Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Once Upon a Time

We're all living a fairy tale life. Unfortunately for most of us, it's still early in the story. We're not home with our true family, but stuck with the evil stepmom. Day after day we spend in rags, being abused left and right. Deep down we know something's not right, but we accept it because we've known nothing else.

We're all living a fairy tale life. The prince has already met us and fallen head over heels in love. One day -- maybe even today -- he'll show up on our doorstep with a promise of a better life: our "happily ever after". And the best part is the only marriage qualification we need is to believe him enough to extend our foot and let him slip on that glass shoe.

We're all living a fairy tale life, but somehow it became fractured. In some versions, Cinderella doesn't think there's a prince at the door, that the slipper won't fit, or worst of all, that the life the prince offers is not the life for her. For others -- myself included -- the shoe fits and the wedding bells have rung, but we've gone off course before our "happily ever after". This Cinderella turns down the beautiful clothes for the more familiar rags; she turns down the castle and wants the prince to move in with her step-family.

We're all living a fairy tale life, and even the youngest girl knows this isn't how it's supposed to end. Won't we listen to the prince calling out for us:

You brag, 'I'm rich, I've got it made, I need nothing from anyone,' oblivious that in fact you're a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless. -- Rev 3:17

Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You've gone around half-naked long enough. -- Rev 3:18

Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you. -- Rev 3:20

You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. -- Col 3:9-10

The Marriage of the Lamb has come; his Wife has made herself ready. She was given a bridal gown of bright and shining linen. -- Rev 19:8

I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. -- John 15:9

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Right World, Wrong View

Why is it that I spend so much of my time doing nothing of worth, and so little actually accomplishing something, especially something for his Kingdom? Maybe this is what's missing:
Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, walked into the temple area, and thoroughly looked all around contemplating what He already knew. He observed all the facts before Him.

As Jesus looked about Him, He measured everything by divine standards. He saw everything through the eyes of God. He never looked at anything through the eyes of the world system’s convenience or selfishness.
Sometimes I'm miserly with my spending; sometimes I'm lusting over a nice large LCD TV. Sometimes I feel like I'm drifting through life; other times I'm all about goal-setting and vision casting. The problem is that both sides of it are wrong if I'm not measuring things by the divine standard.

See, Jesus lays it out time and time again; we've got it all backwards down here. It's like we're playing a sport and trying to get as high of a score as possible. And He keeps trying to let us know we're playing golf. It reminds me of one of my favorite Matthew West songs (My Finest Hour):
The king of contradictions strikes again
You said the last to cross the finish line will win
And the beggars will be millionaires someday
And the humble ones are gonna have their say

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Monogamy Gene

New Scientist is reporting that a "monogamy gene" has been found. From the article:
... men with two copies of RS3 334 were more likely to be unmarried than men with one or none, and if they were married, they were twice as likely to have a marital crisis.
What effect does this have on our reading of Scripture and its call to either completely monogamy or utter abstinence? How do we reconcile these findings with statements like the following:
"Haven't you read," [Jesus] replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." -- Matthew 19:4-6
Well, assuming it is confirmed by further studies, what does it mean? Does this entitle a part of the male population to skip out on that restriction, because that's how God genetically "made" them?

Umm... no. It's pretty clear from Scripture that all of us were born with a tendency to disobey God (see Romans 5), and despite that we are commanded to obey. Granted we cannot completely obey without daily submitting to Christ. But that's what we must do, whether our tendency to sin has been identified with a genetic marker or not. We must die to self, including the genes that make us "us".

Lord, help me to deny myself--even die to myself--and live for you alone!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Do the Impossible

[M]any people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. [...] [P]eople quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to. -- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I go through so much of my day acting as though God's commands to me are, in effect, impossible. Not that they are not logically inconsistent, nor do they violate any laws of physics. I even know of others who succeed in obeying them. No, they are "impossible" because of how flawed my character is. The problem with this supposition is it's not how God sees the situation. I can pout and say "Unfair", but he has more right to say that to me; which one of us was unfairly mocked and tortured, and unfairly died for the other's offenses? Instead, I must ignore how "unfair" it feels, how "impossible" it seems, and do it.

Watching my daughter learn to walk, it must seem awfully unfair that gravity pulls down so mercilessly. And yet each time she plops on her rear or bumps her nose into the floor, she gets back up to try again. Gravity just is, and to walk she must take the falls. Not to walk, however, is not an option, nor should it be. And so it must be in my walk; each morning I must rise up to the challenge of living for Him, and each time I fall flat on my face, I must get up again. To stay where I am is unacceptable, if not to me then certainly to God.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Most Interesting Games

Rob Neyer (my favorite ESPN columnist) posted a blog entry (ESPN insider required, sorry) about computing the most interesting baseball games to watch, if you disregard any allegiances, interests in individual players, or starting pitching matchups. We're talking solely about which are the most interesting teams to watch play each other.

He creates his formula by using the number of games out of a playoff spot for each team, with a bonus (divide by 2) if the two teams play in the same division, but only if both don't stink (at least 5% chance of making the playoffs). This was an interesting idea, but I found it lacking in a few areas.
  • Teams that are so far ahead in their division are less interesting than those in tight races. (See Angels)
  • Teams in wild-card races are less interesting than teams in division races.
  • Good teams outside the division should rank higher than mediocre teams in division.
Here's my attempt:
  • Each team starts with 10 points.
  • Division leaders add half of the games ahead they are (Angels add 7.5; Rays add 1.5).
  • Teams closer in the division race than the wildcard add the total games back (Twins add 0.5; Braves add 9).
  • Teams closer in the wildcard race add the average of wildcard and division games back (Yankees add 6.5, Cardinals add 5.75).
  • Teams then subtract 50 times how much over .500 a team is (.600 = 5 points off, .500 = 0, .400 = 5 points ADDED)
  • Division foes get another 5 points off the game score.
  • Lowest score is the best game.
So, for the games on Wednesday, here are the three best and worst games:
17.9 : PHI(64-56) vs LAD(61-59)
23.6 : MIN(67-53) vs NYY(64-57)
24.0 : STL(67-56) vs FLA(63-58)

48.3 : SEA(46-74) vs LAA(75-44)
49.9 : BAL(57-62) vs CLE(54-65)
55.2 : CIN(53-68) vs PIT(55-65)

And here are the top 10 possible games (not counting interleague), given the standings at the beginning of the day Thursday:

8.8 : TAM(72-47) vs BOS(70-51)
9.2 : CHC(73-47) vs MIL(70-51)
11.7 : NYM(64-56) vs PHI(64-56)
13.3 : TAM(72-47) vs CWS(67-52)
13.8 : NYM(64-56) vs FLA(63-58)
14.7 : BOS(70-51) vs CWS(67-52)
14.8 : CHC(73-47) vs STL(67-56)
16.2 : NYM(64-56) vs MIL(70-51)
17.3 : TAM(72-47) vs NYY(64-57)
17.9 : NYM(64-56) vs ARI(61-59)

We are the Socket, He is the Bulb

Revelation 1:20 explains that churches are (seven) lampstands in the vision shown to John. In verse 4:5, the Spirit of God is referred to as a lamp (or seven lamps). This juxtaposition means two things to me. First, there's a Spirit for each church. Not literally, of course, but that the Spirit is fully available and present for every church. Second, we are not the light of the world by ourselves. We are given the privilege of holding the Light for all to see.

Jesus, help me to hold your Light high, that when others look at my stand, they'll see You shining brightly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Take Two

Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. -- Proverbs 19:21
How incredibly true that is. I had so many great ideas for what to write about, endless sets of "series" about all sorts of topics, and yet a few weeks into it, I stopped writing, for SIX MONTHS. Why? Because I fell out of the habit for a few days, and then couldn't get going again. Because I got stuck on part 3 of a series and had "promised" that would be next. Because I was lazy. Because they were my plans and not His.

I want to say that I'm back for good now. That I've learned my lesson. But who am I kidding? What I do know with decent certainty is that God wants me to write. What I also know is that I shouldn't plan out too much. Spend time with God; listen; write. That's my new plan.

God, may this time be your purpose, and not my plans.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Disproof of Faith: Part 1

A couple days ago, my mind started chewing on whether it was possible to disprove Christianity. Basically, could some piece (or set) of theoretical knowledge or evidence be introduced to humanity that would make Christianity patently false, or at least overwhelmingly unbelievable? Today, I'll start with some topics that are perceived by some to fit this bill, but really don't.

Apparent Contradiction

If there were a clear contradiction in the Bible, that would certainly count. However, I have yet to encounter an apparent contradiction that could not be explained. Addressing all of them is more than I can handle in this space, and there are some fine books that tackle this issue. I'll present one of my favorites, for the sake of this argument:
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. - Proverbs 26:3-4
So, which is it? Answer a fool or not? It's easy to write this off as a contradiction, but let's face it, even a somewhat smart human wouldn't make this kind of error (and it is the same human author, or at minimum the same human editor). What makes more sense is the author (and Author) is making the point that sometimes you need to answer a fool, and sometimes you need to hold your tongue. So, this doesn't qualify as evidence that disproves.

Heliocentric Theory

So, in Joshua, the Bible says God caused the sun and moon to stand still for an entire day. This passage, at one time, convinced the Church that the sun must go around the Earth (and all sorts of humiliating actions against Copernicus, Galileo, etc. ensued). Now we know that the Earth moves around the sun. Does that mean the Bible is wrong? If it were trying to be an astronomy textbook, then yes; but it's not. Instead, it's describing an event from the perspective of Earth, where it does appear that the sun normally moves across the sky. After all, we do still describe the beginning and ending of a day as sunrise and sunset, though we know the sun doesn't actually do the rising or setting. Again, no sale on disproving evidence.


Maybe the story in Joshua just begs the question. Whether it's the sun or Earth moving is irrelevant; neither just stops in its motion for a day, then starts back up again. That's a lot of kinetic energy to invest, and the laws of physics say it just can't happen. The same thing goes for water standing up on end in the Red Sea, or walking on stormy water. Some believe that's the last nail in the coffin, that science has disproved the possibility of miracles. However, that's just not true. Science has brought us a long way; we once thought phenomena like thunderstorms were an "act of God", but now we know they are explained through natural laws. It doesn't follow, however, that miracle cannot exist. In fact, since science focuses solely on the explanation of the natural, it is silent on the supernatural. We may not observe any miracles today, but that doesn't mean they didn't occur 2000 years ago.


This seems like a funny topic, as it doesn't seem very controversial. I haven't heard of any protests of fundamentalists outside the Weather Channel studio. And yet the Bible does say that God (and not natural law) controls the weather. So which is it? Again, I think some flexibility in thought is needed here. God could control the weather through natural means. It might mean God sometimes steps in and overrides natural law to accomplish his ends. Either way, I don't think this is conclusive.

The existing set of evidence that I believe makes the best case for disproving Christianity is macro-evolution. That's what I'll write about in my next post in this series.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Science & Faith: Living in perfect harmony?

I just read a New York Times article (courtesy Slashdot), describing a new publication (free online) from the National Academy of Sciences. Normally, I'd be mildly interested in such a writing, but what made this one fascinating was the topic -- Science, Evolution, and Creationism -- and one of the advertised statements that effectively you don't have to choose between science and religion.

My assumption had been that the article would say this harmony was accomplished because faith was personal and internal, whereas science focused on the external. In other words, science is real and faith is what's in your head. I was pleasantly surprised to see nothing of the sort. Instead, the article concludes that science is about testing natural phenomena, where religion focuses on the supernatural... which science (by definition) cannot comment. Another statement I found refreshing is "Science is not the only way of knowing and understanding." (It does go on to explain science differs from other way in its dependence on testable explanations.)

This document does say that Creation Science is not really science (as it is not testable), and honestly, I don't have a problem with that statement (but the reasons are for another time). The only phrase that irked me a bit was that religious faith "is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence." I guess that's technically true; after all, how many times have I felt my prayer was not powerful and effective (though that could be a commentary on my righteousness).

Anyway, their statement made me think about whether Christianity could be disproved. After all, Christianity is founded on observed events that happened on planet Earth (Jesus dying on a cross and resurrecting), and I came to believe because of the evidence supporting its claims. So, is it even possible for a piece (or set) of evidence to occur that would disprove Christianity? I'm not looking for existing evidence; if it's really true there won't be any. No, instead, I'm wondering if it's possible to imagine such a piece of evidence, or if Christianity is inherently irrefutable. That's too much for one post, and certainly one that I've already filled with a commentary. Instead, I'll add others in the near future, starting with one describing evidence that could but does not disprove Christianity.