Me and Mini-Me

Kicking back on thMe-Daniele Fourth of July weekend. Hope everyone had a good one, and thank you to all the men and women who sacrificed to make it possible. God bless!

and yes, that’s a Tough Mudder shirt.

Started The Daniel Plan this month at church on Wednesday nights. That’s Rick Warren’s latest book with help from Dr. Daniel Amen a pioneer in neuroscience.  His bio is unreal, it goes something like: physician, double-board certified psychiatrist, teacher, eight-time New York Times best-selling author, founder of the Amen Clinics, and a man whose work is featured in The Dr. Oz Show, 20/20, Newsweek, TIME, Parade Magazine, the New York Times, and TED talks. Oh by the way, he’s a Christian so evidently believing in a Creator God does not keep someone from contributing to science…

Aaaand Rick Warren also got help on the book from Dr. Mark Hyman, a practicing family physician, six-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field of Functional Medicine, plus founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, medical editor of the Huffington Post, and regular medical contributor on Katie Couric’s TV show, Katie.

Wow, those are serious heavy weights in their scientific fields teaming up with a pastor. Once again it demonstrates you can be a Christian and embrace scientific discovery. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

Anywhoo, we’re going through the Daniel Plan, and I’m starting to do the hardest part for me and that is to incorporate the diet suggestions and change some of the things I eat and drink.

Over the past three years I’ve gotten myself in decent shape, but I’ve cheated around the edges. I lost 20+ pounds, and the other day ran 5.1 miles with an average pace of 8:32 a mile. Working out in the gym twice a week, I’ll spend 50 minutes on weights and do 1000 crunches on a stability ball plus a few other exercises. Through all of that however, I’ve continued to drink diet Mtn. Dew, eat junk food occasionally although I watch the calories, and I even still stop at McDonalds and sometimes buy the fries.

The Daniel Plan is telling to me to quit that silly stuff.  It’s actually a little easier than I thought as it focuses on eating whole foods. In fact, it says you can eat anything you want but make it whole foods. If you want fries, chop your own from an actual potato. Eat fresh fruit, whole vegetables, whole grain everything, and stay away from unnatural sweeteners in drinks. That part isn’t easy at all, but I HAVE learned to make a smoothie…

I’ll have to let you know how it’s goes.

Thinking About Hope when Life is Unfair

A classmate of mine passed away a couple of weeks ago, and he was probably one of the best of guys I’ve known.  Funny.  Humble. He was a walking definition of sincerity.  It’s people like him who make death at 46 years old seem very unfair.  Unfortunately, it’s been a month of unfairness.  Another friend of mine had a classmate pass away, and just tonight, a 17-year old student who has attended our church and made many friends has died in an apparent tragic accident.

This is the point I’m supposed to ask where is God.  If God exists, these things shouldn’t happen so randomly perhaps.  If God exists, there should be some semblance of rhyme and reason involved.  There should be a why.  Otherwise God is either hiding or ignoring us, or he doesn’t exist at all.

Something like that.

To be fair to God, He made something I consider good come out of the death of my classmate.  He gave my classmate real hope.  See, my friend had always been an atheist because when he was young his dad had died.  My classmate couldn’t understand why, and rejected any belief in God as a result. Things changed in him when he faced own death.  And it didn’t change as you might imagine. Continue reading

How Soon Was Jesus Supposed to Come Back?

Although I haven’t taken an official poll, it seems most professors, skeptics, media, and those who comment on the Bible would say the disciples of Jesus expected him to come back within their lifetimes. This is often used as another reason not to take the message of Jesus all that seriously, but that is a sweeping judgment that lacks perspective. In fact, when it comes to the return of Jesus according to the Bible, Christians and skeptics alike may be guilty of missing key details.

For instance, many pastors and evangelical Christians today, (of which I qualify as both) maintain that Jesus can come back at any moment. We commonly speak and write in ways that give the distinct impression Jesus could return any moment in our lifetimes. In that respect, we aren’t much different than those early Christians.

It makes one wonder what people might conclude if, in the distant future, someone were to find the writings of Christians from today. Would they pick up a worn copy of “Left Behind” and conclude we believed Jesus would return in the next few years and that Kirk Cameron was our prophet? Couldn’t they also use that as evidence that since Christ did not return, he must not be real? Of course, ask almost any of those Christians or pastors of today and their views are not so simplistic. I have often said Jesus is coming soon, but I am not so certain he is coming in my lifetime.

Perhaps, we Christians should speak and write more carefully using more perspective in the first place? Probably, but that’s not going to happen. There’s never going to be a shortage of writers or speakers making exciting claims, no matter whether they are Christians, secularists, or global warming/climate change alarmist/deniers.

Besides, it’s more fun to talk about Jesus coming in the next few minutes. Come on.

Anyway, as it turns out and despite the fact this is often ignored for the sake of arguing, the writers of the New Testament DID write with perspective. Shockingly, they never Continue reading

Dear Senior Class 2014…

Thirteen years ago when you got home from your first day of kindergarten, most of us parents picked you up and asked, “How was your first day of school?”  A lot has happened since then. You tried to make good grades, you excelled in sports, in music, in art, or maybe in science.  It’s really amazing the talents you have developed.

This past week I picked up my daughter from school and this time my question was, “How was your last day at school?”  You have reached the last day, and just like that first day, we are excited for you and proud of you as we cheer for your success in life.

Did you know God cares about your success, too?  The Bible says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Knowledge can help you achieve the desires of your heart, of course, but God can do things no one else can. He has ultimate control over our success or failure.

I don’t know if you believe that or not. The Bible predicted “scoffers” would come in the last days and they’re here.  People will make fun of you for believing in Jesus. Religion is old-fashioned. We are evolving past it they say.  Bill Mahr says religion is the source of all our problems, and Bill Nye seems to think you can’t be a scientist or help the human race advance if you believe God created everything.

They can sound convincing, but that road doesn’t end well. The Bible talks about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but it’s worth noting that it should have been Abraham, Isaac, and Esau.  Esau was the oldest son and should have been the next in line. His father loved him, wanted to pass everything down to him, but Esau just didn’t care.

He only cared about the here and now, and agreed to sell his birthright to his brother. The Bible says, he “despised” his birthright.  That decision destroyed his future.  That’s why we remember Abraham, Isaac, and his younger brother Jacob instead of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau.

You’ve heard people say God has a plan for your life, but you don’t have to care either.  The world will tell you not to worry about it. The world cares more about the here and now, but I believe if you go down that road, like Esau, you’ll miss out.

So here are three old fashioned things to hang on to no matter what the world says: Continue reading

Neuroscience and the Bible

Be afraid. Be very afraid. 

Or not.

When it comes to advances in science regarding the brain and our understanding of where our thoughts, emotions, consciousness, perceptions, choices, and more come from, some of our religious notions like the idea of the immaterial soul, or free-will, or sin might be shaken.  That shaking however, so far seems to involve religious traditions and a few interpretations of the Bible, but not the Bible itself.  Turns out the actual Scripture is holding up just fine.

Neuroscience, thanks to the use of brain scan technology, is a rapidly growing field of science that is in the process of revolutionizing psychology and our understanding of ourselves, but ironically Jesus and the Bible seem to have been saying similar types of things.

Some logical premise building first: If God is real, and the Bible was truly inspired by him, then it stands to reason that it would remain consistent with much of our own science.  That’s not the case with church traditions or some interpretations of the Bible. Those things change all the time. In fact, discovering the truth about most anything, means also discovering what was not true.  So while Christians may have to wait until reaching heaven before some arguments over interpretations are settled, it may be that some new scientific discoveries could actually help resolve some long standing debates.

Yeah, that’s probably wishful thinking, but at least the discoveries make the debates more interesting.

For instance, if neuroscience could prove (and some research makes a strong case) that our brain makes a decision BEFORE we are conscious of it, that seems to take away our ability to have free will over our own actions.  If we have no real choice, then what about sin? How could God judge us? Continue reading

Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate: Now That I’ve Slept on it…

Despite the protests of leading atheists who didn’t want to treat scientists and human beings who believed in God as worthy of anything other than to be ignored, Ken Ham and Bill Nye nevertheless faced off for an in-depth, internet broadcast, and CNN-hosted debate over creationism, evolution, the Bible, the flood, naturalism, and definitions of science.  It was enlightening at times as even Bill Nye the Science Guy noted after Ham’s opening presentation.  The Saturday morning television science teacher started his own presentation by looking at Ham and admitting he had “learned something.”  At other times, it left multiple questions begging for answers and more time.  The demand by Nye at one point that Ken Ham answer a list of four important questions was comically followed by the debate moderator’s (CNN’s Tom Foreman) formal announcement that Ham had one minute to respond.  All of the proceedings, taking place last Tuesday, February 4 at the famous Creation Museum in Kentucky, provided both the benefits of sincere, polite discussion, and the limitations of dealing with such a huge subject in a mere two hours.  I simultaneously wanted more to be said, while getting tired of hearing it.

And you might be tired of hearing about it too! So I’ll try to at least be concise.

I loved it when Bill Nye talked about how much he loves science. Obviously I wish he understood how much I love it, too, and many other creationists, but you can’t help but enjoy his passion for discovering things.  What so many miss is how many Bible-believing Christians are science buffs.  It’s why we can’t get enough of Louie Giglio.  And yes, we do go to secular universities and ace those tests too.  Those decorated scientists who provided Ken Ham with statements via video clips did not have Theology degrees.

I loved that Ken Ham used the opportunity he had to keep coming back to the Gospel, the good news that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to die for the sins of the world.  Sometimes, it seemed Ken sacrificed debate time to do this, but sharing the actual Gospel to a worldwide audience was beautiful.  I’m sure it didn’t come close to convincing the most hardened atheist, but God knew who needed to hear that last night and they did.  Awesome, awesome, awesome thing Ken.

I love the fact that we had a real, and polite, debate between diametrically opposed world views.  We can’t even debate tax policy anymore without competing to see who can roll their eyes the most, but last night we saw something we don’t often see in the world lately, and that is respect for another human being.  Judging by the comments and articles following the debate, atheists are quickly trying to put a stop to this nonsense, but for a brief moment yesterday, both sides argued their case on the merits and appealed to people with reason.  That’s pretty cool, and as one of the news organizations noted in an article this morning, that’s worth something at least.

I loved that the two men both used power point demonstrations that seamlessly integrated into the broadcast.  It reinforced that this debate wasn’t just a name-calling contest that we generally see on the internet or the dismissive disdain from a Dawkins’ column. We all learned something because we weren’t turned off immediately. Instead, the audience was respectfully taught, whether they were in the “choir” or not.

I loved the fact that Ken Ham included video statements, and references from other decorated scientists who didn’t just believe in God, but believed in young earth creationism.  Bill Nye in particular has taken up the atheist effort to portray anyone who believes in creation as anti-science and the sort of people who will destroy America’s competitive edge because they are incapable of becoming engineers.  Nye continually went back to this caricature at the end of the debate, but his effort was largely diffused by the irony of several famous scientists who evidently were able to engineer important inventions and discoveries despite the fact they believed in God. Ironically, the famous scientists from history that Nye mentioned were often very devout Christians as well, so it doesn’t seem that much of a hindrance after all. Here’s another scientist’s take on that very issue (and several others Nye has brought up).  This is important stuff because modern day atheism is dishonestly propagating a lie in their efforts to win people to their side. Why would they do so? I believe the real cause is the spiritual battle. There is a father of lies, and this is what he does.

Hmmm…. that started sounding negative.

Ok, a couple of times I wanted to jump through the screen, besides the times Nye started talking about how anti-science all these God believers are.

They are called polystrate fossils. This is in the category of “Well Someone Should Mention This….” Ok. So in the debate, Bill Nye said he would change his opinion, and Ken Ham could change the world, if Ham could show evidence of a fossil that went from one layer to another. Ham never responded, but …ummm… Bill, there are so many of those particular fossils they have a name: Polystrate fossils. Mostly trees and at least one whale. You know, just in case you ever need this for trivia.  One question I wish Ham had countered with was how come we don’t find meteorites in those lower levels? Did it quit raining occasional meteorites for billions of years?

Ken Ham’s answers on radiometric dating were incomplete. He kept going back to the “we weren’t there” statement, but everyone knows it should be possible to study evidence today and make some educated guesses about how it got here. We do the same with crime scenes as Bill Nye noted.  What atheists don’t often note is that there can be more than one theory as to how things got this way, just like there is often more than one theory on what happened at a crime scene. Ken Ham was correct to say we all have the same evidence. I just wish the topic of radiometric dating had been delved into a lot more because most people simply accept it as Gospel.

Seriously, most of you reading this have never dated anything yourself and weren’t with the scientists who did. We all usually just believe what they tell us. At the risk of totally shaking your worldview built on your trust that radiometric dating is incredibly accurate, you should read this article.  Don’t worry, it was written by a real scientist with four degrees and a lifetime membership in Mensa. You’ll find it interesting.

Finally, I thought Bill Nye had a couple of good questions concerning people who had never heard of the Bible and where the Bible came from. He didn’t really ask the last one, but referred to it a lot.  I wish Ken Ham had taken the time to answer those more, because there are real answers for both.  Ken did say that eternal life with God doesn’t depend on what someone thinks about the age of the earth or evolution or something like that. You don’t have to be a young earth creationist to be right with God. Lots of Christians believe heartily in evolution. They may be right or wrong about that, but it doesn’t condemn anyone either way.

We are saved based on where stand with God. The Bible teaches that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, even those who had never heard about him, both past, present, and future.  The Bible teaches that God reveals himself to the whole world through his creation. Someone might not know much about God, might not know anything about the Bible or Jesus, but they can still reach out to God because “the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of his hands.” That’s from Psalm 19 and it’s quoted in Romans when Paul was talking about how they had “heard” the message from God.  If that’s the message-just the creation-that’s not a lot to go on. Evidently though, it’s enough.  They might not have ever heard about Jesus in ancient China, but I believe God reached out to each person, and worked in their hearts and in their lives based on what they did know.  Jesus is preached of course, because Jesus is the message that God wanted the entire world to hear before the end, but God worked historically and works today on people who haven’t heard yet.

Like I said, It’s a good question and I don’t blame atheists for wanting to hear a fair answer to it.  My answer is way too brief, but there it is.

I’m just thankful for the debate. I learned stuff too, and as we all hash through it and argue amongst ourselves, we’ll keep learning. That ain’t all bad.

God bless.

How Have You Changed in 2013?

Top Four…

  • I know I can improve myself.  Most of the time at New Years we make resolutions to get in shape, lose weight, and make personal changes.  In 2013, I had all these goals, but I also accomplished something I had never tried before when I completed a 12-mile, 20 obstacle Tough Mudder in September.  During the eight months I was preparing, I had to fight through a high ankle sprain as well, but I made it.  Crossing that finish line was one of the best feelings in the world. 2013 was the year I realized, “I can do this.”
  • Deeper Understanding.  That’s what I gained when I sought God for answers to some big questions and some issues that weighed on my heart.  Preaching through Revelation, I saw more in it than I ever imagined.  As a book about the big finish, it pulls in all the big questions and forced me to go deep.  Worship became more important as the power of it became evident on Sundays.  Yet it was that emphasis, that opened my eyes to see that worship is actually a fitting description of how a follower of Jesus lives life.  And everything from a couple of weeks in Kenya, to debates with others, to quiet times with just me and God… and I felt like I learned so much.  Let me be like that Mary person and learn at the feet of Jesus and I’m happy.  ….Ok, except let me be a dude.
  • God let me do cool stuff.  Every year we do that giant, evangelistic drama is awesome. I write it, and I play the part of Satan, which means I’m getting beat up at the end, but it’s amazing God lets us do something so fun for the Kingdom.  The radio play by play at the Class I State Championships was a dream come true as well. All in all, the stuff God let me do in 2013 made it a good year.
  • Doing Something Meaningful.  Not everything in the New Year is fun and games, sometimes it’s facing unspeakable tragedies. Saying a few words at a funeral or memorial, working to manage the assistance for the local MInisterial Alliance provided moments this past year that reminded me how great the love and compassion of God really are.  Any part I played in serving Him, is a privilege I’m unworthy of having.  It changed me this year. Deepened me. I’m grateful.

God bless. Happy New Year!