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.

Troubleshooting Truth – Step #1 Know the Construction Methods

I spent many years as a service electrician. This position required the ability to perform a wide variety of electrical tasks. I had to be able to wire a new house, remodel a commercial space, repair industrial equipment, install generators, and perform many other electrically related jobs. But one of the main tasks of a service electrician is troubleshooting. Webster’s defines a troubleshooter as “an expert in discovering and eliminating the cause of trouble in mechanical equipment, power lines, etc.”

There are many steps in troubleshooting, but one of the first is to Know the Construction Methods. When trying to repair an electrical problem, it helps to know how the building you are working on was wired and what methods were used. The main types of wiring used over the years are knob and tube, cloth, conduit, romex, and mc cable. Knowing which type was used can go a long way toward finding the problem. If you know how it is supposed to work, it can make it easier to repair a problem.

How can this approach help us troubleshoot the truth of the Bible? We’ve assessed that the situation is that Jesus claimed to be God. To the world this is a major problem. We must troubleshoot this problem and see if we can find a solution. Knowing the construction methods is one step in Troubleshooting Truth. But what are the construction methods of the Messiah? Let’s investigate and see if this helps us come closer to a solution to this age old problem.

The blueprint or construction methods of the Messiah was laid out in amazing detail throughout the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 is a remarkably accurate description of Jesus’ life that was written nearly 750 years before He was born. Here are some of the predictions Isaiah wrote:

 

“1 ¶ Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Isaiah 53

In 1947,the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves east of Jerusalem and among them there was a complete copy of the book of Isaiah. This scroll was dated to 100 years before Jesus was born. It is undeniable that the prophecies were made before Jesus was born and they were fulfilled with amazing accuracy.

How remarkable are these prophecies? Peter Stoner, Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College, wrote in his book titled “Science Speaks” the probabilities that these prophecies would be fulfilled by chance. He calculated that the probability that Jesus fulfilled just 8 of the Old Testament prophecies by chance was one in 10 to the 17th power. That’s 10 with 17 zeros behind it! And there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled.

Here are some of the construction methods required of the the Messiah:

1 – He would come from the human race (Gen 3:15)

2 – He would come from a section of the race (Gen 9:26)

3 – He would come from a nation of that section of the race (Gen 12:1-3)

4 – He would be a descendant of Isaac (Gen 17)

5 – He would be a descendant of Jacob (Num 24:17)

6 – He would be a from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10)

7 – He would come out of a family of the tribe of Judah (Jesse) (Is 11:1,2)

8 – He would come from a certain household of Jesse (David) (2 Sam 7:6-16)

9 – He would be born of a virgin of the household of David (Is 7:14)

10 – He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)

11- He would be sold (Zechariah 11:12,13)

12 – He would be crucified (Ps 22)

13 – He would be raised from the dead (Ps 16:10, 30:3)

God laid out a blueprint for how the Messiah would be built. We can clearly see how the Messiah was supposed to work. Jesus was constructed perfectly according to the specifications.

A few years ago, I was working at the local Salvation Army headquarters. It was located in an old historic house. I was working on replacing a light fixture and I touched the hot wire that I thought was dead. I had turned the switch off, so I was confident that there was no electricity on the wire. It gave me one of the worst shocks I ever received. This house was wired with knob and tubing, and sometimes the electricians of that era would switch the neutral wire instead of the hot wire. This practice was later forbidden by the code due to the dangerous condition that it created. I was not aware of this which resulted in a shocking experience. I was unfamiliar with the construction methods.

The same is true with those who discount the prophecies of Jesus. They create a dangerous situation because they never familiarize them with the truth of the claims of the Old Testament. My unfamiliarity created a momentary discomfort, but the unfamiliarity of the truths of the Bible can create have eternal consequences. Take them time to Know the Construction Methods of the Messiah so that you may find eternal life.

Our first step in Troubleshooting Truth is to Know the Construction Methods and we’ve briefly shown how the Messiah was designed and constructed with amazing accuracy.

Assessing the Situation

It was a warm Friday afternoon and I was just finishing a long day at work. I was working at the local Ford dealership when I saw the clouds rolling in. I could tell by the way they looked that a bad storm was rolling in. The high clouds were moving in a different direction than the lower clouds. We took cover as the storm hit.

Shortly after the storms passed, my boss was on the phone with our local power company. He was always quick to volunteer our services after a bad storm. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then we were off to work. Trees and limbs were down everywhere and there was a lot of damage to the electrical infrastructure.

I had only been doing electrical work for a little over a year and I had no idea what I was getting into. We spent all night out rebuilding people’s electrical services where the power company could reconnect their power. I would wind up working 22 hours nonstop. The temperature was in the 70’s when the storms rolled in, and, by the time I finished working the next morning, it was snowing. It was a long night.

There are many steps to repairing electrical damage, but the first one is to assess the situation. Without doing this, we wouldn’t know what the problem was, what needed to be done to remedy they situation, what material to go pick up, and how long it would take. We would begin the demolition work while my boss went to get material. But none of it would be possible if we didn’t assess the situation.

It seems like assessing the situation would be common sense. It certainly is in the electrical field, but when it comes to the Bible, some people never seem to take this first step. They reject the Bible and Christianity before they even assess the claims it makes. They take what others say, and things they have read and never investigate it for themselves.

Such was the case for Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist for the Chicago tribune and a staunch atheist. He rejected Christianity before even giving the evidence a chance. The conversion of his wife to Christianity led him on a journey to attempt to debunk her newfound faith. The evidence he found was so overwhelming, that he converted to Christianity and is now one of its most fearless defenders.

But none of this would have taken place had he not assessed the situation.

What is the situation in the Bible that we must assess? On it’s most basic level, the situation is there is a man who claims to be God. Jesus Christ of Nazareth, son of a carpenter made the most extraordinary claims that anyone has ever made. He claimed to forgive sins, be one with God, and that he would resurrect from the dead. If someone made claims like this today, they would be labeled a madman, yet the world’s largest and most influential religion sprang forth from this carpenter.

May I challenge you to take this first step. Assess the situation. Read Jesus’ words. Start with the book of John and see what the claims are. Then do some investigating to see if these things are true. It may change your eternal destiny.

This is the first in a series of posts I will be writing entitled “Troubleshooting Truth.” In the electrical field, we troubleshoot problems in an attempt to repair a problem. The first step is to assess the situation. Even the Bible gives examples of those who investigated the claims. “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:10,11

Come along with me as we troubleshoot the truth of Christianity.

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