, no matter how little thought has gone into it.

Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you're trying for

> Odd thought. I cannot picture belief as a sword at all, and just barely as armor.
> Now, if I picture belief in a false philosophy, I could see the armor thing. You're protecting yourself against some other thought. But belief in a thing that is real is not an armor. It's just a correct understanding of the laws that govern the universe.

Some need the exhibition
And some have to know they tried

> Sounds like every evangelistic evangelical I've ever known. Ouch.
It's the chemical weapon
For the war that's raging on inside

> Whoops. First serious miss.
> There's a war raging inside us all, he says, and belief unjustly ends the struggle. By belief we kill the opposition illegally, and very thoroughly.
> Now, I can limit his lyrics to talking about toxic belief, but he does not.

Everyone believes
From emptiness to everything
Everyone believes
And no ones going quietly

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this
If belief is what we're fighting for

> That's a mighty big "if" there at the end of that powerful statement.
> I thought we were fighting for oil, and for imperialist expansion. Nobody, but nobody, but nobody that I know thinks that America is fighting for beliefs. Could he be assaulting a belief in democracy? Nah. That doesn't make a lick of sense.

What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand
Belief can
Belief can
What puts the folded flag inside his mother's hand
Belief can
Belief can

> Just brutal.

Mr. Mayer mourns both the deaths of civilians and soldiers. The symbolism of the soldier story is that of an American funeral, so he's definitely talking about the Iraqi war amongst maybe a number of things. And he talks about "we" all through the song, so he's not talking exclusively about the Islamicists who teach their own babies to suicide for Allah.

John Mayer really believes that the deaths in Iraq are about American beliefs? Christian beliefs? I will concede that the song is too vague to be hold him to anything I'm saying about it, but the symbolism sure seems spot-on clear. Mr. Mayer aligns Christians with baby killers.

I love expressive songs, and passionate ones, but I cannot swallow this one.

Maybe I'm guilty of believing too much to listen.

04 June, 2007

Tripping in that Handbasket

You tell me that if there were a God, He would not hide himself. You looked for Him for years, and He never came out from behind that whatever bush He calls home. Now, you're just too old to believe He's out there. You've seen too many good people sick, abandoned and struck down. You've seen too many children suffering in their innocence. You say there's no God, but even if there were one He wouldn't be the kind of God you would worship.

I understand where you're coming from, but He doesn't.

You need to know that.

God created a good world, and laid down a set of rules to teach us how to keep it good. Those rules were also the measuring stick by which He will judge me, you and everyone. Those rules still work, and they were never revoked.

You need to know that, too.

But you were talking about how God hides Himself.

We both have to wrestle with that. It would not be hard for God to impress everyone into submitting to Him. I don't know anyone who wouldn't soil his pants if a 6-foot tall man with nail-printed hands, brass feet, flaming eyes, and a voice like a massive waterfall suddenly appeared and said, "Quit ignoring Me." Most of us would be convinced by a simple bright light and a disembodied voice.

Or by measurable success. If the moment someone started following God, things started falling into place in his life anyone might believe there was a God. If Christians always had the best jobs, were healed of their toothaches, and stayed married to the first person they'd ever seriously dated that would be a pretty good proof of God's existence. Then the only people that wouldn't jump in would be complete curmudgeons.

You're not alone in your argument that God is not there. Many people reason that God would never hide Himself so completely, so He must not exist.

I agree God has been very sparing with demonstrations of His existence. He's really only done one thing, but that one thing was a doozy. He still gets on the covers of all the fashionable magazines for it. In Jesus the Christ, God exhibited His existence to all the world.

He chose a uniquely expensive way to present Himself too. Physical manifestations, gifts of wealth, or revelations would have cost God nothing. Amazingly, even though they're free for Him, He is tight-fisted with them. Being misunderstood by inferior beings for 33 years, though? That had to hurt. Getting slivers making a desk, sweating through a long Galilean night without a bed or pillow, being chided on theology by stiffs with no more than sixty years of muddled bible study; those were new experiences for the God of the universe, and to endure them Jesus had to learn a new, holy submission.

In the crucible of all these new experiences and humiliations, Jesus showed the character of God to be unswervingly gracious. Jesus had powers that no mortal had ever imagined, and so He had every chance to be corrupted. With that power He healed and fed and raised the dead. He extended His hand to the weak, to the poor, and to those whom more religious men had long rejected. Sinners caught in the act, betrayers of their own people (tax collectors for the Roman empire), and the afflicted of all stripes found in Jesus an understanding Friend, and a Restorer. He forgave them, accepted them, and healed them in a way few students of God would ever have dreamt.

And then He had to die.

They talk about how Jesus could have called 10,000 angels to save Him from the cross if he'd been of a mind. But all He really had to do was heal a couple people and declare that He wanted to overthrow Rome. That's what being "Christ" (the promised King of Israel) was all about. All of Israel would have risen up to enthrone anyone who could do a miracle and promised to throw Rome out of Judea. Put yourself there for a second, and imagine that all you had to do was declare yourself "for" being made king, and thousands of people would rise up to save you from death by being nailed to a tree. Could you resist the urge? Could you even think of a reason to resist that urge?

Jesus resisted. He declared several times that it was his moment to die. He declared that He had to do it, and then He orchestrated all the circumstances that made it happen. He went into his enemies' home turf and publicly embarassed them; then He went to a private garden to await the predictable arrival of his murderers. And since He called his shot, it's obvious Jesus subjected Himself to all this with grace aforethought.


That takes us back to those rules God gave, and by which He will judge us all.

God will find any man guilty who violates any one of those rules, and the penalty for the least violation is death. Why so strict? Because God looks on the heart, while we all look on the performance. We see a man who did not seduce his neighbor's wife, even though he was sorely tempted. God sees a man who selfishly put his need for affirmation above love for his brother. God sees a man who coveted both his neighbor's wife, and the ego boost of flirting. Such a man is defiled before God, and we are all such men. God cannot accept any of us while we are guilty of having ignored any of His perfect standards.

Jesus came to take care of all that for me. He had to die so that my guilt would never keep me from God.

Is it fair for God to condemn me for "being human?" Yes, of course it is. But for sake of argument, let's leave that question in the air. Even then, Jesus died and took that whole discussion off the table. He erased the guilt of every person who will come to Him with open hands. The question is whether you are willing to come to Him.

You were asking, way back at the beginning of this discussion, whether God were working hard enough to make Himself known to men.

God left His blood on the earth to make Himself known to you. Have you lost any blood trying to find Him? You have heard the tale of how God suffered to save His children. You have heard how after He died, He rose again to life and lives even today. Jesus is alive today, and He speaks in the hearts of His own. I will testify to you that if you open your heart to Him, you will find He changes your heart and fills your life like nothing you have ever imagined.

And if you don't?

If you don't, can you imagine that your disdain of His suffering on earth will go unnoticed, go unjudged? Have you taken the Lord's Name in vain? Have you murdered? Have you stolen? All these things will be nothing compared to treating the sacrifice of this Judge as trivial. For murder, would you receive the death penalty from a fair judge? Life in prison? What will you receive for your crimes after you treat the Judge with contempt?

Six times Jesus spoke of the end of those who did not believe Him. Jesus (identifying Himself as the Son of man) says, "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Matt 13:41&42.

Jesus of Nazareth was killed by the Roman empire at the request of the leaders of His own people. The bible records this, and history confirms every word. The tomb was empty two mornings later. The bible records this, and history confirms every word. For three centuries, the poor of this world were killed for following Jesus to their own deaths, killed in Roman persecutions. They went to their deaths praising God for their chance to rise again just as Jesus had, because they knew that if Jesus rose, they would rise. History records the miraculous growth of Jesus' church, and the remarkable sufferings of the people who obeyed Him even to death.

A day comes when you will stand before that Man Who has eyes of flames and a voice like a waterfall, and He will pass sentence either that He knew you, or He did not. To those who know Him, He will grant a body just like His own, and a life that never ends. Those whom He does not know will be cast into a furnace of fire.

Come and meet the Son.

He bled to know you, and proved His love beyond doubt. Could One Who gave so much for you, be a terror to you now? Every fiber of your being was made for knowing Him, and every joy of life is wrapped up in Him. Don't let any fear or hesitation keep you from reaching out to meet this Jesus Who has sought your love so carefully.

Come meet Jesus.