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Questions & Answers

I speak and write weekly @ Stones Hill Community Church. At this life-stage, I have found that it is best if I give my best “one-shot” answer to questions that are asked of me and not get bogged down with intense blogging questions (as I did in the past). Of course, I’ve written on about every topic that atheists usually like to discuss, so please feel free to browse my archives.

I have a quick in-and-out blog that I use for these quick one-shot questions that pertain to topics I currently speak on.

Go here to ask questions: http://shccpastor.tumblr.com/  Comments on my answers are not available at this site, but feel free to meet with me on Sunday mornings @ 8:45 AM in my office at Stone’s Hill for live dialog and question-answer discussion group.

Stay on the journey. And one other thing, you can remain anonymous at the tumblr site. I use this because sometimes I field questions from people “on-the-fly” during my presentation – live. It allows me to view and respond to these question quickly.

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Material Proofs that the Resurrection of Jesus Really Happened

Exhibit A: The displaced stone at the tomb. The door of Christ’s tomb was a large, circular stone set on its edge and fitted into an inclined groove. It was not uncommon for such a stone to weigh a ton. It sometimes took up to 20 men to displace a stone like that. Something very powerful or a group of people had to have moved it. How could this be done with a Roman guard at the ready?

Exhibit B: The emptiness of the tomb. Some say that the coolness of the tomb revived Christ. A view like that begs the question. How could someone who was beaten, flogged, crucified, speared in the side, and even pronounced dead by His executioners, suddenly revive, push a one-ton stone aside, overcome an entire Roman guard, and leave?

Exhibit C: The grave clothes. Some suggest that Joseph of Arimathea and his servants stole the body of Jesus, took him home, and revived him. There’s another problem with that… the grave clothes. One writer helps us to understand this with the following description: “The grave clothes were left undisturbed in the place where the body was laid. The body of Jesus was wrapped from the armpits to the ankles with strips of linen twelve inches wide. The linen wraps were then wound around the body placing spices, aloes, and other fine ointments between the wraps. It is believed that a minimum of seventy pounds of spices were used in the process and as much as a hundred pounds were used for someone of Jesus’ position. The grave clothes constituted quite a mass encasing the body. If we are to assume, for example, that Joseph and several of his servants took the body, we would expect that they were concerned about being detected. Therefore, they would have likely been in a great hurry, and we should expect that the grave clothes would have been left in great disarray with spices trailing out the doorway, not to mention that it would have been difficult to have placed the grave clothes neatly back on the resting place in the dark while being in a great hurry to do so. However, the observers did not find spices and wrappings trailing out of the doorway. The grave clothes were intact, undisturbed with the exception of the head napkin that was placed slightly above where it should have been found.” Grave robbers would not have unwrapped the corpse.

Exhibit D. The resurrection appearances to the disciples. The empty tomb of Jesus coupled with the resurrection appearances to the disciples makes for a very compelling resurrection case. “If the empty tomb was a fact but there were no resurrection appearances, Jesus’ body would appear to have been stolen, and His crucifixion and empty tomb would have been a puzzle and a tragedy. If the resurrection appearances had occurred without the empty tomb, the would have been construed as visions or hallucinations (Moreland, God Question).” But we have both an empty tomb and at least 13 post-resurrection appearances.

These four material proofs or exhibits make for a very compelling case for the actual resurrection of Christ from the dead. If the Gospel writers were fabricating these details, many others could have called them on it because Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote their Gospels within 30 years of the actual occurrence of Jesus’ resurrection. They could have said, “Wait a second; that’s not how it happened.” Instead, you have the early followers of Jesus dying for this story as well as living for it.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Easter, Resurrection, Uncategorized

Every Joy on Earth is an Inkling, a Whisper of a Greater Joy

We think that our greatest problem is pain and suffering. Indeed, it can be gut-wrenching, but it’s not our biggest problem. Our problem is that we have achieved what we thought would make us happy, and yet we remain unsatisfied. G. K. Chesterton observed that weariness does not come from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure. We’ve tried everything we can try in life, and still we are restless.

Deep within the human heart throbs an undying hope that somebody or something will bring a way to retain the wonder of living a fully alive, multisensory life experience, even in the pain and who will not disappoint. 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 (Zacharias), and the “liberated new atheist” is no more satisfied than the least informed Christian Theist.

Oscar Wilde was a literary genius – a poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. I have a book of quotations taken from his works. He was one sharp guy. Born in 1854, he won scholarships and was educated in Britain’s best schools. He had earned lots of money and traveled around the world. Yet, at life’s end at the age of forty-six, he died bankrupt and broken with no self-respect due to poor homosexual moral choices he made.

He says “I ruined myself…” He talked about the notoriety and natural gifts that had been given him. “…But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease… Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search of a new sensation… I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me… I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetop… I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.”

I think we have learned to deal with pain and suffering. What has mastered us though, are these long periods of “senseless and sensual ease” and yet we are not satisfied. Questions of pain and suffering will always plague mankind until the New Creation. But an even greater question is “Why do we remain unsatisfied among blessing and plenty?”

The reason we remain unsatisfied is because we have made a mistake in what we thought would satisfy. Every joy on earth is an inkling, a whisper of a greater joy, but they are not ends in themselves. All of our pleasures point to a Pleasure-Giver. Our life-long nostalgia is a longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off. And that something is actually a Someone. Until He becomes our greatest pleasure, pain and suffering will still perplex and long periods of sensual ease will be our psuedo-joy. We are far too easily pleased when infinite joy is offered.

C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not mean the universe is a fraud…earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing (The Quotable Lewis).”

The Hedonistic Paradox states that true pleasure is a by-product of a greater pleasure. Until God is our greatest pleasure, unsatisfied senseless and sensual ease will be the lines along which our story moves. All those who refuse or deny God His existence relegate themselves to only the whispers or echoes of a Voice of the One who eventually provides the ultimate fulfillment of all sensory delight.

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Hedonistic Paradox, Pleasure, Suffering, Theism, Theodicy, Uncategorized

30 Days to Live – Born February 22, 1968 – Died January 31, 2009 | How will you live your dash?

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” –Randy Pausch

Those words were spoken by a guy whose book I recently read entitled, The Last Lecture. Doctors estimated that Randy Pausch had three to six months of good health remaining. He didn’t waste those remaining months. He spent time with family, with friends and with colleagues. And he wrote a book.

The Last Lecture is a collection of life’s lessons and reflections, by a man with just a short time to live. Ironically enough, his book is more about living than dying. He talked about the importance of overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment, because in his case, life had to be squeezed into just a few short months and ten cancerous tumors in his liver were not going to cheat him of even 10 minutes that he had left.

Many college professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to ruminate on what matters most to them as a professor and as a human-being. They are invited to talk about their lives and the life lessons. Carnegie Mellon invited Pausch to do the same, and Pausch’s lecture became a book.

In preparation for a lecture series that I’m doing called “30 Days to Live”, I’ve been living as if it’s my last 30 days.

What if you had only 30 days to live? How would you live? Who would you want to be with? What would you like to say to them? Where would you like to go? What would you like to do? Would you modify your weekly schedule to allow for more together time? Would you still watch the same amount of television? Would you still fret over the same tit-for-tat stuff, hold grudges or get bitter? Would life’s little irritations even matter to you? Would you talk to God more? Would you admit that He existed? Would you go to church more? Would you spend your money differently? Would you follow through with your good intentions? Would you need to connect with a family member that you had distanced yourself from? Is there an apology that you would need to make? If you had only 30 days to live what unfinished business would you need to take care of? Is there a son that you need to call? Is there a daughter that you need to hug? Is there a parent you need to sit down with? Is there an issue that you need to resolve? If you had 30 days to live, how would you live? Are there habits that you would give up? Are there lifestyle changes that you would make? Is there a letter that you would have to write? Is there a task that you would need to do? Between your date of birth and your date of death is a dash. This post is about that dash and about the lecture you leave behind while you live.

After reading Pausch’s brief book, I couldn’t help but think about the last talk, post, or lecture that I would be forced to give some day. And since I only have less than 30 days to live (at least, that’s how I am living these days though no diagnosis has been given to the contrary and I’m healthy so far as I know), I had better go ahead and write about a few things that I need to share, something to remember my life by and to get communicated what I need to say to the people I love. What would my last lecture sound like assuming that I only had 30 days to live?

1. Live in the present moment. Savor your days and simple things. If I have any regrets in life, it would be this one – that I always looked ahead to the next thing without fully enjoying the moment. I don’t know where my 20’s went. My 30’s are just a blur. My 40’s are just beginning and I want to savor every moment.

2. Read and learn as much as you can. Learn like you’ll be here forever but live like it’s your last day. Be a student of the Bible because in it we encounter God.

3. Develop and live by a biblical, Christian worldview, knowing what you believe and why and how Christianity is true. Don’t ever abandon the faith. The Gospel is true and is the hope of the world. Christianity answers the deeper questions of life like no other belief system in the world. Where we came from, why we’re here, what life’s purpose is, what went wrong in the world, what God is doing to fix it, why the bible is so special, what God eventually does to resolved suffering and evil, and how we know there is life after death – all of these questions are so ably addressed by a Christian worldview. No matter what happens, don’t abandon the faith. Christian Theism is defensible and the resurrection changes every thing.

4. Love your spouse with a mature love. Allow all of your learning and growth in life to translate into a love for your lover, where mistakes can be talked about and true intimacy can be achieved. I want to thank my wife for all that she has given to me over the years, so selfless in caring for children, allowing me to pursue degrees, and setting me up to enjoy daily life. Donnette, I have to say thank you and please live your life knowing that you were loved, even though my own selfishness seemed to indicate otherwise and hindered me from understanding how love was supposed to work. I offer my sincerest apologies for inflicting hurt. I also want you to know that my happiest memories in life have you somewhere in the picture or on the slide of life. College, career, moving, graduate school, children, and life transitions – you are in all of them. The dates, the baby’s first cry, the first job after college, the Christmas mornings, the trips home to see family, the great dinners, the songs sung, the little moments of humor and silliness – only you babe.

5. Be absolutely crazy over your children. Don’t placate or pamper them. Shoot straight and let them feel the consequences of their actions. But be the safest place in the world for them to go to talk about anything and everything in life. Have no “off-limits” topics. Talk about anatomy to theology to just plain old life and be fully there when you talk. Tell them what is important to you. Make it clear how they can live their own life, but that if they wanted to honor you as a parent, how best to go about that.

Megan, I love your ways, so considerate and kind. I love how you laugh when you’re really tickled. I love your curly hair, to see you lost in a great story, to hear the word “Dad” mid-sentence to just make sure I’m still there and plugged in to what you are telling me. You are wise in so many ways, a lover of music, and passionate for animals and left-out people. I absolutely adore your artwork and sketches. You be a work of art; make life beautiful with whatever you are given to work with. My sense is that you will graduate from IWU someday, get married, have a family, all the while, creating, sketching, painting some of the most beautiful things one could imagine.

Will, you have no idea how much you mean to me. You are quiet, yet so fun loving and ornery. You are a man I will always respect, for getting on the mat and wrestling for something you believe in. As you get older, you are looking more like I looked when I was your age. You don’t have to achieve anything for me to love you any more than I do. God has given you the ability to process your thoughts slowly, deeply, and thoroughly. When it’s all done, I love hearing what you have to say. Your love for the outdoors, for adventure, for the mountains and rivers, pulls me back to my roots and primal instincts. God has given you the gift of appreciating His nature gifts and living from them. When you kayak tour and hike and climb and travel and experience all of this, know that I will always be in those moments with you. My sense is that you would love to see the world and that college and/or the military or a career will be the vehicle that takes you along this path. In all your journeys, there will be one cheering for you as you explore and lead a God-honoring life.

Levi, I could not imagine life without you. God has given you some great abilities and I want you to use everyone of them for Him. Honor God with your life. Really enjoy knowing and loving Him through your gifts. Is there anything more honoring to God than that? My sense is that you’ll go to a Big Ten school, study engineering, play a sport, and build that home for unwed mothers that we’ve talked about someday. Whatever you do, use your words, sharp intellect and athletic ability to honor God and win great victories for His kingdom. You honor your mother. And when people want to know what you attribute to your life success, you tell them that there was this little 5 foot tall woman who fixed the greatest meals in the world, invested so much time in your upbringing, and who showed you how to be tender and kind.

6. Always partner with a local church, serving others in the community, helping to reclaim a fallen creation, fulfilling the cultural mandate to steward the creation as well as to make disciples of Jesus. My mother wrote in her journal that her one great wish for all her family would be that all of her children would be a part of a local church all their lives. “Mom, here I am, leading one. I have championed that which you so deeply have believed in.” The church is the hope of the world when it’s working right. I would also add that I appreciate my immediate family, my brothers and sister. You always carry your family with you. There probably isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t recall some memory or experience that you had as a child with your family. Randy, Becky, Jeff, and Rob (and your families), remember our mothers request and legacy. May the family circle be unbroken when we are all together once again.

7. Cultivate a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t become a “religionist.” Follow Christ with passion, go against the cultural tide if you have to, and make Him your greatest pleasure. Do life as he asked us to do it.

8. Have a passion in life that you care deeply about. Don’t worry about what other people think. Live from your passion, always showing gratitude for those who help you along the way.

Sitting around the table a few days ago and thinking about these things, I asked the kids, “If you only had 30 days to live, what would you do and who would you do it with?” The consensus was that they would want to do things with their immediate and extended family. But the specifics of what they wanted to do varied. (I give these is grocery list fashion)

Levi, would want to take in a Colts game. Visit the 5 places he would like to go to the most (California, NYC, Hawaii, Alaska, and Dallas.) Experience 0 gravity. Go to Cedar Point one more time. Help all abused dogs. Go to a BCS football game. Go to Michigan Wolverines football game with uncles and cousins. Try the worlds hottest pepper and get on the wall of flame at Wings Etc. See Dad run a NFL play or catch a pass in a game. Visit all Big Ten Stadiums. Solve a Rubik’s Cube.

Will would visit the Grand Tetons and the Boundary Waters and go to WV to kayak with the dogs.

Megan would adopt some death-row dogs and donate her money to the Humane Society. Hug everyone she cared about. Stay in a cabin in the mountains. Eat as much as she wanted. Would not exercise.

Donnette would go to KC and spend time with family there. Spend time with parents in Quincy, IL. Go to Israel and Ireland with family. Teach her kids how to make a few of their favorite recipe’s. Make a CD at Gaither Studios with encouraging songs, songs about being faithful, loving God and then donate CD’s to prisoners, crisis pregnancy centers, nursing homes and others needing encouragement. Somehow be able to share her heart on a big scale with her nation for the burden she carries for them. Tell them to look to God’s Word on the key issues like family, sex, faith, abortion. Go buy a beautiful dress and not worry about the cost. Then go have dinner and attend an outdoor concert with me in KC or Colorado. She would hope that she wouldn’t have to do any grocery shopping or laundry.

I would take half a month and see the world with my family: tour Jerusalem and sail the Sea of Galilee; sat down for lunch in Greece and stand in the amphitheater of Rome; fly over the Swiss Alps and stay in a mountain lodge; visit a few key stops on Paul’s missionary journeys; spend time with a C.S Lewis guide in England and see his home, Oxford office, and pub he lunched in; do Alaska and Australia and European villages and towns. I would show my kids how to use my library and write books with it. Take some time for extended family and church family friends and any atheist friends who would care to talk about the deeper spiritual questions. Spend a day or so with children who are not expected to live very long. I have no desire to ride a bull, jump out of a plane, or visit a celebrity. I would spend the next 15 days or so at home with the people I love, sharing my thoughts, appreciating the moment. Last meal: Donnette’s homemade pizza.

Randy Pausch, Born: October 23, 1960 – Died: July 25, 2008. He was 47. Joey Nelson, Born: February 22, 1968 – Died: January 31, 2009. He was 40 years old. How will you live your dash?

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Brevity of Life, Christian Worldview, Church, Death, Family, Good Life, Home, Legacy, Love, Mother, New Year, Spiritual Life, Stewardship, Uncategorized, Worldview

Irreducible Complexity, Occams Razor, and the Anthropic Principle for a New Year

There are three great concepts that one needs to process when thinking about the existence of God and competitive worldviews that endeavor to answer the deeper questions of life.

Irreducible complexity is an argument made in the discussion on evolution. While there are parts of evolution that can be substantiated (by this I mean, microevolution – one type of a sparrow evolving into another type of sparrow; contrast this with macroevolution, which I totally disagree with, that one species evolves into another species), this concept says that the origin of complex organs must be explained. Some organs require a minimum number of parts to work. The infinite number of small steps necessary for these kinds of developments is not likely in a strict evolutionary system. How do you account for the complexity of the human eye? Some living mechanisms are too complext to arise by the short steps required by evolution. There are many things that evolution cannot explain. Irredicibly complex organs is one of them. This fact alone wrecks Darwinism. Before you side with a Dawkins who said that evolution makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist, explain irreducibly complex organs for starters, and then work from there. Evolution doesn’t know when its done. It doesn’t know that it shouldn’t turn us into whales, or crickets, or ground hogs. With far more people around today than centuries ago, you would expect some mutations, some development of more complex organs. Where are they?

Occams Razor simply states that there are a number of possible explanations for something and that one should go with the explanation that requires the fewest assumptions. Even Carl Sagan advised to go witht the hypotheses that was the simplest. The best route from point A to point B should not be a zig-zag theory. Evolutionary atheists invent a fantastically complicated set of circumstances in an attempt to explain our origins. Faith is not irrational, but offers a very clear explanation of how our universe and multiverses began. The vast majority of physicists admit a “Big Bang” that started it all, a First Cause.

Finally, the anthropic principle states that our universe was designed just right, so that we could live on planet earth. It’s as if someone “monkeyed with the physics”. It knew humans and life-forms were coming somehow. Modify the physics just slightly and we implode into the planet or explode off of it. It is precise; earth is a sanctuary of life.

We are irreducibly complex creatures, living in a world that was intelligently designed, with precise physics to sustain our survival. Faith is rational, even scientific, and yet some atheists describe it as a “mental illness”. The only thing mental about any of this is how and why human beings go to such great extremes to avoid the logical, succinct explanations offered by Christian Theism.

I agree with Dinesh D’Souza who argues that atheism is not primarily an intellectual revolt; it is a moral revolt. Atheists don’t find God invisible so much as objectionable. Like a supervisory parent, God is in the way and must be removed, discredited (using the error-filled Bible ironically enough), and He must be shown to be a “mental illness.”

How about starting out 2009 with a new worldview? You are irreducibly complex in your make-up, living in a world that is balanced on a razors edge, and playing dumb to what you know to be true is no longer the best way to answer life’s deeper questions. There’s a better way in 2009.

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Adolescent Girls Are Losing Themselves – Like Intoxicated Saplings in a Storm

The book Reviving Ophelia, written by Mary Pipher several years ago, argues how our little girls are like saplings in a storm. Our children but especially our daughters live in a media-drenched culture flooded with junk values. Not getting what they need from their parents, our kids, especially our girls, turn to the world for self-esteem. The world fragments them into powerless sex objects. Sex is not just sacred; it’s a way to sell suntan lotion, clothes, and popularity and young girls get lost in all this.

Writes Pipher: “The story of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet shows the destructive forces that affect young women. As a girl, Ophelia is happy and free, but with adolescence she loses herself. When she falls in love with Hamlet, she lives only for his approval. She has no inner direction; rather she struggles to meet the demands of Hamlet and her father. Her value is determined utterly by their approval. Ophelia is torn apart by her efforts to please. Despondent over the death of his own father, Hamlet spurns her because she is an obedient daughter and sides with her father, she goes mad with grief. Dressed in elegant clothes that weigh her down, she drowns in a stream filled with flowers (p. 4).

Pipher maintains that girls are losing themselves like Ophelia – a symbolic figure for troubled, voiceless adolescent girls. It’s great to honor your father. But dads and moms must build a healthy self-esteem into their girls, otherwise, they will fall into the people-pleasing trap. And if you betray yourself in order to be pleasing to someone else, you lose self-worth. Society tells you many lies. You have to be a certain weight, have a particular look. Girls get mixed messages all of the time: Be sexy, but not sexual. Be honest, but don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Be smart, but not so smart that you threaten boys. The world preaches a doctrine of image management.

What are society’s values?

Beauty: The most highly valued personal attribute in many cultures is physical attractiveness. When we as adults respond to what we perceive to be “a beautiful child” versus “an unattractive child” this has a profound impact on a developing personality. Attractive kids fair better in their grades, for example, and get more attention from adults. Beauty is retained as a value among women their entire lives. It’s not wrong to be beautiful; it is wrong to ascribe worth simply on the basis of looks or the perfection of a bodily form.

A song writer wrote: “I want to be beautiful and make you stand in awe. Look inside my heart and be amazed. I want to hear you say who I am is quite enough. I just want to be worthy of love and beautiful (Bethany Dillon “Beautiful”). This ageless longing takes on a competitive edge.

Wendy Bantam puts it this way: “Every day in the life of a woman is a walking Miss America Contest.” Sadly, girls lose if they are either too plain or too pretty. Girls who are too pretty are seen as sex objects; their appearance is their identity. Boys gravitate toward these girls, so they are popular for their looks. On the other hand, if you are too plain, you’re left out and scorned.

Intelligence: This ranks at the top of our value system. Our society says you have to be smart and you must have smart kids in order to protect the reputation of the parent. For the slow child, an educational plan that is shaped for fast-learners can disassemble the esteem of a child.

Wealth: A pimply faced kid on a bicycle is different from a pimply faced kid in a BMW. If you’ve got money, and clothes, and prestige, then you’re valuable.

Athleticism: If you’re really good athletically, you have value and notoriety. Our culture worships the sports hero.

Tony Campolo tells about a married couple that had bought into these cultural values. They were sitting in his office at Eastern College painfully confronting the reality that their nineteen-year-old daughter had not only been sexually promiscuous, but she was pregnant and had no idea who the father was. With tears running down her cheeks, the mother turned to her daughter and said “How could you do this to us after all we’ve done for you?” Campolo said if I had asked the mom just what it was she had done for her, the mother would have probably gone through a long list of all the things she and her husband had bought for their daughter. Society had conditioned them to believe that it was things their daughter needed. They had failed to provide their daughter what she really needed: available, loving parents to pay attention to her.

A few years back, I found a response to Piphers book. Sara Shandler wrote a book in response called Ophelia Speaks. She invited girls to write to her and share what was actually going on in their lives. These adolescent girls said that they felt like disappointments when compared to the media models. “They hurl us into self-loathing.”

Sara Shandler heard from young ladies who took off their masks and what she learned was an avalanche of discovery. They tell of sexual abuse, broken families, missing fathers, lost friends, pregnancy, eating disorders and dysfunctional siblings. The common wish they all had was for simple stability, a safe place where they could sort life out.

One of the themes prevalent in these Shandler essays was intoxication (46). It seems to be the medication of choice for most people. One gal writes: “Drunken couples maul each other on beer-soaked furniture. Others dance wildly. They jump and slam into each other while swearing and puking. I step over their bodies sprawled across the floor, drowning in their own vomit. As I walk toward the bedroom, the sweet mixture of incense and pot smoke drags me into the cloudy room. I join the circle. Hours later, I wake in a large, strange bed with only half my clothes… I shove the stranger off me… My eyes are bloodshot… Beer and puke stain the white carpet. The stench of the room almost causes me to fall over… I walk down litter-covered streets… It feels like forever since I last had a bath… I walk toward by friend’s house.

‘Can I crash here today?’

‘Sure…Rough night?’

I nod and… walk to the bathroom. My face is still dingy from the night before… It seems so old. I’m only fourteen.”

She tells of abuse that landed her step-father in jail. She talks about boyfriends and pregnancy and her baby boy.

This is how she concludes her article: “I’m eighteen now… Matthew (her son) is two and a half years old… Despite all that has happened to me, I have hope for my future. I don’t blame my problems on what happened. I take responsibility for my actions. I look forward to having my own place. I look forward to the beginning of my adult life. I know it’s hard for most girls to deal with a situation like this, but, for sanity, for a chance at life, it has to be dealt with (53).”

Even though this young girl began to take responsibility for her own life and decisions, many young ladies never do. Like saplings in a storm, drunk with the junk values of culture, they sheer off at the ground, and never find the safe, nurturing environment of stability that they crave.

Don’t allow this to happen in your family. Be the safe place, a place of nurture, values clarification, and identity and self-esteem development. Base it all on God (and don’t even think about being an atheist – it only complicates things).

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Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Daughters, Parenting, Teenagers, Uncategorized

The Magi – The Closest Thing to An Atheist in the Christmas Story…And They Worshipped!

Matthew 2 “Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold Maji from the East arrived in Jerusalem saying, `Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the East and have come to worship him.’”

Matthew’s gospel is very Jewish. And in this Jewish story, no one’s going to expect a non-Jewish star-gazer (possible atheist) to enter the sacred Christmas story as a major character and give a gift to the Jewish Messiah. After all, they’re not Jews. But that’s what happened. The Magi have no vested interest in this baby, the prophecies related to him, or to the religion in which he was born into. And yet, they find themselves in the story. Imagine – an atheist in the Christmas story!

We do not know the number of the Magi, nor their names, nor the size of the party which traveled to Jerusalem. At best, they were wise men from the East, i.e., Persia, Arabia, or Babylonia, who had heard from either Daniel (who was in captivity for a time in their region) or other Hebrew prophets about a King being born to the Jews. Perhaps they had read Numbers 24:17 which states “A star shall come forth from Jacob and a scepter shall rise from Israel…” Or, perhaps, it was their own prophecy that set them up for this fulfillment. We can’t be sure though.

At worst, they were students of science, philosophy, medicine, astrology and world religions, or even atheists, curious about a star. They were pagan astrologers that took their cues from the stars! Their theological content was limited at best. They weren’t practicing Judaism nor were they living in the Holy Land nor were they part of God’s chosen nation. Yet, God supernaturally revealed to these heathen (perhaps, atheistic) people what He was up to in Jesus. A prophecy outside of the Jewish nation, and a Jewish writer without any proprietary reason to write “pagan astrologers” (or atheists) into the Christmas story, argues for the authenticity of the Matthean account.

This whole thing was started by the appearance of a star. The “star of Bethelehem” has been the subject of scholarly discussion ever since the first centuries after the birth of Jesus. Some have suggested that it was a nova or supernova, a white dwarf star that literally explodes and gradually fades out. Some have suggested that it was a moving comet. Some have suggested that it was a triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Some have suggested that it was the same Shekinah Glory (visible presence) of God that was revealed to Moses in the burning bush, to Israel in the desert (Ex.13:21), to Jesus when he was transfigured, and to Saul on the road to Damascus. We cannot know precisely what phenomenon took place.

But we can safely say that the Magi were men who had an interest in astronomy and expressed what they observed in terms that were consistent with the scientific development of their time. They exhibited a great faith in the evidence they did have that resulted in a worship experience that changed their lives. Is it within the realm of possibility, that they moved from atheism to theism after their long, arduous journey and after seeing the Christ-child? I think it is.

In the context of Matthew’s Messianic Gospel, this part of the birth narrative hints at the eventual spread of the Gospel beyond the nation of Israel to include all people of the world. Men and women in every age, whether premessianic or postmessianic or even atheistic, have been able to fling themselves on to God’s mercies, regardless of the level of their theological content, and there find grace and peace and salvation. Even an atheist has a place in the manger this Christmas.

Atheist, you don’t have to go through a world religion to encounter the Christ-child. No specific religion brokers to you God’s love and favor. No one group has a monopoly on God’s grace. No oppressive, religous establishment can dictate to you this Christmas. Why? You are invited to go straight to the Christ-child. Atheists are welcome in his birth narrative.

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