Monday, November 28, 2016

Now that the Dust has Settled- a Few Election Thoughts

What a debacle!  The US Presidential election was one of the strangest I can remember.  Neither candidate (D/R) was appealing, yet both had their staunchest supporters.  Numerous people reported crying because Sec. Clinton had lost.  I suspect numerous people would have cried, had Mr. Trump lost also.

The editorializing after the election has been very interesting.  There is much speculation as to how and why Mr. Trump, against all predictions except his own, won.  I haven't seen too much editorializing as to why those predictions were so inaccurate, though.

In my view, the BEST thing coming out of this election is my friends' comments on the Sovereignty of G^d.  G^d is in control, no matter who is President.  G^d's kingdom is NOT of this world, and our view, as i have written before, ought to be MORE directed towards His kingdom, than toward the here and now.

I recall many staunch conservatives lamenting when President Obama won his first term, and then his second.  Despite his 8 years running our country, the gloom-and-doomers were mostly wrong.  Things have been bad at times, and good at times.

My ultimate hope is, post-election, we Christians will renew our work in Loving G^d, and Loving our neighbor as ourselves. I hope we will NOT put our faith and trust in any government.  I hope that Christians will renew our efforts to feed the poor, shelter the homeless, and care for the ill.  The numerous Christian hospitals, shelters, food banks and other charities must continue their good work and enlist and grow even more.

A thousand years from now, it really won't matter too much who was POTUS.  It will matter whether or not we put our real trust in the Blood of Jesus Christ, shed for us.  It will matter whether we have laid up "treasures in heaven" (Matt 6:19-21).

So, let's all take the looooooong view!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age

A lady named Katherine Ozment has written a book titled,

Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age.

I have NOT read the book, and likely never will.  The advert says the author, "...takes readers on a quest to understand the trends and ramifications of a nation in flight from organized religion."  Further, "Writer, journalist, and secular mother of three Katherine Ozment came face-to-face with the fundamental issue of the Nones when her son asked her the simplest of questions: “what are we?”

What are we?  That's a good question, but I am not really very curious about what " a secular mother" might have to say about it.

Some insight can be gleaned from Betrand Russel's position that, "Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”  With no purpose, the "what are we question" becomes indeed difficult.

In fact, as a non-philosopher (at least no training), it would seem that we cannot describe "what" without invoking purpose.  Some things have many purposes, others fewer, but, "What is a pencil?", "What is a floor?", "What is a bird." Seem all to be answered by what they do.  The bird is an animal that: flies (most of them), lays eggs, has feathers, etc.  Feathers have purpose, as do eggs and flight.

"What are we?"  Well what were we created to do?  Nothing?  Hmm, well maybe we weren't created at all, maybe we just happened.  In that case then what we are is the chance outcome of a random process that did NOT have us as the goal.  To translate, we are nothing but an accident.

Alternatively, perhaps we were created by G^d to praise Him and enjoy Him (fellowship with him) forever!  Forever?  Yes indeed.  

But which hypothesis (faith-based guess) is correct?  What evidence is there that we are the product of chance?  What evidence is there that we were created for a purpose?

As a physiologist, in my view, there is ample evidence that we are NOT a product of chance.  Our bodies are FAR too complex to be randomly assembled, even if guided by "natural selection".  Evolution is a faith position- and it's philosophical outcome is meaningless existence.  What are we, if the product of chance, we are simply a product of chance with no purpose, no meaning, no "what" at all.

Now, I do NOT suggest that outcomes dictate causality, I do suggest that we DO have meaning and purpose, and i do suggest there is CONSIDERABLE evidence that humans were created by Someone, and we do have an answer to, "What are we?"

So, though I have little interest in what a "secular mother" might think, I do have interest in what YOU think?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Remembering 9-11

As I write this, it is the 15th anniversary of 9-11.  yeah, I write these on different days than reality- partly to protect my family and myself when we are out of town, and partly because I need to write these weeks in advance, so I won't feel stress from being "due" to post.

I am guessing that you recall 9-11, both in 2001 and in 2016.  It was indeed a tragic day, and it greatly impacted out country.  If I recall correctly, church attendance spiked upwards sharply in the autumn weeks immediately following 9-11.

I am glad for the timing, because I want to remind us all- me included- that tomorrow is NOT guaranteed for any of us.  None of those who died in 9-11 went to work that day expecting NOT to survive the day.  I speculate, but am likely pretty accurate.  I speak out of my experience, as I seldom think about dying.  But, I do think about it, especially today.

I recommend it!  We all will certainly die, and we do NOT have the luxury of knowing WHEN the day will come.

So what to do?

Well, pop culture says that we ought to "go for the gusto!", we ought to "dance like no one is watching" (because they likely aren't), we ought to "follow our dreams".

Bad advice!

Don't get me wrong, I highly favor bad dancing, the only kind I can do, but I think most of this advice is MOSTLY distracting.  We prefer NOT to think about death.  Most of us, even Christians, also prefer NOT to think about what may come after death.

As Christians, we ought to be looking forward to being in HEAVEN- but NOT so fast!  Even us Christians, though we are loathe to admit it, are really, in truth, pretty unsure of heaven.  On the other hand, we feel like we have a pretty good grasp of what makes happiness in this life- gusto, dancing, and dreaming.

Surely we can do better!  But, it takes focus and effort- things I lack.  But... I keep trying.

It is ONLY with an eternal perspective, can we commit fully to following the Christ.  That's a strong statement, but I know enough of the other.  As long as I focus on "going for the gusto", I will focus on this life and not the things of G^d.  As long as I pursue pleasure, and $$ (facilitates pleasure), and "the things of this world", I will be too distracted to follow the Christ.

So, I pray, L^rd give ME an eternal perspective on this life.  Make me Christ-centered in thought, in intention, and in deeds.  Holy Spirit, I am counting on YOU to change me, again and again until I am enjoying eternity with the saints.

Amen = make it so!!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

So the World is going to Heck in a Handbasket? Not so fast!

It does not take a genius to recognize that things are not going so well in the USA and the world in General.  The presidential race in the USA, the rise of ISIS in the world, the ouster of the president of Brazil, and even the mess in North K-r-a, there is much to mourn.

It's easy to conclude that we are going downhill at a rapid rate.  BUT, that view may be pretty self-absorbed.  Now I am NOT saying that things in the USA, and world, are not going badly, I am just hoping to offer a BIG-PICTURE perspective.

The world has ALWAYS been fallen.  Let's focus mostly on the USA, since most readers are probably more familiar with US history.

Our country was founded in rebellion against what was perceived as "tyranny".  Really?  Maybe.  Depends on perspective.  Our country ran headlong over the native people groups here, often totally displacing them in events like the "Trail of Tears".  Our country supported, at least in part, the African slave trade which only began to fade with the great US Civil War wherein brothers literally slaughtered brothers.  Then there was the roaring 20's... and lots more, including the US Civil Rights era where injustice was common.

Well, I can't resist taking a broader look.  Ever hear of the fall of Adam, of the homicidal tendencies of Cain, of the corruption so bad it led to the Noahic flood?  How about that Tower of Babel? How about that golden calf?  And the list goes on and on.

The people of our great planet are indeed fallen.  When you are at the bottom, there is no place further to fall.  Mankind has been at the bottom since Adam and Eve.  We have to be rescued.  Thanks be to The Christ who rescued us with His Blood!!

Nothing new about that!   I'm fallen too!

Monday, November 14, 2016

New sympathy for Abram

In Genesis chapter 11, we read that Abram's father, Terah, took his family from Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan.  They come to Haran and dwell there.

To refresh your geography, Ur is over by Bahrain on the Persian Gulf.  Haran is up by Syria, north of Canaan- and still a ways away.  Apprently, Terah got tired or distracted and never made it quite all the way to Canaan.  So, at age 75, G^d taps Abram on the shoulder and tells him to leave Haran and move to Canaan.  So, Abram did!

I used to read over those few verses, (Gen 12:1-5) WITHOUT much thought. 

No more!

You see, at age 66, G^d called me to leave Tuscaloosa, and move to Lynchburg.

Boy it has been tough!!

We passed 32 very, very Happy years in Alabama.  We knew the place, knew how to get around, knew where to shop, where to eat, where to get things, where to get things fixed.  We had a home, a place to hunt, and a church family.

Now, we know nothing, and know few people.

We are slowly adapting, but I am HAPPY I didn't realize how hard it would be to leave family, friends and homes to come to VA.

But, one thing for sure... I have a WHOLE new appreciation for what Abram did.  And, despite Abram's stumbles at times, he was obedient, and G^d prospered him and blessed him.

In Hebrews 11, we read this summary: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

 L^rd, give us all the faith of Abram!!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Job- Whew!

I have worked many different jobs, from shoeshine boy to Visiting NASA Scientist.  They all were different and they all began at some point in time.  So it is with the latest new job as Prof at Liberty University.

Change is never easy, but this one has seemed especially challenging.  Perhaps age has a bit to do with it.

So what changed? How about:
  1.  Philosophy has changed.  In the new job, spiritual expressions are ENCOURAGED.  Imagine that!
  2. Class size is MUCH better.  In the old job, the MORE students packed into a classroom the more $$$ income to the Uni.  Whereas this would seem a universal truth, the philosophy here seems to be to keep classes small enough to allow quality- which means individualized to some extent- instruction.  I hope that philosophy won't be lost.
  3. Travel to and from Uni.  For most of my 32 years at UA I rode my bike about 4 miles (to avoid road hazards) to work.  I tried to find a house to let me do this at the new job- but no success.
  4. Parking.  For MOST of my 32 years, we had about the BEST parking on campus.  Parking is still OK here, but it is a 4-story garage and requires a trek of a couple hundred yards- in the rain on occasion.
  5. Work outs.  For all of my 32 years, I worked within a few yards of a locker room and shower.  Not true of the new job.  Here it is a trek across campus.
  6. No tenure.  Hooray!  I do NOT think tenure is a good thing- anywhere.  That is a subject for a different rant.
  7. Clothing.  At the old place, anything was acceptable.  Here, khakis and a collared shirt are de rigueur.
  8. Faculty orientation.  I do NOT recall be oriented at any previous job.  You were expected to learn as you went.  Here there is a pretty rigorous orientation.  As a new Faculty I recall having about 5 orientation sessions, about 3 of which lasted all day!!
In addition there are new traditions, new facilities, new classrooms, new technology, new requirements.

But one thing NEVER changes.  G^d loves us enough to die for us.  We are HIs workmanship and we ought to work as to him.

And that Job never changes.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Long Day’s Journey (into Night)

After a great many evolutions, we are at last headed back to the USA.  All that’s needed tomorrow are:
A shuttle to airport,
Check bags and make it through security and emigration.
Make the flight, which indeed departs reasonably close to schedule.
Change planes in O’Hare in Chicago,
Fly to Atlanta.
Get our car to start, which has been sitting for 15 days.
Begin the 7.5-hour drive to Lynchburg.

What are the odds of all that going as planned?

Thanks be to G^d, it couldn’t have gone any better!  It is a modern miracle!

G^d is good.  It is less remarkable when we have major things go wrong, than the opposite.  The real miracle is what we just saw - things going well.  And, when things do go well, we ought to be profuse in our thanks to G^d!!

Can I get an “Amen!”?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Now that Halloween is past- some thoughts on DEATH!

I just read a New York Times editorial written by a Villanova Philosophy professor.  The subject?  Death!

What prompted this prof to think about death was his own 6-year old son who wrestles with the thought of death each night before dropping off to sleep.  Remember those days?

The Prof is QUICK to point out that religion has looooong been discarded as any solution to the problem of death.  He is quick to recognize that death is just another aspect of life.  He also points out that humans live in many dimensions, many shared with others, and some of what we do lives on long after our mortal bodies.  He also notes that he no longer struggles, as does his son, with thoughts of death; he has successfully banished those.

Hmm, has he really?  Perhaps he has merely suppressed them.  After all, we all shall surely die, as he admits.  He admits no knowledge of what might lie beyond the grave, and claims he is at peace with his ignorance.  Perhaps the lack of other alternatives has occurred to him.

I have written before that I have a hard time understanding how, as the prof gets older, he can live in peace with his impending uncertainty of death.  I guess the "no-other-choice" option is the one that wins the day.

I do find it a bit ironic that the prof did get something "dead on" to use a pun.  Indeed we do live beyond our physical death.  There is the reality that we don't really die in the spiritual sense.

Those of us in relationship with the Christ will live on into eternity, awake, aware, and functional. Likewise the prof will live on in eternity, just not so comfortably.  In fact Luke told an interesting story about this in Luke 16 where he talks about Lazarus dying at the same time as a very wealthy man.  It's too good a story for me to summarize, so take the time to read it.

Yes, there is something beyond the grave, something that lasts a LOT longer (not even correct to talk about eternity as "a lot longer) than this short life.

What will become of you after you die?

It's worth considering.