THE Sign

THE Sign

At some point, every thoughtful person has considered if and when our world might be coming to a final reckoning.  To be sure, one of the essential teachings of the Christian Faith is the promised Second Coming of Christ. [1]

All three of the synoptic gospels recount Jesus’ disciples questioning him about “the end.”

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

As many do today, the disciples were clearly asking for THE Sign. That is, a definitive, final sign of his imminent return.

Yet Jesus actually gave many signs for his coming and the end of the age. Here is a very short list:

To this could be added hundreds more signs provided throughout the Bible [2]. However, we really should make a few observations about the short list.

First, there have been many times throughout history that signs have troubled people that did not lead to the immediate judgement of the world.  You see, Jesus explained that some very alarming signs, “must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matt 24:6).  However, there is one essential sign that really must be added to the short list.  It has never occurred in the past two thousand years and is only now being fulfilled [3]. The restoration of the nation of Israel was so long and so unlikely in coming, that “theologies” were devised to explain it away [4].  According to some interpretations of scripture the nation of Israel was either replaced by the church or rendered irrelevant.  However, starting in 1948 the nation of Israel began an indisputably miraculous reconstitution, and therefore all such theological “explanations” are no longer needed and should be summarily dismissed.

Second, throughout history the Church has always experienced persecution. Why would we interpret this time of persecution different from the past?  Well, spiking levels of persecution recently triggered a thorough, quantitative analysis for historical comparison [5].  According to this review of the conditions worldwide, one in three Christians experiences severe persecution and are now the world’s “most widely targeted religious community.”  In this study they conclude that in the Middle East, Christian persecution is “close to meeting the international definition of genocide.” Further, in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, the Philippines, and several African nations, systematic genocide is fully underway.  Recently, human rights activists warned that, “Nigeria could be [the] next Rwanda or Darfur if [the] world doesn’t act” [6].  Many westerners still debate this “sign,” but for millions of suffering Christians these are “THE last days.”

Now a last observation related to the short list.  There is at least one definitive sign that many people think they know to watch out for.  According to scripture, even though there will be many “false Christs” (Matt 24:4-5; 1 John 2:18), there will also be a final “man of lawlessness” (or “man of sin”) who is correctly identified as THE Antichrist (2 Thess 2:1-12, Rev 13:1-18).  Many think they know not to take the “mark of the beast” even if it’s the only way to “buy or sell” (Rev 13:17-18).  But here is the problem.  This “beast” will have power to deceive those remaining on the earth with a “strong delusion” (2 Thess 2:11-12; Rev 13:14).  If you delay putting your faith in Christ until this time called the “great tribulation” (Matt 24:21-22), there is no reason to believe you won’t instead believe a lie.  The result of that fateful decision will be eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:7-15).

Finally, I will add yet another crucial sign to the above list that some understandably call definitive.  According to Matt 24:14:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Yet in a world where nearly everyone now has a smartphone with secure (encrypted) apps, the past limitations of geography and politics are no longer in effect.  For example, in the last three days of May 2020, a good friend shared the Gospel with over 10-million people in 11 different language groups that included previously closed countries [7].  Millions more received discipleship training daily with these same secure apps.  To this we can add that many countries previously thought to be unreached by the Gospel, are now sending missionaries back to western nations to restore them to Biblical faith [8].  I would submit that this sign may already, or very soon be fulfilled.

In view of the current state of the many “signs of the times” (Matt 16:3), there is only one option that makes sense.  The compelling reason is given by Jesus:

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. (Matt 24:36) (See also: 1 Thess 5:2)

You see, there will be one definitive, last sign at his Second Coming.

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30)

Sadly, then it will be too late.  Therefore, I am compelled to share with all who will listen—the time to respond to the Good News of the First Coming of Christ is now!

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

So in view of what many now recognize as portentous present events, I do hereby share the Good News with The Gospel Way to Salvation.

In conclusion, one of the first spiritual blessings of responding to the Good News is hope. According to Titus 2:13, believers are now,

Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

 

Tim Nordgren, 7/15/20

 

Notes:
[1] Mark 14:62; Acts 1:11; “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

[2]  As indicated , there are hundreds of prophetic signs about the future given from Genesis to Revelation.  In the synoptic gospels alone, there are signs given in Matthew chapters 24 & 25, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapter 21.  For brevity, I have only listed some representative examples.

[2] See the following very short list of the many scriptures that demand, first the reconstitution, and then the restoration of the nation of Israel in the “latter days.”  Hosea 3:4,5; Ezek 37:1-14; Mat 24:15-16; 2 Thess 2:3-4; Rev 7:1-8; 20:1-10. See the truly miraculous ministry of One for Israel for the unfolding fulfillment of this restoration.

[3] My review of the documentary movie, With God on Our Side, includes a brief assessment of the so-called, post-millennial, a-millennial, and pre-millennial views of the return of Christ and the implications to the reconstitution of the nation of Israel.  (http://www.thingsrevealed.net/With_God_on_Our_Side_Review.html)

[4] Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecuted Christians. (https://christianpersecutionreview.org.uk/interim-report/) (Accessed 7/10/20).  See also: Christian persecution at near genocide levels. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48146305) (Accessed 7/10/20)

[5] Nigeria could be next Rwanda or Darfur if world doesn’t act, advocates warn.  7/1/20. (https://www.christianpost.com/news/nigeria-could-be-next-rwanda-or-darfur-if-world-doesnt-act-advocates-warn.html) (Accessed 7/10/20)

[6] Sammy Tippit Ministry Profile: Link.

[7] Not-so-united Methodists.  (https://world.wng.org/content/not_so_united_methodists)

[8] Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), 2001, by Crossway Bibles, Good News Publishers.

Be Still And Know…

In the past I shared how God used the explosion of Mt. St. Helens to dramatically change my world. Today I am compelled to recount that experience in light of current  events.

Forty years ago I felt like my life was unraveling. I was newly aware of the instability of the times and they unnerved me.  Though I had reached many of the goals I had set for myself, I had no peace or lasting satisfaction.  The bad decisions of my past were now repeating and I was deeply disturbed by my pattern of unfaithfulness. Years earlier I claimed faith in God, but now I actually said with contempt, “I don’t even believe there is a God.”

I was finally shaken awake by the revelation of God’s power when I—along with millions in the Northwest—experienced the explosion of Mt. St. Helens.  A friend called to ask if I had seen the ash-cloud.  I answered, “Sure it’s on television right now.”  He came back, “No, have you seen it.  Tim, go outside and see it for yourself!”  So I walked outside and looked down a rural highway to see what I thought would be a distant sight, but it seemed like the volcano was at the end of the road and the black mushroom cloud towered up and over everything.  With the soaring menace rose my apprehension as I sensed the uncertainty of a broken world.  Like a ground-fault my mind opened up to a disturbing question, “I wonder if there is a God?” After I paused to consider the immediate implications, some foundational words took form in my heart, “Be still and know that I am God.” 

I had no idea what to do with these thoughts and the deep questions they entailed, but immediately I began rummaging through assorted bookstores.  My process was read-until-reject.  Virtually all options were on the table.  The pile of rejects stacked up quickly.  This went on for a number of months that only produced confusion.  Finally, I became so “desperate” that I decided to visit a cathedral class church in downtown Seattle.  This only revealed how clueless I was about such things.  I was surprised to learn that all the doors were locked on Sunday at 3:30pm.  

I went on thrashing about like this for several more weeks.  So I decided to visit another church seen from a central Seattle freeway, but this time I arrived on Sunday morning.  Here I was greeted warmly, and after a short discussion I was guided to a “new believers class.”  They gave me a small booklet of weekly lessons with blanks to fill in Bible verses.  Next I joined the worship service where the pastor was teaching about the life of King David, “a man after God’s own heart.”  I realized this was not how I was living, and I needed a change of heart.

This began a step-wise progression that included encouraging steps forward followed by disheartening setbacks.  I was deeply troubled to learn that more scriptural knowledge about the holy and loving life of Jesus was powerfully attractive, yet completely unattainable.  My friends and family observed my unstable behavior with concern or contempt.  This put a great strain on my relationships.  Some of those I valued most were permanently broken.  Yet I was compelled to push forward in an effort to know Jesus Christ personally.  

Over several weeks of filling out the booklet and memorizing key verses, I learned some essential Biblical promises.  For example, according to 1 John 1:9, 

“If we confess out sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  

This was essential to me because I was increasingly aware that my life was far from the holy and loving life of Jesus who I desperately wanted to know.  It was at this very time that I came across another promise that would help undergird my faith.  In order to memorize Psalm 46:1, I read the context of the Psalm.  I have since memorized the whole Psalm, but here is the core message I then realized was the living Word of God.  

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 

Palm 46:1-2,10

I don’t believe there was any way I could have previously known these words were in the Bible, much less associated with a trembling mountain. I was Biblically illiterate. But now I knew there was a God who was able to speak his Word into my life!

As the weeks went on, I began to grow in my faith in Jesus as my savoir.  Yet I knew there were parts of my life still out of control.  Then exactly 5 weeks later I came across a scriptural commandment that did not initially seem to pose a challenge.  It was an encouragement to faithfully meet in church with other believers, because the Day of Christ’s return was near.  I was already doing this.  But once again, before memorizing Hebrews 10:25, I read the context through verse 31,

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries… It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  

Hebrews 10:25-27,31

In that moment I saw it was my sinful rebellion that had kept me from knowing who Jesus was—He is the Lord!  Right then I asked God to forgive me and trusted him as my Savior and Lord.  Immediately after that, I experienced the power to overcome those particular temptations that had previously mastered me. I finally had a sense of assurance that I knew Jesus personally.

Now this year I will have known Jesus as my Savior and Lord for thirty-nine years.  He has blessed me in so many wonderful ways. I am very grateful.  But here is one essential truth that I have learned: God speaks to us in a way he knows we can understand.  This is the chief reason for the website/blog I now publish called, www.ThingsRevealed.net.  Here you will find some of the many miracles God has done in my life and that of my family.  I have found that God actually promises to speak to us if we call out to him:

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.  

Jeremiah 33:3

Yet when God does speak, we are responsible to listen and be willing to be changed:

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.

Hebrews 12:25

In view of all this, on this Easter of 2020, I really must implore you to “go outside” to look and listen. God is doing a new thing.  I believe if you are honest with yourself, you will see that God has completely changed your world!  Will you now open your life to God’s message of forgiveness through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 

2 Corinthians 5:20

Tim Nordgren, 4/12/20

Footnotes:

  1. Scripture references from, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
  2. This year I created a new introduction to the Bible study formatted in the same way as the booklet I received from my first church. The Bible: Foundation, Focus, and Fulfillment. (Link)

A NEW New Testament Reliability Index

Man Before Majestic MountainA few years back I was preparing a short talk for an AWANA church group.  The audience was 1st through 6th graders.  I knew the topic was pretty challenging—the reliability of the New Testament.  Now, with over 35 years of teaching children and adults I have found that you can address nearly any subject, just so long you clearly explain your terms.  However, with this subject there remains a persistent challenge to clarity.  Though the case for the reliability of the New Testament is extremely strong, it’s also abstract.  Let me explain.

The way it’s conventionally presented is through what is called the “bibliographical test.”  That is, a list of comparable ancient literature with: (1) the date of origin, (2) the date of earliest copy, (3) the time span (origin to oldest copy), and (4) the number of copies.  The greater the number of copies and the shorter the time span, the more reliable is the piece of historical literature.  In the end, the New Testament (number of copies: 24,633; time span: 25 years) is far superior to the next most reliable historical book of Homer (number of copies: 643; time span: 500 years).  I invite you to review the details in the attached (1) PowerPoint slides 5 & 8 or in the original source for this assessment (2).

Again, I believe this is an extremely strong case, but we are still left to make an abstract qualitative assessment.  Therefore, what I hereby offer is a new way to handle the same data holistically and quantitatively.  In short, by simply taking the ratio of the number of copies with the time span, we can make a direct comparison of the reliability of the New Testament to any other piece of ancient literature.  On this basis, the New Testament is found to be 766 times more reliable than Homer.  Or far more, the New Testament is 168,912 times more reliable than Plato.  So unless we are prepared to throw out all of ancient history, we really must accept the literary reliability of the New Testament.

Further, with this new index, we can measure and more concretely “see” how much more reliable the New Testament is compared to any of the key documents of ancient history.  The header picture of a man before a mile high mountain actually shows a height ratio comparable to the reliability of Homer to the towering New Testament!

With this new view, we can finally begin to “see” the relative majesty of God’s Word:

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 2:2-3

Footnotes:
(1) See the original AWANA Council Time Talk (NT Reliability Index) with additional ways to visualize these and other results.  See slides 5 & 8.  Slides 6-12 provide some additional ways to make this abstract information more concrete for children and adults.
(2) Evidence That Demands A Verdict, by Josh McDowell, 1972, 1979, pp. 42-43.
(3) When additional factors are added to this assessment the case for the reliability of the New Testament remains strong and even increases. One example is the fact that there are over nineteen times more questionable lines of text in Homer than in the New Testament.

The Bible: Foundation, Focus, and Fulfillment

The Bible
I am happy to share a new introduction to the Bible study—Genesis to Revelation. Too often I hear people say they planned to read the Bible and later got stuck on some scripture they couldn’t fit into their current world view.

Through this study you will acquire a new Biblical world view by learning and memorizing scriptures that are the foundation for the Gospel, or Good News.  The core outline for this teaching about the Biblical Gospel is as follows:

  • The Foundation
  • The Focus
  • The Fulfillment

You see, the Gospel has always been focused on the work of Jesus, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), who alone can fulfill God’s eternal purpose!  According to 1 Peter 1:20,

“He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.”

So here I offer this twelve-part study of the essence of the Biblical Gospel that God planned for you from the very beginning!

Link to PDF for: The Bible, Foundation Focus and Fulfillment

A New Tee-Shirt Slogan

Just do it, and do it, and do itOver the Christmas break I was shopping with my wife (okay, she was shopping) and it came to me. Religion is just like Nike. It constantly chides, “Just do it!” And keep doing it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it… until you get it right, or fall down dead. And you certainly will—fall down or die. 100%.

Christianity is the exact opposite. Jesus proved that genuine good works are the result, not the cause of a right relationship with God. So, you are either a child of God, or you are not.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

Now this will only happen by faith in the Son of God—Jesus Christ—alone. You see, the Bible clearly says,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I hereby propose an alternate tee-shirt slogan:

“Just BE it!”

(And for all those who are wearied by countless demands to perform, see Matthew 11:28-30.)

CREATED for a Purpose!

Creation of Adam

I often hear people ask for scientific “proofs” for evolution or creation. However this is something science can never provide. That is because “proofs” are only relevant for mathematics and logic, while science requires experimental evidence acquired in the present [1]. Therefore I choose to respond with the relevant evidence for Biblical creation using the following acrostic: CREATED

CREATION of Science: Concepts found in the Bible motivated the very development of science by which experimental evidence is acquired. Historians of science now recognize that the scientific method itself and most of the major disciplines of science were developed because of beliefs uniquely found in the Bible [2]. Two of the key beliefs were: 1) Because man was created in the image of God, he can think the thoughts of God after him. 2) Because God established laws for the affairs of man, there should be laws for the affairs of nature. Genesis 1:26-28.

ROOT of Life: In 1864 Louis Pasteur scientifically established the Law of Biogenesis, that is, all life comes from life. Evolutionists have never offered a satisfactory solution for the origin of life from non-life. The evidence in the fossil record always shows sudden appearance and stability of types [3]. The best explanation for the appearance of complex life observed at every level—amoeba-to-man—is intelligent design. Acts 17:24-25.

ENTROPY and the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics: These two most fundamental laws of science were predicted by the Biblical view of origins [4]. The first law states that nothing can now be created or destroyed. The second law states that everything naturally goes from order to disorder, and from hot to cold. The fact that the universe cannot be some kind of perpetual motion machine which is both organized and energized for eternity is demanded by these two most fundamental laws of science and the Bible. Evolution does not predict, but actually contradicts both of these essential Laws of science. Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 40:28.

ANCIENT Fossils: The insight that the Biblical Flood was the sufficient and necessary cause for ancient fossils and the geologic column was set forth in the groundbreaking book, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications [5]. No other historical theory, past or present, explains so well the causes and effects shaping earth history. Recognizing this, Ken Ham reminds us of the expected evidence for the Flood we observe everywhere, “Billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth.” 2 Peter 3:3-7.

TYPES and Biblical Kinds: Motivated by the Biblical description of creation, Carolus Linnaeus developed the scientific classification system for all life into distinct types called the Linnaean System [6]. In Genesis, each created type “yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind” (Gen 1:12, NKJV). This is precisely what is observed in all of nature. Yet the amoeba-to-man macro-evolution concept requires small step-changes in a continuum which we do not observe anywhere in the living or fossil record. Finally, no combinations of any of the basic kinds are observed and so never anything like a cat-dog. Genesis 1:12.

ENCODED DNA is fully functional:  In 1953, we learned about the most basic structure of the code of life in every cell—DNA. Yet for over fifty of those years, evolutionary ideas motivated a theory of Junk DNA—the supposed leftovers from millions of years of random mutation. After the Human Genome project (2003) found only 3-5% of DNA coded for proteins, this was taken as “proof” for evolution and the majority of DNA was assigned “junk” status. Then in 2012, the ENCODE research project, revealed this evolutionary prediction was dead wrong [7]. The vast majority of DNA (over 80%) is now known to serve many functions essential to life. This reversal repeats the previous evolutionary error of “vestigial” organs as leftovers of evolution. The recurring errors of evolution, not to mention the metaphor that DNA is fully ENCODED, should not be forgotten by those who question the anti-scientific predictions of evolution. Romans 1:19-21.

DESIGNED intelligently for a purpose: The whole history of observation has led to one and only one reasonable conclusion: Life is masterfully designed. Even the New Atheists acknowledge that life “appears to be designed,” yet they insist that Darwin’s design substitute—uniformitarianism and natural selection—can create complexity by chance from chaos. Today we know better. With the four billion bits of information in human DNA, our biological systems, organs, cells, organelles, and even the proteins are all irreducibly complex [8]. In view of all these facts, not only is the chance origin of life fantastically improbable, it’s impossible! According to the Bible, God created you as his wonderful work with a purpose! Psalm 139:13-16

Notes:
[1] What Is Science? (http://www.thingsrevealed.net/science1.htm)
[2] Bible-Believing Scientists of the Past, Henry M. Morris, 1/01/1982. (https://www.icr.org/article/bible-believing-scientists-past). For a brief history of the development of the scientific method see Creation Agnosticism, by Tim Nordgren (http://www.thingsrevealed.net/Creation_Agnosticism.pdf)
[3] Fossils Show Stasis and No Transitional Forms, (https://www.icr.org/fossils-stasis)
[4] Theory Of Science: An Introduction To The History, Logic, And Philosophy Of Science. George Gale, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1979, p.188. Gale, a preeminent historian and philosopher of science, explains how the First Law (conservation) was not “logically or empirically justified,” but issued from the “prescientific Western intellect.”
[5] The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, 1961.
[6] Carolus Linnaeus: Founder of Modern Taxonomy (https://www.icr.org/article/carolus-linnaeus-founder-modern-taxonomy). Here it is instructive to compare this article to the Wikipedia article which doesn’t mention a word about what motivated this truly great scientist.
[7] An Important New Discovery, (http://www.thingsrevealed.net/God_Doesnt_Make_Junk.html)
[8] This concept was explained by Michael Behe. “By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. See, Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe, [1996], p. 39.
[9] Welcome Them Into the Fold, (https://www.icr.org/article/we-welcome-them-into-fold)

I Believe in Miracles

Some time ago I heard a challenge to the claim that miracles ever happened in the past and therefore the present. And of course, the foundation of Christianity is based on a miracle–the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So this is a pretty important question.

Well, I believe in miracles. After hearing that challenge I began a list that now includes dozens of miracles directly experienced in my own life. The list is not exhaustive and some require an internal perspective, however many are open to public appraisal. One whole set of the most remarkable miracles relate to the life of my father-in-law, Richard (Dick) Hopkins. It seems like as long as I’ve known Dick, he has survived one very near-death experience after another: a stroke, motorcycle accident, multple heart attacks, a stent, two knee replacements, an arotic heart valve replacement, a pacemaker, and even more. Due to his brittle diabetes, we have helped him survive hundreds of diabetic shock events–many so serious we had to call 9-1-1.

Just recently Dick was out walking alone and likely because of his congestive heart failure, COPD, and myelodysplastic (blood) syndrome, he fainted. Falling backward he hyper-extended his spine and the L2 vertebrae fractured. This triggered a cascade of measures and finally an emergency back surgery at Seattle’s Harborview Hospital.

Next began an 85-day hospital recovery that entailed waves of excruciating pain, over sedation, deleriums, and numerous disheartening setbacks. At least three times we gathered the family together fearing the doctor’s many dire predictions might come true. Dick could only be moved with whincing pain and only accepted single bites of food when family members, who were at his side every single day, lovingly insisted. As we watched his strength ebb away we prayed and hoped for relief, but Dick finally requested a sobering change to his health directive–do not resuscitate. When the doctors finally started to say he was improving, he had lost over twenty pounds.

Then one day as we walked into the Vetran’s Hospital we heard a commotion from an intersecting hallway. When I heard “code blue” I turned to assure Dorothy it probably wasn’t her Dad. But as we followed the rushing crowd it turned into Dick’s room that immediately filled with over thirty doctors, nurses, and aides. Dick was completely non-responsive and barely had a pulse. The lead doctor decided he had over-dosed from all the pain-meds so they administered a dose of Narcan. He was ubrutly startled into consciousness. Over the course of 36 hours he was given four doses of Narcan until he finally stabilized.

Soon thereafter, we were informed that Dick would be released in a week and that he qualified for hospice care in the home. Now everyone, family and friends, warned us about the weight of such a responsibility. But Dorothy knew full well what this could mean, since seven years earlier she had cared for her mother, Ramona, in our home as she suffered with demetria and finally passed from lung cancer. So with the resolve of a promise, Dorothy began to plan how we would bring her father home for his final days.

Yet after only a few days at home he felt strong enough to eat a favorite meal. Then he walked downstairs to watch a Mariners game. Each step of progress was unexpected and worthy of commendation for his determination to push through. The visiting care givers were taken aback when he announced that he was actually free of all pain. In a couple of weeks he went to church where he was received with celebration by all those who had been praying for him.

As many will know, Dick’s favorite place in the world is Lake Chelan, so by faith we planned for a vacation in August. Dick continued to take amazing steps of recovery all through the summer. Last week the whole family met with us at our traditional lake house where Dick always looked forward to diving off the dock and swimming in this glacier-fed lake. Here is a video showing one of his many dives into the waters of his beloved lake. Family and friends were all there to cheer. It’s a miracle!

I realize some might attribute Dick’s healing to natural processes but in so doing they have assumed the otherwise inexplicable miracle of life. With good reason, we choose to give thanks to God and believe in miracles!

The Merry-Go-Round Nobody Ever Rides

I try to take a walk for my health every day. When I choose this one greenbelt path I see an intriguing sight. Looking through the trees I can just make out a merry-go-round like those in a carnival. Most of the colored lights still work and are blinking. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a single person near it and certainly no children. I’ve asked some neighbors about it, but no one seems to know a thing. It’s a mystery.

What could be the back story? Did a grandfather set this up for his estranged grandchildren? Was he once a kindly carni-worker? What happened that keeps them away? Is he still holding out hope that they will show up for a joy ride? I have no way to know, but just one more detail: The merry-go-round is behind a tall chain-link fence with a sign, “Private Property, Do Not Enter.”

Sadly, I believe this is the way many picture the hope of heaven. The lights are lit and blinking feebly, yet the way is barred against all entry. And even if they bothered to sneak over heaven’s gate, after a few rides it just gets boring. Besides, what did they ever do to get locked out anyway?

This is of course a gross caricature. Nothing could be further from the picture revealed in scripture. According to the Bible, God created us to enjoy intimate fellowship with him in an ideal creation, but man chose to believe the lie that he could be like God. That is, man chose autonomy from God. What came with this “freedom” was death. Death was the natural consequence of man’s choice against a right relationship with the only true God, and therefore the source of eternal life.

We might picture this sort of autonomy as follows: Imagine a claustrophobic man in an airplane. Obviously agitated, he refuses to wear a seatbelt and begins running up and down the center aisle. Next he starts raving, “I need to get out and nobody’s gonna stop me!” Finally, he grabs the exit door handle and pulls it open. As he gets sucked out the door he yells, “Free at last!” We might imagine him “flying” through the air with a big smile on his face. What right does anyone have to question this man’s desire for freedom? After all, he only wants to change his relationship with the law of gravity.

The fact is, we were never forbidden the way of freedom, just the way of death. So when we demanded our autonomy from God we simply demanded death.

Back to the merry-go-round. Our estrangement from God is not due to any divine chain-link fence and certainly not a “Do Not Enter” sign. The heavenly father is “God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:4, (NIV 1984). (1)

God has promised that heaven on earth will be the ride of our life with no pain, suffering, or death and certainly no boredom. And it won’t be a little fenced off area with a few blinking lights. It will be the whole magnificent universe transformed into a reflection of its brilliant creator.

In the concluding words of the Bible, after God describes the beauty and wonder of the restored creation, he invites us to receive the gift of salvation through his son’s death on the cross – granting free admission to heaven on earth:

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Revelation 22:17, ESV.

Footnote:
1. Some argue that Adam was banished from the garden for simply picking a little fruit. A common misunderstanding. Just as an unfaithful husband cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of marriage, it makes no sense for man to have access to the tree of life without a right relationship with God (Genesis 3:22-24).

Compelling Evidence!

What order of evidence should we expect before making a decision to believe in and trust the God of the Bible? We sometimes hear skeptics assert, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” These same skeptics conclude that until “compelling evidence” is supplied they are justified to reject faith.

Now in order to sustain such an assertion they must first brush aside the many classical evidences for faith in God: (1) the instantaneous beginning of the universe (2) the fine-tuning of the universe, (3) the sudden appearance of life, (4) the irreducible complexity of life, (5) the Biblical origin for science, (6) fulfilled Biblical prophecy, (7) the evidence for the resurrection of Christ, and much more. Each of these evidences is extremely strong in its own right, but taken together they are more than sufficient to convince anyone open to the truth. (8)

Yet there must always be a way to chose unbelief. If it were not so, there would be no free will. Freedom must be a genuine possiblity. Therefore, though we may seek “compelling evidence” we can never demand “compelled evidence.” That is because the God of the Bible is not some kind of Cosmic UFC fighter who pounds and strangles us until we finally “tap out.”

Here we should consider the example of Jacob who was actually commended for “wrestling with God.” After his faith had finally matured, God gave him a new name.

“Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28, ESV).

At any time God could have slammed Jacob to the mat and forced him to submit to his infinitely superior power. Yet he did not. He gave Jacob the freedom to wrestle with the very will of his creator. Jacob did finally grow to believe in and trust God.

Still, some demand that God break into the world to overwhelm all unbelief. They may imagine him ripping open the heavens and booming out, “Don’t make me come down there!” Such an event may well cause us to cower and shake, but it would not necessarily lead to faith in God. Many would respond like the rebellious child forced to take a time-out; “I may be siting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside!”

So unlike some claims for “compelling evidence” (Islam or atheism), Christian faith is not compelled. The reason is explained by the brilliant theologian, Norman Geisler:

“God has provided enough evidence in life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet has also left some ambiguity so as to not compel the unwilling. In this way, God gives us the opportunity to either love him or reject him without violating our freedom. For love, by definition, must be freely given. It cannot be coerced.” (9)

However God has reserved another means to “compell” our faith. He offers us a changed heart responsive to the compelling love of God! (11)

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8, ESV.

Footnotes:
1. See Genesis 1:1. Spacetime, Dr Jason Lisle, https://answersingenesis.org/physics/spacetime/
2. List of Fine Tuning Parameters, Jay W. Richards. http://www.discovery.org/f/11011, there are 20 or more of these parameters in nature. The universe is finely tuned for life, Jonathan Sarfati, http://creation.mobi/the-universe-is-finely-tuned-for-life
3. Burgess Shale’s Cambrian Fossils Should Change Our View of Evolution, by Elizabeth Mitchell. https://answersingenesis.org/fossils/types-of-fossils/burgess-shales-cambrian-fossils-should-change-our-view-of-evolution/
4. The Irreducibly Complex Genome: Designed from the Beginning, by Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D., http://www.icr.org/article/irreducibly-complex-genome-designed
5. For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts and the End of Slavery, by Rodney Stark, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2003. Creation Agnosticism, by Tim Nordgren, http://www.thingsrevealed.net/Creation_Agnosticism.pdf
6. Prophecy as Proof of the Bible, Baker Encylopedia of Christian Apologetics, by Norman Geisler, Baker Books 2000, pp 609-617.
7. Evidence for the Resurrection, by Josh McDowell: http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/josh2.html
8. Romans 1:20, ESV, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
9. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Norm Geisler and Frank Turek, (Crossway), 2004.
10. The nation of Israel rejected the revelation of God’s will in the Ten Commandments that he spoke directly to them at Mount Sinai (Ex 20:19-22). The awesome display of his power on the mount was intended to lead them to saving faith. Instead they feigned fear and insisted on an intermediary–Moses–to transmit the word of God.
11. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:25-27, ESV.

The Trinity: Impossible to Understand?

image

Many claim it is impossible to understand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. A typical challenge found in one anti-Trinitarian book (1) goes as follows:

“God is one and God is three, and there is nothing like it in all creation. We cannot understand it but only accept it.”

Some have heard such an assertion go unchallenged often enough they assume the point must be conceded. “After all, how can three be one?” Thus we are offered this “logic challenge” that supposedly requires a response.

Well first we acknowledge that no one can claim they comprehend the full nature of God, but because of God’s self‐revelation we may apprehend his essential nature. In fact, only when we discern that nature may we grow to be like him. In scripture we are commanded to, “Grow in the grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, ESV). So just as a newborn baby does not fully comprehend the love of his parents, he may genuinely apprehend that love and rest in peace. Since God is a good parent, he knows how to communicate his love.

Second, we should expect to grasp the essential nature of the Trinity because from the beginning God has revealed that the universe was created as a trinity of trinities! Consider the very first verse of the Bible:

“In the beginning [time] God created the heavens [space] and the earth [matter]” (Genesis 1:1, ESV).

These three essential attributes of the one universe are likewise triune (2).

  1. Time: past, present, and future—one time.
  2. Space: height, width, and depth—one space.
  3. Matter: gas, liquid, and solid—one matter.

So for those who claim they can’t imagine how there can be three in one, we should point out that it is actually impossible to imagine anything that is not three in one—from the beginning. And the assertion that we “cannot understand it but only accept it” does not recognize the role of revelation in Biblical faith. We may genuinely posses truth because:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV)

Now as an engineer, if I were to ask someone to calculate the volume of a cube that was for example, 1-foot, by 1-foot, by 1-foot, and they answered “3-feet,” I would realize we had a conceptual problem. Likewise, when people ask, “How can three be one?” I know it’s time for clarification.

We start by explaining that in the Trinity there are not three individuals but only three personal self-distinctions within the one divine essence. And according to the Bible a “person” is a self aware subject who relates to the other two as “another” (John 5:32,37; 14:16-17,26). Therefore the Trinity does not teach that one god is three gods, nor does it teach that one person is three persons. Instead the doctrine of the Trinity can be simply stated as follows:

There is but one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is each God; and the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit is each a distinct person.

Now the analogy between the Triune nature of God and the triune nature of the created universe is very instructive and really quite strong. However the nature of God and that of his creation can never be identical. In fact it would be idolatrous to say anything in the creation is essentially the same as God (Isaiah 40:18). By definition, the creation reflects the nature of its Creator with quantitative and qualitative limitations (3).

As a matter of practical application, the Trinity is essential to our understanding of the love of God. You see, how would it be possible to say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), if before the creation of the universe no expression of love was even possible. Jesus clearly connected the eternal love between the persons of the Trinity to the love God has for us in heaven.

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24, ESV. (4)

In conclusion, God relates to believers in Trinity:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14, ESV

Footnotes:

  1. For a more detailed examination of the Biblical basis for the doctrine of the Trinity and its implications see the following book review, Searching for Answers: When God Reveals his Image, by Cornell Thomas: http://www.thingsrevealed.net/Searching_For_Answers_Cornell-Thomas.pdf
  2. Albert Einstein showed that the universe is inseparably comprised of time, space, and matter. Three-in-one.
  3. Some are understandingly concerned that all such analogies for the Trinity break down at some point. For example, matter normally exists in one of three states; solid, liquid, or gas, but not simultaneously. This, they claim, gives credence to the false doctrine of “modalism.” However water, one of the most common molecules on earth, when cooled to 0°C (the so-called triple-point) actually does exist in all three states simultaneously–three-in-one. Again, by definition, all analogies between the creation and the Creator are limited.
  4. See also Ephesians 1:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2.
  5. Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), 2001, by Crossway Bibles, Good News Publishers.