Thursday, September 26, 2013

Heads or Tails?

The lottery. It’s a mania in this nation. CNN reports, “More than half of us have played the lottery in the last year…”1

I don’t play the lottery. But if I'm honest, I have to say I've fantasized about what I would do if I won it. I'd get a Harley-Davidson, that's for sure. But because I never play, I will never win the lottery.

I know of a native American girl who won … twice. Once for a six figure payoff, and once for five figures. What are the odds?

People play the lottery because of the possibility of hitting it really big. The odds are mightily stacked against them, but it’s that hope of something wonderful and life-altering that keeps them playing. Human behavior expert, Dr. Wendy Walsh says, "We have the Cinderella complex -- there's a fairy godmother who's going to come in and save us."2

What if winning the lottery was decided by a flip of a coin? Seventeenth Century French Philosopher and Mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote about something just as dramatic. It is called Pascal’s Wager.

Pascal posited that all of us are facing a flip of the coin. We wager our life on the fact that either God is or He is not. We can't avoid playing. By means of reason alone we cannot be sure if there is a God or not. Pascal writes, “Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that God exists… if you win you win everything, if you lose you lose nothing.”3 It's sort of like hitting the lottery. Win and I'm cruising on a Harley. Lose and I'm out five bucks. Much to gain, not much to lose.

Why don't we do that in religious matters?

The Hindu religion says that all ways-- Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Krishna, trying to be a nice person, - all lead to God. (Although, Hindus don’t really believe that. Just ask one to allow his daughter to marry a Muslim or a Christian, if you don't believe me.) Contrary to Hinduism, Christians believe in the exclusiveness of Christ based on his own statements such as, “no one comes to the Father except through me.”4 No one.

If Hinduism is right, and the coin comes up tails, a Christian should still be okay. All roads lead to God. He doesn't have much to lose except maybe a Hindu wife. But if Christ’s claim to exclusivity is true, and the coin comes up heads, the Hindu has missed his chance at eternal life… he missed the Mega Millions jackpot.

From pure logic it makes no sense to be a Hindu or an Atheist.

I do realize logic is not all that is entailed in religious commitment. It's just one factor.

Pascal urges us, “Do not hesitate then: wager that He does exist… wherever there is infinity, there is no room for hesitation, you must give everything.”5

Famed missionary martyr Jim Elliott once said, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." 

Call it, heads or tails?

1 Jacque Wilson, Why You Keep Playing the Lottery, CNN, May 17, 2013
3 Blaise Pascal, Pensees (London: Penguin Books, 1995) Series II, The Wager(233) p 123
4 John 14:6 (ESV)
5 Pascal, Ibid

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Picnic and a Show

I love a picnic. On Labor Day we sat out on a patio having a picnic. I noticed how big of a panorama of the sky was in front of us. There were no trees or building, nothing near us, to block part of the sky before us. I was struck by how wide and high the sky looked.
As the meal progressed, clouds began to roll in. Big cumulo-nimbus thunderheads. There was a little bit of lightning off in the distance. At one point we commented on how it smelled like rain. It was a feeling.

High above, over our heads were these towering thunderheads. One website says, “A good sized cumulonimbus cloud, or thunderhead, might be ten kilometers tall (six miles), with a base ten kilometers in diameter.”[1]  The tops of them radiant white in the late afternoon sun. The lower parts of them various shades of gray where the sun could not strike them. Then below them, obviously much lower in altitude, came in low, whispy but dense rain clouds. Dark. Almost black.

“Becca, look,” said Charlie. The white on the edges of the highest clouds was intense.

She began to snap pictures.

“It’s going to rain, really hard,” I said.

But it didn’t. A black cloud, quite low, rolled right over our heads, carrying literally tons of water. But it didn’t rain.

“He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not rent under them…”[2] said Job in the oldest book of the Bible.

“Look over here,” said Charlie. Another breathtaking panorama behind us. “But,” he said, “that is past us. It’s over there that is coming our way.”

A small, private airplane flew over, well below the billowing, roiling thunderheads. I said, “No one intentionally flies through one of those.”

I was looking straight up. The shining white edge of the topmost clouds moving across the lower black ones, forming black silhouettes of the edges of the ominous rain clouds. What a sight! “Can any one understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?[3]

Charlie interrupted my thoughts and pointed off into the distance, “That's the worst place.” It was an extremely black, low patch. Just by a quick scan of the sky, Charlie could point out the area where the storm would be greatest. Who has put wisdom in the clouds, or given understanding to the mists?[4] I guess we take that for granted. But the skies really do give us vital information about the weather, just by looking at them. There’s a pattern to it. A plan.

We began to retreat into the air-conditioned house, realizing God had put on a show for us. An everyday sight, yet so majestic when you stop to ponder it. “He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.”[5]

A few brave souls went back outside. Moments later they came running in through the sliding doors, “It started, then stopped, then started, then stopped… and then it came down like a curtain of water!” That was some serious rain. Little Kenzie said, "Wet!"

Like I say, I love a picnic. But a picnic and a show... that's the best. Thank you Lord.

[2] Job 26:8
[3] Job 36:29
[4] Job 38:36
[5] Psalm 135:7
Special thanks to for photo of the clouds

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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