Evidence; Part 7 Eternity…

June 15

God …has planted eternity in the human heart…” (from Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I find it intriguing that in every culture, past and present, backward or forward-thinking, educated or illiterate – there is a prevailing belief in an afterlife. Human beings have afterlife2always held on to the notion that death is not the end of our journey – that there is something waiting for us “beyond the veil.”

This is most curious because there is really nothing in this life that would cause us to expect some kind of life awaiting us after we breathe our last breath here. Everything that we observe about death tells us that it is permanent. We cease to breathe. We die. They put us into the ground (or reduce us to ashes). End of story.

So why is it that we cannot accept that it is the end of the story?

Another thing: why does nearly everyone who has ever believed in the afterlife, also heavenbelieve that it is a far better place to be? You hear it all the time, at funerals… “They have gone to a much better place.” How do we know that? And why do we all nod our heads in agreement? The afterlife is never seen as the same old kind of existence, except that it lasts a lot longer. It is always better. Eternal. Perfect. Full of joy, and peace… and (usually) beautiful beyond words to describe it.

Sure, there are variations of understanding about the what the afterlife will be (depending upon the culture) but I am not aware of a single culture that ever held to the belief that when you die… that’s it… there is nothing beyond the grave.

Many have tried to explain this afterlife phenomena, logically. Perhaps, it is just wishful thinking. Or those who have had so little joy in this life need to believe there is another chance for joy “on the other side.” Or maybe it is the product of the “powerful” – who desire to continue their life of power on another plane/realm of existence.

But none of these answers can explain why eternity weighs so heavily in human minds and hearts. We have virtually no proof of it’s existence – but we believe anyway. In spite of everything our experience tells us…

If we will accept it, the Bible tells us why human beings have always been so enamored with the afterlife. God has placed (planted) eternity in our hearts. He hardwired it into us. He set it in us to remind us that there is more to this life than this life. And to remind us that He is a God who dwells in eternity.

eternity

And at the heart of His hope for us, is that we will spend our afterlife with Him. Everything He has done for us (through Jesus) was to ensure that we can be with Him forever.

He put within us the need to yearn for life beyond the grave… and He made a way for all of us to discover the fullness of that promise.

This is the central message of the Bible.

Does this prove God’s existence? No. But it is another clue, another piece of the puzzle, that reveals a compelling bit of evidence that has been right there in front of us all along.

CS Lewis heaven

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Evidence; Part 6 Imagine…

June 14

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger. A brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people sharing all the world…” (John Lennon)

Imagine_John_LennonIn October 1971, John Lennon released the song, “Imagine,” as he launched into his solo career. The magazine, Rolling Stone, described “Imagine” as Lennon’s “greatest musical gift to the world” – and ranked “Imagine” number three on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Though shrouded in the prevailing thoughts of protesting the Vietnam war – it is the overriding theme of “Imagine” that catches our attention.

“Imagine” is Lennon’s vision of a Utopian society. No war. No greed. No hunger. Everyone art for peaceliving and working together as one – sharing everything together. It struck a chord (no pun intended!) with a whole generation of young people – and still “connects” with people to this day.

The reason for this, is that all human beings seem to have this common notion of how society should be. We want more than to “imagine” a world in peace and harmony – we yearn to have that kind of world. (Sure, we have differing views on how that should be accomplished — but the end result is the same longing for worldwide peace…)

But where does this “Utopian” idea come from? In a world that is clearly marred (often defined) by constant selfishness, greed, oppression and conflict – why do we all seem to fervently desire a society where all the things that we fail to be, become a reality?

Or to put it another way… why do we look at the cruelty, malevolence, and horrors of this world and realize that there is something terribly wrong about those things? If this is all we have ever known, what would cause us to long for something greater and better? Why do we refuse to accept that things are just the way they are – and there is precious little that can be done about it?

In the chorus of “Imagine,” Lennon speaks of “dreamers.” People who look at things and long for the “more and better” – who seek for perfection, for all of humanity. But where does the essence of this dream come from? Why does it, so vividly, haunt us? Why does it beckon us to bring these elusive “dreams” to reality?

utopia

Those who do not hold to faith in God, will tell us that everything we are is because of natural selection and natural causes. We are just the sum of what we have been naturally conditioned to be. We are all the products of a “survival of the fittest” reality.

But this makes no sense. If all we have ever known is “getting ours,” and surviving in the midst of conflict and struggle with other human beings – such “dreams” of Utopian society shouldn’t even be there. They should have been programmed right out of us.

Is it possible that these “Utopian dreams” are hard-wired into our very being? That in spite of all the natural conditioning from the constant ills of society, we just keep on “imagining” the what if — and longing for it to… be.

To me, this is another clue – an affirmation of the fact that there is Someone, beyond us, who has put something within us that calls us to that perfect world we seek… and yearn for… and dream about… and dare to imagine…

 

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Evidence; Part 5 BANG!

June 13

Most people have heard of something called “the Big Bang.” A simple (simplistic?) explanation is that everything in the universe, supposedly, came from a very powerful explosion that occurred in the deepest emptiness of space a long time ago. Nothing was in existence before the Big Bang (except for one tiny, infinitely powerful particle). The theory is that everything in the universe came to be, after this mighty particle exploded.

big bang

I don’t know if this is true. I wasn’t there. Nobody was. Some scientific circles claim to have evidence of this theory. It’s possible. But it is often the interpretation of evidence that becomes the issue. People, even smart people, often find what they want to find.

But a couple of things seem very unreasonable to me…

First of all, every thing must have an origin – even tiny, infinitely powerful particles. Where did the particle come from? How did it come to be? And what would cause it to explode and release all of it’s infinite matter and energy? Does it seem reasonable that every material thing in the universe could come from a single, minuscule, exploding particle – no matter how mighty?

But that’s not the really unreasonable part. Has anyone ever witnessed order coming out of chaos. An explosion releases just about as much chaos as is possible. And more troubling, in the history of scientific study, explosions have never been observed to produce anything but destruction and disorder.

junkyard tornadoYou’ve probably heard this one before, but claiming that all the order in the universe occurred because of a cataclysmic explosion, is like a tornado tearing through a junkyard and producing a jumbo jet. Is it theoretically possible? Maybe. Has it ever happened?

Could it have happened with something so important as the universe? Again, we are bordering on infinite improbability.

The real question is what makes the most reasonable sense concerning the origin of all things?

The Bible makes the claim that an infinite and eternal Being, Who has always existed, chose to originate every thing in this universe. And He did it with a purpose in Mind. At god-created-manthe centerpiece of His purpose was human beings – created by Him, in His Own Image, to be able to interact with Him.

Personally, I don’t see why a God of such infinite importance would have anything to do with beings of such limited importance (we ARE but dust of the gournd). But He is not asking us to weigh the value of His purpose – He is just asking us to recognize and respect Him, in His purpose.

Here’s the thing: “the Big Bang” does not discredit or eliminate God. After all, He could have done it that way – if He chose to do so…

What matters is determining the most reasonable way of answering the question of the origin of all things: Is it the detonation of an all-powerful tiny particle?

Or is it the decision of an all-powerful Originator, Who chose to bring all things into existence?

BrownCockroachIn this matter, the implications of our decision are huge. If we are only the result of a cosmic chaotic event, then we have no more value, or meaning, than a rock or a tree or a cockroach.

But, if we are the result of a divine decision, with a divine purpose, and are the centerpiece of all His divine creative work – then we are meaningful, and cherished, by this Creator.

This is exactly what the Bible claims…

Everything we know about the universe began in some way. In looking at the evidence, we must each decide which is the best, most reasonable, beginning…

CS-Lewis reason and atheism

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Evidence; Part 4 By Chance or Design

June 12

What if I were to tell you that this post is the result of a random action. I just wandered into my office, sat down at my computer and started banging on the keys. No thoughts. fastest-typing-keyboard-androidNo research. No agenda. I just started pressing the keys… and this page was the result (just as you are reading it).

And what if I were to tell you that all my posts have happened by this same random activity. I don’t even know what I have written. I just hit keys… and when I am tired of hitting keys… I just post what I have “typed.” I am not aware of, or responsible for, my words, — because they just… happened.

Of course, this is nonsense. You know better. Although it is possible that I might randomly produce a single word (or sentence) that might be intelligible to you – to produce a whole page without thought, and by random action, is so improbable that it is not even remotely reasonable.

law-of-gravity-enforcedNow, let’s think about the world we live in. There are natural laws that govern this world (Laws of physics, bio-genesis, chemistry, uniformity, etc.). Every living thing is effected by these governing, unchanging laws. These laws have a purpose – they provide the boundaries by which we all live (and help us to make sense of our world).

There are creatures in this world that have specific qualities that allow them to survive fishin specific environments. For instance, fish live in water. Air-breathing creatures do not. We have creatures that fly in the air, and others that burrow in the ground. And each of these types of creatures are specifically equipped to abide (thrive?!) in their particular environment. Now, think of the thousands of variations of all the creatures on this planet, and the ways that their varying characteristics and Bald Eagle in mid-air flight over Homer Spit Kenai Peninsula Alaska Winterpreferences allow them to function differently from all the others. Each and all of them, live on this planet in their own particular (and suitable) way. Many of which have a specific purpose that bring benefits to all the others.

It would be entirely reasonable to assume that there just might be an intelligence and an intent behind all that we see on this earth. That this world was designed, to work as it does, by a designer. (Just as you would read a book [or a post] and conclude there was a designer, a purpose, and an intent behind it. )

Yet, there are many who believe (and who state as absolute fact!) that this world came to be, by random action. No thought. No intent. Everything just… happened. Everything works as it does… all by accident.

Is that possible?? Sure. There is an infinitesimal chance… but it is just the tiniest increment away from utterly preposterous. A chance so remote that it is virtually (and mathematically) impossible.

So, which view seems more likely? Which view is more reasonable?

Could there be an intelligent designer behind all that there is (and is this God?)? Or is all the order to the universe just the result of random, mindless activity?

What is the best explanation for where the evidence leads us?

richard-dawkins-57-80-17

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Evidence; Part 3

June 11

I am always amazed when two different people can look at the same thing and come to two entirely different conclusions.

Case in point… back in the days when ocean travelers journeyed by steam ships, there were two shoe salesmen who were dispatched to scout out the continent of Africa, as a possible market for shoes. Both men arrived, and went their separate ways to scout the territory. The Shoes StoryThe first scoured the towns and countrysides and wired back to headquarters: “Nobody wears shoes here… I’m coming home.”

The second salesman also scoured the towns and countrysides and wired back to headquarters: “Nobody wears shoes here… Send two boatloads of shoes.”

The two men saw the same thing, but interpreted their findings, differently. One saw the situation only as a potential for great failure. The other, as an amazing opportunity for great success. How we interpret what we see in life, is all-important.

This is true for every human being, when it comes to the evidence of God.

We all see the same things… but how those things are interpreted makes all the difference.

stephen-hawking-4Author Stephen Hawking, a man who describes himself as one who seeks to understand the the wonders of the universe, once said this: “We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.” Hawking looked up at the heavens and saw the wonder of this universe. But, this awesome sight cause him to come to this conclusion: “There is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.”

king-david-playing-the-harpAnother author once looked up at the same stars and said this: “When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him… yet, you have crowned him with glory and honor… Oh Lord… how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!” (from Psalm 8:3-9)

One man sees the glory of the heavens and reveres… the universe. The other man sees the glory of the heavens and reveres God. Same sight. Different conclusions.

The apostle Paul also looked to the heavens and made this observation: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20)

So what causes people to look at the heavens and come to different conclusions?

The apostle tells us that those who ignore and reject God, do so because they have become “futile in their thinking” (Romans 1:21) One conclusion should be obvious to us. But there are other factors that get in the way – things that can change how we interpret what should be obvious to us. These things are the result of HOW we think. HOW we process what we see. And, according to the apostle, these thought processes are “aimless/pointless/lead to nowhere” (the meaning of the original word).

If you remove God from our thought processes, we can look up at the heavens and never make the connection to a Creator. He doesn’t exist, in our minds, before we ever look at the evidence of His existence. So what should lead us to verify the wonder of God, and His existence – is never even a consideration.

Evidently, what should be evident… becomes no evidence at all.

Prayer focus: God, help me to live in the wonder of wonder and complexity of Your Creation.

galaxy2

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Evidence; Part 2

June 10

When my children were small, one of the things that we would often do was get out a puzzle, and put it together. But invariably, our puzzles ended up with missing pieces. The puzzlekids didn’t seem to mind. They would put together the puzzle with all the available pieces and proudly proclaim what their work revealed.

The fun of a puzzle, is putting all the pieces together so you can see the picture that those pieces have come together to make.

Never once, did my children fail to recognize what the picture revealed – in spite of the missing pieces.

I have noticed this about faith in God. He gives us a lot of pieces that fit together to reveal the proof of His existence – but not all. There are some pieces missing.

This used to bother me a lot. “God, why don’t You just prove Yourself beyond a shadow of a doubt? Why don’t you make Yourself so obvious that no one could deny Your existence?”

But God always brings us to a point that is just beyond seeing the complete picture.

leap-of-faith-300x228This is why the role of faith is so essential in a relationship with God. There will always be just a little doubt that causes us to have to make a step of faith. It seems that God designed things that way.

People will often talk about God in terms of a blind faith – but I have never found that to be the case. God has always provided us with plenty of pieces to the puzzle, so that we can exercise an eyes-wide-open faith. Blind faith implies that nothing can be seen – so we have to step out into the dark. That is such strange thing to believe – when we consider that Jesus came and described Himself as the Light of the world.

The truth is that faith in God is never blind. It is not unreasonable. But it is also never about reason.

A God that can be totally explained and reasoned – is no god worth our time. A God we can get our minds around – is just too small.

existedSo when those who reject faith in God talk about the need for evidence, I wonder if they really understand what they are saying. Are they wanting a god so small that he can be reduced to an understandable size? Are they saying they will not believe unless there is 100% undeniable proof of God’s existence? And what would they accept as evidence enough?

We all have received the same evidence – the same clues to God’s existence. But something is at work here that goes beyond the need for a reasonable faith. Something that looks at the puzzle pieces… and never attempts to put them together. Or counts the available pieces and refuses to put together an incomplete puzzle. Or wants nothing to do with this puzzle in the first place.

When it comes to the case of the existence of God, it is never really about a lack of evidence. It is something else entirely…

Prayer focus: Thank you for giving us enough evidence to know You are real.

ravi-zacharias-71-86-39

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Evidence

June 9

Recently, I was watching a documentary that was focused upon the popular trend of rejecting faith in God. It is unprecedented, that in our current cultural setting, non-faith is becoming something that all the “cool kids are doing.” It is no longer a fringe movement… non-faith is becoming more and more “mainstream.”

But one question, that was posed, caught my attention. Each person, who professed to be a person of non-faith, was asked if there was anything that might change their minds – to accepting the possibility of a divine Creator of all things.

Evidence Word HighlightedNearly every person said the same thing… “Evidence.”

Now, that seems like a noble answer to the question. But I do not really believe that people, who reject faith in God, are all that serious about evidence. They believe what they believe because they want to believe that way. Their current “faith” status certainly is based upon reasons – I am just not that convinced those reasons are really thought through.

For instance, when someone says that they are an atheist – that is already an indefensible claim. Think about it: an atheist is saying there is no God. The problem with this is that the atheist can not know that. In order to know that there is no God, one would have to know all things – and only in the fullness of knowledge, can anyone come to a right conclusion on the existence of God. Since no human being can know all things, to not believe in God is not a fact – it is a faith statement.* They think that it is true. But to think something true, does not make it true.

For the atheist, it is far more reasonable and honest is to say that they are agnostic (not knowing if God exists). At least that is an argument from ignorance, and allows for the possibility of things beyond what one might think about a subject.

But that is not where our culture is going. We despise not knowing. We don’t care for any association with ignorance about any issue. Let alone the issue of a divine Being. It is far more satisfying to close the case – to end the debate – to terminate the issue, and to get on with our lives.

So evidence does not matter to someone who has already decided an issue. Those who are already convinced, do not have a need (or desire) to be persuaded.

This is where our culture is headed… and quickly. This is what our current generation of The Church must understand… and prepare to lovingly confront. We really need to know what we believe… and why.

So is there any hope? Always. God is never surprised by what any culture accepts. We have to believe that God is at work in the hearts and lives of people who may have already rejected Him. Our only hope relies upon the Holy Spirit… and prayer.

We owe it to God, and to every human being, to intercede for every human soul that crosses our path. What seems impossible is God’s specialty. There may, indeed, be those souls out there who say one thing, but are really hoping that someone can come along and bring some proof that changes their thinking forever.

If the god of this world truly does blind the minds of the unbelieving (2 Cor. 4:4), a God of miracles can open blinded eyes. He came and proved that already.

Prayer focus: God, teach me to know what I believe… and to pray for those who may be skeptical about faith in You.

know-why-you-believe

* (NOTE: To be fair: Believing in God is also a faith statement, based upon the acceptance of certain facts – some of which cannot be proven by reason. The difference is that the Christian accepts that, within the realm of all the things we may not know, God could… and does exist.)

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