Saturday, September 26, 2015

Where Did That Come From?

Jesus once asked some lawyers a simple question, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?”[1]

That is a good question.

The other day I was on my scooter at the drive up window of my bank. I was third in line. As I sat waiting, I thought, “I wonder if it’s weird for the car in front of me to see me on the scooter behind her? I am outside the normal confines of a car.” 

Then my thoughts changed directions.

“I wonder if she thinks I could just walk up to her passenger window and demand her money.”

My thoughts quickly flashed as to what that would look like, including popping back on the scooter and making my getaway. (I had been told once that a man held up that bank and escaped on a bicycle.)

Then I snapped back to reality. “What am I thinking about? This is crazy!” The motorist in front of me drove away.

The truth is, it was crazy.

But haven’t we all had thoughts like that before? I mean dark, off-the-wall thoughts? What is worse, haven’t we all done shameful or guilt-producing things?

I’ve heard it said, the one doctrine of Christianity that you cannot argue with is the doctrine of sin. We are all sinners with corrupt hearts. 

We have all experienced it. We’ve been on the receiving end and we’ve dished it out.

Although my thoughts that day were evil in nature, I did not sin. Had I dwelt on them, and eventually acted on them, it would have been sin. But just having the fleeting thought without premeditation, and then rejecting it, was not a sin.

The Bible says these evil thoughts come from our hearts.[2] My criminal thoughts originated in what theologians call my “sin nature.”

Spiritual philosopher Dallas Willard writes about the sin nature. “The condition of normal human life is one where the inner resources of the person are weakened or dead, and where the factors of human life do not interrelate as they were intended by their nature and function to do… The person is effectively turned away from his or her own good. The individual may and often does wish to be good and to do what is right, but he or she is prepared, is set, to do evil. It is what the individual is ready to do without thinking. In this condition, the mind is confused, ignorant, and misguided. The emotions are simultaneously dominant of personality and in conflict with one another. The body and the social environment are filled with regular patterns of wrongdoing and are constantly inclined toward doing what is wrong.”[3]

If Willard is right, we’re all out of whack. We’re crazy.

People can argue about who Jesus was and what he did. They can argue about teachings of the Bible. They can say this religion is better than that one. They can say there is no god.

But the one doctrine that cannot be argued against with intellectual integrity is the doctrine of sin. It’s our universal experience and is captured in phrases like, “Nobody is perfect,”I don’t know why I did that,” or “My bad.”

If it’s true that we’re imperfect and bad, then what else in the Bible might be true?

Maybe this statement: “…he shall save his people from their sins.”[4]

I submit to you that Jesus, and Jesus alone, can save us from the truth of our sin nature.

[1] Matthew 9:4 (Holman Christian Study Bible)
[2] Matthew 15:19 (HCSB)
[3] Dallas Willard, The Great Omission (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2006) 146-147
[4] Matthew 1:21 (HCSB)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Miracle Bicycle

Three of us were in the town of Tremont, Pennsylvania. It was a hot summer day. A church from the nearby town of Bethel was having an event in a park in Tremont.

 It was sort of a Christian carnival, offering several attractions to the local people. They had basic medical screenings by nurses. There was a distribution of groceries, household, and baby products for free. There were free drinks and hotdogs. There were bands and individuals playing music. There were face-painters for the kids, balloons, and they were raffling off several bicycles.

The organizer, Pastor Ted, had invited three of us working in Youth With A Mission to have a “Prayer Station” at the event.

A Prayer Station is basically a table with a banner over it. We simply offer to pray for passers-by. If they say yes, we ask what they want prayer for. If they refuse… no problem, they continue on their way. It’s a way of blessing people.

It was a fun event, but Pastor Ted hoped the love, generosity, and fun would have a spiritual impact on some. There were about 200 people there.

My friends, Chris, Bill, and I set up between the hot dog stand and the music.

It started out slow, but after a while a middle-aged man approached me. His name was Ron.

“What is this?” he asked.

The man looked haggard and weather-beaten to me. My immediate thought was he’d been a hard-drinking man. He had that look about him. We talked for a few minutes. Ron was not involved in religion in any way. He was not religious but curious that we were there.

 “Can I pray for you?” I asked.

He replied, “Why not?”

“Any specific thing I can pray for?”

“No, just pray,” he said.

So I prayed a prayer of blessing over him.

When I finished, after about 45 seconds, we opened our eyes.

Ron said, “I haven’t had a prayer like that prayed over me in 30 years!” He seemed really excited. So was I.

Immediately he asked, “Can you pray for my son?”

“Sure, ” I said.

“Andrew!" He called to a boy of about 12 standing nearby.

The boy came over and Ron said to him, “This man’s gonna pray for you. He just prayed for me. It was really good.”

Andrew looked sheepish and did not seem at all excited about prospect of being prayed for.  I waited for Ron to give a nod and then I prayed a short prayer, in Jesus’ name, for Andrew.

I encouraged Ron to get involved in a church, and read his Bible. He seemed genuinely encouraged as we said our goodbyes.

Later in the day, they had the drawing for the bicycles. There were three bicycles. The first two went to an adult and to a little girl. They drew a name for the third one, a really nice white bike. The name they announced was Andrew!  Andrew went forward and claimed his prize. I clapped!

Later, as I walked back from the stage to the “Prayer Station” table, Andrew and his dad were standing off to the side, about ten yards away looking at the bicycle. Ron waved me over.

Turning to Andrew he said, “See Andrew. See what God can do! God answers prayers!” It was the unchurched man who was now preaching Christ.

I’m not saying that if you pray, God will give you a new bicycle. He could do it. He did it that day. He’s good.

But my point is that Ron was convinced that God had answered prayer that day. He was teaching it to his son.

We find God in unexpected times and places.

Talk to Him today.

He is near.

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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