Friday, August 21, 2015

Joy at a Stop Sign

Back in the early 70’s, my friend Pat said to me, “Do you want to go on a double date?” He was seeing a girl named Marilyn that he’d met at school in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She was a Christian. I was amazed that a religious girl would date Pat. As “wanna-be” hippies, he and I were into drugs, drinking, rock ‘n roll, and women. But this surprised me?

Pat said, “She has a sister. Do you want to go?”

 I did go… and we had a date, but I don’t remember it at all.

I remember the sister was cute. I called her to ask if I could go to Coeur d’Alene to see her. She said yes, and so I showed up at her house one evening. Somehow, it happened that her mother invited us to join her in going to see some friends. When we arrived, it turned out to be some sort of church house group.

We all sat in a circle. They did some preliminaries like singing. Then, at a certain point, my date’s mother said, ‘Now, let’s all go around the circle and each one share what Jesus means to you.”

I was not a Christian. I had not read the Bible. I did not go to church, although I could remember going to Sunday School at the Lutheran church as a young boy. I remember the Bible story comic strips. I really liked the pictures of Roman soldiers. That appealed to me. But that was long ago, and I was an unchurched heathen at this point.

I sat observing the 20-odd people, one at a time going around the circle, talking about what Jesus meant to them.

Finally my date spoke. I don’t think I heard what she said. I was busy composing my own speech mentally. Now it was my turn.

I sat there. There was an uncomfortable silence. All eyes were on me.

Finally I stood. I said something like, “Yeah, I think Jesus is cool. I believe in God.” I sat down.

The night ended. I never saw that girl, her mother, or her group again.

But I do remember an experience going home that night long-ago.

I drove from Coeur d’Alene to the Silver Valley in Idaho, listening to rock music as I always did. I pulled up to a four-way stop sign in Pinehurst.

As I sat there, I suddenly became aware of how good I felt. I felt absolutely joyful. There was a peace in my heart. I remember feeling clean. That was the feeling… cleanness. I had not known I wasn’t clean. But that night I had an immense sense of well-being as I sat at that stop sign.

Realization of how I felt produced in me a thought, “It was a good thing that I’d been with the people of Jesus.” It was a profound moment. I didn’t over-analyze what it was or why I felt it. But I have never forgotten that moment either.

I didn’t start to attend church right away. I didn’t start to read the Bible immediately. But that experience impacted me, and I would say it became one step in a process that took a year and a half before I ultimately committed my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ at an American Lutheran Church.

So what happened that night? I believe God allowed me to feel his presence. I felt what he feels and experienced what he is like. It was different. It made me happy. It made me want more, even though it would be some time before I got to that place.

Joy.

Peace of mind.

Love.

Being clean. 

Those are some of the reasons why I am still a still a Christian after 43 years.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seeing the Invisible God

Paul  the Apostle, while preaching in the city of Athens, a city full of idols and images, said, “… he is actually not far from each one of us …”  (Acts 17:27-28) God is actually not far from each one of us

God is near to you and I. 

If so, why do we not see him? Why do we battle with doubts about his existence? Why does he seem irrelevant? Is there really someone living, and near us, that we cannot see?

A friend of mine was serving in the army in Vietnam. He was not a religious man. One night he stood waiting for a military transport to take him back to his unit. As he stood there alone in the sweltering Vietnam night, out of nowhere, a clear, vivid thought was impressed upon his heart. “Get to know me.” It was just that simple.  “Get to know me.” He instantly knew it was God. He told me that was the spark for him to begin to seek God. It wasn’t quick, the effect of that sentence lasted about five years. He had good times and bad times. He did many things he knew were wrong. But that one sentence spoken to his heart started it off. Today, he is involved in proclaiming the Christian message among Native Americans.

We can’t see God. Yet Paul says “He is actually not far from each one of us.” How can this be?

In a nutshell, it is because God is a spirit. The things of the spirit are not detectable by our five natural senses. The Bible teaches there is a God who loves you and is very near you, yet we can be oblivious to Him.

For my friend in Vietnam, it was an inner thought. Just a thought, yet it was so profound he did not forget it.

Is there a reasonable argument in favor of  invisible realities?

Yes. First of all there is Jesus. A real person who really lived miraculously, died on a cross, rose on the third day, and was seen by many. God showed himself up close and personal. Jesus said the spiritual realm is real.

Another intriguing thought about the existence of the invisible was put forth by Joseph Butler, an Anglican clergyman in the 18th century. He used the analogy of dreams. While we sleep, while we are unconscious of the physical world, and of our five senses, we still experience something real.

I once had a vivid dream where I was chased and shot in the arm by an alien weapon. I felt it. I then woke up and found that my arm was asleep. It was profoundly real. By analogy, Butler argued, that as in the unconsciousness of sleep, we have awareness, so too in the unconsciousness of death we will encounter reality.

Why does every nation, even remote, primitive societies, have religion? It is because man senses there is something real, something beyond us. That is spiritual perception, not physical.

So what keeps us from perceiving the spiritual world? Why are we so locked into the world of the five senses?

The Bible answer is that our sin keeps us from perceiving and knowing God.

God is holy. We are not. Therefore there is a separation.

Christ died though, to satisfy God’s justice and anger about our sins. If we believe in his atoning death and resurrection and his love for us, he forgives us. Our sins are removed in God’s eyes. Our "spiritual eyes" are opened.

So, since “he is actually not far from each one of us,” will you begin, more than ever before, to search for him? He is worth it. He is the most wonderful person in the universe.


Take a few minutes now, to talk to the invisible God. He is not far from you. He loves you. Tell Him what’s on your mind.

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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