Category: Apologetics

Horsefeathers

I was running on the path that’s near the Seaton Hackney Stables recently and there was a huge pile of horsefeathers ahead of me. A man hiking with his family said: “You’re going to have to jump over that!” I was tempted for a second, but I replied, “Nope, I am running around it.”

Had I jumped and missed I would have had my shoes and shins splattered with horsefeathers.

Had I successfully hurdled it I would have been quite a star in front of this family.

I like to express my Christian convictions in my blog. I don’t want to wimp out. But in the world of blogging and in the Twittersphere, there are many arguments where each side says to the other, “Your opinion is horsefeathers.” Indeed, that attitude often gets a lot more re-tweets!

But my goal is to keep the spotlight on Jesus. So, if I disagree with you, I’ll try to do it respectfully. I don’t want us splattering each other with horsefeathers.

The God who made these cliffs cares for you ! 

In Psalm 65:6 the Psalmist tells God “you are the one who formed the mountains by your power.”

Reading this recently, I thought of the Palisades of the Hudson River. I grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey where the Palisades, at the eastern edge of our town, are the most dramatic natural feature.

Earth scientists tell us that amazing geological shifts formed the Palisades. Regardless of exactly how and when these changes occurred, I know they show the outworking of God’s might.

Isaac Watt captures that might in his hymn I sing the mighty pow’r of God:

I sing the mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.

Yet this sweeping and majestic powerful God of the universe is not hands-off and remote:

You care for the land and water it;
    you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.
(Psalm65:9)

Our mountain-forming God provides food and harvests and gives us our daily bread. It is easy to lose sight of that truth in this day of high-tech agriculture on far away farms. But why does agrobusiness even work? It’s still due to God’s power.

 And this God who created the mountains and provides our food is a personal God who answers prayer and takes care of our sin problem!

You who answer prayer,
    to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
    you forgave our transgressions
. (Psalm65:2,3)

 Best of all is how he invites us to live under his care: 

 Blessed are those you choose
    and bring near to live in your courts!
(Psalm 65:4)

What a privilege to be invited to live as one of God’s people! Yes, this mighty God who made the Palisades is the same God who walks with us and talks with us and dwells with us in the person of Jesus.

                                Merry Christmas !

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Predict the Sunrise?

It’s unclear whether certain events in the Bible happened through miraculous intervention or by natural causes.   

I am not talking today about clear-cut miracles like Jesus turning water into wine. Rather, I’m talking about when people who do believe in miracles have a difference of opinion about whether a particular event in the Bible had natural or supernatural causes. Let’s look at one of these.

Today’s episode happened just before a key battle between the Israelites, led by David, and the Philistines. David received his marching orders from God:

 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army (2 Samuel 5:24)

There are two possible explanations for the sound of marching described here.

  1. God made a marching sound supernaturally to scare the daylights out of the Philistines.
  2. The rustling noise in the trees came from a normal gale wind which just happened to be at the right time and was noisy enough to provide a cover for the Israelites to stealthily advance on their enemies.

I used to think that there was an enormous difference between the two choices. But now I don’t think whether it’s #1 or #2 makes any difference. Why?

 Obviously, #1 describes a clear cut supernatural miracle. But now let’s look more closely at #2.

If a strong gale hit just when Israel’s enemies were ready to attack, was that a coincidence?  No, it was God who synchronized and directed the weather patterns so that that a gale would show up at the exact needed time.

There are no coincidences with God. Indeed, since God synchronizes all events, there’s not even such a thing as a random occurrence.  

We think we see unchanging laws of nature. But it is stunning to realize that these “laws” are only “laws” because Christ directly sustains them:

 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.    (Colossians 1:17)

So sometimes God is actively using his usual laws of nature to achieve his purposes, and at other times he overrides them to accomplish his will. Thus I see no difference between “natural” or “supernatural”: Either way, it’s still directed by God.    

Some folks think God set the universe to run like a timepiece and took his hands off. But what may appear to be a timepiece is sustained moment to moment by God!

Try this thought experiment: What if the time the sun will rise tomorrow were as unpredictable as exactly what the weather will be tomorrow?  Is the predictability of sunrises a “law of nature” that will never ever change — or is it what God has nicely set up and actively sustains for the time being? He did promise:

 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

For now, it suits God’s purposes of grace and mercy to keep the seasons consistent, allowing us to plan, to have agriculture, and to not face total famine and chaos. But it’s an error to assume that it will always be so.

Those who deny that God can sovereignly overrule his natural laws at his good pleasure are in for a big shock. We aren’t told all the details, but I take seriously that the Bible says that various laws of physics/astrophysics/astronomy will undergo major changes.

The earth will not endure as is forever.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1).

We will get a revamped earth with new laws. We can only guess at exactly how these will work but something will never change: we will always have a good omnipotent loving God who is always working to achieve his purposes. Now and forever. He invites us to join in this now and forever adventure by believing in his son Jesus!

Secret Knowledge?

secret bible codes

The Apostle Paul warns that we can end up always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:7)

But what’s the difference between learning and knowledge?
I couldn’t find a big difference between these two Greek words so the context must be key.  

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” So knowledge of the truth is given to everyone who follows Jesus. To know the truth is to know Jesus, since he is the truth.

Therefore the learning that Paul is talking about in this verse must mean something outside of truly knowing Jesus. As you see above in The Sun’s front page, this “learning” is information that will be revealed to the select few —- note the words “hidden” and “secret.”

Unlike the writers in the Sun, I don’t know secrets like where Jimmy Hoffa is today. Nor do I have a quick, secret shortcut to give you lasting peace of mind and your best life now.

If I learn a lot of hidden linkages and connections in the Bible along with secret number codes, how does that increase my compassion for anyone?

I have been reflecting on the simple message of the gospel. I like how Jonathan Leeman says it:
The gospel can be summarized in four words: God, man, Christ, response.
God is holy and loving.
Man sinned and earned the judgment of a holy and loving God.
Christ lived and died in our place to defeat sin and death.
We are called to respond in repentance and faith.

There isn’t anything secret about the gospel. It’s the knowledge that we really need!