Monday, May 27, 2013

why i am not an atheist, part 2

At my new job I watched a man sitting in a wheelchair at a table. He looked at my display table and decided he needed to talk to me. He energetically pulling himself out of his wheelchair and haltingly took about ten steps to get over to me. He asked me several questions, and then I asked him about his disability. He told me he had Multiple Sclerosis for twenty years. A few months back his MS kicked in again which was why he was in now in the wheelchair. “When I was first diagnosed with MS, it was pretty hard,” he said. “I love to fish. I decided I was going to fish in all 50 states. I made it to 46. Michigan was the best. But I just figured there was nothing I could do about my MS so I wake up each morning happy to be alive.”

“Really?” I asked him.

“I have a lot of friends who give me a lot of help. He pointed to a lady sitting at his table. “That's my wife,” he said. “She's been been solid as a rock.”

“Amazing,” I said. “The Lord's been good to you.”

His eyes lit up. He nodded his head. “Yeah, He sure has.”

A few days ago I met a young man who told me he was retarded. “You are not retarded,” I told him. “You're plenty bright.”

“I was in a car accident five years ago. I was in a comma for four weeks. They told my mom and dad I would never talk again,” he told me.

“Wow,” I said. “Then you're doing great!”

“My memory is not good,” he said.

“My memory is not much good either,” I told him. “From what I can see, the Lord's been really good to you.”

His eyes also lit up. “He has been!” he said. “God has been good to me.”

Exactly where I get off telling people who are in the midst of a tragedy that the Lord has been good to them, I'm not quite sure. For some reason, it seems like the appropriate thing to say.

I've known too many people who have gone through tragedy. It scares me, for I see no reason why tragedy shouldn't happen to me. But something strange is going on. Tragedy typically does not make a person especially unhappy. As often as not, those in the midst of tragedy are grateful to the Lord for His daily blessings.

This is my next reason why I am not an atheist. —the Lord seems to especially reveal Himself to those who are in difficult circumstances, which seems to me like the appropriate thing for Him to do. “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Luke 6:20

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

why I am not an atheist, part 1

I think there are several pretty good reasons to be an atheist. Pain and the randomness of evil are the two biggest.  Probably the hypocrisy of those who are religious is what clinches it for most people who identify themselves as atheists. 

I almost became an atheist from reading the Bible.  I decided when I was 15 years old that I was going to read through the Bible “objectively.” Three passages stuck out as being too hard to be believed. The first was the chat Balaam had with his donkey; the second was when a dead man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, “and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.” II Kings 13:21. And the third is the whole gospel of John. Everything Jesus said just seemed too weird for me.  I certainly didn’t want to be an atheist. I thought there must be something that I just didn’t quite get. 

One day, while in my first year in college, I read the story of the Good Samaritan. Having been raised in a Christian family, I had read and heard it many times before. But, finally, I really read it—objectively. It was so clever, and written with such lack of drama. And the story was so true, so real. I knew people (not myself) who were the Good Samaritan type.  Certainly it was a parable, for there was so much meaning in it, but it also was so true to life.  And it was then that I understood that I need not be an atheist, for the story gave an answer to all my major atheistic questions. 

If you were to ask the victim of the Good Samaritan story what was the best moment of his life, I know he would tell you it was when that very kind man came over to him and had pity on him and poured oil and wine on his wounds. He would tell you he never felt so at peace as when the Samaritan lifted him up on his donkey.  He would say the kindest gift he had ever received was when the Samaritan gave the innkeeper a wad of money and then told the innkeeper, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” Luke 10:35 Was this outrageous beating this poor man took then worth it? Did the good balance the bad? With good and evil, there is no balancing, for the good is what gives meaning, and joy. Why do people act as good Samaritans?  Their behavior seems so random. There are good Samaritans among every group of people; the rich, the poor, the religious, the criminal, the wise and the very simple, the old and the young. Where does there behavior come from? Why would they so put themselves out for someone from whom they can derive no personal benefit? It’s so…God like! That was it. There was no other way to describe what they did, for I knew it was true. God is so random in His kindness. When I’d least expect it, suddenly, there was something good, so far beyond what I ever hoped. 

This eureka moment happened when I needed to find someone for a room-mate for the next school year. I thought, “How sad! I’ve spent almost a whole year at this Christian College, and I haven’t found one person who is a good enough friend that they would want to be my roommate. That afternoon I happened to sit next to a kid whose name I was pretty sure was John. I was so sure, I called him John. He answered to the name and we had a great conversation about nothing at all. Our sense of humor was an almost perfect match. He told me he had found a roommate, but since the college dormitories required three students, he wondered if I’d be willing to join them. I was, and John, whose name I later found out was David Harvey, became my good friend. Roxanne and I visited Dave and his wife Gayle this last week up in Grand Marais where he is the pastor of the Evangelical Free Church. We had such a good visit. The Lord is so good. Because of starting a new job, my life has been pretty stressful lately. A visit with such a friend was like oil and wine on a nasty wound. 

As an addendum: The story of the Good Samaritan gives some answer to each of my atheistic questions.
Why random pain and evil? Here on this earth, it seems like what is really good comes out of what is really bad. Take Calvary, for instance.

Why such hypocrisy among the religious? Who knows. The religious are just people like the rest of us. But a better question is: Why are some people so Godlike as to be Good Samaritans?

Why these weird things in the Bible? I’d really like to get more information on Balaam’s talk with his donkey and the man who popped back to life when his body touched the dead bones of Elisha. But I do know, no one ever spoke like Jesus. I could write volumes on lessons I have learned from this one short parable. As the Lord gives direction, I’d like to share another of those lessons on my next blog

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

take it

Public Radio has a contest going on now for people like myself who would like to consider themselves writers. It is called 3 minute fiction. It's a regular contest where a subject is given. This time it was: You see something that isn't yours. You take it and you are not going to give it back. Here is my unsubmitted entry.

“Take it,” said the voice.

Take what? I wondered.

“Take it,” said the voice again. “On your lap.”

What was it? A book?

A sense of calm flooded my soul. “It’s been a long time,” I thought to myself. “Where did this come from? Had something changed? Something changed. But it wasn’t my job. I tried to focus on what I could do to resolve this latest problem. Always, forever, problems…but my mind was so peaceful.

“I need to just sit and enjoy this moment,” I said this aloud. And I continued speaking, “It doesn’t happen very often, you know. This calm, it comes and goes. Mostly it goes.”

“So take it,” said the voice.

“I don’t think it’s mine,” I heard myself say. “What is it anyway?”

“Of course it’s yours. It’s yours for the taking.” Said the voice.

I was annoyed. Just a little bit. Just a very little bit. I felt so calm. I felt perfect. “What is it?” I said. “You must tell me what it is.”

The voice laughed. “It’s peace of mind. It’s what you’ve been looking for. And now it’s yours. So take it.”

“Why do I need to take it?” I asked. “If it’s mine, as you say.”

“It’s yours if you take it. That’s the condition.”

Just the tiniest shot of terror went through me. What if it was a drug? What if it was… I couldn’t think. Like a wave, like a tidal wave, a sense of peace overwhelmed me. I brought my hand to where it sat on my lap. Whatever it was, it was smoother than satin.

“The condition?”  I asked.  “I knew there had to be conditions. Nothing is for nothing.”

“Is that what you believe?” asked the voice.

“I don’t know,“ I answered.

“Just take it,” said the voice. “Take it. Take it. TAKE IT!” taunted the voice.

I picked it up. It wasn’t mine. I knew with all my heart that it wasn’t mine.

“You take it.” I said as I handed it to…but there was no one there. And it was gone.

“What have I done?” I cried aloud. “What have I done?”

“It wasn’t yours, so you gave it back.” A new voice.

 I recognized it from somewhere. From a long, long time ago.

I looked down at my lap. There was still something there. Was this mine? I picked it up. It was rough, rough as a piece of unplaned lumber. I tentatively handed it to my Friend.

“That’s not yours either,” said the new voice. “You already gave it to me.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s your trust.”

The feeling of peace was gone. I wondered, had I made a mistake?

“Do you trust me?” asked the new voice.

“I do trust you. But my peace. Where is it? Shouldn’t I have peace?”

“My peace I do give to you, but not as the world gives. My peace is more than how you feel, at this given moment. So let not your heart be troubled, neither be afraid.”

I steadied myself. That peace. It hadn’t been mine. How did I know that? But I had to give it back. 

Nothing’s for free. But grace. God’s grace. “For by grace are you saved through faith, it’s from God, and it’s a gift. Not something that must be taken, like an act of thievery.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

hello again

Yesterday was my last regular devotion for Each Day in the Word, at least for now. The Lord has been more than good to us, but for an older man, or at least a man like myself, losing my job and then trying to figure out a new job has been tough. This exercise of writing 500 to 600 words that must be completed most days before I go to bed has been encouraging and helpful to myself. (By God’s grace, I hope you also have found some encouragement from it.)

Hardship forced my brain to intensely mull over the Lord's goodness and His desire for our good-ness, so I had many thoughts to share. Now that I am less anxious, less pressed; I miss reading. Writing this blog took up the time I had been able to use to read. Also, in my more peaceful state of mind, it takes me longer to come up with a new meditation each day.

We've had several contributors to Each Day in the Word including my wife Roxanne, Eric and Stephie Varghese, John Messerly, Bruce Haley, Bill Howell; Daniel Triestman and Matt Lange have contributed the most. Dan is one of my favorite thinkers. If I had to be stranded out in a desert island with just one other man, I think I would choose Dan, for he continually interrupts my conclusions. Any time I think I have “solved” a question, Dan rearranges my formula. Matt calls ‘em like he sees ‘em, and each day Matt is seeing things a bit more clearly. The Lord is doing a work in his life that is clear and observable. He has a heart for certain people that some of us can only have for our own families.

Thank you very much for reading. As you may have guessed, I have a passion for writing, but to write without having a reader would be a pretty empty passion.

I think I’ve already shared with you about every significant thought I’ve had, so in conclusion, I’ll share a thought I’ve already shared. Our Lord Jesus is the “amen, amen” God who is man. Amen means undeniable truth. It also means unmitigated faithfulness. Though everything and everyone is continually changing shape and direction, our Lord Jesus is totally real and sure—the same yesterday, today and forever. 

By the way, I may go back intermittently to writing on my first blog,  And others may continue to contribute to “Each Day in the Word.” Any profitable devotion that anyone sends me, I will post to “Each Day in the Word.”

I do plan to continue on with Henry Sardina’s biography—as soon as he sends me back the last chapter I sent him--which I think was around the 1st of March. His biography is at