Tag Archives: Atheist

A Treasure Trove of Quotes

One of my favorite authors of all time is C.S. Lewis. The man was brilliant, his arguments logical, and his imagination astounding. I recently returned a book that I got for Christmas, and in its place got three others. (I should only have gotten one, but my husband is so nice and let me get three when I couldn’t decide). One of the three books I got is The Quotable Lewis. I love it because when I come across a Lewis quote I can use this book to determine what book it is from. It contains 600 pages of quotes from Lewis’ many books, all organized by topic kind of like a dictionary.

I was flipping through this book last night, just reading random quotes. I came across one that I wanted to share.

It is clear that there never was a time when nothing existed; otherwise nothing would exist now. Miracles, ch. 11, pg. 88 (1947).

This is a wonderful example of Lewis’ logical reasoning. How would anything exist now if there was nothing in the first place?

This logical argument doesn’t reach the point of determining what or who it is that always existed, but it does lead one to inquire about it. It makes no logical sense to start any inquiry about our universe from the standpoint of nothing becoming something.

Lewis was a very learned man and a prolific reader and writer. He had read and studied all the great philosophers that came before him as well as his contemporaries. During his early adult life he was an atheist, but eventually came to realize that atheism was not a logically tenable position.

No philosophical theory which I have yet come across is a radical improvement on the words of Genesis, that “in the beginning God made Heaven and Earth.” Miracles, ch. 4, pg. 33 (1947).

I am not nearly as well read as Lewis, but I have to agree.

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Science, Faith, and Reason

Many people believe that there is no room for God in scientific exploration and that belief in God must be based on irrational and unsubstantiated faith. Someone recently said to me:

I have a hard time trying to reconcile your belief in God and your belief in science. The two don’t really mix. I have always been a “prove it to me” person, I know that is why you call it “Faith.”

According to Dictionary.com, science is “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” And the scientific method is “a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.”

Although there are certainly scientists who are atheists, there are many well-known scientists who are (or were in the case of those who are deceased) either theists (meaning they believe in a creator God but not necessarily the Christian God) or are Christians. Albert Einstein was a theist. Blaise Pascal was a Christians. Isaac Newton was a monotheist. A New York Times article title Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science reports:

According to a much-discussed survey reported in the journal Nature in 1997, 40 percent of biologists, physicists and mathematicians said they believed in God – and not just a nonspecific transcendental presence but, as the survey put it, a God to whom one may pray “in expectation of receiving an answer.”

The scientific method, applied in an unbiased way, leads to discoveries about our physical and natural world. But it cannot answer the moral questions of life — why we are here, what our purpose in life is, whether a particular human action is right or wrong.

Scientists who are atheists often claim to be unbiased in their pursuit of truth. But none of us is completely unbiased. Everyone views the evidence before them in light of their own experiences and beliefs. If a person believes there is no creator God, then they will view scientific evidence through that lens or bias, and every piece of evidence will support that belief. If, on the other hand, a person believes in a creator God, then they will view scientific evidence through that lens or bias, and every piece of evidence will support that belief.

For example, scientific evidence of DNA has shown that humans have some DNA in common with other creatures. The atheist sees this as evidence that all life evolved from a single celled organism in a regular progression, even though there is no direct evidence that one species gave birth to a different species. The theist, on this other hand, sees this same DNA evidence as supporting the idea of a creator who used similar building blocks in the creation of various basic forms of life.

Science can never prove beyond all doubt the existence or non-existence of God. But science, coupled with reason and philosophical study, can reasonably lead to the conclusion that God does exist and is the creator of all things. In God: The Evidence, scientist Patrick Glynn “demonstrates that faith today is not grounded in ignorance. It is where reason has been leading us all along.”

I admit that my consideration of scientific evidence is filtered through the bias that God exists. Glynn, however, had no such initial bias. He was an atheist for many years, but the scientific evidence and reason led him to a different conclusion.

In my experience, faith and science, bounded together by reason, mix quite well.

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What I Believe Doesn’t Matter

Anyone who reads my blog knows what I believe about God and salvation. You really only need to read my Apostles’ Creed page to get a nutshell version. But what I believe doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t change what is true.

God did not create the earth and all life on it because I believe that He did. By the same token, life did not spontaneously begin without the help of God because atheists believe that it did.

There are certain truths in this life that are determined solely by what I believe or what someone else believes. For example, I believe that I do not like mushrooms. In fact, I hate them. They taste like dirt and the smell of them cooking makes me nauseous. Other people love mushrooms; some of these people have tried to convince me that they are good, and I don’t argue with the truth that they like them, but their belief that mushrooms are good does not change the fact that I hate them.

Opinions about favorite colors, whether movies are good or bad, whether it is better to live in the country or the city, and a host of other things are dependent on what each person believes. The truth of a particular opinion is subjective.

There are other truths, however, that are not determined by what I or someone else believe. These truths are objective in nature. Truths that fall into this category include:

  • Whether there is a God.
  • Whether life was created by a God or spontaneously occurred billions of years ago.
  • Whether, if God exists, He is loving and compassionate, vengeful and hateful, or indifferent and disconnected from His creation.
  • Whether human beings cease to exist when they die or enter into the realm of heaven or hell.

What I believe about any of these things doesn’t change the truth, but it can change me. What you believe doesn’t change the truth, but it can change you.

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At the Border – A Poem

Today at dVerse Poets Pub, Claudia has challenged us to write a poem about borders – either physical borders between countries or states or intangible borders between cultures or beliefs. As I read her wonderful article about borders, I immediately thought of the border between Christians and atheists. I decided to try my hand at putting my thoughts on this subject into poetic form.

In years past, the border between these groups was largely ignored as they largely ignored each other. But in recent years they have both approached the border and a clash between faith combined with reason and reason without faith has become almost impossible to avoid. I have crossed the border once or twice to engage in conversation with atheists in my life. I find they often refuse to see their own bias in their reasoning, a bias towards the non-existence of God. The conversations seldom seem fruitful or useful, and so I have retreated to my side of the border, choosing to cross the border only in prayer.

I decided to write this poem in the pantoum form that I learned from one of the contributors at dVerse Poets Pub. This is my third pantoum, and I find I really like this form. I particularly like how it ends where it starts.

At the Border

At the border, leaning on this tree
Seeing blind fools on the other side
They cannot see what I clearly see
The invisible God our great divide

Seeing blind fools on the other side
What an unthinking fool they think I be
The invisible God our great divide
They scoff at faith, my reason and reality

What an unthinking fool they think I be
But I know I understand the truth
They scoff at faith, my reason and reality
God plainly revealed to me since my youth

But I know I understand the truth
All life evolved from nothingness?
God plainly revealed to me since youth
He created all life, I must profess

All life evolved from nothingness?
They cannot see what I clearly see
He created all life, I must profess
At the border, praying beneath this tree

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What Are We Without God?

I’m still working my way through Ezekiel. It’s a tough book to get through, even though I know that after all the dire prophecies against Israel and the surrounding nations, Ezekiel eventually tells of the future restoration of Israel. But there certainly are a lot of dire prophecies.

As I was reading the other night I came to this passage describing the sins of Israel that led to God’s prophecy of punishment to come:

Every leader in Israel who lives within your walls is bent on murder. Fathers and mothers are treated with contempt. Foreigners are forced to pay for protection. Orphans and widows are wronged and oppressed among you. You despise my holy things and violate my Sabbath days of rest. People accuse others falsely and send them to their death. You are filled with idol worshipers and people who do obscene things. Men sleep with their fathers’ wives and have intercourse with women who are menstruating. Within your walls live men who commit adultery with their neighbors’ wives, who defile their daughters-in-law, or who rape their own sisters. There are hired murderers, loan racketeers, and extortioners everywhere. They never even think of me and my commands, says the Sovereign Lord. Ezekiel 22:6-12 (NLT).

As I read this it occurred to me that mankind hasn’t changed much. The behaviors enumerated in this passage can be found in our news today, or they have become so accepted that they don’t even make the news – unless the person engaging in such behavior is a celebrity. The final verse of this passage gets to the cause of this terrible behavior: it is that many people never even think of God or His commands.

In the New Testament, Paul warns that such behavior will increase “in the last days.”

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NLT).

Thankfully, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord no longer judges people according to their nation, as He did the Israelites. In the Old Testament accounts, even the few righteous who remained in Israel suffered exile along with the wicked. But now each person is responsible for their own decision of whether they will think of God and His commands, or will instead scoff at Him and go their own way. Each person must decide whether they will become what mankind always becomes without God – boastful, proud, unloving and unforgiving, lovers of pleasure rather than God – or will instead choose to follow Christ and seek the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to guide them.

I choose to follow Christ. How about you?

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Are the Youth of Our Nation a Lost Generation?

Last Saturday I was getting ready to go to the farmers’ market with my friend when a song by P.O.D. called “Youth of the Nation” came on my iPod. As I listened, I knew that this song would be the basis of my Music Monday post. It’s not a happy song. In fact, it brings tears to my eyes almost every time I hear it. But it has an important message.

WARNING: This post includes discussion of some disturbing things about kids today, and the video of “Youth of the Nation” includes graphic and disturbing photographs.

It seems more and more these days the news is filled with stories of violent or suicidal kids. Just last week a 17-year-old boy in Florida bludgeoned both of his parents to death with a hammer, then locked their bodies in their bedroom (having dragged them there from the kitchen), and threw a party for a bunch of his friends. Though there hasn’t been a school shooting in the news this week, the last one wasn’t long enough ago to be called a distant memory, and there have been more such shootings in recent years than I like to think about.

Also last week, I saw the story of how the authorities had found the remains of a 13-year-old boy who had been missing for 2 years. Before that, his parents had verbally and physically abused him and forced him to spend his days in a dog cage without food or water. Although social workers had been notified that this was happening, on visits to the home they had found no problems. No one missed this little boy in all that time. Then, of course, there is the case of the murder of little Caylee Anthony that has dominated the news for weeks during the trial of her mother. Even if Casey Anthony didn’t kill Caylee, it is appalling to think that she did not even report her child missing for over 30 days.

These cases have made the news, but they are not isolated cases. They are just the stories the media has chosen to highlight. But every day there are children in our nation who are feel lost. Some are abused by their parents, siblings, or other relatives. Others are bullied and degraded by their peers and teachers. Some become so angry about their abuse that they become violent, or they are so distraught by the thought that no one cares that they become suicidal.

My son actually has a friend at school who has confided in him that he is severely depressed and often thinks of suicide. This kid says he is an atheist, and he doesn’t seem to believe that anyone loves him or cares, not even his parents. My son asking about how he is doing may be the only lifeline this kid has. I have wondered more than once of this kid is the ticking time bomb at my son’s school.

Of course, there are a lot of good, well-adjusted kids in our nation, too. My son and a lot of his friends are among them. But I have to wonder what makes the difference? And why does it seem that there are more violent and suicidal kids than there were 50 years ago? I think this is a question that we have to ask because many of our youth are on the verge of being a lost generation.

The other day I had a conversation with a dear old friend of mine (and when I say old, I mean she’s almost 90) that for me shed some light on the answers to these questions. She said that when she was a little girl, church was their life. Everyone went to church and all of their activities, such as dances and potlucks, were all church centered. Everybody loved Jesus and everyone looked out for each other.

For so many kids today, it just isn’t like that anymore. Either their parents don’t go to church, or if they do it’s just a Sunday thing. We have become a society of such self-centered people that we can’t see when a kid is lost or hurting. We don’t get to know each other and we don’t look out for each other. We certainly don’t make a big deal about loving Jesus. So many other things take precedence over a relationship with God, and even over real relationships with each other.

But I suppose such self-centeredness isn’t really new. It stems from our sinful nature, which has been around for a long time. It’s just that we’ve forgotten that the cure for our self-centeredness is to put Christ at the center of everything. Or perhaps we’ve even forgotten that self-centeredness is something that needs to be cured.

When parents let self-centeredness rule their lives, they fail to put Christ first and they fail to put their children second. They forget to tell their children that they love them and that God loves them. In such an environment, children don’t know love, and without love they cannot thrive.

So what do we do about this? Well, here is my challenge to all the Christians who read this:

  • Tell your kids that you love them every single day, not just by what you do but with words.
  • Tell your kids that God loves them, and get them involved in church youth activities that will help to nurture their souls.
  • Encourage your kids to invite their friends to church youth group activities, even if the friends aren’t Christians.
  • Pray for your youth ministers and directors. They are on the front lines and often have opportunities to minister to your kids’ friends in a way that you never would.
  • Ask your youth ministers and directors what you can do to help, and tell them you appreciate all that they do.
  • Pray for the youth of our nation, that they would find Christ and not end up a lost generation.

The youth of our nation need faith, hope, and love. Without these things, we will continue to see a rise in the violence and loss. The final verse of “Youth of the Nation” asks some hard questions:

Who’s to blame for the lives that tragedies claim
No matter what you say It don’t take away the pain
That I feel inside, I’m tired of all the lies
Don’t nobody know why, It’s the blind leading the blind
I guess that’s the way that the story goes
Will it ever make sense? Somebody’s got to know
There’s got to be more to life than this
There’s got to be more to everything I thought exists

These are the questions many of our youth are asking as they see the violence around them. They need to know that there is more to life, that Christ came so that they could live an abundant life. They are being led by the blind. Those of us who see God’s love, who know of Christ’s sacrifice, need to show them the way. I am thankful that bands like P.O.D. do just that in their music (not all of which is depressing like this song). But we all need to step up and help a lost generation find love.

Again, the photos in this video are pretty graphic, and the song style is hard rock. I’ve posted the lyrics below the video if you don’t want to watch the images in the video.

 

“Youth of the Nation” by P.O.D.

Last day of the rest of my life
I wish I would’ve known
Cause I didn’t kiss my mama goodbye
I didn’t tell her that I loved her, how much I care
Or thank my pops for all the talks
And all the wisdom he shared

Unaware, I just did what I always do
Everyday, the same routine before I skate off to school
But who knew that this day wasn’t like the rest
Instead of taking a test I took two to the chest

Call me blind, but I didn’t see it coming
Everybody was running, but I couldn’t hear nothing
Except gun blasts, it happened so fast
I didn’t really know this kid though I sit by him in class

Maybe this kid was reaching out for love
Or maybe for a moment he forgot who he was
Or maybe this kid just wanted to be hugged
Whatever it was, I know it’s because

We are, We are, (we are) the Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are) Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are) the Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are) Youth of the Nation

Little Suzy, she was only twelve
She was given the world with every chance to excel
Hang with the boys and hear the stories they tell
She might act kind of proud, but no respect for herself
She finds love in all the wrong places
The same situations, Just different faces
Changed up her pace since her daddy left her
Too bad he never told her she deserved much better

Johnny boy always played the fool
He broke all the rules so you would think he was cool
He was never really one of the guys
No matter how hard he tried, Often thought of suicide
It’s kind of hard when you ain’t got no friends
He put his life to an end, They might remember him then
You cross the line and there’s no turning back
Told the world how he felt with the sound of a gat

We are, We are, (we are) the Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are) Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are) the Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are) Youth of the Nation

Who’s to blame for the lives that tragedies claim
No matter what you say It don’t take away the pain
That I feel inside, I’m tired of all the lies
Don’t nobody know why, It’s the blind leading the blind
I guess that’s the way that the story goes
Will it ever make sense? Somebody’s got to know
There’s got to be more to life than this
There’s got to be more to everything I thought exists

We are, We are, the Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are, we are) the Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are, we are) Youth of the Nation
We are, We are, (we are, we are) the Youth of the Nation (the Youth of the Nation)
We are, We are, (we are, we are) Youth of the Nation (Youth of the Nation)
We are, We are, (we are, we are) the Youth of the Nation (the Youth of the Nation)
We are, We are, (we are, we are) Youth of the Nation (Youth of the Nation)
We are, the Youth of the Nation
We are, Youth of the Nation
We are, the Youth of the Nation
We are

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The Artist – A Short Story

I don’t usually post fiction on my blog. In fact, I don’t think I ever have before. But I’ve written 3 short stories for Idylls for the King, the Christian Literary blog I contribute to that is currently on summer hiatus. I decided I wanted to re-post this short story to share it here.

The Artist

The museum opened at 8:00 a.m. Claire was standing on the steps at 7:55 restlessly waiting for the doors to open. She had spent the entire day here yesterday. At the end of the day she had come across the most beautiful painting she had ever seen, but the museum was closing and she had to leave. She was back because she had to see that painting again and learn who the Artist was.

As the museum curator unlocked and opened the doors, Claire rushed past him straight to that wonderful painting. It was a beautiful landscape with snow-capped mountains in the background, a pristine lake fed by a small stream in the foreground; she could almost hear the babbling of the stream over its bed of rocks and it actually seemed to be flowing in the painting. Surrounding the lake was a field of the most vibrant and colorful flowers. In the distance beyond the lake was a forest of green trees that seemed to sway as if by a gentle breeze.

She longed to know who the Artist was, but there was no placard indicating the name of the painting or the Artist. She also wondered what medium it had been painted in.  At first glance it seemed to be an oil painting, but then it had the appearance of water colors, and even that didn’t seem quite right.

Just then, the curator walked by. “Pardon me,” ventured Claire, “but can you tell me who the Artist is for this painting?”

“The Artist is unknown,” replied the curator. “Research has been done and many have speculated, but there is just no way for us to know for sure who the Artist is.”

Hours passed as Claire gazed at the painting, taking in every exquisite inch of the landscape it portrayed. Other museum patrons passed by, but few stopped to look at this painting. She couldn’t understand why because it was more wonderful than all the other pieces of artwork in all the museum.

About noon, Frederick noticed Claire, and thinking she was quite beautiful he approached her. He stood beside her looking at the painting, but not really seeing it. “Hello,” he said to Claire.

“Hello.” Thinking he might know something about this painting, Claire asked Frederick, “Do you know who the Artist is who painted this masterpiece?”

“Oh, I know all about this painting because I have studied it quite extensively. There is no Artist,” Frederick quipped.

Claire was startled. “No Artist? What do you mean? How can that possibly be? It is so beautiful and the colors and textures are so complex.”

Claire turned her attention back to the painting. “What a fool,” she thought to herself. Frederick could see that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with this conquest, so he moved on to a more gullible mark.

Lunch time came and went, but Claire never took her eyes off the painting and seemed to not need food. Closing time was fast approaching and she wanted to instill the beauty of this painting in her mind and in her heart until she could return again tomorrow. Maybe then she would find someone who could tell her about the Artist and how He had created this magnificent design.

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The Artistry of God

I often wonder how anyone can look at the natural world around them — at the trees and flowers, the grasses of the field, the variety of birds, fish, and animals, the sun, moon, and stars in the sky — and not see God’s artistry. How can someone think that all of this interconnected and complex world happened by random accident? In short, I do not understand atheists.
 
I can understand agnostics, those who believe there is a creator but that they don’t know who He is and don’t know which religion is correct. There is so much information, and misinformation, about various religions that it can be difficult to find God in all of it. Even within the Christian faith there are different views of God, some of which are not in accordance with the scriptures. 

Pasayten Wilderness

But the person who says there is no creator of this world seems to me to simply be illogical and irrational. The Bible tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1. Thinking of this inspired a short story that I wrote for the blog Idylls for the King that I contribute to. It’s called “The Artist.” Even if a person does no know God, to believe that this world has no creator is akin to believing a painting can come into existence without a painter, or a watch without a watchmaker, or a house without a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber, a carpet layer, and many more.

I recently read a comment on a fellow blogger’s post in which the commenter claimed to have been a Christian for many years, and to know all about the Bible and to have read many Christian books. But now, she wrote, she was an atheist. I almost cried when I read this. It seems though she had gained head knowledge of the scriptures over the years she had not gained a heart knowledge of God Himself. And she had forgotten the wonder of the world He created for us to enjoy and care for.

Since this is Music Monday, I have to admit that part of what got me thinking about this whole topic was a song by Revive, whose music I was listening to a lot last week. This song is called “Something Glorious” and is set to some beautiful photographs of our wonderful world in this video.

So how does someone look at something as glorious and beautiful as a sunset, or the rainforest, or a snow-capped mountain in the distance and not see God? I think maybe it is because they focus too much on the evil in this world and can’t see the good just beyond their view. I’ve often heard the argument that if there was a God, there would not be so much violence, famine, sickness, and pain in the world, because a good and all-powerful God would just fix all the problems. But this argument completely discounts the role humans play in taking care of (or failing to take care of) the wonderful gift God has given us.

Imagine you were given a beautiful watch. The watchmaker tells you that you can’t put it under water or it won’t work as well. He also says it needs to be cleaned every year or it will gather dust that will cause it not to work properly or keep good time. You also know that if you don’t want the watch face scratched you have to be careful when you wear it.

Nonetheless, you wear your watch all the time, even in the shower or when you swim. You live an active lifestyle and you are often hitting your watch against tools or other objects. Last month you went skiing with it on, and when you wiped out you hit it against a rock that was protruding from the snow (thank goodness you didn’t hit your head!). You’ve had the watch for five or six years, but you’ve never had it cleaned. When you put it on this morning you noticed how dingy and banged up it looked, and that it had lost quite a bit of time. In fact, it was barely running.

What do you think at this point? Do you blame the watchmaker for how poorly your watch now runs? No, because it was your lack of care for the watch that led to it running poorly. Do you complain that the watchmaker didn’t come knocking at your door every time you abused the watch and fix your mess, or come insist on cleaning it when you didn’t ask him to? No, it’s your watch and it’s in your care, it’s your  responsibility to take care of it and ask the watchmaker to clean it when necessary. Do you decide that there was no watchmaker in the first place? Of course not, that would be foolish.

So why, then, do some people think that what we have done to this earth and what we as humans do to each other is evidence that there is no God? Why do they expect Him to just come fix everything even when they don’t ask Him to, or even believe that He cares or exists? Such attitudes are things I ponder and do not understand.

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A Crazy World, a Crazy Idea

This morning as a drove into the parking lot at work the song “Crazy Enough” by MercyMe was playing in my car, and the flags in front of our building were still flying at half mast because of the Saturday shooting in Arizona. Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I started thinking about what kind of post this could inspire.

It seems this world has gone a little crazy. A man shoots a congresswoman and many in the crowd around her, killing six people including a 9-year-old girl. And that’s just one day’s news. The story made the news because it involved a public figure and occurred in a crowd. But people are killed, children are abused, spouses are battered, and worse every day without generating headlines.

I was surprised by some of the reactions to the Arizona shooting. One of my Facebook friends posted a link to the article, and one of her friends commented, “The chickens of this FOX, Tea Party lunacy are starting to come home to roost.” Really? I wondered whether this person saw the irony of their own contempt for those with political or ideological beliefs different from their own that are contained within that statement. What is the point of blaming the outrageous crime of one clearly disturbed individual on a group of people with different beliefs, without even knowing if he belonged to that group? But that seems to be the state of our world today; on all sides of the many political, ideological, and religious fences that divide us there is contempt and hatred. The world seems to have gone crazy.

Or maybe it has not yet gone crazy enough? Maybe we should take a cue from MercyMe, and one by one try this insane approach:

Call me crazy but what if we learn
To love our brother for nothing in return?
Oh how the rules would change

Reaching out to the ones who need help
Treating them as you first would treat yourself
Now that would be insane

[CHORUS]
It may just be crazy enough
To work if we could only love
What if we somehow changed the world?
It may just be crazy enough

It is a crazy idea, but it’s not new. Loving others, even those who think differently than we do, was taught by Christ in His sermon on the mount. After all the beatitudes and teachings about the law, adultery, divorce, and anger, Jesus said:

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

If you are a liberal Democrat and you are kind only to other liberal Democrats, what good does that do for the world? If you are a conservative Republican and you are kind only to other conservative Republicans, how are you helping make the world a better place? If you are a Christian, but you speak ill of atheists, Muslims, Hindus, and even Christians in other denominations, and do not love them as God does, what good are you doing for the Kingdom of God?

I can’t change how other people act, what they say, or how they treat those who are different from them. But I can try to implement a crazy idea and show love and kindness to others regardless of whether I agree with them. I can endeavor to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20. I can pray and ask God to help me share His love with the world, even those in the world who seem so unloveable.

Call me crazy, but if enough people were determined to implement this crazy plan, maybe we could change the world. If not the world, maybe the life of at least one other person who is reeling from the tragedy and hatred all around them. Will you be crazy with me? If you will, then that’s at least two other people we can impact together.

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Focus on the Inside

This morning one of my fellow bloggers posted a comment with a question about this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.” She asked, “Are the Christians the only ones who see the ‘ugly and bad’ side of the world?” I posted an answer to her question in a reply comment, but the more I thought about it I realized this was a question that was worthy of a regular blog post.

The question brought up memories of reading Nietzsche in college. I never like his writing. Something else he wrote is that God did not create man, man created God. He was definitely an atheist, and though I didn’t realize why at the time, his writing always made me feel uneasy. I couldn’t avoid reading it  because I was a political science major and it was required. But no one could make me like it.

I disagree with the quote my friend found. There is no Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad, but rather Christians are resolved to find God holy, good, and merciful. As Christians, we do recognize the sinful nature of mankind, but that is not what makes mankind sinful – or “ugly and bad.” Consider this, if I see the grass as green, that is not what makes it green, even if someone else does not see what color it is at all. There is evil and ugliness in the world. The fact that I and generations of Christians have seen it isn’t what brought it into existence.

I also don’t think Christians are the only ones who see the evil in the world. Even Nietzsche could see that there was something ugly and bad in the world. But Christians are often (though not always) the ones who can see the evil in our own hearts. Non-believers can easily point to others and see their evil and blame the ugly and bad in the world on them. This is essentially what Nietzsche has done in this quote. He saw external ugliness and blamed it on Christians, but never saw the evil in his own heart.

We have no control to change others and are often powerless to do anything about the evil and ugliness outside ourselves. But we can do something about the evil within; we can invite the Holy Spirit to help us overcome the ugly and bad in our own hearts. That is the Christian resolution – to rely on God to help us overcome our own evil.

“God knows people’s hearts.” Acts 15:8a. Only God knows how we have grappled with our own sinful desires and turned to Him for redemption. The prophet Samuel learned this when he thought one of Jesse’s older, taller, stronger sons would be anointed King of Israel.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.

God had David, the youngest and smallest of Jesse’s sons in mind to be king. He saw David as a man after His own heart. Acts 13:22. Though David was not perfect, he consistently saw his own sinfulness and repented. He was able to look within his own heart and see the evil and ugliness therein; he grappled with his sinful desires and turned to God for redemption.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to grasp Nietzsche’s view and blame evil on everyone else. Rather, I want to be like David and confess the ugliness in my own heart, casting my lot on God for redemption and healing. If every person grasped the Christian resolution to not “worry about a speck in my friend’s eye when I have a log in my own” (Matthew 7:3) and sought the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to overcome my own sinful nature, then imagine what a wonderful place the world would be.

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