What Does the Universe Tell us About God?

Intelligent Design is a term used to describe a certain point of view of many scientists and academics who study the universe or some part of it.  Plus, it’s the point of view of many others who arrive at the same conclusion because of their religious beliefs.  Basically, it’s the idea that there are clues in our universe indicating that an intelligence is behind it all.

For you that may be God, and of course it is for me too. Without question.  Others like to go with the idea that aliens did it, and aliens put us here.  Intelligent aliens are more palatable to some than God.  As silly as that may sound to you or me, (understatement) don’t think for a second people aren’t willing to go there.  A few prominent people have suggested it, and one major movie was built around it.

-all because the evidence that points to an Intelligence behind the Design is substantial enough to convince a lot of people.

But let’s put God in the picture for a second, and take it a step beyond.  Besides just the remarkable facts of how our universe is constructed and how it came to be… what if we asked why?

In the Bible, Romans 1:20 said this about God and His creation:

“For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”

Usually, we quote this verse and say the creation proves God exists, but really there’s more than that isn’t there?  It says that through His creation we can discover God’s “invisible attributes” and His “eternal power and divine nature.”

Which leaves us with the conclusion that not only would the creation argue for the existence of God, (and this is precisely what many believe Intelligent Design demonstrates) but the creation would give us clues ABOUT God.

So what are they? Continue reading “What Does the Universe Tell us About God?”

Tornadoes in Joplin, and a Loving God

I have friends in Joplin, Missouri, but I’m one of the lucky ones. My friends survived. Two of them lost their home. Another was at his church on Sunday night, and the church was close to the path of the EF5 twister which ravaged a city of 50,000, but it missed them by a few blocks.  Unfortunately, one friend of mine did lose her grandfather in the storm, and some friends of friends were killed as well.  One died while heroically trying to save someone else.  Stories and memories that will live on with us.

Facebook helped many of us keep tabs on each other and when cell phones occasionally worked, we contacted each other that way, too. It’s not my first experience with feeling close to an EF5. I received my last tetanus shot on the sidewalk in Greensburg, Kansas courtesy of a friendly lady from the Red Cross. I believe Greensburg was the last EF5 to hit before this year although I might be wrong. I’ve read that generally those monsters develop and touch down about once every four years. With four EF5 tornadoes this year alone, we’re definitely above the average. The crazy weather combined with all the other disasters and unrest around the world has people talking about Bible Prophecy, but sometimes the questions are more personal.

Why would God allow a high school senior returning from a graduation ceremony to get sucked out of the sunroof of his SUV where he was riding with his father? Why didn’t God miraculously keep him from being hurt like God kept others safe? Why didn’t God at least let the family find him after it happened?  It took days to discover his body in a pond.  Another 15-month old was found at a morgue.  Many other bodies took weeks to identify and families had to wait those weeks to officially discover a loved one’s fate.  Quite often, the happy miraculous ending we would hope for, didn’t happen.
Continue reading “Tornadoes in Joplin, and a Loving God”

The Rapture: Taking it Literally?

The Christian belief in “The Rapture,” made famous by the Left Behind series and various doomsday predictions, comes from two Scriptures in the Bible which speak about the resurrection of the dead.  In neither place is it specifically called “the Rapture” although you can find the Latin word for “rapture” in there if you use the Latin Vulgate Bible.  In fact, the Latin is where we get the term, and the term simply applies to the event described in I Corinthians 15:51-52 and I Thessalonians 4:15-17.   And since saying “The Rapture” is easier than saying “The-Event-Described-In-1st-Corinthians-15-51-52-and-I-Thessalonians-4-15-17”  or T.E.D.I.1.C.1.15.52.A.I.T.4.15.17 for short…

Most of us just say “the Rapture.”

Anyway, the Rapture is basically a simple concept.  In both places, the Bible (Paul was the writer) is talking about what happens to believers in Jesus who are still alive when the resurrection happens.  Obviously, God’s not going to strike them all dead so He could raise them up at that moment.  Instead of that morbid method, the Bible says we will be “caught up” to Jesus in the air (I Thessalonians 4) and changed “in the blink of an eye” into immortality (I Corinthians 15).  Part of the reason Paul wrote about it in I Thessalonians was to give people hope.  It is a rather exciting thought to consider. And assuming you believe in God and Jesus in the first place, it makes sense.  I mean, if Jesus returned and raised the dead into eternity, it’s only natural to ask what would happen to those who are still alive at the time. The Rapture is the answer for that question.

But we still manage to have huge arguments over it.  Those debates are generally over whether to take it seriously in the first place, or if you believe in a resurrection, the argument is over when exactly the Rapture part of it happens.

THE “WHEN” ARGUMENTS

The “Left Behind” books and movies took a very common position on the WHEN part, Continue reading “The Rapture: Taking it Literally?”

Knowing Jesus Rose from the Dead

This claim is the center-piece of Christianity. As all four Biblical narratives about Jesus life and death attest, Jesus died from severe torture and crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and the blessings of the leadership in Israel. On a purely human level, Jesus’ teaching was obviously threatening the power and status of those in the theocratic leadership of Israel, and Rome was wary of anyone causing disruptions. It created a perfect storm which resulted in Jesus’ execution. On a spiritual level, Jesus life and death fulfilled over 108 distinct prophesies and became the culmination of the Old Testament religious covenant to the Israelites and the world. The New Testament Scriptures indicate that perfect storm was actually God-orchestrated, for the purpose of providing forgiveness and grace to the human race.

It’s powerful stuff, and the deeper you get into it, the more powerful it becomes. Jesus was the culmination of the Jewish sacrificial system for sins because He was the ultimate sacrifice, taking away sins once for all according to the book of Hebrews. (It’s why John the Baptist once announced Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” -Lambs were often used as sacrifices)

Taking away sins once for all, meant a person no longer had to feel separated from God by sin, and provided a way for anyone to approach God, without a priest to intercede. It’s one reason three of the four Gospel accounts record the curtain of the temple being torn in two by an earthquake at the time of Jesus’ death. The curtain of the temple is what separated “the Most Holy Place” -where the presence of God was- from the outside world. The meaning being that humanity no longer had to be separated from God because of Christ.

And that only begins to scratch the surface how in Jesus, or through Jesus, so much of the Old Testament religious teaching is fulfilled, or reaches the highest order of magnitude. But none of it matters, if Jesus never got out of the grave. Continue reading “Knowing Jesus Rose from the Dead”

Hope in the Midst of Crisis

Some of the “prophetic” words of Jesus sound eerily similar to the daily news coming from around the world these days, which gives many of us a pause. Yet we shouldn’t pause too long because He also had words of encouragement and a message of hope. In a moment, I’ll get to what Jesus said precisely, but for now, I think it’s worth noting that the entire Christian belief system is built on a hope, an assurance from God, that He will provide during the toughest of times.

Some interpret the Bible, or insist philosophically, that God should rescue us from these tough times in the first place. Isn’t that what a loving God would do? And if He doesn’t, He’s either not loving, or not real. It’s the same argument used by one of thieves crucified next to Jesus. In one moment, that guy was hurling insults at Jesus, and in the next, he was demanding Jesus prove Himself by rescuing them all from death. Continue reading “Hope in the Midst of Crisis”

Japan’s Earthquake and The Bible

The 8.9 – 9.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on Friday at 2:46 (their time) and the subsequent tsunami, left such wide-spread destruction that it is natural to question whether such an event is a “sign”. We humans often ask ourselves those type of questions after any major disaster. We might wonder if it’s a sign of global warming, a sign of geological upheaval, a sign of God’s displeasure, or a sign of the end of the world.

From Jesus until now, Christianity has talked about earthquakes as a sign of the end. Revelation speaks of a great earthquake and Jesus mentioned that earthquakes, famines and conflict would be like “birth pains” leading to the end.

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
-(Jesus) Matthew 24:7-8 [NASB]
Continue reading “Japan’s Earthquake and The Bible”

Did God Lie To Us?

There are two groups of Christians who believe that the universe was created by God.  The group that believes He did it in 6 actual days just a few thousand years ago, and the group that believes God did it billions of years ago.  Both groups often claim to interpret the Bible straightforwardly because the Bible never specifically says how old the earth is.  Thus it becomes a question over who has the proper interpretation.  An argument usually ensues over the Hebrew word “yom,” possible gaps of time, how long the seventh day actually lasted, and more.

I am currently a believer in a young earth.  Pretty crazy for a pastor I know, but it’s fun being radical and besides that, I just happen to think those models and theories work pretty well.  Yet if I (or you for that matter) want to hold to a young earth position, we’re going to be faced with a few thought-provoking theological questions.  Like this one:  Did God Lie to Us? Continue reading “Did God Lie To Us?”

Timothy Beal and Is There a Bible?

A friend asked me to comment on Timothy Beal’s blog post on CNN entitled “My Take: There’s no such thing as the Bible and Never has been”.

Beal is a good writer, but my first reaction was negative. After all, it’s an article that begins with its conclusion.  I’m sure it will be applauded by those who already agree, and denounced or ignored by those who don’t.  In church we call this “preaching to the choir,” and I’m definitely in a different choir than Timothy Beal.

It’s natural, but I believe these days we are starting to buy our culture’s own propaganda. You know, the one that says southerners are always dumb, Republicans are always rich, sexual promiscuity is always enlightened, and anyone who believes the Bible is true is uneducated at best, and raving mad at worst. Continue reading “Timothy Beal and Is There a Bible?”

Did Revelation Predict What Is Happening in Egypt & the Middle East?

It’s pure speculation at this point, especially when the results of so many protests and attempts at revolution are still up in the air, but how might all this turmoil fit with the Bible? I’d keep my eye on Revelation chapter 6, specifically the four riders of the Apocalypse as they are called. Again, I wouldn’t make any grand pronouncements, but it’s like anything else, it bears watching.

As I explained in a previous post, it’s the first rider that intrigues me most. Revelation chapter 5, the prologue to the four horsemen and the other three judgments, begins with God holding a book sealed with seven seals. In the day Revelation was written, books (or scrolls) were sealed in that way when they were legal documents pertaining to life and death. Many Bible teachers say this book was “the title deed for the earth.” Well, the Bible doesn’t say that, but it is at least true that anyone reading Revelation at the time it was written, would recognize that book was about life and death. And as it turns out, it was about the earth.

It becomes clear very quickly that it is a book about judgment. Chapter 5 begins by asking the question “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” (verse 2) and no one is found in heaven or earth who is worthy.

That is, until Jesus steps forward. Continue reading “Did Revelation Predict What Is Happening in Egypt & the Middle East?”

The Trinity: It’s the Whole Point

Although the Bible never uses the term, and never sets aside any passage to explain it, the idea of the “Trinity” has been a pretty key doctrine for Christianity for a long time. It can be found in various early creeds and teachings, and basically explains that God is one God, but revealed to mankind as three: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.

Arguments are made by some that Jesus never claimed to be God, but in fact, according to the Bible He did several times and did so in unmistakable ways. He took the name of God for Himself, He claimed the power of God for Himself, He claimed the authority of God for Himself, and flat out said He was equal with God in clear enough terms that many of those present tried to kill Him for blasphemy. So clear is the teaching in the Bible that Jesus is God, the Jehovah Witnesses -who do not believe in the Trinity- went to the trouble to develop their own Bible, which specifically has changed the passages of the New Testament dealing with Jesus as God. It is accurate to say then, that the Bible presents Jesus as God, with the lone exception being the version of the Bible printed by the Jehovah Witnesses in 1961.

Muslims and Jews would simply claim this is a heresy to the truth. Both the Jewish Scriptures (the Old Testament), and the Qur’an teach that God is one God. So does Christianity of course, but Christians believe in the Trinity, which adds that God is also three. On the surface it is contradictory, but in the expression and understanding of God, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t believe in any other way. Continue reading “The Trinity: It’s the Whole Point”

Sign of the Apocalypse in Egypt? -Mysterious Horseman

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show has a video clip showing various riot scenes from Egypt, and at about the 10:27 mark in a clip titled “World’s Eyes on Egypt,” there appears to be a mysterious horseman. Obviously this is a glare, or a weird reflection of the fire on the lens of the camera. Nevertheless, for anyone who knows of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in Revelation chapter 6, it’s kinda spooky, and very, very cool.

Here’s the original from Rachel Maddow’s site. The video is long, and the ghostly image appears around the 10:27 mark.

Here’s a much shorter video that plays up the spookiness factor. (It’s a little silly)

Here’s a link that demonstrates it’s just a camera lens thing.

Speculations are abounding on Youtube. While it is undoubtedly just a weird reflection, it is nevertheless a rather striking one. Why couldn’t it have looked like a racoon? Or a flaming peace symbol? Or the Eye of Sauron? For something that appears to simply be one of those camera anomalies, it sure picked a significant shape. A thought-provoking one for me.

Twenty years ago, while studying the book of Revelation, I came up with a theory about Revelation 6 that no one really took seriously, and I quickly dropped. By “no one,” I mean the 3-4 people I explained my theory to. Hey, I was just a young college student with plans to make a career in business, not dedicate my life to the ministry. Just as well. If I’d tried that theory out in Bible college, it would have undoubtedly been shot down even sooner, different as it was from a traditional interpretation. Besides, nothing really came of it. Twenty years passed, and the world didn’t end.

Which certainly may happen again, but for the record, it is somewhat interesting that something I predicted 20 years ago, seems poised to happen in the Middle East. Maybe my timing was just off? Continue reading “Sign of the Apocalypse in Egypt? -Mysterious Horseman”

Who Was Cain’s Wife in Genesis?

The Book of Genesis in the Bible, says that Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain and Able. In the story, Cain kills Able and eventually moves away to a land east of Eden. The Bible mentions Cain had a wife, but it doesn’t say where she came from, or when they got married, or where they met. It simply says this:

Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. -Genesis 4:16-17

So where did Cain get that wife? Surprisingly, despite all the attention given this question over the years, when one looks at the circumstances in the story itself, the answer isn’t hard at all.  The problem seems to be more that we don’t like the answer. Continue reading “Who Was Cain’s Wife in Genesis?”

Is There a Secret Behind All the Alien Movies Lately?

Let the conspiracy theories begin! I love aliens-invade-earth type of movies, and was delighted to see the “Cowboys and Aliens” preview during the Super Bowl. THAT should be fun. But wow, shouldn’t these movies start to take a number and get in line? It seems we’ve got movies about aliens invading the earth coming out of our pointy green ears. They’re everywhere! Run for your lives!

(Remember when we had two, count’em TWO, movies about giant asteroids smacking the earth? And that seemed like a lot at the time. My favorite of the two was the rather silly “Armageddon.” The other one, “Deep Impact,” concentrated so much on everyone’s feelings that by the end, I was rooting for the meteor…)

Is it because movies about aliens invading earth are just popular? An easy buck? (Admittedly, I’ll shell out a few bucks almost every time) Is it because there is a lack of better ideas? Perhaps. But those are boring reasons. What about the more sinister sounding theories? You know, some of these movies, like Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles, even look the same. Are these movies a result of the government preparing us for something? I can just picture Stephen Spielberg being rushed to an undisclosed location to review a top secret picture taken by the Voyager spacecraft…. Or are we producing these things like mad because of some larger, even spiritual reason? Continue reading “Is There a Secret Behind All the Alien Movies Lately?”

Age of the Earth, Can the Bible be serious?

The Bible actually never says how old the earth is, but people do infer the age by adding up the genealogy lists which give the ages of various persons in a family line. There are several places in Genesis where it lists who was the father of who, and how long they lived, so adding those up, people arrive at an age of about 6,000 years.

It has been argued that traditionally Jewish genealogies have sometimes left people out and skipped a few generations here and there when making a list.

If that happened with the lists in the Bible, then one would expect the age of the earth to actually be a bit more, but still nowhere near the 4 1/2 billion mark that the scientifically establishment usually says. (I heard a rumor they are fixing to increase it again, this time to 6 billion)

Many Bible believers, and even some (not all) Hebrew scholars have argued that the word we translated “day” in the Genesis story referred to a time period that was longer than 24 hours. (The word can mean a portion of a day, basically a full day, or an indefinite period of time depending on how it’s used.) Here, it’s used in a way that is most easily just translated “day,” as in… a regular ol’ day.

Other’s have argued there’s a gap of time in there BEFORE the seven days of creation even start. Historically, they’ve argued that this is the time the dinosaurs lived, but the Hebrew language in those verses doesn’t really allow any gap between verse 1 and 2 for the dinosaurs to live in. Some argue that the earth was covered by water for eons, in between Genesis 1:2 and 3, but you can’t fit land dinosaurs in there.

So the plain meaning of the Bible, taking a day to be basically a regular day, is that the earth is a little more than 6,000 years old. Since there was evidently no sun until day four, I think you have give a little room for God to say what is meant by “evening and morning” on those days. I think Augustine said those were “God-defined days, not solar-defined days” and I agree. Was it 24 hours, or 19 hours, or 456 hours…?? Continue reading “Age of the Earth, Can the Bible be serious?”

Where Did All the Water Come From… Or Go? -Noah’s Flood Part III

The Bible says that “all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” -Genesis 7:11-12 (ASV). So according to the Bible, it came from two places: From underneath the oceans and raining down from the sky for 40 days and 40 nights.

And if it came from underneath the oceans, was that in the form of water, or was it in the form of steam as volcanic eruptions took place along the earth’s crust sending huge plums of steam into the atmosphere where it cooled and then fell back to earth as rain?

It would be quite the cataclysm would it not? Continue reading “Where Did All the Water Come From… Or Go? -Noah’s Flood Part III”

Noah’s Flood, Examining Some Questions, Part II

In his book, “A Biblical Case for an Old Earth,” David Snoke claims that the story of Noah in the Bible refers to a localized flood, and not a global one. I enjoyed his book, but I disagree with Snoke on this. So just for fun, I thought I’d answer some of his objections to a world-wide flood.

In part one I dealt with gathering the animals, fitting them into the ark, and feeding the carnivorous ones! Here, I will deal with whether or not 8 people can feed that many creatures every day, the ventilation of the ark, and animals with special needs. Let’s start with whether or not it’s even possible for 8 people to practice their animal husbandry skills with that many critters… Continue reading “Noah’s Flood, Examining Some Questions, Part II”

When A Miracle Doesn’t Come

The evidence used for Christ or God most often by those who preached in the Bible was not the evidence of a miracle. Jesus used miracles. The early church performed miracles and Moses performed miracles. For most, however, it was the word of God and typically, the prophetic word that provided the evidence. Miracles by Moses, Jesus, & the early church leaders authenticated God’s word through them.

Why is this true?

    JESUS SPEAKING TO THE PEOPLE IN HIS HOME TOWN:
    “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” -Luke 4:24-27 [NIV]

First, Jesus was making a larger point to the Jews. He brought this up because in both of these examples from Israel’s history, God withheld blessing from his people and instead gave assistance to non-Jews. This was symbolic of what was happening in Jesus day. The Jews, God’s people, wouldn’t accept Jesus and so while God would bless the non-Jewish world through Christ, the Jews would be left out. In fact, their nation would cease to exist about 35 years after this in 70 AD when the Romans wiped them out.

But there’s another question.

Why is it true that God blessed two people, curing Naaman the Syrian of leprosy and providing food for a non-Jewish widow, while at the same time Jews were dying of leprosy and Jewish widows were starving to death?

Why doesn’t God give a miracle every time? Or more to the point… Why doesn’t THIS appear to be true all the time?

    THE BOOK OF JAMES, GIVING VARIOUS INSTRUCTIONS AT THE END
    13Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. -James 5:13-16 [NIV]

Without looking very deeply, this passage obviously seems to say that if the elders of the church anoint someone with oil and pray for them, they will get well. Period. They will be healed. Yet I know of times when this doesn’t seem to work. Someone prayed for by the elders, even anointed with oil according to the verses above, doesn’t always get better. Or least not for as long as we’d like. Why? Continue reading “When A Miracle Doesn’t Come”