Friday, September 30, 2016

I am a bit slow on acting sometimes...

I am a bit slow on acting sometimes...

Let me illustrate.

Back in the late 1980's- almost 30 years past, I was given a piece of very direct advice,
"Perhaps you would fit better in a Christian University!"

At the time I understood the advice, I just was NOT inclined to take it.  I felt that G^d had called me to the state university of Alabama, and that's where I ought to be.  And, I stayed a mere 32 years before heeding that early advice.

I am now employed at what purports to be the largest Christian Uni in the USA, Liberty University.  I am a bit slow on acting sometimes... as I just have started the first week of the first month of the first semester of the first year at LU some 30 years after that advice.  Two of my former Ph.D. students have pioneered the Uni for me.

Who knows??  Perhaps in a few weeks or months, someone may suggest,"Perhaps you would fit better in a state University!"

We shall see.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Questions and Answers

As most readers may recall, I LOVE questions.  Jesus was constantly raising important questions.  I think we should emulate Him, and I think we should practice by asking all sorts of questions.  So, when I ran across a Blog Post at the Colson Center that dealt with questions, I wanted to share a bit of it.

The first question raised in the essay was, “What do you mean by that?”  It’s a good question to ask, because communication is difficult and people don’t always mean what they say.  Likewise, I have heard it said that he who gets to define the terms always wins the argument.

The second question is a crucial one, “How do you know that is true?  As a scientist, I deal with issues of what we know, and what evidence is there.  Some strongly held beliefs have very little evidence supporting them.  Sometimes our opinions are only that, strongly held, but not based on truth.
A related question is, “Where did you get this information?”  We are naturally biased, and we are always looking for information that supports our beliefs, whilst simultaneously ignoring info that contradicts our beliefs. This is true for scientists, just like everyone else, so we go to some lengths to design our experiments to minimize our biases.  Recently many scientific journals began requiring us to report any potential conflicts of interest, just because our biases are so strong.
The follow-on question then is, “How did you come to this conclusion?”  And, of course this is crucial because sometimes conclusions come from bases other than facts.  Sometimes our conclusions are first, and the data supporting these are ought afterwards. 
The last l two questions are, “What if you’re wrong? And What if you’re right?” Ideas have consequences. Pascal’s wager is an excellent illustration of the importance of consideration of consequences.
I like questions, and think questions are a valuable way to learn.

What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bits and Pieces of Time

Ben Franklin once said, “Dost thou love life, then save time, for time is that of which life is made.”

As I have written previously, time is a precious commodity, and getting more may be impossible.  I think about the many ways I choose to spend my time.  I also think, almost constantly about way sot save time.  I remember my son Daniel’s teacher telling him to use “those little bits and pieces of time” to study or accomplish something.

But, for what are we saving time?  Saving time to watch television seems self-defeating.  Saving time for resting might be good, but if you tired yourself more in saving the time, perhaps that is self-defeating too.

The ONLY good use for time, that I can envision, is spending time serving G^d.  Serving G^d may involve reading Scripture , praying, even spending time with some particular person.  It seems the intent is more important than the activity.

I think about how much time I spend working, reading, writing, playing Sudoku…
Wouldn’t I be much wiser to spend my time laying up for myself treasures in Heaven?  Matt 6:19-20

Friday, September 16, 2016

How Serious Am I About this “Following the Christ” Stuff?

I have been thinking about Matt 6:19-21, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where you have to buy insurance.  But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where no insurance is needed.  For where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also.”  (Phil Bishop version).

I do NOT think I take this verse very seriously.  I often think about laying up more treasures on earth, and only seldom do I think about Heaven, or storing anything there.  I think about accumulating wealth, of nice homes, and cars, and vacations, and all sorts of material things.  In fact MOST of modern culture is directed towards these very ends!

You see, I am pretty sure about treasures on earth, my faith flags a bit when I think about heaven.  Down deep inside I see little point in laying up treasure there- after all, it may NOT exist at all!

But, getting a bit older, I am beginning to see that this life, this time on earth, will swiftly draw to an end.  Maybe Jesus should be taken seriously.  Maybe Heaven should be taken seriously.  Maybe I should DO what Jesus said, instead of just talking about what He said.

Here’s a thought.  Maybe the person who DOES what Jesus said is building on a firm foundation.  Perhaps those who are big doubters, who pretty much invest everything in this life- the here and now- perhaps they are building on sand.   Perhaps all our earthy treasures will burn up in the end.

Who knows?  (This might be a good time to read Matthew 7: 24-27).

Monday, September 12, 2016

“Occupying” Time

What we need is a few MORE things to “occupy” our time.  We need more:
  • Hobbies
  • TV shows
  • Diversions
  • Work
  • Obligations

We need our time SO occupied that there is NO time left for anything but THOSE things.  Because, if we had free thought time, we might consider:
  • What G^d says about time, wealth, life,
  • What the Christ taught us,
  • How we can apply Scripture to our modern lives,
  • What our priorities ought to be,
  • And maybe some other stuff too.

So, who do you think came up with this strategy of “occupying” all of our time?

Friday, September 9, 2016

When the Fish ain’t Bitin

Four or five times in my life I have made a long trek up to central Ontario to go fishing for Northern Pike (and walleye and brook and lake trout).  This is an annual trip organized by my good friend, Chuck.  Chuck and I met in Bible study in the early 1980’s and have remained friends ever since.
This is a great trip with Christian guys.  It involves about 2800 miles of road travel, and several miles of boat travel.  The scenery is awesome, the food is great, the fellowship is hearty, and the laughter is abundant. 

Typically the fishing is terrific also, but NOT this time.

In fact, this was easily the worst fishing anyone, including Chuck, could recall- ever!

So what do you do when the fishing is bad?

You keep fishing.  You try different approaches- different baits, different depth, different spot, and different times of day.  But you persist.  Things will NOT change by quitting.

And so we did.  Though enthusiasm definitely flagged by the end of the week, most of us kept plugging away.

Not sure why we were persistent in fishing, but not so much other things- things much more important than fishing.  I suspect that part of the reason we persisted, was the persistence of the others around us.

Which brings me to the point:  G^d put us in the CHURCH for a reason.  We ought to encourage one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24-25) – and just keep on fishing.

Monday, September 5, 2016

An Odd Group of Guys

I just spent about a week with a group of 9 guys on a fishing expedition to Canada.  The fishing was terrible, but the trip was quite enjoyable.

All these guys, except me and one other, were related by blood or marriage, at least indirectly.  They were a great group, all Christians. 

  • I never heard:
  • Curse words,
  • Gripping,
  • Complaining, or
  • Blasphemy.

Instead, I did hear:
  • Prayer,
  • A few discussions of theology
  • A lot of laughter, and
  • Lots of encouragement and compliments.

Everyone pitched in to help without being asked.  Cooperation level was high.

This is to say, in 21st century America, it was a really odd group of guys—and a great time, despite the uncooperative fish.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Response to a Challenge of G^d’s Goodness

Last post, I quoted Allan Laing, a Scottish Newspaperman’s comments on the terrific tragedy of the South Asian Tsunami in 2004,

”God, if there is a God, should be ashamed of himself. The sheer enormity of the Asian tsunami disaster, the death, destruction, havoc it has wreaked, the misery it has caused, must surely test the faith of even the firmest believer…I hope I am right that there is no God.  For if there were then he’d have to shoulder the blame.  In my book, he’d be a guilty as in, and I’d want nothing to do with him.”

I asked, how you might challenge Mr. Laing’s argument. 

In this post, I’ll tackle this question, but if you want you can pause right now and give it some thought.

So, Mr. Laing, despite your doubts of G^d’s existence, you challenge the goodness of this God that the you doubt really exists.  In doing so Mr. Laing, you make several unstated assumptions:

1) G^d, who doesn’t exist, must act in ways conforming to your opinions.  Hmm, why would you assume G^d would act as you think He should? 
2) Mr. Laing, you assume that “the death, destruction, havoc … and misery” are inconsistent with your opinion of how a G^d, who doesn’t exist ought to act, or else be ashamed. 
      3) Why do YOU assume that:
a.       God ought to act in ways suitable to you?
b.      Death, destruction, havoc and misery are not acceptable to G^d?
c.       That you are in a position to correct G^d?

All of these are unspoken assumptions.  It there is NO G^d, then WHO is to say what “ought” to be, or not be.

If there is a G^d, and He is TRULY G^d, then who am I, or you, or Mr. Laing to question Him?
Assuming, as I do, that G^d is neither answerable to us, nor even fully comprehended by us mere mortals, who are we to judge?  Assuming the Christian G^d, as I do, I believe that God sent Jesus the Christ to redeem mankind.  He has taken care of those in Jesus Christ.  If a person dies in Christ, then he is immediately with G^d, in paradise. 

If there is a G^d, as I believe, He is Sovereign and doesn’t need my understanding or approval.  In fact, if G^d created mankind, and NOT the other way round, then I should NOT expect to understand G^d, or His ways, except as He may choose to explain himself.   It is also clear that G^d is BEYOND time and space- which makes him BEYOND our full understanding. Furthermore G^d defines what is good, right, just, quite independent of my, or Mr. Laing’s opinions. 

G^d exists, and He is beyond time and space.  I can’t explain lots about G^d, and I find comfort in that lack of comprehensibility; else I would expect a fully comprehensive god to be an invention of man.

So, what would you add to this list?