Category Archives: Larger Story

Reclaiming Fallen Creation – Create God-Honoring Culture

Before God asked us to do anything else in Genesis 1-2, He gave us a job to do and basically said “Take care of my stuff.”

We are to exercise a responsible stewardship. We can never create what God created, but we are called to extend it, shape it and form it and organize it and research it and use it in such a God-glorifying way that we thus extend his creative work in our world.

We are to plant and manage fields and food supplies. We are to construct cities and communities and restore old ones. We are to make music and works of art. We are to breakdown diseases and sicknesses and endeavor to find a cure. We are to utilize all of science to find answers to as many questions as we can. We are to adventure into outer space. We are to dedicate ourselves to the laboratory. We are to study law and economics. We are to engage in education and politics. We are to build databases and information systems to give people greater control over the information in their lives.

Why? All of this is to massage the potential of the created order. By penetrating our society and letting God’s values come to bear in all of the areas, we speak a “Genesis”, a new creation, into the lives of people and our world.

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Cultural Commission, Cultural Mandate, Genesis 1-3, Imago Dei, Larger Story, Life Purpose, Restoration

What’s the Deal with Genesis 1-3? | Myth or Fiction?

Is Genesis, chapters 1-3 really true? Did God really create everything? Or, is it mythology, with talking snakes and a tree of knowledge and a God who walks? To use a concept by C.S. Lewis, I would say it is “true myth.”

When we talk about myth in the Genesis Creation story context, we are not talking about “fiction.” Rather the literary genre of myth is simply a symbol filled story about a reality that is beyond our comprehension. What we must keep in mind, is that no one actually saw the Creation of the Universe. But, through ancient writers, who possessed a rich and accurate oral tradition, we have a Creation Story that sets against a constrasting backdrop of lesser creation story accounts (such as the Enuma Elish Babylonian creation story where the gods are fighting, one is slain, and man is created out of the discarded god-material).

So, in Genesis 1 through 3, we have an author who is not writing primarily as a historian, who is preoccupied with a strict chronological time-line. The author is not writing as a scientist, who is preoccupied with how everything came into existence from a physics standpoint alone. What we have is an author, who is endeavoring to answer the question of Who it is that stands behind the work of unwitnessed creation.

The author organizes the Creation Story along the metaphoric lines of a work week. We work six days and rest; God worked six days and rested. This suggests that the writer himself is nested within an organized social structure when this Creation Story was written. It comes well after the fact of Creation, but through an oral tradition, the Creation story was preserved by a community of people who would not allow inaccuracies into the story.

Genesis 1-3 is a Creation Story that explains what happened from a distinctively monotheistic, Hebrew frame of reference. But allow for the freedom of the writer to borrow from the literary genre of myth to tell the story; allow the author to use symbols that point to a reality beyond our human comprehension.

Let’s grant that there really was an Adam and Eve; that there really was a talking snake; that there really was a tree of life and of the knowledge of good and evil. But, let’s not stop there. Let’s make the application in light of true myth. That Adam and Eve stand for all of us; that the talking snake represents something very evil in our world; that the tree of knowledge of good and evil represents a choice that we always have to make. You see, we have all been created by God and are in His image. We all face a force and personality of evil in our world. We all have a free-will choice to make regarding God and our relationship with Him. In Adam and Eve, we all sinned even. That put in the very same place, you and I would have done exactly the same thing.

Don’t bog down on literal days versus periods of unspecified time. Don’t bog down on whether or not the talking snake is real. Don’t bog down on why God even placed a tree in the Garden to be tempted with. Rather, look to the realities that these Creation Story details point to. Our universe came from God, who made man in His image with free will. Man chose to disobey at the prompting of an evil presence and the entire creation fell under a curse. But even in this, there is hope planted for a New Adam who would restore a sabotaged creation (Genesis 3:15), One who would come that would thwart any serpentine attempts to de-create our lives (Paul calls Jesus Christ the Second Adam in Romans).

Genesis 1-3 is true myth, but not fiction. It points to realities beyond our human comprehension, like all mythological stories do. Only this mythological story is true.

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Creation, Eden, Free Will, Genesis 1-3, Larger Story, Myth, The Fall

Breathe Deeply, Live Fully – The Present Moment is Sacred

This post is dedicated to my atheist friend (aforcier), who has a better grasp on the present moment than I do (as a Christian Theist ironically enough).

Erma Bombeck wrote a piece entitled “If I Had Life to Live Over Again”? In it, she wrote: “I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains…When my child kissed me impetuously, I would have never said, “Later. Now get washed up for dinner.” There would have been more I love yous, more I’m sorrys, but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it, live it, and never give it back.”

I remember the testimony of an anonymous friar in a Nebraska monastery. He wrote it in a letter late in his life. He says some surprising things and admits the need for being in the present moment. Remember, he’s lived an entire life of rigorous self-discipline in such a way that he feels he’s been cheated out of his present moments, and this is what he says:

“If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax, I would limber up, and I would be sillier than I have been this trip… I would be crazier. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets. I would do more walking and looking. I would eat more ice cream and less beans… You see, I’m one of those people who lives…sensibly hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead each day. I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, aspirin, and a parachute. If I had to do it over again I would go places, do things, and travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.”

So if you have today, enjoy it immensely. Enjoy your job. After you’re done for the day, go get some taco’s. Sprinkle a little hot-sauce on them. Chase that down with some Schwann’s vanilla ice-cream, half-melted so you can stir it up in the bowl. Curl up on the couch and watch a football game. Keep your toes warm by putting them under the family dog’s belly. Make brownies to go with that Schwann’s vanilla ice-cream. Watch a little Andy Griffith after the game. Get lost in a great book.

Or, if you love nature (and all of us do to one degree or another), go outside, and enjoy a quiet place, on a log, by a river, with the smell of decaying leaves wafting through the air. God has created in such a way as to give you present moments. “God could have left the world flat and gray; we wouldn’t have known the difference. Be he didn’t. He splashed orange in the sunrise and cast the sky in blue… Did he have to make the birds sing? Was He required to put stripes on the zebra or the hump on the camel? And the funny way that chickens scurry or the majesty of thunder when it rings? Why give a flower fragrance? Why give food its taste? Why wrap creation in such splendor? Could it be he loves to see that look upon your face when you you recognize for the first time ‘You did this for me.’ (Lucado, Grace I and II).”

Trust God and have fun and make life better for someone else along the way – create a great present moment for them! Get lost in God’s world, even if but for a moment. Tomorrow will bring some unexpected things – and you may even cry about it – but you have today – this present moment.

You see the greatest tragedy of all in life is to assume that life is nothing more than humdrum, that there isn’t anything in it to seize or that there is no one seizing me. That’s the problem with post-modernism – there’s nothing to seize – no larger story going on. We live and we die in a series of disconnected moments. But there is One who is in an ever present sacred “Present Moment.” Join in the mystery of that moment.

Someone once asked Mark Buchanan what his biggest regret in life has been. He said, “I thought a moment, surveying the vast and cluttered landscape of my blunders and losses, the evil I have done and the evil that’s been done against me. ‘Being in a hurry,’ I said. ‘Pardon?’ Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me… Through all that haste, I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.”

Don’t throw your moments away. You have this moment. Live it fully, breathe deeply.

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Happiness, Intelligent Design, Larger Story, Life Purpose, Parenting, Post-modernism, Present Moment, Spiritual Life, Theism, Universe, Worldview

“My Only Hope is to Win the Lottery” – What Money Cannot Do For You

A Detroit homeowner was overheard saying: “I can’t ever get ahead. My only hope is to win the lottery. That would solve all my problems (Colson, Good Life Search… 7).” We have all wondered what it would be like to win a million dollars.

For one lady, the winning numbers were 10-25-38-39-50 with a Mega Ball 12. Sixty-seven-year-old Geraldine Williams just happened to pick the winning numbers. Her odds of winning: 1 in 135,145,920… This hardworking cleaning woman stepped forward to claim her $294 million, one of the largest jackpots ever to go to a single person. I hope it makes her happy. But for so many, it won’t even come close.

One-half of the American adult population spends $45 billion annually on 35,000 lottery games. Unfortunately, winning the lottery is not going to solve your problem. It’s easy to believe that life would be completely carefree if money were no object. Why doesn’t a winning lottery ticket buy happiness?

The unhappy winners of the lottery try to answer life’s deeper (spiritual) questions with money. You can’t. The happiest people you’ll ever meet are those who if their money was gone tomorrow, their lives would still have purpose and significance. If you try to answer life’s big questions with money and you stay with that philosophy, more than likely, debt will be in your financial future. If you’re going to define your life by what you can accumulate and the money you can place in a nest egg, you’re always going to be in hurry to get there. You’ll walk right past life and true success.

Money can buy you a bed, but not deep, restful sleep. Money can buy you books, but not the right kind of books. Money can buy you food, but not a healthy appetite and warm friends. Money can buy you finery, but not true beauty. Money can buy you a house, but not a loving family or home. Money can buy medicine, but not health. Money can buy luxury, but not an appreciation for the arts and sciences, learning and exploring, and valuing culture. Money can buy you flattery, but not a deep respect (Gray, Lists…Two, 132).

Money can’t buy you a good attitude. Money cannot choose a right direction in which to travel in life. Money cannot set right priorities. Money cannot keep your commitments to others. Money cannot give you a biblical worldview. Money can’t protect you from a stranger who steals your mate’s affection. Money can’t protect you from a lawsuit that instantly wipes out your nest egg. Money can’t protect you from job loss and layoffs that depletes your savings. And money can’t protect you from a stroke or tumor that sends you home. If you try to make money do all this for you, you’ll end up empty and perplexed by the “money conundrum”.

This blog is about answering the deeper questions of life. One of the greatest things that I can do for you is to help you avoid a dead-end road. Believe me. Money is not the answer you’re looking for. Knowing where you came from, why you are here, what went wrong in the world, what God is doing to fix it, and how I can help reclaim a fallen creation – now these are questions worth living for and money can never touch it. Financial status has nothing to do with it; offering all that you have in service to the larger story does have something to do with it. Money is simply a tool – nothing more. The goal is to place it into circulation to do all the good you can for all the people you can for as long as you can. Change your world and don’t waste your time or money on a lottery ticket.

Some years after he had won the lottery in New York, a man was asked during an interview by the media “What has been the biggest difference in your life since your sudden acquisition of wealth?” He paused, shrugged his shoulders, and said “I eat out more often.” Ravi Zacharias observed: “The laughter that followed revealed a strange but compelling truth. I have no doubt there were other changes – cars, homes, travel, and several other experiences made possible by money. But in the end, he was able to reduce it to food and choice. In a culture where the possibility of wealth is so great and the acquisition of things is so defining of success, we end up pursuing things that, even if we are successful, can never deliver what we envisioned they would (Recapture…, 67).” The presence of wealth is no protection against the ravages of the soul. Emptiness still stalks the rich, loneliness still haunts the icon, and disappointment still casts its shadow amidst the cheers under the spotlight.

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christmas, Larger Story, Life Purpose, Money

The Old Testament Summed Up for Atheists

I have found that many people, especially atheists, struggle with a comprehensive understanding of the Old Testament Bible books. In this post, I mention each of the 39 Old Testament books by name; I succinctly in one sentence or less sum up that particular book or authors argument; and I tie it all together in a flowing, historical narrative that reflects the chronology of when books were written. This is literally the product of years of study. I offer it to you free.

By the way, don’t listen to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. They don’t know the Bible.

So, here we go…

In a world with much suffering and meaninglessness (Job & Ecclesiastes) and in a world where we have to be trained how to love and enjoy those closest to us because of sin, especially our spouses (Song of Solomon), God promised that a special Seed (Genesis) would come through Abraham, whose family evolved into a national race (Exodus) of Yahweh worshippers (Leviticus) who after a period of disobedience (Numbers) finally inhabit a distinct land (Deuteronomy) under Joshua’s leadership (Joshua), maintain control of the land under the leadership of the Judges (Judges), realize the curse associated with leaving the land (Ruth), and endeavor to rule the land with kings (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles), the greatest of which was King David who was promised a Messianic heir to his throne (Psalms).

However, the people of Israel divided into two nations, Israel [10 tribes] and Judah [2 tribes – Judah and Benjamin] after the death of wise King Solomon despite his wisdom sayings (Proverbs) and were disobedient despite tearful prophetic warnings (Jeremiah) which were mixed with prophecies of eschatological judgment, immediate hope should they repent, and future Messianic hope regardless of what they may do at the present (Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Joel) and a dramatic story of His faithful love for them (Hosea).

To keep God’s covenant people from being blinded by their Jewish nationalism in this period, God demonstrated his love for the entire world when He sent an Israeli prophet (Jonah) to preach repentance to the pagan nation of Assyria. Even though Assyria repented, they still took Israel into captivity in 722 BC from which few, if any Jew, ever returned to their Jewish homeland. As a result of this and other atrocities, Assyria was conquered by Babylon about 150 years later (Nahum) in 612 BC. Nevertheless, Judah refused to repent of her wrongdoing, and though it was hard to understand how God could use a pagan nation to discipline His people (Habakkuk) and having no neighbor to help them against their enemy (Obadiah), they were sadly taken into captivity by Babylon in 586 BC (Lamentations) where, despite visions of hope and encouragement of future religious and political restoration (Ezekiel, Daniel) their identity and existence was threatened by this pagan culture (Daniel), as well as the Medo-Persian culture (Esther).

Judah’s residents were finally able to return (Ezra, Nehemiah) to their land in 539 BC. Even though they delayed rebuilding their temple (Haggai) and even though they eventually lapsed into the same sins that sent them into captivity in the first place (Malachi), they were assured of final national victory and prosperity, accompanied by peace and justice under the coming Messiah’s reign (Malachi, Zechariah). They were ever mindful that “the Promise” would come from a virgin (Isa. 7:14) from within the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and the family of Jesse (Isa. 11) and David (2 Sam., 1 & 2 Chron.) and from the town of Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) and in the lineage of Zerubbabel (Hag. 2:23); a righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5; Zech.3:8; 6:12,13), a tender twig (Ezek. 17:22-24), a King-Priest (Zech. 6:13), and He shall be a great ruler/judge for a Scepter shall rise out of Israel (Num. 24:17) as well as a Suffering Servant (Isa. 53) who will eventually implement an incredible kingdom on earth (Mic. 2:12-13; 4:1-8; 5:4-5).

So God has self-disclosed over the centuries, all the while, keeping the promise of the Messiah alive in each generation.

Then, there are 400 silent years, where no prophetic, written word is heard. Then, Jesus is born. In the OT, Messiah is coming. In the New Testament Gospels, he’s here. In the New Testament Epistles, he’s coming again.

Don’t waste your time with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. They don’t know the Bible.

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christianity, God, Jesus Christ, Larger Story, Messiah, Old Testament, Prophecy

Legitimate God Questions + Cliche Answers = Atheist

Nancy Pearcey in her book Total Truth tells just a part of her story. She said she went to a church in her childhood that would never answer her questions. She had all these God Questions that she would ask, and what she got was a pat on the back and cliché statements like “Just pray about it” or “You’re just in a phase right now” or “Don’t worry, we all have doubts sometimes honey” or “Just get in the Word” or “Stop rebelling. You’re not supposed to ask questions like that!”

Since no one ever bothered to answer her deepest questions about why and how Christianity is true, she decided the best thing to do would be to reject the faith and to search out all other faith systems and that’s what she did. Several years later she encountered L’Abri in Switzerland, the residential ministry of Francis Schaeffer.

Writes Pearcey: “It was the first time I had ever encountered Christians who actually answered my questions – who gave reasons and arguments for the truth of Christianity instead of simply urging me to have faith (53).”

She recovered her faith. She writes: “No one can live without a sense of purpose or direction, a sense that his or her life has significance as part of a cosmic story. We may limp along for a while, extracting small installments of meaning from short-term goals like earning a degree, landing a job, getting married, establishing a family. But at some point, these temporal things fail to fulfill the deep hunger for eternity in the human spirit. For we were made for God, and every part of our personality is oriented toward relationship with Him. ‘Our hearts are restless, Augustine said, until we find our rest in Him’.”

But in the mean time, let’s give better answers; well thought-out, cohesive replies to those with God Questions, minus the cliches. Blogs like the De-Conversion blog is where people end up when we settle for pat answers and cliche responses.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Conversion, Deconversion, God, Larger Story, Life Purpose, Questions, Reconversion, Theism

Humanity Has Lost the Larger Story (and atheists haven’t helped any)

John Eldredge has done a masterful job in his book Wild at Heart (44, 45). He shares how for ten years of his life, he was as an actor and director for the theater.

“They were, for the most part, joyful years. I was young and energetic and pretty good at what I did. My wife was part of the theater company I managed, and we had many close friends there… In spite of the fact that my memories of theater are nearly all happy ones, I keep having this recurring nightmare. This is how it goes: I suddenly find myself in a theater – a large, Broadway-style playhouse, the kind every actor aspires to play. The house lights are low and the stage lights full, so from my position onstage I can barely make out the audience, but I sense it is a full house. But I am not loving the moment at all. I am paralyzed with fear. A play is under way, and I’ve got a crucial part. But I have no idea what play it is. I don’t know what part I’m supposed to be playing; I don’t know my lines; I don’t even know my cues.”

While Eldredge goes on to make a slightly different application with that story, I see in his story all of our stories. We’re born into this world. We’re thrown out onto the stage. And unless we know the larger story, the meta-narrative, we have no idea what part we are to play. We don’t know our lines, our cues.

This is one of the primary problems in our world. The world has lost the larger story. And atheists have decided to deny that there is even a Story-teller, implying that we should just make up our own script.

As atheistic existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre put it, “On a shattered and deserted stage, without script, director, prompter, or audience, the actor is free to improvise his own part.” We become our own gods and write our own story without any larger story to be concerned about or overarching purpose to live for. Our lives are caught up in what has been called “a tournament of narratives (Greenslade).”

So following cues offered by an anti-Story-teller world, we all (including Christians!) settle for lesser stories to star in, a tournament of lesser narratives – little stories to live for – an affair, a corner office, a better seat, a few more dollars, a little more control and power, a quick buzz, a little more fame, an atheistic blog or two, huddling together to try to convince each other that we’re doing the right thing.

God has given to us a larger story to live for. God made us. We rejected God and our story has been sabotaged by Satan. But God won’t give up until He wins us back and restores us to his original plan. The Gospel explains how God has authored a story to do this very thing, to romance us to His story.

And it’s a story that must be told. The lives of so many people are in desperate need to see and experience this story personally. People are lost to the story, like actors on a stage who don’t know their lines and there is no one to clarify the story; there is no story-teller in their lives.

In part, that’s what this blog is about; one small voice, orienting those who care to know, to the larger, grand story, large enough and big enough for all of us to live in for a lifetime. I’m arguing that God has given to us a larger story to live for. All of our smaller stories tie to a larger story – a metanarrative. We have fallen into a story, a sacred story. And if there is a story, there is a Story-Teller (G. K. Chesterton). And if God is the Story-Teller, He must love surprise endings because mankind was created with free will. Create some unexpected and surprise endings of your own! Get oriented to the larger story, the sacred romance.

Even though we all have shown up a little late to the movie and can’t make sense of the characters, plot, and setting, we can get up to speed right away. Get oriented to the Larger Story, and then you’ll know what character you are to play, what plot in life you are driving toward, and what settings are best locations to see your story unfold.

https://spiritualquestions.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/dramatic-scenes-of-the-larger-story/

True love… true love…

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Existentialism, Free Will, God, Larger Story, Life Purpose, Sacred Romance, Theism