Thursday, March 31, 2005

The favor of waiting on the Lord

Psalm 147:1-12

How good it is to sing praises to our God!
how pleasant it is to honour Him with praise!
The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem;
He gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars
and calls them all by their names.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
there is no limit to his wisdom.
The Lord lifts up the lowly,
but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make music to our God upon the harp.
He covers the heavens with clouds
and prepares rain for the earth;
He makes grass to grow upon the mountains
and green plants to serve us all.
He provides food for flocks and herds
and for the young ravens when they cry.
He is not impressed by the might of a horse,
He has no pleasure in human strength;
But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear Him,
in those who await His gracious favour.

The Lord delights in those who fear Him, in those who await His gracious favor.

Waiting on God is linked with fearing God.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Waiting on God is wise.
Waiting on God causes God to
delight in me.
I wait on thee, O God. I await your answers. I await your favor. I actively fear your name by patiently waiting for You. Amen.
Teach me to be patient. Amen.
Teach me to be patient through waiting expectantly. Amen.
Give me your delight as I wait expectantly. Amen.

I am not good at waiting, Lord. I am not good at patience. You know this. Have mercy upon me. Waiting your favor without sensing your Spirit can damage my faith. But sensing your Spirit without waiting your favor can damage my will. Give me enough of your Good Spirit, O God, to strengthen my faith, in the name of Christ Jesus my Lord. Give me enough holy waiting to strengthen my will for Christ. Fill me with your power and expectation. Fill me with yourself even as I await your face. Fill me with your presence even as I await your hand. Grant me a new will even as I wait your Perfect will. In the name of the matchless Christ, Jesus, who waited for all things according to the will of the Father! Amen.

The fear of the Lord is waiting on Him.
The fear of the Lord is willing His will.
The fear of the Lord is seeing Him
here. Amen.


He counts the numbers of the stars, and calls them all by name!

He is the One on whom I wait.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ancient silver scroll dates to 7th century B.C.

May the LORD bless you and keep you. May the LORD make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace.

So reads the Priestly Benediction from the Book of Numbers, the oldest and most enduring blessing of the Jewish and Christian faith.

In 1979, Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay found two silver scrolls in an ancient Israelite tomb on a Jerusalem hillside. Inscribed on these scrolls was the ancient blessing: "May the LORD bless you. May the LORD make His face to shine upon you..." Based on his knowledge of Hebrew text, Barkay dated the scrolls to the 7th century B.C. -- making them the oldest existing evidence of Scriptural verse.

But this date was not accepted in academia until science caught up with reality. Recently, a team of American scholars proved the 7th century date: the scrolls are 2,600 years old. That's 400 years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls. A CBS article comments: "It took modern technology to prove their antiquity."
"We had one foot planted in the ancient past and one foot planted in the future," says Bruce Zuckerman with the University of Southern California.

Sophisticated computer photo-imaging revealed more of the text, allowing experts to confirm the early dating. The scrolls are believed to have been worn as amulets, containing the blessing to protect their wearers from evil.

Quite an amazing discovery! But what does it mean in terms of biblical lineage?

Frankly, it is very encouraging for scholars who are faith friendly. It moves the textual line back 400 years beyond the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were in themselves a smashing blow to liberal theories of Hebrew Scriptural development. Now we have this little inscribed silver scroll, from 400 years before, showing biblical text as reverenced tradition of the people of God.

It all points to the text as originating in a time frame as the text asserts for itself.

Which is quite wonderful...but not surprising for those who believed the claims of that text in the first place.

Forensic science and archeology team up to support faith. Who'da thunk it?


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Aslan breaks the curse

The Name of Aslan

"Aslan is on the move..." said Mr. Beaver.

"They say Aslan is on the move and perhaps has already landed."

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning -- either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like now.

At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or beginning of summer.


"Is -- is he a man?" asked Lucy.

"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion -- the Lion, the great Lion."

"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he -- quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and no mistake,' said Mrs. Beaver, 'if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."

"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King I tell you."

"I'm longing to see him," said Peter, "even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point."

Edmund sells out to the Witch

But Edmund managed to believe, or to pretend he believed, that [the Witch] wouldn’t do anything very bad to [Peter, Susan, and Lucy], “Because,” he said to himself, “all these people who say nasty things about her are her enemies and probably half of it isn’t true. She was jolly nice to me, anyway, much nicer than they are. I expect she is the rightful Queen really. Anyway, she’ll be better than that awful Aslan!” At least, that was the excuse he made in his own mind for what he was doing. It wasn’t a very good excuse, however, for deep down inside him he really knew that the White Witch was bad and cruel.

The Witch makes her claim

"Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?" asked the Witch.

"Let us say I have forgotten it," answered Aslan gravely. "Tell us of this Deep Magic."

"Tell you?" said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. "Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us? Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill? Tell you what is engraved on the scepter of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea? You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to kill.... And so that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property... unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water."

"It is very true," said Aslan, "I do not deny it."

The Sacrifice of Aslan

Aslan walks slowly up the hill to the ancient Table, to give himself away. Lucy and Susan watch in horror as he is rushed upon by Ogres with monstrous teeth, and wolves, and bull-headed men …and Cruels and Hags and Incubuses, Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets, Sprites, Orknies, Wooses, and Ettins. They rush him with fury, and bind him in fear…

They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling, some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him on to the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.

"The cowards! The cowards!" sobbed Susan. "Are they still afraid of him, even now?"

They rolled the huge Lion round on his back and tied all his four paws together, shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though, had the Lion chosen, one of those paws could have been the death of them all. But he made no noise, even when the enemies, straining and tugging, pulled the cords so tight that they cut into his flesh. Than they began to drag him towards the Stone Table.

“Stop!” said the Witch. “Let him first be shaved.”

Another roar of mean laughter went up from her followers as an ogre with a pair of shears came forward squatted down by Aslan’s head. Snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling gold began to fall to the ground. Then the ogre stood back and the children, watching from their hiding-place, could see the face of Aslan looking all small and different without its mane. The enemies also saw the difference.

“Why, he’s only a great cat after all!” cried one.

“Is that what we were afraid of?” said another.

And they surged round Aslan jeering at him, saying things like “Puss, Puss! Poor Pussy,” and “How many mice have you caught to-day, Cat?” and “Would you like a saucer of milk, Pussumus?”

“Oh, how can they?” said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. “The brutes, the brutes!” for now that the first shock was over the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.

“Muzzle him!” said the Witch. And even now, as they worked about his face putting on the muzzle, one bite from his jaws would have cost two or three of them their hands. But he never moved. And this seemed to enrage all that rabble. Everyone was at him now. Those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find their courage, and for a few minutes the two girls could not even see him — so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him.

Four Hags, holding four torches, stood at the corners of the Table. The Witch bared her arms...Then she began to whet her knife.

The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. They couldn't bear to look and covered their eyes.

But the Witch’s knife comes down…

And it is night.

As soon as the wood was silent again Susan and Lucy crept out onto the open hill-top. The moon was getting low and thin clouds were passing across her, but still they could see the shape of the great Lion lying dead in his bonds.

Long night.

Desperate night.

Cold night.

Aslan reverses the Curse

The holy dawn…

At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise—a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant's plate.... The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.

"Who's done it?" cried Susan. "What does it mean? Is it more magic?"

"Yes!" said a great voice from behind their backs. "It is more magic." They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

"Oh, Aslan!" cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad....

"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."

Holy Morning!


Happy Easter, friends of Aslan!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Maundy Thursday fast for Terri Schindler-Schiavo

Friends, the death of this beautiful woman of God is near...near the day of our Lord's death at the hands of close betrayal, biased judges and politicized social system. Sound familiar?

The call has gone out for the people of faith to fast on Maundy Thursday, to fast and pray. Then let us fast and pray...during the day, let us break the bread of the Passover in the evening, but let us pray during the day for this child of God.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Meditation on despair

How could Peter deny Jesus at such a crisis point?

According to Kierkegaard, denial of love is only understood in a prior context of despair. In despair, we not only deny our true self, we also deny the true object of love -- the other.

Free from despair, we are free to dance in obedience and love. In despair, we choose less than our destiny.

Kierkegaard: “In nature, all is obedience, unconditional obedience.”
Jesus: “Behold the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these!”

Kierkegaard: “Despair is the sickness unto death." We despair when we are outside ourselves, when we cannot “transparently rest in the Power that established” us.

Despair prepares us for the chains of disobedience.

Peter: “I know not the Man!”

What despair to denial! God, have mercy on us…God have mercy on those who despair of You! Abba! Mercy! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

Peter: Leading up to the cross, Peter had done the ‘right things,’ yet had been steadfastly rebuked for them by the Lord.

A few weeks before, Jesus talks about death, and Peter tries to save Him: “This will not happen to you, Lord…no! We will not let it happen!” And Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan.” Could anything have cut Peter more deeply? Could he truly have understood this rebuke?

On the night of betrayal, Jesus stoops to a servant’s task, a dignity far beneath the leader! Peter moves to protect Jesus’ dignity: “No! Not my feet, Lord!” And is rebuked: “You have no part in me unless I wash your feet.” “Then my whole body as well, Lord!”

Days before betrayal, Jesus warns them in ominous language, and says something about buying swords (Luke 22:36, et al). Peter obeys…and is the only disciple courageous enough to actually use the sword when Jesus was taken at night, but is rebuked for it by his Lord: “Cephas, those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” Then Jesus heals Malchus, the man he struck! Paradox.
Then Jesus let himself be taken
. What is going on?

And there in the courtyard of Caiaphas, Peter sees something that he never would have imagined: His leader, his Lord, letting himself be abused, tried and struck…when Peter knows the power in that Voice! This Voice brought Lazarus back from death only weeks before! This Voice felled the soldiers as dead men when they came to take Him. Yet…yet this powerful Lord refuses to speak! Letting himself be torn and falsely tried! What is happening? Dreams of the Kingdom! What kind of King? Peter's life is turned on its head: Despair beyond despair.

So the question comes: you also are with Him? NO! I know not this man? Who is this Man? Who is this Man? This cannot be my Messiah! I know Him not! I know Him not!




Prayer on despair: Lord, save your people from despair!

Lord, save us from despair…when we cannot see our way to you, when we cannot see what kind of King you are…save us! When dreams are darkened, and we cannot see the stars, please save us from despair! Mercy, Lord! We are human! Show us your ways, show us yourself clearly, or we despair! Lord! The battle is lonely. Lord, we are overmatched. We have no swords to combat theirs. Jesus, meet us, or we despair! Let us see your banner upon the mountain, and we will fight until the sword cleaves our hands. Make yourself known, my Lord and my God! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy! Save us from denial, save us from despair, Amen, Amen, Amen.

Lord Jesus, teach me to be like a lily, so that I do not despair of You…but grow and open to your sun, and rest in your rain. In your name I pray, Amen.

Lord Jesus, set my nature at one with You, cause me to be my true You, and with nature I will rise to obedience, unconditional obedience, Amen.



Saturday, March 19, 2005

Meditation on separation: 'My God, my God, why...?'

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Of all the words from the Cross, this is the one that tears the heart. This is the cry that sears the soul, words of separation, utter loneliness…deep in our spirit we feel the fear…abandoned! Abandoned by Abba? What pain! What mystery!

How can this be? How can the Eternal Son be separated from Abba, the loving, Holy Father?

The question is one that we cannot fathom. We cannot comprehend the essence of God. So we can only approach this cry from the human side. And here it shouts out something we understand: abandonment.



For sin brings separation, and that separation we understand: Separation from God, separation from others, separation from ourselves.

In these words, Jesus cries the cry of the human race, cry penned by the ancient Psalmist, a universal reality: “My God, why? Why have You forsaken me?”

For everyone who has ever wept, “Why?” For all who have ever sensed inner separation from God, and wept over the despair of sin – its loneliness, abandonment, and separation – a light dawns in this cry of Christ. Here Jesus is bearing the separation penalty of our sin: as Jesus takes upon himself the sins of the world, in that instant He bears the actual separation of every human from God.

In this cry, Jesus takes the sting of our own forsakenness.

Jesus takes our abandonment so that we can know, no matter what our feelings, we are not forsaken by God: God himself carried our separation on the Cross.

William Cowper sought most of his life for assurance of faith. He battled despair in order to write high hymns of Christian faith. But, in his darkest hours toward the end of life, he found no comfort for his soul. In his last published poem, “The Castaway,” he termed himself a “destined wretch,” forsaken by Divine:

No voice divine the storm allay’d,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch’d from all effectual aid,
We perish’d, each alone... [1]

In Cowper’s mind, he died without hope. He could not feel God, and so he concluded that God had left him. He felt that he was abandoned by God, and not mourned by others.

It is a dreadful story.

But was Cowper right that he was castaway by God, because he felt forsaken, lonely…separated from the Father?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning took up that same question at Cowper’s grave. Elizabeth grieved Cowper’s lonely heart and death. But at Cowper’s grave, through tears, she answered his deepest questions in light of Jesus’ cry from the Cross:

Deserted! God could separate from His own essence rather;
And Adam’s sins have swept between the righteous Son and Father;
Yea, once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry His universe hath shaken --
It when up single, echoless, “My God, I am forsaken!”

It went up from the Holy’s lips amid His lost creation,
That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation!
That earth’s worst frenzies, marring hope, should mar not hope’s fruition,
And I, on Cowper’s grave, should see his rapture in a vision. [3]

Oh! God bless Elizabeth Barrett Browning!

In faith she answered the worst claim that human despair can make: Our separation must be seen in light of the Eternal Son. The cry of Immanuel shook the universe, going up single, echoless, so that of lost humans, no son or daughter should ever again weep these words of desolation!

Our worst frenzies of earth, our worst separations, though they should mar our very hope, they cannot take away hope’s fruition, for that was won for us on the Cross, as Immanuel himself cried out, “Abba! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Hope. Belonging. Son. Daughter of God.

Separation conquered.

This is the human meaning of Christ’s forsaken cry!




[1] William Cowper, “The Castaway” (1799), English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald,
The Harvard Classics: 1909–14,
[2] Cowper, “Castaway.”
[3] Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Cowper's Grave," The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (London: John Murray, 1914), 143.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Jewish photographer believes in the Shroud

God has a sense of humor, we must admit! :-)

Here, in a story with a twist, Barrie Schwortz, the Jewish science photographer assigned to the Shroud of Turin Research Project, believes that the Shroud actually wrapped the body of Jesus. He bases his beliefs on pure science and data "unclouded by media exaggeration and hype."

Schwortz comments:
I am still Jewish, yet I believe the Shroud of Turin is the cloth the man Jesus was wrapped in after He was crucified... That is not meant as a religious statement, but one based on my privileged position of direct involvement with many of the serious Shroud researchers in the world, and a thorough knowledge of the scientific data, unclouded by media exaggeration and hype.

Schwortz adds a great line about a Jew being given this task of observation and belief is "proof of God's sense of humor." :-)

Then, in a more reflective statement, Schwortz says: "God always chooses a Jew to be a messenger."

Now that is something to think about!

Also, this time of year is great for reflection on the Shroud. Especially with Shroud research exploding. New forensic science adds layers to the Shroud story, literally. Recent analysis reveals a second layer face -- a faint image -- on the back of the Shroud.

According to Daniel Porter, a recent Journal of Optics article points to mystery, if not miracle:
The Shroud of Turin images may not the direct result of a miracle, at least not in a traditional sense of the word. But they are not manmade either. These seem to be the contradictory conclusions from an article in the peer-reviewed, scientific Journal of Optics (April 14, 2004) of the Institute of Physics in London: Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, researchers at the University of Padua, Italy, discovered a faint image of a second face on the back of the Shroud of Turin.

This supports a hypothesis that the Shroud of Turin's images are the result of a very natural, complex chemical reaction between amines (ammonia derivatives) emerging from a body and saccharides within a carbohydrate residue that covers the fibers of the Shroud of Turin. The color producing chemical process is called a Maillard reaction. This is fully discussed in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Melanoidins, a journal of the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities (EU, Volume 4, 2003)...

Imagine slicing a human hair lengthwise, from end to end, into 100 long thin slices; each slice one-tenth the width of a single red blood cell. The images on the Shroud of Turin, at their thickest, are this thin. In selective places, an otherwise clear layer of starch fractions and saccharides, a mere 200 to 600 nanometers thick, as thin as the wall of a soap bubble, has undergone a chemical change into a caramel colored substance. Spectral and chemical analysis reveal that the chromophores of the Shroud of Turin's images are complex, conjugated carbon bonds.

Read about it here, the world's best Shroud site.

Also check out Barrie Schwortz's site.

Read the fascinating story of the Shroud, and meditate on the healing wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ. "He was wounded for our transgressions, and by His stripes we are healed."

God bless you all on this Palm Sunday, and Holy Week!

In Christ,


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Kierkegaard: That we might will one thing


Father in heaven! What are we without Thee!
What is all that we know, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if we do not know Thee!
What is all our striving, even if it could encompass a world, but a half-finished work if we do not know Thee: Thee the One, who art one thing and who art all!
So may Thou give to our intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to our heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to our will, purity that wills only one thing.
In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing!
Oh, Thou that giveth both the beginning and the completion, may Thou early, at the dawn of day, give us the resolution to will one thing. As the day wanes, may Thou give us a renewed remembrance of our first resolution...that we may live a life that has willed the one thing.


Alas, but this has indeed not come to pass. Something has come in between.
The separation of sin lies in between. Each day, and day after day something is being placed in between: delay, blockage, interruption, delusion, corruption.
So in this time of repentance may Thou give the courage once again to will one thing.
True, it is an interruption of our ordinary tasks; we do lay down our work as though it were a day of rest, when the penitent (and it is only in a time of repentance that the heavy-laden worker may be quiet in the confession of sin) is alone before Thee in self-accusation.
This is indeed an interruption.
But it is an interruption that searches back into its very beginnings that it might bind up anew that which sin has separated, that in its grief it might atone for lost time, that in its anxiety it might bring to completion that which lies before it.


Oh, Thou that givest both the beginning and the completion,
Give Thou victory in the day of our need...
So that what neither our best action, nor determination, nor resolution may attain,
May be granted unto us in the sorrowing of repentance: to will only one thing!

O Strong Son of God! Grant this for Thy name's sake, for Thy mercy's sake, O Lord!

Create in us a clean heart, unite our hearts to fear Thy name! That we might will this one thing, for Thee, our loving Lord and King, Amen!


Philippians 1:5-7 -- "For I am confident of this very thing: that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Letter on the existence of God

Note to S_______ on Existence of God

Note: This is another letter to a friend seeking clear answers to some theological issues. Again, it seemed that this might be beneficial to others, so here it is. If it helps you, send me an email or comment!


I think any discussion of the existence of God must take into account where most teens are today, in their spiritual search.

Teens today are saturated with ‘supernatural’ shows [many which glorify dark spirituality] such as Buffy, Bewitched, Angel, Joan of Arcadia, Touched by An Angel, plus numerous cable shows of psychics and their supposed ‘healing powers,’ etc. Most teens now don’t need so much proof of God or ‘supernatural’ as they need shown why Jesus is the right way in a world of spiritual choices. Or, why should I serve Jesus whenever I can serve the ‘god within myself’ [New Age spirituality], or channel energies [such as quantum holograms] to get what I want?

Also, teens today are not so much into ‘proof’ as into experience. Non-Christian teens I’ve found often get bored by technical proofs…it’s a mixture of not being able to think or follow an argument, plus being raised in an electronic culture, where all real thinking is done for the viewer.

So, a great place to start when talking about God is using a variation of some ‘arguments from within.’

Argument from Desire, Longing

For instance, you can talk in general terms of the heart’s desire, or the search for happiness, belonging and truth. This is an incredibly powerful argument because it starts where people are. It doesn’t convince them of a need for hearing, it just grabs them exactly where they are: You can ask them: “If you were made for this world, then why does your heart long for something more than what this physical world can give you?” “Why aren’t you happy with just the material?” [1]

This is a variation of the technical argument that C. S. Lewis put forward in very understandable terms. Lewis says something to this effect:

Ø Do fish complain of being wet?

Ø Why not? They are in water aren’t they?

Ø Yes, they are in water, but they were made for water! They are content in their natural medium; in fact, they would die out of water.

Ø Ok, so if we were made just for this physical world, why do we long for something more? If there is no such thing as beyond material, why do we spend our lives searching for that something more?

Ø Conclusion: We were made for something more than just this world! [2]

And here is where the Christian can say: “We are made in the Image of God, and only in that restored Image are we truly ourselves.” “And, only Jesus Christ can restore us to God!

Viola! Right there, right to the Gospel, jumping over many barriers just by starting where they are!

Now, I think the second prong of this is getting them into Jesus, and here is where Pascal comes in handy.

Argument from Experience with Christ

Once we can show the seeker that this longing inside has a purpose, and is met with God, we can say: “Seek God on His own terms, and then experience what you were made for!”

In other words, here we get a person praying to Jesus, praying for light and revelation, even when they don’t know Jesus.

Blaise Pascal addressed searching unbelievers in his day like this:

First, Pascal establishes the fact of human wretchedness:

Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things. [3]

We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it. [4]

Secondly he recognizes the fact of partial light and darkness:

If there were no obscurity, man would not feel his corruption: if there were no light, man could not hope for a cure. [5]

Thirdly, he highlights the limitation of reason:

Reason’s last step is recognition that there are an infinite number of things beyond it... [6] There are but two excesses: To exclude reason, [and] to admit nothing but reason. [7]

Giving the facts of human condition, human reason is patently compatible with a vector of faith. Reason admits that life is choice; all must choose:

Since you must necessarily choose, your reason is no more affronted by choosing one rather than the other. That is one point cleared up. But your happiness? Let us weigh up the gain and the loss in wagering that God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win you win everything, if you lose you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then; wager that he does exist. [8]

Since we must choose, why not choose light instead of darkness?

Breaking this argument down in youth terms, we can say:

1. We cannot cure death and wretchedness, and life becomes a game to try and forget such things. But can we really forget them when we lay our head down to sleep at night? Isn’t this why drugs and parties and sex and money addictions and suicide plague teens?

2. We recognize evil around us. We also see moments of good.

3. Obviously, figuring this out in our minds is beyond us. This war between Good and evil has been going on a long time. To think that we can figure it all out is ludicrous.

4. So, at some point we have to choose the side of good and God if we want to be on the side of light.

And here Pascal says:

You want to find faith and you do not know the road. You want to be cured of unbelief and you ask for the remedy: learn from those who were once bound like you and now wager all they have...They behaved just as if they did believe... [9]

In other words, here we say: Pray to God, change your actions, and let God change your attitudes, your beliefs and your very reality. Humble yourself to God, and God will reveal Himself to you.

Here is where a very, very powerful existential argument for Christ comes in. People can say, “There are lots of gods.”

To which we answer: Yes, but if Jesus isn’t the true Son of God, then why is He the One whose name conquers the demons?” “Why is He the One whose name stops ‘alien’ abductions? Why is He the One that the dark forces concentrate their hate on? Those controlled by darkness don’t hate Buddha, or Mohammad, or ‘spirituality.’ But they hate Jesus and fear Him. “Shouldn’t this speak volumes about who is the true God, the true good, true Savior, and Son of God?” we say.

Right here, you’ve got 90 percent of unbelieving youth hearing and listening with all their heart…because they live in a world of darkness that they can no longer deny…

This is an existential and intuitive [two-pronged] argument, S_______, but it is probably the quickest and most powerful to use today.

Does this help?


Have a good one,



[1] S_______, please note there are two possible objections to this, which Kreeft refutes in his book, pp. 80-81. People can say, ‘although I am not happy now, I would be if I had X girlfriend or boyfriend, or had X amount of possessions.’ To which we reply: that has been tried by millions, and does not satisfy. Or, they can say, ‘I am perfectly satisfied right now.’ To which we reply, ‘Don’t be delusional!’ “It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”
[2] Cf. C. S. Lewis, Letters to Sheldon Van Aucken and Mere Christianity Bk. III, ch. 10, “Hope,” referenced by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), p. 79.
[3] Pensees, 133 in Blaise Pascal, Pensees, translated by A. J. Krailsheimer, (London: Penguin Books), 1966.
[4] Pensees, 166.
[5] Pensees, 446.
[6] Pensees, 188.
[7] Pensees, 183.
[8] Pensees, 418.
[9] Pensees, 418.

Now my soul thy voice upraising

Words: Claude de Santeil (1628-1684)
Trans. John Chandler and Henry Williams Baker
Tune: St. Thomas

Now my soul, thy voice upraising,
tell in sweet and mournful strain
how the Crucified, enduring
grief and wounds, and dying pain,
freely of His love was offered,
Sinless was for sinners slain.

See, His hands and feet are fastened!
So He makes His people free;
not a wound whence blood is flowing
but a fount of grace shall be!
yea, the very nails which nail Him
nail us also to the Tree.

Jesus, may those precious fountains
drink to thirsting souls afford;
let them be our cup and healing,
and at length our full reward:
so a ransomed world shall ever
praise thee, its redeeming Lord!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

If thou but suffer God to guide thee

Words: George Neumark, 1657, translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863
Tune: Wer nur den lieben Gott

If thou but suffer God to guide thee
and hope in Him through all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee,
and bear thee through the evil days.
who trusts in God's unchanging love
builds on the rock that naught can move.

What can these anxious cares avail thee,
these never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help if thou bewail thee
o'er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
the heavier for our bitterness.

Be patient and await His leisure
in cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure
and His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
to Him who chose us for His own.

God knows full well when times of gladness
shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
and from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
and makes thee own His loving care.

Nor think amid the fiery trial
that God hath cast thee off unheard,
that one whose hopes meet no denial
must surely be of God preferred.
Time passes and much change doth bring
and sets a bound to everything.

All are alike before the highest;
'tis easy to our God, we know,
to raise thee up, though low thou liest,
to make the rich man poor and low.
True wonders still by Him are wrought
who setteth up and brings to naught.

Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving,
perform thy duties faithfully,
and trust His word, though undeserving,
thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
the soul that trusted Him indeed!


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A confession of fire and hail

In a passage of mystery, one of my favorites, Psalm 148 treats dragons and depths, lightning, hail and clouds, stormy winds, as chosen tools of God. Verses 7-6:

Praise the LORD from the earth,

You great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

Lightning and hail, snow and clouds,

Stormy winds that do His bidding…

These things are all called to praise the LORD, and literally, “fulfill His word…”

This is remarkable, and mysterious, because these things are understood by humans to be negative: lightning, hail, storm, swelling depths, sea monsters, clouds… And yet, God is at work in them all! They must praise Him, and do His bidding. Powerful concept, and worthy of meditation...

On the basis of this Scripture claim, people of faith should ask in every circumstance: What is God doing in this situation? No matter how terrible, we can ask, ‘What is God doing here?’ What is God’s intent? Where is God’s redemption?

Calvin said, rightfully, that “Not a drop of rain falls but by will of the Father.”

As children of this loving Father, we then ask, “Abba, what means the rain?”

As I look back over my life, at formative events, I realize that each struggle, each rain-filled era, was carefully guided by a Loving Hand. One person recently asked me what formative events led to my current success. And I looked back…and realized that God had used fire and hail, stormy winds to do His bidding!

My mind went to a traumatic period in my life, grade school in Madison, TN. I attended third, fourth, and fifth grade there in the public school system, taking part in a program of integration. Black inner city children were bused to Madison public schools, and I was a 'white minority' during school hours.

This was shocking and revelatory. My mind did not have philosophical or psychological categories to analyze it all -- I could only experience it as a powerful wave…in a storm.

I saw, viscerally, from a child’s-eye-view, group dynamics that I would later understand cognitively. Conflict was almost a daily thing. Rage and physical response had filtered into the inner-city kids’ mentality. And I was in the middle of it! Immediately I was lifted up as a leader by the ‘white’ kids because I was vocal. Then, I gained respect from the ‘black’ kids because I was athletic. And I was sometimes asked to choose sides, with all the inner conflict this demanded…

Sides would be chosen on the playground, and would always be determined by the black leaders, because they were majority. And the teams would always end up being black vs. white...that is, until I made too many stellar plays against their team. After that, I was always the only white kid chosen for the black team. The first time I was chosen for the black team, I felt a thrill. I knew what this meant, and it felt good to be recognized! But during that game, I’ll never forget the looks of betrayal from my white friends.

After that, I always went over to the black team with reservation in my heart: it was great to be chosen and desired, but ‘my own’ viewed me somewhat as a traitor. I would hang my head at the winning celebrations... And, then, several black kids resented that I was on ‘their’ team and gaining more praise than they.

Sometimes, after that, I had to fight on the playground, before coming in from physical education.

It was a struggle in all ways: Mental, emotional, and physical. I learned what it was to be assaulted in the restrooms, to be punched in the stomach for outrunning dominant athletes, for scoring a touchdown to win a game. I learned what it was like to be pushed back at the water fountain, until all the cold water was gone. I learned what it was like to be challenged and psychologically traumatized because of my color and person. But in spite of all the negatives, I didn’t hate. I was, as only a child can, soaking it in, experiencing it.

I surely didn’t realize it then; only much later…God was using this, as storm, fire and hail in my life. He was forming me, teaching me racial dynamics that textbooks never could.

Existentially, I gained a non-cognitive awareness of personhood and racial equality. God was beginning a process to make me the kind of person willing to reach across racial and ethnic lines, and also across ideological lines, in the work of the Gospel.

God also used this experience to open me to those perceived as lesser, by showing me my own arrogance and lurking sin.

In an interaction that occurred just before leaving that school, I learned of shame and great need for grace. I learned how humans can be *good* and devalue others…and the need for forgiveness.

There were two main classes of students there: The predominantly white students from the suburbs, and predominantly black students bused in from inner city projects. Integration created these two distinct bodies of students: if you fit in with either you could find a niche of acceptance.

But one boy in my grade didn’t fit anywhere. He was a “cracker” – A poor rural white whose family ended up there for the school term.

He looked different. His clothes fit poorly and weren’t clean. His shoes were out of style and always the same pair. His hair was slicked back in some greasy mix. He didn’t fit in anywhere: suburban whites or urban blacks. And everyone picked him on.

Including me.

I wish I had stood up for him in this context that attacked his personhood. I could have. One group considered me their leader. I could have said a word and made a stand and changed things for him. But I didn’t. He seemed weird and different and smelled funny and I didn’t much like him. So I made fun of him with all the rest. He took it with head bowed and never said much. I’ll never forget the day that, after taking all he could take, he turned to me -- directly to me, not the others -- with tears in his eyes and asked me, “How would you like to be me?”

“How would you like to wear shoes with cardboard in them?”
“How would you like to ride in a car where you can see the street through the floorboards?”
“How would you like to eat dog food for breakfast and try to find food for your brothers and sisters?”

I was stunned. Speechless. I had no idea. I had no answer. Shocked. I didn’t even say sorry. I just turned away...

A few weeks later my family moved to PA. I never said I was sorry. I don’t even know his name. But his face and words haunt me.

I’ll never forget that face...that pain. I dehumanized him to value myself. I’ve asked God’s forgiveness, many times. But I wish I could ask his. I wish I could have been a friend to him…

All I can do now is try to befriend others, to lift up those considered be a voice for them and with them. This is my lived attempt at forgiveness…

So, when asked what events have helped me, I look back…and see formation in the fire and hail, the stormy wind…even of my own failure, in the events of life.

Such things, powerful and negative in their own way, have formed me. Such crucibles have formed me as one who confesses the good grace of God “in every drop of rain.” God is good -- even when I am not…or even when life is not!

Now, when tossed by circumstance, I eventually look up and ask, “Abba, what are You doing here?” And then, I smile as a child who is learning to walk…and again learning to see.

For the stormy wind is still doing His bidding!


Take my life and let it be

Words: Frances Ridley Havergal, 1874
Tune: Mozart, Hollingside

Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect, and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
take my heart, it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store;
take my self, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.


May it be so, Lord. Make it so, Amen.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Kierkegaard: Not to admire but to follow


O LORD Jesus Christ, Thou didst not come into the world to be served,
But also surely not to be admired, or in that false sense to be worshipped.
Thou wast the Way and the Truth –
And it was followers only Thou didst demand.
Arouse us therefore, if we have dozed away into this delusion:
Save us from the error of wishing to admire Thee
Instead of being willing to follow Thee and resemble Thee


O LORD Jesus Christ, who didst behold Thy fate in advance
And yet didst not draw back;
Thou who didst suffer Thyself to be born in poverty and lowliness,
And thereafter in poverty and loneliness didst bear the sin of the world,
Being ever a sufferer, until, hated, forsaken,
Mocked, and spat upon,
In the end deserted even by God…
Thou didst bow Thy head in the death of shame ---
Oh, but Thou didst lift it up again, Thou eternal Victor!
Thou wast not, it is true, victorious over Thine enemies in this life,
But in death wast victorious even over death;
Thou didst lift up Thy head, forever victorious, Thou who art ascended to heaven!
Would that we might follow Thee!


O LORD Jesus Christ, it was not to plague us humans
But to save us that Thou didst say,
“No one can serve two masters” ---
Oh, that we might be willing to accept it, by doing it,
That is, by following Thee.
Thou who art both willing and able to help, help us all and everyone…
Thou who art both the Pattern and Redeemer,
And again both the Redeemer and Pattern,
So that when we sink under the Pattern,
The Redeemer raises us up again!
And, at the same instant Thou art also the Pattern, to keep us continually striving for Thee!
Thou, our Redeemer, by Thy blessed suffering and death,
Hast made satisfaction for all and for everything;
No eternal blessedness can be earned by us --- but it has been deserved for us!
Yet Thou didst leave behind Thee the trace of Thy footsteps,
Thou the holy pattern of the human race,
And of each individual in it,
So that, saved by Thy redemption, we might every instant have confidence and boldness of will to strive to follow Thee!


Strong Son of God, Savior of the world, in Thy name and for Thy sake we pray! Have this mercy upon us,


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Herbie on the way!

Herbie's coming back...fully loaded! :-) :-)

World problems? Never fear, Herbie the love bug is here!

Seriously, what summer can be dull if Herbie is on the way? lol...

Herbie: Fully Loaded! Some great sounds and looks in preview.

We could hope for better actors, but hey! you can't have your cake and eat it, Herbie's such a star, he'll make up for the mediocre acting around him, lol.

This is one nonsense movie that I do plan to see! :-) Welcome back, Herbie!

All the world needs is luvvvv, Herbie style!