Thursday, November 11, 2010

Staying afloat as a Christian

A new world record has been set in New Zealand for the longest flight by a glider with a flight time lasting 15 hours and covering well in excess of 2000km. It is not easy for a vehicle with no power of it's own to keep afloat like that. The pilot must have been very expert at finding the 'thermals' (warm updrafts) needed to overcome the force of gravity that is such an inescapable constant in the world.

Lately I have been thinking that there is much similarity between Christian living and soaring, beginning with fact that a glider cannot launch itself but must rely upon power beyond itself (the towing aircraft) to get into the air in the first place. Just as the Christian is given salvation from the same God Who loved us first and Whose grace is required every time we need a new beginning when we fail spiritually.

The most enjoyable Christian walk is one in which one's feet hardly seem to touch the ground. Yet to remain inspired and uplifted all the time, however pleasurable it may be, is not easy. If it did not take a lot of skill and effort more Christians would be doing it for the sheer joy of feeling close to Heaven. But most of the time we allow the pull of the earth to get the best of us and we can even end up so earth-bound that we may feel as grumpy and miserable as a wretched unbeliever much of the time.

The forces that conspire to make us crash and burn when we would rather be flying are 'the world (other people), the flesh (our sinful nature) and the devil'.

Bearing that in mind, these things should not keep us grounded any more than gravity and weather have to keep a sailplane from soaring. To keep aloft, what do pilots of un-powered Sailplanes do? They look for thermals. They seek that which can keep them in the air.

'Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness' is what Jesus said. 'The joy of the LORD is your strength', The Bible says. 'Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things' was St. Paul's recipe for sustained gliding above the tribulations of earth (Philippians 4.8).

Even the most successful glide comes to an end. But the inescapable touch-down does not have to be the end of soaring. We sin, but there is forgiveness of sins and there is the grace of God who can and 'will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore' (Psalm 121).

The believer, whose citizenship is in heaven, will want to get back up there and resume gliding as soon as possible and for as long as possible. And, to keep us aloft - 'from where does help come? My help comes from the LORD' (Psalm 121). The thermals are out there and will lift us up. They are God's Word and Sacraments. These do not just provide forgiveness of sins. They also can sweep us off our feet if we let them.

If that has not happened for you, try more of God's Word and Sacraments. Yes - more and more. Get an audio Bible and listen to the Bible for hours on end and see what happens. Mix the Bible with uplifting and edifying thoughts and music. Go to Divine Services every Sunday and pray and worship every day. Hey! Don't tell me you've tried it and it 'didn't work'. Prayer 'without ceasing' has not failed. It has not been tried - and if it has - you WILL see a difference!

'Take time to be holy', the old song put it. Well take time to be holy and you will find that holiness is not where it ends. You will find in that time that you are, at the very least, serene, and may even become elated and euphoric. And yet it is NOT 'feelings and emotions' that sustain you, but the real power of God.

Many sailplane pilots feel pleasure and react emotionally to the experience. Yet at no time do their emotions get the credit for what is happening to them! Not even the best glider pilot can stay in the air just by feeling like it! He must search out and find those forces outside of himself that can defy the gravity that threatens to pull him down.

So in the Christian life, you have to seek and find those spiritual forces outside of yourself that can really keep you soaring! 'Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3.20-21).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Glee tackles God

Those of you who read my blog entitled, 'Gleeful', know that I have enjoyed this program as one of the only shows on TV that seems to have a soul. Well, a few weeks ago, with their episode entitled, 'Grilled Cheesus', Glee revealed, like never before, the god of it's soul.

Did it have moving moments? OH yes... This is a very carefully choreographed series on many levels, not least the emotional level. Once we find out that the atheist on the faculty lost her faith over her sister's Downe's Syndrome and later see that same handicapped sister profess her simple faith in God to that same embittered godless sister and tenderly promise to pray for her - have to see it to appreciate the emotional impact of that scene.

It is the scene earlier, when the faculty atheist describes the reason why she lost her faith, (a scene the show's writer describes as the one he's most proud of in his whole career (!) that the atheist defends her campaign against religious talk in school by telling her colleague how, in her youth, she prayed (in vain) that her sister, whom she idolized, would get better. Therefore she concluded that 'Asking someone to believe in a fantasy, however comforting, is not a moral thing to do. It's cruel' Furthermore, she goes on to say, it's arrogant. 'It's as arrogant as telling someone how to believe in God, and if they don't accept it - no matter how open hearted or honest their dissent - they're going to hell - that doesn't sound very Christian, does it?'

'Well, if that's what you believe, that's fine - just keep it to yourself' replies her colleague. And then the final word from the atheist is - you guessed it - 'so long as you do the same...'

Thus the writer of Glee reveals the anger and resentment against Christianity that lies behind this episode, if not the whole series. Glee may be a show that exalts the human spirit like no other, but it is also a show that does so at the expense of the Holy Spirit.

And that is the ideal bottom line in a public school, isn't it. 'Just shut up'. Because as soon as people start talking about religion, then the war of words begins. And in Glee's war of words, the unbelievers get all the best lines. The 'believers' only express their faith through ludicrously inept farce (praying to a burned cheese sandwich) or vague - though sometimes moving - appeals to Heaven for a 'Bridge over Troubled Waters'. 'We can't sing about faith, but we can sing about "losing my religion", as one Glee Clubber complains.

Fortunately most the characters who are 'believers' in this episode show none of the 'arrogance' that the Glee writers hate in religion. What is sadly lacking, however is confidence that the true God is capable of revealing Himself and His truth to people.

In one scene, these sincere, but misguided, characters from a variety of denominations and faiths gather to pray around the bedside of a man in a coma. One of them explains that they are doing this because 'one of us is bound to be right'.

As I have to keep telling people. One is, not only bound to be right, but bound to be obviously right. Yet it is not 'politically correct' to say this on TV - particularly when the God who is obviously unique - and obviously right - is the biblical God.

We today in the Western world, are just educated enough and just comfortable enough to think we know what we want in religion and that is all we will accept. But G. K. Chesterton spoke the Truth when he said, "We do not want a religion which is right where we are right. We want a religion which is right where we are wrong."

It is not to be dismissed as 'arrogance' when Christians, informed by God's Word, describe what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is in error.

Would the singers in the Glee Club know a wrong musical note, if they heard it (not that you ever hear a wrong musical note on this show)? Of course they would.

You know what I am going to say next; Right and Wrong exist in reality - so also in religion. That is not 'arrogant'. That is the Truth. That is the 'right where we are wrong' in a society that is in denial about it.

The Good News is that 'Hell' is not the only certainty the biblical God has revealed to us is it? There is also the certainty that 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us'.

'What if God was one of us?' they sang in this episode.

It saddens those who really know the real Jesus Christ, that 'Grilled Cheesus' failed to include the Gospel in this episode. Would it have killed such 'educated', 'enlightened' writers of Glee to mention that, in Christianity, Jesus is not a cheese sandwich, but a historical person - crucified for the salvation of humanity and risen from an empty tomb, providing billions of people with faith in their own resurrection from the dead?

Could not one character have said, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life'?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

God - a figment of my cellphone's imagination?

'My cellphone has been imagining things lately. Give it a dose of a powerful electronic signal and it starts hearing voices. And I think I can explain this. I have “discovered” that there is a part inside my cellphone's “brain” that seems to process these voices.
But, of course, we know that these “entities” my cellphone is imagining don't really exist. They are “just in its head”. The 'phone is just lonely and depressed that there is nobody 'out there', and so, to relieve it's anxiety (alone with it's thoughts and contemplating its own mortality), my cellphone is getting just enough electrical stimulation from somewhere that it is imagining make-believe entities and hearing their voices'. Just imagine!

Foolish idea? Duhhh! Of course. “Hello!!!” My cell phone WAS DESIGNED WITH WIRING IN IT to process human voices. Those voices it detects are from real people whose existence only a fool would doubt.

Yet, many people are having their faith in God's existence shaken by yet another TV show, this time the Science Channel's program: “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman” featured a scientist using a “God helmet” that subjected the temporal lobe of someone's brain to a strong magnetic force. When her stimulated brain felt “spiritual experiences”, the sonorous voice of Morgan Freeman stated that we may have to “re-imagine human experience. God may not have created us. He may not be protecting us. God may simply be – in our minds”.

Yea, right.

You may think my analogy of a cellphone imagining voices is far-fetched. You may say that a cellphone is a complex device, carefully manufactured to receive phone calls from other cellphone, and you would be right. Yet the “brain” in my cellphone is as simple as an oatmeal cookie by comparison to that of a human being!

How about this, boys and girls: God carefully created us with us with the hard-wiring in our brains to process transcendent concepts needed to understand his voice.

It is very poor science to say that neuroscience has determined that God is "just in our heads". Give me a break! Not only has God, our Creator, given us the brains to understand His voice, He has also given us His Word.

God has really good language skills – trust me. God even gave us one holy book that is true – despite the confusion caused by man-made religion. One should expect a God who cares – a God who loved us enough to hard-wire our brains as He did – to communicate with us.

The bonus is – His “Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ” (John 1.14)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Out on a Limb" with the devil?

As a pastor, it has been my observation that Satan likes to take people "out on a limb" with the aim of leading them out to a vulnerable position, far from the strength of the main "tree", to the point where all it takes is for that limb to give way and they fall, sometimes from the Faith altogether.

There are a few different "limbs" that come to mind:

One of those precarious limbs is the limb of emotion. A Christian is told that the happiness they felt when they first heard of their Saviour should not only characterize their whole experience of being a Christian, but should intensify as time goes on, picking up more and more euphoric moments of ecstasy along the way to perfect holiness. And so the Christian goes out on that limb. Perhaps further out on the limb they are exposed to "speaking in tongues" or some other manifestation of euphoria. And so they go further out, expecting to wake up every morning feeling that Jesus is their Best Friend Forever because they feel so close to God. Well, you know where this is going... One day they wake up and they don't feel the same. Perhaps (gasp) they have even sinned! Yet, they are so far out on the limb of emotion that they cannot go back to the main tree. It is too late, the limb has broken off and crash goes their faith.

Another precarious limb is the limb of reason. Frequently considered the antithesis of emotion, rationalism poses the same threat as emotion in that it takes one out on another limb that can break off, leaving the Christian in a heap on the ground, perhaps with their faith smashed and broken. How does the devil lead Christians out on a limb with reason? It is by reducing their faith more and more to a matter of reasonable conclusions whose strength is based more on scientific proof and historical documentation than on a living relationship with Christ. Life-times otherwise spent in Scripture and prayer are now spent with listening to and engaging in apologetic arguments and rhetorical logic. Further and further out on this limb the believer goes with this until the day when it dawns on her that maybe having better documentation than the other guy doesn't make the biblical God real - just more "plausible". Yet, she is too intellectual now to go back to a relationship with God based on mere Word and Sacraments and so down she goes.

There are other limbs too, I am sure, that Satan uses to lead people far from the sturdy tree of faith, but the point of it all is this. God has said that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10.17). And experience shows that the strongest believers are those whose relationship with God is connected most closely with the mysterious working of the Means of Grace - God's Word and Sacraments.

OK, saying your prayers, reading the Bible, receiving Absolution for sin and communing at Divine Services may not be as exciting as being "on fire for the Lord", being "in love with Jesus" or winning an argument on an internet debate, but it is what characterizes a saving relationship with God and, in the (eternally) long-term, what is more important?

Monday, May 17, 2010


As a lover of beauty, there are only so many displays of compassion, tenderness, understanding, sympathy, joy and love that I can take before I get a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes. Add to such an experience, the sight and sound of astonishingly well-performed song and choreography and you will see why I am melting with delight after another episode of "Glee" online.

Where has such a television show been all my life?? (I'm 53). So far on TV, I have seen my values as a Christian ridiculed, satirized and insulted. I have seen life itself reduced to cynical darkness. Even cartoons now are desperately dark. I have seen "edgy" avant-garde TV that made me feel as hopeless as the anarchists who produced it. I have been assaulted visually by violence and sickened by lurid depictions of perversion (All without nudity, of course, since this is America) I have also been treated to banal attempts at "family values", lame humour made worse by canned laughter. I have also seen so-called religious programming in which "good wins out", but the quality of the writing was contrived that it fell far short of being much more than a stilted embarrassment. All TV watchers have been tortured in this way for years. I don't need to elaborate further, do I?

Yet now there is "Glee". Although I have yet to see a character come out as a Christian (and probably never will), Glee is easily the most inspirational and uplifting show on TV on so many levels.

I have seen conflicts worked through, physical and emotional handicaps (including Downe's Syndrome and quadriplegic suffering overcome, hard-hearts warmed and amazing, poignant and thrilling singing and that was just one episode. Every episode seems better and more edifying than the last.

Some may say Glee is just escapist fantasy, but I have seen that before and Glee is much more. Yes, it has escapist euphoric music and dancing. Yes it has world-class writing and plenty of comedy - but it also has some serious messages that come through as loud and clear as its show-stopping musical numbers.

When was the last time you could count upon a TV show to be life-affirming, inspirational, thought-provoking, entertaining, moving you to tears at the same time and to deliver that package with every episode? When was the last time you watched "Glee"?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Darwin's Doctrines vs. the Facts

As Mark Twain once quipped: ‘There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact’. Last year marked the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin whose dubious theory of Evolution plays fast and loose with the facts, as I demonstrate below.

The fact is: The known universe itself exists as it does because of many variables which, if not precisely as they are now, would render the universe itself so different, that we would not exist. The doctrine Evolution asks us to believe is that there are countless parallel universes that must have developed spontaneously and we happen to be in the one that is able to sustain life. This really is a doctrine because there is no scientific proof whatsoever that there are any other universes than this one.

The fact is: The features of our planet and its moon point to the impossibility of it being old enough to support the absurd periods of time required by Evolutionary doctrine. Everything from the mere inch-deep dust on the moon to the Polonium 210 halos in rocks on earth show this. The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe keeps adding millions of years at will even though carbon 14 dating is left far behind.

This brings us to the ‘Laws of Nature’ that Evolutionary doctrine treats with contempt. The Law of entropy says that everything runs down if left to itself. It does not automatically get better (or more evolved). (The same is true of the Laws of Thermodynamics) The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe that life evolves from the simple to the complex with all creatures, given enough time, on their way toward evolving into ‘higher forms’ of themselves.

What about the law that matter is neither created nor destroyed? The facts bear this out. The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe is that some random ‘big bang’ resulted in the universe. Does that doctrine show itself to be more scientific (require less ‘faith’) than the biblical doctrine of creation?

The fact is: the earth is perfectly suited for life to thrive. Is this a coincidence of monumental proportions? Both Creationists and Evolutionists say no. The fact is: life as we know it thrives only when the environment is suited to it. The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe is that life suited itself (adapted itself) to thrive in earth’s (or any planet’s) environment. Is that a fact scientifically? Let them find life (other than as we know it) in an alien environment or create life under laboratory or any other conditions, and then they can claim to be scientific rather than simply doctrinaire.

The facts are that living things always produce young like their parents. (The Law of Biogenesis). Believers in Evolution won’t accept such a law. The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe is that life forms give birth eventually to young unlike themselves and eventually utterly different ‘more highly evolved’ forms of life (birds from lizards &c.).

The facts are that mutations or odd individuals produced by chromosomal change (e.g. Down’s Syndrome), that occur in nature are overwhelmingly inclined to be harmful (99%). And even if they are not lethal, the mutations are recessive traits and don’t get transmitted to subsequent generations. The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe is that favorable mutations or chromosomal changes have occurred simultaneously to enough individuals to change them from one species into another.

The facts are that we have found no fossil evidence of ‘missing link’ life forms. The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe is that there must be millions and millions of such missing links. (Some desperate Evolutionists have even concocted hoaxes in the past). Missing links amount to missing facts that expose Darwinism as doctrine-based, not fact-based.

The facts are we see “irreducibly complex” living things that - without having all the features they have – would not exist in the first place. The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe is that these organisms lived prior to having these features and gradually acquired them by “natural selection”. Darwin himself conceded that, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." 1

The facts are that the current population of the world is most consistent with descent from the six members of Noah’s family over a period of around 6,000 years. The doctrine Evolutionary theory asks us to believe is that man gradually evolved over millions of years. The absurdity of Evolutionary theory is clear. If man were between 1 and 14 million years old (Evolutionists can’t decide), then people would now populate the earth to something like the tune of 10602. Even if it were ‘only’ 10 to the one-hundredth power the world’s population would be incomparably different from what the facts are2.

The fact is: by almost anyone’s standards, Evolutionary theory requires more than enough faith (and worship?) to be classified as religion rather than science. Darwinism should come out of the closet as the religion that it is, rather than benefit from the popular credence given to science. As a religion, on a “level playing field” against Christianity, Darwinism would be defeated. But by masquerading as “science” and benefitting from the credence real science deserves, Darwinism gains followers as it moves into its third century.

God forbid that we are so deceived by “junk science” that me miss what science is intended to show us: the glory of God.

The fact is: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their measuring line goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.(Psalm 19.1-4)
It Christianity “doctrine-based”? Of course it is. But our faith is also fact-based, with plenty of evidence all around us in both the natural world and the historical world of human experience. The fact is: God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Last month I talked about the problem of “invisibility”. This month I remind you of the old adage: “there are none so blind as those who would not see”. What a sin it is for many who are powerful scientists to fail to see the evidence because they cannot cope with the implications of it! Of them it was written long ago: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:25).