Troubleshooting Truth – Step 6 Possess The Right Tools

A few times over the years of being a service electrician, I committed the unpardonable sin: I left my tools at home. This usually occurred after I was working on a home project and I failed to remember to put my tool bag back in the truck. It’s a sinking feeling when you’re at a customers house and you open the side body on your truck and it’s empty. I’d have to call my supervisor and inform him that I was going to have to go home to get my tools. Needless to say, he wasn’t pleased.

What about our pursuit for the truth of the Bible? Are there any tools that we fail to bring with us when we discuss this with others? Let’s look at a few tools we need to make sure we carry with us in the tool bag.

1. Manuscript evidence.

A few years ago, before I got into apologetics, a coworker of mine asked me, “How do you know you can trust the Bible? How do you know it wasn’t written 1000 years after Jesus lived?” I honesty had no answer. Thankfully, I’ve placed the manuscript evidence tool in my bag should this question ever arise again.

First, we have an abundance of copies of the New Testament. There are almost 6000 fragments of the New Testament that have been discovered written in Greek, and another 20,000 from other languages. That number of copies dwarfs those of any other ancient document. The next closest is Homer which totals 1800 copies.

Second, they were written early. The earliest fragment is a portion of John that dates to around A. D. 117-138 and it was found in Egypt. It logically follows that many years and copies led to this having traveled from Jerusalem all the way to Egypt. The original manuscripts had to have been written much earlier and closer to the lifetime of the witnesses of the life of Jesus. Also, early in the second century, the church fathers were already quoting much of the New Testament which means it must have been circulating for some time.

Third, the manuscripts are reliable. The early dating, abundance of manuscripts, and quotes from the church fathers give us confidence that we have what was written by the New Testament authors. Comparing the numerous copies allows us to accurately reconstruct the New Testament.

2. Archaeology

When I was younger, I would read the Bible and notice how matter of fact it was. The Bible is not very descriptive like bestsellers we read today. It’s loaded with historical information. From names to places, the Bible places itself at a standard and dares anyone to disprove it. And yet it still stands. Time and time again, archaeology has verified the historical claims of the Bible.

One fascinating example was the discovery of the anchors of the shipwreck of the apostle Paul told about in Acts. They were located using the descriptions of the events in the Bible. Bob Cornuke writes in his book “Lost Shipwreck of Paul” about how 4 anchors were found by local divers in the 60’s. The area these anchors were found matches the Biblical account.

This is one of many examples of archaeology confirming the reliability of the New Testament.

3. Extrabiblical evidence

The third tool we can use is the evidence that comes from outside the Bible. We would expect there to be writings other than the Bible that discuss the events that took place during the lives of Jesus and his disciples. And that is exactly what we find. Here are a couple of my favorite examples:

Josephus.

In his book “Antiquities of the Jews” the first century Jewish historian Josephus wrote concerning Jesus:

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.” 

Much of this quote has been called into question by scholars who claim that Christians added the portions that are in italics. This may be true, but much can be learned about Jesus even if these portions are removed. We can learn that Jesus really lived, he was a wise man, he performed miracles, he had followers, he was condemned by Pilate to die on the cross, and his followers continued on long after he was gone. That’s a pretty good short summary of the Gospels.

Tacitus.

Tacitus was a Roman historian who wrote the following in his book Annals:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

Notice how he said “a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out.” This is an exact description of the events in the Gospels. The “superstition” of Christianity was checked when the disciples fled after Jesus’ death. Then it broke out again after they saw Him risen from the dead. Tacitus was far from a supporter of Christianity yet his writings verify the accounts in the Gospels.

These extrabiblical accounts from historians that were hostile to Christianity are a great tool to use as we argue for the faith.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to install an outlet at my house. I needed to strip the outer sheathing of some wiring and I grabbed the first knife I could find. It was the wrong kind. It had a curved blade instead of one with a hook on the end. The hook would have helped guide the blade as I stripped the wiring. Instead, I used the wrong tool and the knife slipped as I was cutting. Five stitches later, I learned a valuable lesson: possess the right tools.

Make sure you possess the right tools next time someone asks for a reason of the hope that is in you.

Troubleshooting Truth – Step 5 Keep Common Items In Stock

When I was working in the field as a service electrician, I hated going to the supply house. If I was on a job site, I wanted to finish and move onto the next job. How did I prevent a trip to the supply house? I kept common times in stock. From receptacles to switches and ballasts, I knew what items I used on a regular basis and I kept them in stock. This helped me to avoid the supply house and be more productive. If I found a switch that needed replacing, for example, I had one on my truck that I could quickly use to remedy the situation. If our employees would only learn this lesson, my job would be a lot easier.

Let’s consider the claims of Christianity. Are there any “common items” we have “in stock” that we can use? Has God built into us anything that we can readily access in the pursuit of truth? I believe there are. Let’s look at three supplies God had placed on our shelf.

Logic.

The first item we find in our stock is logic. Merriam-Webster defines logic as “the science of the formal principles of reasoning.” We all use various forms of logic every day without even thinking about it. It is just built into us. It can be a complex topic and universities offer degrees in logic, so we’ll just cover one of it’s laws. The law of non contradiction is a law of logic that we all intuitively know is true. It says that that contradictory propositions cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. It’s like trying to imagine a square circle or a married bachelor. They cannot logically exist together. We all know this law is true without even thinking about it, and to deny it is to affirm it. Think about that for a minute!

But where did this law come from? Logic concludes that every law must have a law-giver. Even if no humans existed in the universe, logic would still exist. But, this system of reasoning must be based in a mind. It is based in the ultimate mind. It comes from the mind of God.

The following quote from C. S. Lewis sums this up nicely:

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

Morality.

Murder. Cowardice. Betrayal. Lying. These are things that are universally recognized as wrong. The moral argument for God says:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Basically, if one thing is objectively wrong, then God exists. Deep down inside, we all know that this is true. It is even confirmed to be the case in the Bible. Romans 2:14-15 says “14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” God has written the moral law on each of our hearts.

My favorite quote on morality also comes from the great C. S. Lewis. He famously said:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

Nature.

Psalm 19:1-3 says “1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.”

From biology to cosmology, the fingerprint of God is clearly seen. Many try to deny this but the Bible says that it is clearly seen and that we are all without excuse. The following are a couple of the arguments for God that we see in nature:

A. The Kalam Cosmological argument. It says:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its beginning.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its beginning.

The cause of the universe must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, personal, and intelligent. This is a pretty good description of God. And, coupled with the other arguments we’ve discussed in previous posts, the Christian God appears to fit the bill.

B. The Fine Tuning Argument

This argument is summed up nicely in William Lane Craig’s book “On Guard.” He writes:

“1. The universe is fine-tuned for life.

2. Fine-tuning can potentially be explained by chance, necessity or design.

3. Not by chance or necessity.

4. Therefore, the fine-tuning of the universe is the result of design.

Why not chance?

The odds are literally astronomically high. According to Robert Penrose, an atheist, the odds are one part in 10^10^123. Even if you wrote a 0 on every proton and neutron in the entire universe you would not be able to write this number down! To persist in asserting chance as a legitimate explanation against overwhelming odds like this is irrational. To do so would completely undermine statistics and any other rational predictions (e.g., weather forecasting, stock projections, etc.).

Why not necessity?

Because the constants are independent of the laws of nature and independent of one another. And because there are no intrinsic reasons to, say, why the weak force is the strength it is. These are contingent (could have been otherwise) values. If all of these constants and laws are explainable in terms of some unified super-theory, this simply pushes back the problem one level: why is the unified super-theory so tightly and elegantly composed so as to produce each of these constants and laws so as to produce life?

This leaves design as the only viable explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe”

The other day I was working on a home standby generator at a customer’s house. It had failed to start during a power outage. A coworker of mine had diagnosed the problem as a bad starter, so we ordered the starter and I had returned to replace it. After replacing it, it still failed to start. I was puzzled. Upon further investigation, I found that it had a bad start relay switch. I was 45 minutes away from a supply house so I said a quick prayer that I would have something on my truck that could solve the problem. I looked through my stock and found a relay that worked perfectly. I was thankful it was in my stock.

As we investigate the truth of Christianity, we can also be thankful that God placed the common items of logic, morality, and nature in our stock.

Troubleshooting Truth – Step 4 Process of Elimination

I live in the south, and, in the south, bad weather comes in all shapes and sizes. From thunderstorms to tornadoes and hurricanes, we see it all. And, with bad weather, come the inevitable power outages. And this leads to calls for generators, because most people can’t seem to survive a few hours without power.

One of the things the company I work for does is to install automatic standby generators. We’ve installed hundreds over the past few years due to a lot of bad weather. Mrs. Jones was one such customer, but she had a legitimate reason for needing a generator. She had cancer and she was on oxygen. A power loss was a life threatening situation for her.

I gave her a quote and she and her husband approved the installation. We came out, installed and tested the generator and everything seemed fine. But, then the calls began. She called and said the generator didn’t start during it’s weekly self test. I went and checked on it and it ran fine, so I figured that it was a fluke. It wasn’t. This began a frustrating 8 month process to solve her problem.

I could not seem to find a problem with her generator. Every time I came to check for a problem, it would run fine. The only thing I knew to do was to begin a process of elimination. I started with the controller, then the governor, then I changed the air filter. Nothing seemed to work. After elimination all other potential causes, I was convinced that she was having a fuel problem. But the fuel pressure tested fine.

Out of frustration, I hired another generator tech to diagnose the generator. He found the problem. The fuel pressure was randomly dropping which was causing the generator to cut off. He just happened to be testing it when this occurred. I called the plumbers who promptly replaced the fuel regulator and the problem was solved. She hasn’t had an issue since. It took eliminating all others potential causes before I became confidence that the fuel was the culprit.

Process of elimination is a common practice used while troubleshooting. What about the Gospels? Can we use this tool to eliminate all other potential causes other than that they are true and reliable? Let’s find out. Let’s look at the resurrection since it at is the core of the Gospel narrative. Let’s see what it’s potential causes might be.

First potential cause: The swoon theory.

The swoon theory claims that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. He just passed out, later revived and walked out of the tomb, thus leading the disciples to assume that he had been raised from the dead. There are several problems with this theory. If Jesus did revive, how did he unwrap the grave clothes, roll the stone away from the tomb, and overcome the Roman guards placed at the tomb? And even if He accomplished all this, He would have been in a very weak and wounded condition. He would have been hard pressed to convince anyone that He was miraculously risen. It would have taken weeks for Him to physically recover. There are so many holes in this theory, that most skeptics have stopped trying to use it.

Second potential cause: The Disciples stole the body.

This claim has multiple problems as well. Just as with the swoon theory, how could they have overcome trained Roman guards and rolled the massive stone away? Also, what would they have done with the body? Someone would have eventually noticed or told where the body was being hidden. And why would they have done this? They had no motive. They were all cowering in fear that they would be crucified as well. It’s also important to note that no one in history ever denied that the tomb was empty. They just tried to come up with reasons other than that Jesus had been raised from the dead. They are still trying this in our day. The Romans even passed a law after this criminalizing body thefts. Why would they care if this happened? Because the missing body of Jesus caused them quite a bit of trouble.

Third potential cause: Hallucination

Many skeptics claim that the disciples hallucinated that Jesus had risen. They were so convinced that Jesus would rise that they tricked themselves into thinking this happened. Again, we have problems. Hallucinations occur to individuals, not groups of people. Jesus appeared to multiple people at multiple locations, on multiple occasions. 1 Corinthians 15 records that Jesus appeared to 500 people at once! Paul basically said, “these witnesses are still alive. Go ask them what happened!” And another problem for skeptics is the empty tomb. Even if they were hallucinating, you still have to explain the empty tomb.

Fourth potential cause: The Disciples lied

Another claim is that the Disciples lied. Why would they lie? What would be their motive? They gained nothing from lying. They were ostracized, beaten, tortured, persecuted and martyred for this claim. They would have been better off lying and saying that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead! And, again, what about the empty tomb?

Fifth potential cause: Jesus really rose from the dead.

This is the claim that skeptics cannot bring themselves to consider. Jesus really rose from the dead. But if you use the process of elimination, the other causes fail time and time again. Like the Mrs. Jones’ generator, all other potential causes have been eliminated. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead provides the best explanation to the events surrounding His death. This makes the best sense of the empty tomb, the devotion of the Disciples and the multitude of appearances.

The swoon theory, the stolen body theory, the hallucination theory, and the claim that the Disciples lied quickly fail upon careful examination. The process of elimination leaves only the truth that Jesus rose from the dead. Place your faith in Him today.

Troubleshooting Truth – Step 3 Interview the Owner

Over my many years of troubleshooting in the electrical field, one of the first things I would do would be to interview the owner. I could glean a lot of information that could possibly shorten the repair process. “Where were you at when it happened?” “Did you do anything right before the problem occurred?” “Have you made any changes to your home?” These are a few of the types of questions I would ask.

A common scenario was that a breaker had tripped when a customer turned on a light switch. This information would help me know where to look for the problem. Usually, in this situation, I would find a problem in the related light fixtures. But, I would not have known this if I had not asked.

But what about the problem of Jesus’ claim to be God? Do we have any “homeowners” we can interview that can shed light on what happened when the life of Jesus occurred? We most certainly do. The gospels are the reliable accounts of the actual eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life. But how do we really know they are reliable? Many of the ways we know we can trust a homeowner are the same ways we can trust the gospel writers.

First, were they there? This seems to be a pretty silly question to ask a homeowner, but, if they weren’t at home when the problem occurred, then what they had to say would be of no use to us. It’s the same with the gospel writers. Were they there?

Skeptics often claim that the gospels were written centuries after the life of Jesus and the stories contained therein are exaggerated and false. But is there any truth to this? Early dating of the gospels is the easiest way to show that they were truly there. If the gospels were written immediately after the life of Jesus, then the people who wrote them were “at home” when it all happened.

There are many ways to show that the gospels were written early, but my favorite is the fact that the destruction of the temple in 70 A. D. is not mentioned in the New Testament. Why does this show early dating? Because, if it had occurred before the gospels were written, then they surely would have mentioned it. This was equivalent to the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Jews of that day. Their tradition and religious lives revolved around the temple. Surely they would have wrote about it’s destruction. But they didn’t. Also, Jesus predicted that this would happen. If the gospels were written after this, they would have most certainly wrote about it to show that Jesus was correct in His prediction. Yet there is no mention of it. What can we conclude? All of the New Testament was written prior to 70 A. D. The “homeowners” were definitely home.

Second, is it their home? Here we have another silly question, but if the person living there doesn’t own the home, they probably aren’t as interested in the details of what happened. Renters usually have little invested in the home they live in.

What about the gospel writers? Did they have anything invested in the claims that they were making? They most certainly did! The decision to follow Jesus and proclaim Him as God and risen Savior led to them being ostracized, persecuted, tortured, ridiculed and killed. They had invested all to the truth of Jesus. Certainly they had a sincere belief that this was true.

Finally, what did they do when the problem occurred? The actions of the homeowner often point to the cause of the problem. This is the case in the example of the switch that we mentioned earlier.

Again, what about the gospel writers? What did they do when the problem of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus occurred?

Honestly, they scattered. They gave up and went back to the lives they knew before Jesus. Peter went back to fishing.

Then Jesus came and appeared before them. All He told them was true and His resurrection verified all of it. They went back to following Jesus with a renewed vigor that never diminished until the day they died.

This is independently verified by the Roman historian Tacitus in his work “The Annals.” He wrote concerning Nero blaming the great fire in Rome on the Christians:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

Notice how he said “a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out.” This perfectly describes how the disciples gave up when Jesus died, then came back after His resurrection. Their radically changed lives are yet further proof of the truth of the gospels.

A few years ago, I went on a troubleshooting call at a local fuel terminal. I had recently been promoted at my job when a veteran supervisor had retired. He was an expert in fuel terminal systems which are extremely complex. Eager to prove myself, I attempted to solve the problem at the terminal on my own. After a few hours of frustration and failure to find the problem, I prayed to God for a solution and I asked my wife to pray. Right after that, the terminal manager, Kevin, began trying to help me. In the following conversations with him, I discovered that he knew the terminal like the back of his hand. He was there when the problem occurred, he was certainly invested in finding a solution, and he knew what the scenario was when the problem happened. With his knowledge and expertise, we quickly solved the problem. If I had only interviewed him at the beginning, I would have come to a solution much quicker.

Interviewing the homeowner is one of the most sure fire ways to solve an electrical problem and interviewing the eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus is one of the most convincing ways to discover the truth of the New Testament.

M&M Moments: Guiding Hand

Every Saturday in the fall, college football fans migrate to their favorite team’s campus in hopes of a victory. I come from Bulldog country and the red and black runs deep. My wife and I recently started taking our young twin girls on these journeys and it’s been a joy to watch the events unfold through their eyes.

Parking is usually difficult in Athens, but, this past season, some friends of ours let us park at their son’s rental house which was a short walk from the stadium. The walk to the stadium is a series of sidewalks, stairways, and parking lots, and it was interesting at times to navigate with a pair of wild twin girls.

Like most 6 year old girls, our twins don’t pay much attention to the dangers along the way. One step in the wrong direction and they would be in the path of a oncoming car. I found myself repeatedly correcting my girls’ path. As we walked along the sidewalks, I would nudge them one direction, or place my hands on their shoulders to point them in the right way. They wouldn’t make it very far without their father’s guiding hand.

While walking along this path on that cool fall day in Athens, my thoughts turned to my Heavenly Father and how he guides us in a similar way. How many times have I strayed from the path he has laid before me? How many times have I drifted carelessly into harms way? And yet, the divine nudge comes and a loving hand touches my shoulders. It’s comforting to know that our Father lets us freely walk but He gently guides us along the way to the destination he has for us.

There were times along the walk that one or both of my girls would reach up and grab my hand. They fully yielded to my control knowing that I would keep them safe. What joy it brought to my heart to see their trust in me. How much more joy must it bring to Father God when we take his hand and yield to His full control. He will never lead us in a path that is not best for us. And, yet, we so often resist. Why must it be so?

It’s true on a Saturday in Athens and it’s true in the walk of life. It’s always best to trust the Father’s guiding hand.

“For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.

Psalm 31:3

Troubleshooting Truth – Step #2 Know the Era the Building Was Built

Glen was a maintenance man at a local apartment complex that I worked at many times over the years. We became good friends during this time and I always enjoyed working there. He was always appreciative of the work I did there which usually involved troubleshooting and repair of something in an apartment. He would even call me every Christmas Day and thank me for helping him.

One occasion a bedroom in an apartment lost power and Glen called me to help find the problem. Usually it was an easy fix due to a bad outlet, but this time it wasn’t that simple. I eventually had to take all the outlets and switches out and I still couldn’t find the problem. The only thing I hadn’t checked was the ceiling light because that was never where the problem was located. As a last resort, I took the light down and found a bad, melted connection in the light fixture.

This apartment complex was built in the mid sixties when aluminum wiring was commonly used. This type of wiring is notorious for causing electrical problems and fires. It is softer than copper and tends to loosen its connection over time. It will also oxidize and deteriorate when mixed with copper.

As I gained more experience in troubleshooting over the years, I learned that knowing the era that the building was built could greatly aid in finding problems. Knowing when this apartment complex was built let me know what to look for before I even started.

How can this help us when seeking the validity of Christianity? Knowing the era when Christ came is a great aid to discovering the answer. It helps us know where to look before we even start.

The culture and era of Jesus’ time was not exactly the ideal place to start a new religion. First, Jesus stepped into history claiming to be God and the Jews and the Romans would both find this cause for the death penalty. On several occasions, the Jewish authorities took up stones to stone Jesus for comments he made that equated himself with God, and they plotted behind the scenes to have him put to death. As for the Romans, they would put anyone to death that attempted to undermine their empire or elevate themself above Caesar. Pilate interrogated Jesus to see if this were the case, but eventually concluded that he was crazy and not worthy of death. Claiming to be God, then getting yourself killed is a quick way to end a religion that is just getting started. Look at what happened to the disciples. They all scattered and went back to their original professions. Yet, later, they went back to worshiping Jesus even to the point of martyrdom. Something of great impact led them back.

Second, Jerusalem was not the ideal place to have a death and resurrection take place. If something equivalent were to happen today, it would take place in New York City in Times Square. Imagine Jesus being crucified in Times Square and that he was buried in Central City Park. Everyone would know that Jesus was dead and they would know where he was buried. And yet, this is exactly how the beginning of Christianity took place. Jesus publicly claimed he would be raised from the dead, publicly was crucified, publicly left the tomb, and publicly appeared to hundreds after his resurrection. All this took place in the New York City of the day. If it were not true, it could have easily been disproven by the Jews and the Romans. Any yet they all made excuses for why the tomb was empty. And Christianity flourished.

Third, and most convincingly to me, is the sudden and radical conversion of a large number of Jews. These people who had survived centuries of persecution, captivity, and relocation suddenly gave up the one thing that helped them survive eradication: Their religious traditions. They had no logical reason to follow Jesus. They were already God’s chosen people who followed the one true God. All they gained from following Jesus was to be ostracized, persecuted, tortured, and killed. They had no motivation to do this. Unless it were true.

The era and culture of the time of Jesus can tell us many more things which lead us to believe that Christianity is true. It’s a good lesson I learned from working with my good friend Glen, and it’s a good lesson to apply to the claims of Christianity.

M&M Moments: Can I Sit With You?

“Can I sit with you?” It’s phrase I’ve heard hundreds of times in the past few years. I usually hear it at a restaurant near the end of a meal. It’s a request that comes from one if not both of my twin daughters. They love to snuggle and sit in the lap of my wife and I, even though they are quickly growing up. They turned 7 in March.

We usually enforce the rule that we have to finish eating before they can sit with us. It’s difficult to eat with one or two seven year olds sitting between you and your food and vying for your attention. But sometimes I break my own rule. They won’t be this little for ever.

We have a meal every Wednesday at church before the service, and inevitably, I hear the phrase once again. “Can I sit with you?” It’s usually from Mattie, and she works as hard as she can to get and keep my attention. Her and her sister love their daddy.

Why do they do this? They do it because they love their parents so much and they long to be close to us and gain our attention and affection.

I was thinking about this common occurrence the other day when James 4:8 came to mind: “Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you.” Just as my girls long to be close to their daddy, how much more should we desire this with our Heavenly Father? When was the last time you asked God “Can I sit with you?”

Yet, we’ve grown up too fast. We’ve moved on from the childlike wonder and awe of our loving Father. We run to and fro and fill our lives with things that, for the most part, don’t matter, when all our Father wants is for us to sit with Him for a while.

How long has it been since you sat in your Father’s lap for a while and vied for His attention? How long has it been since you have sat and read His Word and longed to know Him better? How long has it been that you just wanted to spend time with Him just because you love Him so much?

One day my girls will grow up and they won’t sit in my lap any more. They’ll move on with their lives, but I hope and pray they’ll always long to sit with their daddy. I try hard to cherish each “Can I sit with you” because I never know when the last one may come.

We may grow too old to sit in our earthly father’s lap, but, praise God, we’re never too old to crawl into the lap of our Heavenly Father, lay our head on His chest and spend time with Him. He has promised to return our affection if we will just draw nigh unto Him. He won’t force His love on us. He only grants it when we ask. Seek His love today.

Eager to return

 

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They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I recently found out how true this was on a missions trip to Brazil. It was a trip with the purpose of laying block for a new church building. I was excited and nervous all at the same time. What made it more significant was the fact that I had never flown before.

The day to leave quickly approached and I made all the preparations to leave. We were scheduled to meet at the church at four in the morning and I set my clock for three. My alarm went off quickly since packing and nerves kept me up until midnight.

My wife instructed me to wake her up where she could tell me goodbye. The hardest part of the trip was not the nine hour flight, or the strenuous labor involved in laying block. The hardest part was saying goodbye.

We embraced each other tightly and the tears began to flow. It was the hardest thing to let go. Then, I stepped into my twin baby girls’ room to see them before I left. They were only seventeen months old and they were sleeping soundly. The tears flowed once more.

I said another goodbye to my wife and got into my truck to leave for the church.

Upon arriving at the airport in Brazil, I was pleased to learn that they had free wifi. I was able to send my wife a few texts via iMessage before we left for a two hour bus ride. It was nice to make contact with home.

There was also wifi at the missionary’s house and I was able to FaceTime my wife and girls with my iPad. The girls loved seeing their daddy’s face.

As enjoyable as the trip was, I was eager to be with my girls again. The whole experience brought new meaning to “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

This experience brought to my mind the departure of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It says in Acts 1:
“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”
And in John:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”

If I was missing my family and so full of eagerness to see them, I can only imagine the desire Jesus has to be with His children. I was gone for 9 days. Jesus has been gone for 2000 years.

And I know that the tremendous love I have for my family pales in comparison to the infinite love Jesus has for us. He must long to be with us more than we can imagine. I know He desires to return soon.

Even so come, Lord Jesus

Thanks

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THANKS be to God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15.

“Thanks” is defined in the original Webster’s dictionary as follows:
THANKS, noun generally in the plural. Expression of gratitude; an acknowledgment made to express a sense of favor or kindness received. Gratitude is the feeling or sentiment excited by kindness; thanks are the expression of that sentiment. Luke 6:1.

I’ve thought a lot this thanksgiving about what “thanks” actually is and I think it is really hard to define. It’s like grace. We experience it and feel it, but it’s difficult to put into words. I am so thankful to God and I could write a long list of things I’m thankful for, but it’s more than that to me. It’s an overflowing of the heart.

Webster’s defines it as acknowledging a favor or kindness received. That seems insufficient to describe what I feel towards Jesus Christ my God. The things He has done for me far surpass the ability of human expression to describe. Thankfulness to me is an experience more than an expression.

I compare it to my twin baby girls. I refer to them often in my blog because, as a father, I can relate to how God must interact with us. They are so young they can’t comprehend all that we do for them. Their needs are met and they are too young to even comprehend that their mother and I work hard to provide for them. When they’re hungry, food is there. We provide shelter and clothing and they don’t understand all we do for them. It is beyond their comprehension at this point. But one day they will understand.

This is how God must feel toward us. He works mightily on our behalf in ways we can never comprehend on this earth, but one day we will be fully mature and understand all He has done. And we will give thanks for all eternity.

As I grow older, I understand more and more what my parents did for me, and one day, my baby girls will understand the same. I hope they will be grateful.

So this thanksgiving, I’m “thankful”. I don’t come to God with a list, but with a feeling in my heart that I’ll never fully understand until I see Him face to face.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With pow’r upon my heart.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly;
Whose ev’ry promise is enough
For ev’ry step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To him who reigns above,
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose ev’ry thought is love.
For ev’ry day I have on earth
Is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow him.
– Keith and Kristen Getty

M&M Moments: Clean Slate

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We recently bought our twin girls, Mattie and Macie, a set of cheap magna doodles. My wife purchased them at a local store for three dollars. The girls loved them. Mattie especially loved hers and she wanted to take it everywhere she went. She held it while she ate, took in the car and she even took it to church. She would cry if we took it away.

If you’re not familiar with the magna doodle, it is a drawing board that utilizes magnets to create an image with a special magnetic pen. As you move the pen along the surface of the board, tiny magnetic particles come to the surface to form the image you are drawing. The image can quickly be erased by sliding a plastic handle from one side to the other. Then you have a clean slate on which to draw.

The girls loved to sit in my lap and scribble on the magna doodles. I would try to draw silly characters and faces for them, but, before I could finish, they would always scribble on my drawing or move the lever to erase it. They never seemed to let me finish.

This simple story reminds me of a lesson The Lord taught me while I was having my devotions. I was studying in Exodus and ran across this passage:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.
And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.” – Exodus 34:1-4

The Lord had given the children of Israel the law written by the His own finger on tablets of stone. When Moses came down from mount Sinai to present the law, he was horrified to find Israel worshiping an idol that they had constructed. They had broken the very laws Moses came to give them. Moses threw down the tablets and destroyed them, and God judged His people.

Being a God of second chances, The Lord told Moses to chisel out two new stones and bring them up the mountain where God could write the law on them again. Moses went to God with a blank slate.

This is a perfect picture of our fallen nature. We come to God with prayers and petitions and He lays His will and way on our hearts, and, before we know it, we’ve broken God’s laws. We want our way and our agenda accomplished and seldom do we sit in the lap of God and receive His instruction. We never let Him finish. Just like my twin baby girls, we paint a primitive picture of how we want our life to be. We fail to wait and let the Divine Artist finish His masterpiece.

We need to come before God with a blank slate. We need to leave behind our selfish wants and ambitions and sit at the feet of the Master and receive His instruction. As we yield the pen, He will paint a picture more beautiful than we can conceive. Let us lay aside our list of petitions and open our ears to the wants and desires of our Heavenly Father.

Eventually, the magna doodles broke. The pens lost their tips and the handle didn’t work right anymore, and the girls have moved on to playing with other things, but I’ll never see a magna doodle again without thinking of the lesson of Moses and his blank slate. May we always come before God in this manner.

“But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” – Luke 11:28