Monday, September 18, 2017

Bird in the Window

As I’m writing this I am watching a bird that is trapped in the garage. The trap is nothing tangible, but the bird doesn’t know that. She is sitting on the windowsill, and every few seconds she lunges into the glass, only to be knocked back. She regroups, shakes her head, and tries again. This has been going on for hours. I’ve tried to help her, but my presence causes her to panic, sending her into the window more often and with more vigor.

Obviously the bird wants to leave the garage and the window seems like the only way out; from her point of view it looks like she has found the way to return to the great outdoors. There must be a level of confusion and frustration as she struggles to leave the garage, seemingly headed in the right direction, and yet she gets knocked back on her tail feathers.

I have a different perspective. From where I sit I can see exactly what the bird sees. I see the green grass and the towering walnut trees that I imagine the bird longs to investigate. But that is all the bird can see. I can see much more.

In addition to what is outside, I can also see what is inside. Expanding out past the window I see the wall, and about three feet to the right of the wall I see the edge of the garage, the bird’s path to freedom. Because of her limited perspective, she has made herself a prisoner by three feet of ignorance.

Many times we become like that bird. Because of our limited perspective we see a small part of reality, but we miss the big picture because there are details we cannot know. We can become frustrated, feeling like we are beating our heads against a wall (or window). Maybe you don’t understand why God is not working out a situation like you had hoped, or you have some other dilemma in life.

God has a different perspective. He sees things we cannot see, so He does things we would not have done.  We need to trust that He is doing what is best, even when we don’t understand. Instead of feeling trapped, we will be as free as a bird.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, September 11, 2017

False Statements in the Bible

Does the Bible contain false statements? Of course it does! It might surprise some of you to hear me say that, but please let me point out four undeniably false quotations found in Scripture.

Ananias and Sapphira each made a false statement in Acts 5; after selling property and making a donation to the church, they withheld a portion and lied about the price. Peter asked, “Did you sell the land for this price?” The wife replied, “Yes, for that price.” That lie was a false statement, and they paid dearly for it.

Job’s “friend” Eliphaz the Temanite also made a false statement in Job 4-5 when he concluded that Job’s suffering was a punishment for some secret sin he would not confess. The truth was that God allowed Job to be tested, and he passed the test.

A third false statement can be found in Isaiah 14:14: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will be like the Most High.” That lie was spoken by Lucifer, who thought he could challenge El Elyon, the Most High God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Finally, the Bible contains this false statement: “There is no God (Psalm 14:1).” While Descartes may agree with such a claim, we need to remember that the above quote is attributed to “the foolish man.”

I hear from critics who like to remind me that the Bible contains false statements; sure it does. It accurately contains false statements made by fools, liars, fair-weather friends, and the devil himself. But the Bible is never inaccurate in what it says. If the Bible says it, you can take it to the bank. There may be critics and scoffers out there trying to make you doubt, but we have faith. When your faith in the Bible may waver, just read it a little more; after all, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).”    

Monday, September 4, 2017

Intellectual, Yet Idiot

In his new book Understanding Trump, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich talks about a group of people in government, journalism, and academia that he says are hurting the country. Borrowing a phrase from author Nassim Taleb, Gingrich derides the “intellectual yet idiots,” or the IYIs. Idiot is admittedly a harsh term, but it may serve as a wakeup call.

The IYIs are people who are intellectual—they are great at taking tests and writing essays that professors love—but they are idiots at the same time in that they have never actually done any of the things they write papers about. Gingrich uses the illustration of a flat tire, saying they could write beautiful reports on how to change a flat, but if the flat were on their own car, they would have to call AAA to come to their aid. These IYIs are writing and reporting on new regulations and policy that will affect business, but they have never run or worked in business themselves, making them the least qualified to create policy. Sitting around discussing things is pointless; they need to have some skin in the game.

My fear is that the Speaker was unknowingly describing people in the church. There are people who can sit around discussing and debating the finer points of theology, yet they never go out and do anything; they can explain salvation in great detail, but they have never led an unsaved person to the Lord.

When I was in college I remember other Bible majors engaging in hours-long debates, quoting tons of Scripture to support their Calvinist or Armenian beliefs. They would argue about who initiates salvation, but not compelling others to be saved. They would debate pre- or mid-tribulation views of the rapture, but they wouldn’t put down their Starbucks and warn an unbeliever that a rapture is coming.

Being intellectual is half the battle. We need to “be ready at all times to give an answer to every man that asks the reason of the hope that lies” within us (1 Peter 3:15); but that is only half the battle. All that knowledge is worthless if we don’t do anything with it. Let’s get some skin in the game and look for someone today with whom we can share the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s be biblically intellectual, but not idiots.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Tear Down this Wall

One of the most iconic lines of the 20th Century was delivered on June 12th, 1987, by President Ronald Reagan. Standing in font of the Berlin Wall, Reagan called on the Soviet Union to demolish the barrier between East and West Germany, saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Adding to the historical impact of this line is the fact that it was staunchly opposed by those close to the President, including Howard Baker and Colin Powell, who felt the imperative was, “unpresidential.” A determined Reagan kept the line, and the rest is history.

Long before Reagan called for the tearing down of walls the Apostle Paul delivered a similar line. In Ephesians 2:14 Paul says this of Jesus: “For He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

Paul’s theological point is that Jesus came to tear down the dividing wall between mankind and God; our sin problem separates us from our holy God, but the accepted sacrifice of Jesus tore down the wall, making it possible for our sins to be passed over, restoring us to God. If you are not a Christian there is a dividing wall keeping you from God. Don’t let it separate you any longer.

But I believe there is a fair secondary application here. Many of us are living with animosity towards someone else. Instead of forgiving them, we hold on to grudges and build up dividing walls between us. God didn’t create us to live behind walls, and the good news is He can make the two groups become one. Christian, if you are bitter or have hatred towards someone, then my advice is the same as Reagan’s to Gorbachev: tear down this wall.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The First Office Chair

Here’s a fun fact for you: Do you know who invented the office chair?

The first office chair was crudely fashioned by Charles Darwin in the 1840s so that he could get around his workspace more easily. Darwin accomplished this feat by affixing small wheels to the bottom of the chair that was in his study. Within a few years his chair caught on, and soon German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was putting these wheeled-chairs throughout the parliament.

Our office chairs today only loosely resemble Darwin’s. While some sofas and accent chairs haven’t changed much in 150 years, the office chair has come a long way. We could say that it has evolved.

Slowly, over time, Darwin’s office chair shed its upholstery and covered itself with faux leather because it knew that leather would one day be a classier look in offices. The chair continued to slowly evolve over time, adding a reclining feature, a height adjustment lever, and a high-back option; in what can only be described as a miracle, Darwin’s chair traded in its four wooden legs for a central leg with protruding wheels, which would allow it to better fit under desks.

Sound impossible? That’s because it is. Even Darwin himself would realize how far fetched it is to believe that his primitive chair would adapt itself on its own, regardless of the amount of time involved. The truth is, each of the improvements made to the office chair were made on purpose by intelligent people who saw ways to make it better. We call that intelligent design.   

There is not a rational person on the planet that would believe a chair adapted itself on its own, so why do we believe that living beings far more complex than furniture have done the same? The more we look at the created universe, the more we see intelligent design, not random chance. God is that Intelligent Designer who made all things exactly as they should be.

All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.

John 1:3