Give Thanks

There are a host of Scriptures that enjoin us to give thanks to God. In the midst of prayer, when we are asking Him for things, we should always be mindful of what He has already accomplished for us, what He is doing on our behalf, and what He has promised in the future lest we seem ungrateful. In the midst of an ungrateful culture possessed with a sense of entitlement, bound by materialism, and blinded by hedonism, the Christian should be distinguished by an “attitude of gratitude.”

Of the ten legally recognized Federal holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two that have a religious heritage. Although the term “holiday” is a compound derivative of the term “Holy Day,” the other eight federal holidays are secular in nature in that they merely memorialize an important event in our nation’s history, or they recognize the contribution a group or individual has made to our country. Calling them secular is not to slight their importance. The secular holidays help form our country’s national identity predicated on our history. And our history is “His story” displaying the sovereign hand of God shaping our nation’s destiny and its role in the history of mankind.

But our two religious holidays are significant as well. Christmas is a decidedly Christian holiday and while thanksgiving for God’s providence has a long established tradition in the Jewish economy of worship, but in this country its practice has been adopted and sustained by the Christian community. Historically speaking, it was the Pilgrims of Plymouth that introduced its practice to the New World and whose purpose for settling here was declared in the Mayflower Compact. These Christian pioneers made it clear that their colony had been “undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”

The Thanksgiving tradition has a rich history here in the United States. Recognizing this, in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, and the day became an annual national tradition celebrated every year since.

Wikipedia says Thanksgiving Day “was a holiday to express thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to God, family and friends for which all have been blessed of material blessings and relationships. Traditionally, it has been a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. This holiday has since moved away from its religious roots.” Given the distractions afforded by our affluence many probably have “moved away from its religious roots.”

The truth remains that we are still dependent on twelve inches of topsoil and some rain at the right time or we would all starve. Would it not be wise to return to our “religious roots?” As we spend time feasting with family and friends I pray we take time to give thanks to the One who provides us with everything.

“Let us enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise,” Psalm 100:4.

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Is the universe to big for God?

I came across this commentary recently, “Does the size of the universe prove God doesn’t exist?” The writer goes on to say, “Scientists now know that the universe contains at least two trillion galaxies.” Really? That’s only a tenth of the national debt, that I am now beginning to believe got so big because we have been overpaying some guy to count those galaxies.

The article goes on to say, “Scientists estimate the observable universe, the part of it we can see, is around 93 billion light years across. The whole universe is at least 250 times as large as the observable universe.”

That statement is absurd. If the “observable universe” can be seen, why do we have to estimate its size? And how can scientists say the rest of the universe we can’t see is “at least 250 times” larger than the one we can see, when we can’t see it?

The gist of the writer’s point is that if God were so concerned with man, why would he create a universe so huge that man by comparison is relatively insignificant? A shepherd boy named David thought the same thing about three thousand years ago as he watched over his sheep on a starry night.

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4.

What David marveled at with his unaided eyes modern man assisted by the technology of the Hubble spacecraft questions. Maybe God did not create this vast universe to highlight the insignificance of man; maybe He created it to display the significance of His might.

Like everyone I enjoy the lifestyle afforded us by the technology that is a byproduct of scientific discoveries, so I appreciate the advances of science. But I am not blind to the fact that though scientists know a lot they do not know everything. Science has its limits.

For instance, we do not know if the universe is an open or closed system, that is, if it goes on forever or if it has boundaries, limits. We just do not know.

I believe the whole modern scientific method of investigation is predicated on the following syllogism: God created the heavens and the earth (i.e., the universe), God is a reasonable God, ergo, the universe can be understood on the basis of reason. If an intelligent Designer had not created an orderly universe scientific investigation predicated on the repeatability of experimentation would be impossible.

I believe the universe we observe is an effect that the only sufficient cause is an omniscient, omnipotent Designer. The vastness of the universe with its diversity and complexity does not cause me to question the existence of God, like David, it inspires me to declare it.

Haaretz says there is “no evidence”

The Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, has questioned the historicity of the Bible according to Newsweek’s Cristina Silva. The paper reportedly said, “No evidence of the events described in the book of Genesis has ever been found.”

I am sure the absurdity of such a statement is lost on those who want to jump to the same conclusion. It is a logical fallacy to say events did not occur because there is no evidence of it. It is called an argumentum ex silentio, an argument from silence.

There are plenty of unsolved murders that have not been cleared because there was not enough evidence to prove who did it and secure a conviction, it does not mean someone is not dead. To say there is no corroborating evidence does not mean something did not happen; it just means there is no evidence of how it happened. Those are two entirely different things.

There is a universe that is evidence of something that happened. Without a shred of evidence some scientists believe in the Big Bang Theory. But since they have no evidence I’ll stick with the Big God Theory. I guess Haaretz calls the universe “no evidence.”

With a global population pushing eight billion people that is evidence that someone was fruitful and multiplied. Scientific research into mitochondrial DNA has suggested the human race had a single female progenitor. Researchers called her “Eve,” but that is what Haaretz calls “no evidence.”

Here’s a news flash, “No evidence disproving the events described in the book of Genesis has ever been found.” You can quote me on that. The whole scientific community is not in possession of a single observable fact about how the universe or life began, so if they do not know what happened, they cannot say what didn’t happen.

Not only does such a statement lack any factual support, it is a logical impossibility to prove a negative. If something did not happen the evidence it did not happen does not exist, because it did not happen.

I have often thought this may be the reason God inspired the psalmist to write, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” Psalm 14:1, because of the inability to prove a negative. This is why atheists retreat into agnosticism and say they do not know if there is a God, because they eventually recognize the foolishness of trying to prove His nonexistence.

But just because the agnostic says he does not know if there is a God, does not mean there are not others who do know Him. When man repents of his sin and exercises genuine faith in Christ he is introduced to the knowledge of God the unbelieving and uninitiated will never know. Though “we walk by faith,” we “know whom [we] have believed.”

All creation is evidence of an ordered universe operating by identifiable physical laws that suggest an Intelligent Designer, but Haaretz says that is “no evidence.” I wonder what kind of evidence Haaretz needs.

The god of our imagination

It has been said that, “In the beginning God created man in His image and every since then man has been trying to return the favor.” That is, we fashion a god who agrees with our perspective of life and agrees with what we believe and do.

The ancient Greeks elevated making their imaginations into an art form when they began to make statues that represented their many gods and temples to house them. But their various gods were clearly human creations.

Zeus, the king of the Grecian gods, was an inveterate adulterer. He was portrayed in Grecian mythology as having numerous sexual affairs with beautiful human women. The hero Hercules was the offspring of one such relationship.

Zeus and his goddess wife Hera had three children one of which, Hephaestus, was born with a limp according to the Greek poet Homer. What kind of gods are these that are consumed with mortal desires, are born and have birth defects? Clearly they are deities endowed with all the human foibles of character and body by their very human creators.

When Paul visited Athens and preached to them about the unknown God, the one they did not know, they dismissed his preaching because he had declared to them the resurrection of Christ. Paul’s teaching of a God who could raise the dead must have seemed strange to an audience whose only conception of gods are tainted with human-like weaknesses.

We live in a culture that was founded amid a Christian consensus, so it is not unusual that a statistic that has remained unchanged for decades is that about ninety percent of Americans believe there is a God. But something that has changed is the percentage of those who read their Bible with any degree of regularity. That figure stands at less than forty percent.

The Scriptures reveal to us God’s holy nature and divine will; they reveal who God is and what He is like, and what He expects from us. This means a very large portion of our population believes in a God they do not know and can only imagine what He must be like.

It is no wonder then that when someone says or writes things about God or what the Bible says many become confused and are easily duped into believing something that is not taught in the Bible, because it is unread.

The psalmist has said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” Psalm 119:105. The wisdom and guidance we so desperately need as a nation lies in many homes collecting dust while our nation is literally falling apart before our eyes.

It reminds me of a saying that I have found to be true, “If you see a Bible that is falling apart, it belongs to someone who isn’t.”

The idol we fashion by our imagination is as poor a substitute for the God of the Bible as an idol that has been fashioned by hands.

I am not a theocrat

I read an article recently that said, “For years, Democrats accused Christian conservatives of being closet theocrats, seeking to impose Christianity on the country and refusing to accept, let alone embrace, American diversity.”

The article goes on to claim this now seems to be true because, “The evangelical defense of President Trump has taken on a religious fervor immune to reason.” That claim is not entirely baseless. If you listen to some pastors turned political pundits you might think this past election was a coronation. It wasn’t.

I cannot speak for others, but I am not a theocrat in or out of the closet. By that I mean, I do not care to see our nation governed by any particular religious group, but I do think government should be founded on the biblical principles of justice, honesty, and peace. That would be a refreshing change we could all enjoy.

We are told in the Scriptures, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes,” Proverbs 21:1. My take on this verse and others like it is God is in sovereign control of human history so that He takes the actions of men, acting as free agents, and weaves them into the tapestry of His divine will so that human history flows inexorably to the culmination of His perfect will.

I further believe Trump’s election to President of the United States was a miracle in the metaphorical sense, not the biblical sense, and because of his position of authority I pray for him as Paul commanded, 1 Timothy 2:12, just as I did for President Obama.

I believe he is President to fulfill God’s will, but I believed that also about former President Obama, and though I think Trump’s winning the election was ordained in a sense by God, I do not think that makes him immune to criticism when he says or does something stupid, nor should he be allowed to break the law with impunity.

So if he has done something criminal then impeach him, but if he hasn’t then give that fake news a rest. Until then someone should take his cell phone away and close his twitter account. I do not really think he is the friend to the evangelical community many think he is, because I am not sure he fully knows what an evangelical is.

I agree with what Billy Graham said a number of years ago, “The central issues of our time are not economic or political or social, important as these are. The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.” I’ll add to that the problems in our time are not about who is President; it is about who is our God. Because He is the One who made us great at one time, and only He can make us great again.

God and being good

I was reading an article the other day that asked a perennial question, can people be good without God? Well that depends on what you mean by “good.” Good is one of those words that is very flexible, that is, it’s meaning is determined more by the context in which it is used than a definitive denotation.

For instance, Jesus was asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone,” Mark 10:17-18.

In the context of this statement Jesus is making the point that God’s nature is so completely holy and consummately just that it is unapproachable by any human standard or example. Jesus could have as easily said, “No one is perfect except God alone,” because in this context good is a synonym for perfect.

The word good does not commonly mean perfect though. If we say, “She is a good woman,” we typically mean that compared to other women we know she is better in some respect in our estimation. She may possess a better character, be a better attorney, or can clean house better than other women, but we would be using the word “good” in a relative sense. We would not mean, “She is a perfect woman.”

So when we talk about being good, it is important whether or not we are talking about being good in a perfect sense or a relative sense.

So the answer would be yes, a person could be a good productive, contributing member of society and a law-abiding citizen in a relative sense without God. Society would have no right to expect that of each citizen unless we were capable of being good in this sense.

But the psalmist did not lie when he wrote, “There is no one who does good,” Psalm 14:1. None of us can say we have always done what is right in every situation all the time. All of us have sinned at some time, and more; none of us can say we are perfectly good.

It is those imperfections, that lack of perfect goodness, that makes us unfit citizens for the Kingdom of God. We may get by on our relative goodness here, but we cannot enter there unless we are perfectly good, and we cannot do that without God.

Since we were imperfect and incapable of perfecting ourselves, the Father “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Having been created in the image of God each of us are capable of great good, but having inherited our first parents propensity to sin we are also capable of committing great evil and often do. So you can be relatively good without God here, but will never be perfectly good enough without God to make it there.

A Madman in Las Vagas

Stephen Paddock was the suspected madman of the Las Vegas massacre. I say, “was” because after unleashing a barrage of deadly gunfire on a crowd at a concert, with arrest imminent, he took his own life.

During the next few days news commentaries will be awash with speculation as to why Paddock shot up a crowd of fun-loving folk who only wanted to hear some country music. The truth is we will never know why he did it. Even if he had been arrested and was later questioned as to his motives, could we trust the testimony of such a madman?

Jay Michaelson recently opined that “conservatives,” too readily blame the cause of such violence on this being a “sick world” because of our “theology.” What does he blame it on, that Paddock went on his murderous rampage because he was sipping from the jug labeled “the milk of human kindness.”

Every time evil rears its ugly head fallen men fail to recognize we live in a sin-cursed world populated by people whose “heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). So they search about futilely for a cause, something or someone to blame.

He actually blames the massacre on Paddock being able to possess modern automatic weapons. I agree with Michaelson here, I see no need for a ordinary citizen to possess automatic firearms, but I also know Timothy McVeigh killed almost three times as many people (168) when he bombed the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City with a truckload of fertilizer.

We cannot blame what Paddock did on guns, but there will be a debate on gun laws because of this fresh instance of violence. So let me clear the air on where I stand on this issue. I own guns but I am not a member of the NRA. I have contemplated getting a concealed weapon permit, but in my heart of hearts I would rather be killed than kill another.

The only other reason to get one would be to protect my wife and those I love should someone try to harm them, but if I can trust the Father with my own wellbeing then I think I can trust His capable hands to care for them. So this is not a gun issue for me.

The issue for me is that we fail to see that the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. The first violent act in the Bible was a murder and at its core it was a religious conflict: Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s was rejected, and Cain killed him for it after God had given him sound advice.

When Cain turned his back on God’s counsel, he turned on his brother, and it has been that way ever since; as people turn away from God’s truth, they turn on one another. Our only hope as a nation is to repent and turn to Christ.