Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Right Thing is Scary

Today was full of God doing amazing things.  But, it scares me.

 Amazing – Our ten year old foster son got baptized. 

Amazing – His mother, and two of her friends, came to church to see him get baptized.

Amazing – His mother, and her two friends, heard the gospel preached very plainly.  I don’t know where they are at spiritually, but everyone needs Christ.  The opportunity for them to hear the gospel is amazing.

Amazing – They had a positive experience at church.  They said that they have been to other churches but don’t always understand what the preacher says.  They like our pastor and understood him.

Scary – Inviting these people into our world.  Most foster parents have little, or no, contact with the birth parents.  As a foster parent, it is easier to live separately from the natural mother.  It is scary to have her into our world.  The family dynamic changes.  I wonder how the children will react to her and to me.  How will she react to us?

Scary – What if she wants to come back to church?  What if she comes back to see the kids every week?  What will it be like to have her presence in our life every week? 

While this scares me, I have to put my fears aside.  The family dynamic, my feelings, my fears, etc., are not important in comparison to the mother’s spiritual needs.  God wants me to spiritually build into the lives of these children and their mother.  Their spiritual needs are of utmost importance.  Following God is the life of faith.  Faith must prevail over fears.

Please pray for us as we follow God down this scary path.  More importantly, pray for the spiritual needs of this family.  That is their greatest need.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rambling Thoughts About the Creation/Evolution Debate

I watched the creation/evolution debate between Ken Hamm and Bill Nye, the Science Guy.  While I have many thoughts about the debate, I only have time to share a couple (and you probably only have time and interest to read a couple of my thoughts).

 First, I will jump to the end of the debate because I think it is the most crucial issue addressed.  The final question asked what they base their views on.  Ken Hamm answered first and firmly said  he bases his belief in creationism on the Bible.  He believes science supports the biblical claims that God created the world in six literal days.  Bill Nye said he bases his views solely on science. 

 After listening to these two men for about two hours, I believe Bill Nye incorrectly answered the question (I’m not saying he intentionally lied. He probably does not understand his real starting point.  Yes, I admit that I’m being presumptuous by claiming I know his true starting point and he does not.).  Bill Nye’s views are not really based on science.  There are no scientifically recorded observations of what happened on earth thousands, millions, or billions of years ago (if in fact the earth existed that long).  So, Nye cannot really base his belief in the origins of the universe on science.  Similarly, scientific observations of this current world are subject to interpretation.  Nye and Hamm, as well as other scientists both evolutionists and creationists, have the same scientific “facts” about this earth, but they come to different conclusions, evolution or creation, because they interpret the facts differently. 

 So, how do we explain the difference in their interpretation?  It is their starting point.  Hamm admits he starts with the Bible.  When he views scientific evidence, he interprets it in light of biblical teaching that God created the world in six days.  On the other hand, Bill Nye begins with the belief that God does not exist and, therefore, everything must be explained solely by the natural world, without any possibility of a supernatural intervention.  Since God is out of Nye’s picture, he has to interpret the scientific “facts” differently than Hamm.

 Likewise, I think that people who already believe in creationism think Hamm won the debate, while people who already believe in evolution believe Nye won the debate.  A person’s starting point, already believing in creationism or evolution, led them to their belief of who won the debate.

 The key point is that a person’s starting point will determine their conclusion.  Hamm starts with a belief in God, so he concludes that God created the earth.  Nye starts with a belief that God does not exist, so he concludes that the earth is a result of evolution.  Very few people actually let the “scientific evidence” lead them to believe in God or to reject a belief in God.

 Second, the “scientific evidence” is, in reality, insufficient to cause anyone to “know” that God exists, that creationism occurred, or that evolution occurred.  The debate, as a whole, made it clear that no one really “knows” what happened.  Absolute knowledge or certainty is impossible.

 With that said, I think Hamm provided significant evidence that creationism is a reasonable belief.  Personally, I believe the evidence shows without any “reasonable doubt” (borrowing a term from the legal field, which recognizes that absolute knowledge and certainty is impossible) that God created the world in six literal days.  At the very least, there is enough evidence for creation that a reasonable man can believe in creationism.

 Third, the debate about creationism and evolution is only a small part of the real issue.  The real issue is whether men and women are sinful creatures destined for hell because of our sin, but God sacrificed His only Son to pay for our sins; we can be forgiven of our sins and spend eternity in heaven by believing in Jesus Christ.

 At times, Hamm veered away from the science and spoke about the Bible as a whole.  Initially, I was frustrated by this approach thinking he failed to use his allotted time to “prove” creationism and “debunk” evolution.  Later, I decided that Hamm’s approach was correct.  The ultimate goal is not to win a debate about creation.  The more important issue is salvation.  Hamm even explained the entire plan of salvation in the debate. 

 Since creationism and evolution are really just a small part of the total discussion, a person should look at all of the evidence about God.  There is significant historical evidence demonstrating the authenticity of the Bible, the fact that Jesus live, Jesus performed miracles, Jesus was executed, and Jesus rose from the dead.  If a reasonable person looks at all of the evidence, not just the scientific evidence, he must conclude there is more evidence supporting the existence of God and that Jesus died for our sins, than there is evidence to the contrary.  Hamm correctly expanded the scope of the debate; the more that a person sees the more overwhelming the evidence to support God and the Bible.

 Fourth, several times Nye answered questions by saying that he did not know.  The lack of answers about why man exists illustrates the emptiness of evolution and should lead someone to look for deeper answers.  As Hamm pointed out, the Bible answers these questions.  There is more to life than just being an animal with no purpose.  God has a plan.

 Fifth, as Nye explained evolution, it became apparent that people do not really live as evolutionists.  Evolution supports the idea of the survival of the fittest.  If we lived that way, then racism would continue and it would be acceptable for stronger races to subjugate lesser races.  Slavery would be acceptable.  The persecution of minority groups, including homosexuals, would be acceptable.  No one could claim any moral ground like homosexuals should be treated equally.  Why?  According to evolution, the strongest survive so no one claim that minorities should receive any special treatment.  If they need special treatment to survive, then they should be extinct.  Of course, such life is unacceptable to evolutionists.  Accordingly, they do not even live by their own purported beliefs.

Finally, Nye, on numerous occasions, explained that he was afraid that creationism would cause people to stop developing scientific technologies.  This argument is, honestly, very lame.  Creationists and Evolutionists currently work under the same natural laws.  Gravity and other natural laws apply to everyone.  A Creationist is perfectly capable of developing technologies and Hamm provided numerous examples of Creationists excelling in the areas of science.  Nye attempted to create a tragic disaster caused by creationism.  No such threat exists and his attempt illustrates the overall desperation of his position.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

She's In Another World

She’s 9 years old and is in another world.  She talks to herself.  She sings constantly.  She dances around the house.  She draws fairies and mermaids.  She’s oblivious to the world around her.  She leaves stuff everywhere.  She’s happily living in Maddieland.

It can be annoying.  I can’t get her attention.  She takes forever to get anything done because she drifts off into another world.  Often I can’t find her.  Her stuff is everywhere.  When will she grow up?  When will she be more responsible?

She’s 9.  She’s a child.  She’s happy.  What’s wrong with Maddieland?  She’ll grow up.  She’ll mature, just like her older sisters.  What’s the rush?  Childhood is good.  It will end soon.  Let her enjoy it while she can.  Stop being annoyed.  Stop pushing her.  Let her enjoy her childhood.

I think our society does two devastating things to our children.  First, they rush our children through childhood.  Society pushes them to be tweens and teens.  They push them into every kind of fad.  They push into clothes to make them look older.  They push them to listen to music with mature themes.  They push them to watch television and movies that are not acceptable.  Society rushes children through childhood.

Then, society tries to keep children from growing into adults.  Society wants to keep them as irresponsible adolescents.  Don’t grow up.  Make your education last forever.  Continue to live with your parents.  Don’t get a long term job or career.  Play video games all night.  Don’t bother betting married.  Experts actually claim that adolescence lasts until the age of 30.  Society tries to keep children from maturing into adults.

Right now, she is a child.  Her childhood will end soon enough.  In a few years, she will transition to being a teenager, grow in maturity, and accept responsibilities.  She will continue to grow and mature.  By her early 20s, she should grow into a godly, responsible, independent adult.  While that will happen, today she should enjoy “Maddieland” and I should not rush her out of it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thankful for the Work of Other People

It was 25 degrees outside.  Snow was falling.  About 2 inches of fresh powder sat on the roads.  I’m out on a 3 mile run.  My family and friends call me crazy, but I need the run to keep me from going crazy.  I am enjoying the run, even in the frigid temperatures.  I like the falling snow.  I’m nervous about the footing as a I run, but this adds to the challenge.

About half way through the run, I round a corner and see a utility truck.  The men are bundled up working.  I’m out here for fun, but I don’t think they are out here for fun.  They are out here working to keep my neighborhood comfortable.  I doubt these guys volunteered to brace the cold and snow to work; or, if they volunteered, it was solely for the paycheck.  It made me think.  I appreciate the fact that they are braving the elements to keep me comfortable. 

As I run, I thank God for their work.  Then, I think about all the people who work to keep me comfortable.  It’s work that I can’t do; I don’t know how.  To be honest, a lot of it is probably work that I don’t want to do.  But, they do it in order to keep me comfortable.  I need to be more thankful for their work.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Children Are Taking Notes in Church?

I’m in church with my children.  The two 9 year olds are singing and enjoying the service.  Then, the Pastor begins to preach.  I’m taking notes and trying to learn.  But, the kids lose interest.  They get fidgety.  On a good day, they quietly doodle while waiting for church to end.  They are hanging on me.  They are distracting.  There should be a better way.

I want to raise children who actually love God and have a relationship with Him.  I don’t want them to just go through the motions.  I don’t want them to attend church just to please me or because that’s what good Christians are supposed to do.  I want them to enjoy church and enjoy growing in their relationship with God.  This isn’t working.  There should be a better way.

I look at my notes.  I look at them.  Then, it comes to me.  Why can’t they take notes?  Note taking will force them to pay attention.  It will get them to be engaged.  It will keep them involved and, hopefully, interested.  It will help us talk about the message while we eat lunch.

I get them to take notes.  I’m surprised.  They are actually doing it.  I think they are even enjoying it.  Sometimes, I laugh at the content.  My daughter’s writes, “Pastor likes pot roast with his chicken parmesan.”  Other times, I can see that they are really getting it.  Her note says, “Jesus is the main attraction.”  They’re asking me questions about the sermon.  My son runs out of space in the bulletin and asks for more paper.  He requests a notebook.  I’m pleased.  They are getting it.  Church is becoming more than just some boring thing that Christians have to do.  They are involved, learning, and enjoying it.   

I want to seize this opportunity and spread it to other children.  Now, at my church, I give candy to any child who takes notes during the service.  On the first week, the kids come with their notes.  I give out candy.  They smile.  I don’t plan to read their notes, but some want me to read what they wrote.  It’s exciting to see.  Parents are pleased and thanking me.

Many adults of all ages tell me it’s a great idea.  I appreciate their thoughts.  But, I wonder, “Do they take notes?”  If note taking is a good idea for children, then it should also be a good idea for adults.  Why would a child want to takes notes if their parents don’t take notes?  Personally, it helps me learn and remember the message.  It keeps me engaged in the service.  My mind is more active. 

You should give note taking a try and suggest it to your kids.  If you need some motivation, come see me after the service and I’ll give you some candy.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Praying for the Most Important Miracle

On December 12, 2013, God granted me a miracle.  Those who follow my blog or facebook posts know that, out of the blue, the State of New Jersey returned our four year old foster daughter after she had been removed for ten months.  This was nothing short of a miracle and I give God all the praise and glory for performing the miracle.
I believe that God wants Christians to live a life of faith, which requires that we undertake bold acts for Him that will only succeed if God provides.  Our service as foster parents is one example of a life of faith. 
If we are going to live a life of faith, then we are going to have to depend on God and ask that He perform miracles.  We cannot do it ourselves.
I asked God to return our foster daughter to us.  I did not like the fact that He allowed her to be removed.  I did not like the fact that it took ten months for Him to grant the miracle.  But, He provided the miracle in His time.  Praise God.
After he granted that miracle, I started praying for another miracle (I think God wants us to pray for miracles.  It shows we are living by faith and are depending on Him).  I prayed, and am continuing to pray, that the natural mother of our four foster children will surrender the children and allow us to adopt them.  All four foster children have the same mother; they have different fathers who are not involved in their lives.  The older three children were removed from their mother 42 months ago and the younger one has been in our house since leaving the hospital after his birth.  Despite all of this time, the natural mother is still trying to have the children returned to her and she sees the children weekly.  At this point, it appears there will be a trial to determine whether the children will return to her or whether her parental rights are terminated and the children can be adopted.  If there is a trial, I do not know how it will turn out. 
I believe it is in the best interests of the children if we adopt them.  So, I am praying for a miracle.  I am praying that the mother, even after 42 months of battle, will surrender the children and we will be able to adopt them.
While I have been praying for this miracle, I realized that my miracle is not the most important request.  The most important issue for this family is their salvation.  While I pray for the children, for their adoption, and for their salvation, I have not diligently prayed for the mother’s salvation.  If God grants my miracle, I will adopt the four children and they will accept Him as their Savior (the oldest one has already done this), but the mother may never accept Jesus as her Savior.  No matter how much earthly help I can give the children, the reality is that it is an insignificant benefit if they spend eternity apart from God.  The best thing that I can give to any of these people is Jesus Christ.  Now, I am praying for a more important miracle – the salvation of their mother. 

I’m still praying that she will surrender the children, but her salvation is the more important request.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

With books like Outliers, Tipping Point, and Blink, Malcolm Gladwell has become one of the more popular writers in the last few years.  When I saw the Kindle version of his latest book, David and Goliath, on sale, I bought it looking forward to his insights with, hopefully, a biblical perspective.  Unfortunately, after reading it, I was disappointed.  While he tells some interesting stories, he misses the point of David’s victory over Goliath and demonstrates a lack of moral judgment, which undermines the overall book.

Gladwell’s premise, drawn from the story of David and Goliath, is that we misunderstand power and advantages.  Often things that appear powerful have significant weaknesses that make them beatable.  Similarly, advantages often have significant disadvantages.  On the other hand, what can appear to be a weakness or disadvantage can be turned into strength or advantage.

Gladwell begins with David’s victory over Goliath and claims, “All these years, we’ve been telling these stories wrong.”  In his telling of the story, Goliath only appears to be a powerful giant.  Instead, he has significant weaknesses that David exploited.  For example, Goliath was armed for hand to hand combat; he was not prepared to battle a “slinger” (someone using a slingshot).  Since Goliath was so large, he probably had a physical disability, “acromegaly”, which causes vision disability.  His vision problems prohibited him from recognizing that David was attacking with him a sling.  Consequently, according to Gladwell, David’s victory is completely explainable in human, not supernatural, terms. 

Gladwell completely ignores the presence of God in the story.  While it is possible for people to overcome strong enemies and disadvantages, that is not the focus of the biblical account of David and Goliath.  When King Saul tells David that he cannot defeat the giant, David responds, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37).  When Saul sent David to battle, Saul says, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” (1 Samuel 17:37).  Clearly, David won the battle, not because he “outsmarted” Goliath or exposed Goliath’s human weaknesses, because of the presence and power of God.  Gladwell completely misses this point.

In addition, Gladwell demonstrates no moral judgment.  For example, in one chapter, he explains how some people overcome disadvantages, such as dyslexia.  However, in overcoming their disadvantages, they often resort to sinful acts.  Gladwell summarizes, “They bluffed their way into professions that would have been closed to them.”  This “bluffing” included lying and deceit, which are sins.  Nevertheless, Gladwell justifies their actions, “What they did is not ‘right,’ just as it is not ‘right’ to send children up against police dogs [he tells a story of civil rights leaders purposefully baiting police into using dogs against children in order to gain a propaganda advantage in the battle for civil rights].  But we need to remember that our definition of what is right is, often as not, simply the way that people in positions of privilege close the door on those on the outside” (emphasis added).  According to Gladwell, there are no moral absolutes.  Rather, morality is used to control power.  So, it is okay to change the morals in order change power.  This is wrong and is not biblical.  Such thinking is dangerous.

Disturbingly, some Christian book reviews failed to fully identify these weaknesses.  A couple of reviewers identified Gladwell’s weaknesses in the story of David and Goliath, but they failed to fully understood the significance of Gladwell’s misinterpretation.  One reviewer wrote that Gladwell’s approach “neglects the key aspects of David’s triumph.”  Another reviewer noted that Gladwell “ignores the obvious divine empowerment behind David.”  But, neither seem to express this as a major problem.  However, neither reviewer noted any of Gladwell’s moral problems, which should have been pointed out.

Notwithstanding these problems, Gladwell tells some interesting stories and makes some interesting points.  However, even his good points are overstated.  Just because one or two people have defeated a giant or overcome a disadvantage does not mean that everyone can use the same strategy to defeat a giant or that the disadvantage is really an advantage.  The book was mediocre.  It wasn't terrible because it had some redeeming traits (good stories and interesting points), but it had too many weaknesses to be considered good or great.