When God first created, He declared everything to be good except one thing. He saw it was not good for man to be alone. As there was no suitable helper for Adam from among the other creatures, God created Eve from Adam’s side to be his helper. This was the first institution of marriage (which is yet another interesting thing that sets us apart from animals – why would we ever come up with “marriage” if it weren’t set up by God?). God placed Adam as the head and Eve as the helper – equal in dignity and value, but different in role. Adam was to be the leader of his household. It was Adam for whom God was looking after they both sinned in the garden (Genesis 3:9).
That’s why it’s by “one man” all fell. Even though it was Eve who initially ate of the fruit, the guilt fell to Adam because he was the head of the household. As the head over Eve, and at this point over all creation, Adam’s sin plunged his household, and thus all creation, into sin. Eve wrongfully stepped out from his headship when she chose to eat of the fruit, but where was Adam when she did this? Some people say Adam was standing right there with her when this happened. Some say Adam wasn’t with her since the New Testament says that Adam was not deceived. Either way, Adam was not fulfilling his role the way he should have been. And therefore Eve stepped outside of her role and made a tragic decision. Adam, regardless of where he was when Satan confronted Eve, then committed the sin as well – with eyes wide open. He was NOT deceived but followed into sin willingly. He chose to disobey, and part of that disobedience was neglecting his role as the leader to guide Eve. Instead, there was a vacuum; Eve filled it with a poor decision, and Adam followed suit.
What does that have to do with us today? There is that same vacuum of leadership in the homes today. Now, don’t quit reading here, please. This is not going to be a male bashing article, but one that encourages men to step into their God-given role as the spiritual leader in the home. Men, you have been given the greatest honor God bestowed upon His creation. You were given dominion over all things here on earth. Adam was charged with tending the garden (Genesis 2:15). He was tasked with naming all of the animals, and those who provide the name for something are those with dominion over it (Genesis 2:19). He was to be the leader of his household. However, far too often that important role is being either abandoned by men or usurped by women, just as God said in Genesis 3:16.
Most of the TV shows and movies we watch portray a dim-witted dad who is either clueless, apathetic, or absent. Whether that is life imitating art or art imitating life, I’m not sure, but the damage caused by the absent father is far-reaching. Just turn on the nightly news and you can see the destruction caused by fatherless homes – either where the father is not physically present or where the father is not mentally or spiritually present. When that happens, it leaves a vacuum either to be filled by the culture through TV, social media, or peers. Our children then get their values from those places instead of the spiritual leader of the father. Or it places that role into the woman’s hands, which is not the God-ordained order.
The absence of that leadership in the home then becomes an absence of real men leading in the church. Unless you were actually raised by a strong Christian man, most men would have no idea what it means to be the spiritual leader of their homes. So are there men in the church coming alongside other men to model what it means to be the spiritual leader of the household? Are there men in the church showing their growth in God’s Word to model spiritual growth to other men?
I saw an excellent sermon about this exact thing by Voddie Baucham (you can watch it here). He talks about the rampant mediocrity within the church. There are people who have been in church all their lives yet still know nothing about what it means to walk in the faith and even worse, still know nothing about God’s word. There is an overwhelming lack of being “sound in faith” or just knowing what it means to follow God in obedience. Voddie illustrates how this would never be acceptable in the secular world. You couldn’t be in a career for 40 years and still know nothing about your industry, yet somehow we accept that level of ignorance and apathy within the church. It is rare to find men who will step up and be a teacher or a mentor because they themselves know so little about their own faith. If someone does show a desire to learn and study God’s Word, it is viewed as a path to being a pastor instead of just doing what every Christian should be doing.
Why is this now the prevailing culture of the church? All through the Bible we can see where there is a lack of raising up children to be sound in faith; there is a lack of adult leadership for the next generation. For example, in Judges 2:10 it says, "When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel." For context, this older generation is the one who followed Joshua to inherit the Promised Land. But they failed to teach rightly about God to the next generation. So the next generation did not know the Lord. As a result, they led the nation into idolatry and wickedness. The next two verses say, "Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger." And this makes perfect sense. How can the younger generation rise up to serve the Lord when they are not taught to know the Lord?
So maybe we should look at how we are raising up young believers. Are we raising our youth so that they can become strong men in faith? Or are we trying to make church look like a good, clean version of the world's fun? If all we show our high school boys is a game night with a little prayer thrown in, no wonder they have no idea how to be spiritual leaders. They aren’t even being taught how to be good spiritual followers. In one particular church, the youth program consists of one night of “discipleship” for the youth. They are divided up by gender. The girls have a couple of hours of Bible study at a young woman’s house. The boys….go play dodgeball for a few hours with a five minute devotion. What are we raising up? What are we training? Are we challenging those boys to become men of God? Or are we telling them you get to play while the women grow in spirituality?
No wonder the gender distribution in churches is so lopsided. According to 2014 Pew Research Center Survey, women are more likely than men to say that religion is very important to them (60% vs 47%), to pray daily (64% to 47%), and attend a religious service (40% vs 32%). One article stated that “women so outnumber men in the pews of many U.S. churches that some clergy have changed décor, music, and worship styles to try to bring more men into their congregations.” The demographics are largely women and children, either single moms bringing their children or married moms bringing their children while the fathers stay at home. What is that teaching our children? It teaches them that faith is something women cling to or that church is only for women and children, but not men. Once boys grow up past having to do what “mama says” they no longer have to do such things.
Unless we start teaching young men how to grow spiritually and how to become spiritual leaders, this gender gap will only continue to increase. And the gender gap within the church is what is leaving that spiritual headship vacuum within the home. Instead of having Godly, male spiritual leaders in our homes, we have fathers who are absent - either physically, spiritually, or emotionally. We have fathers who have left their children to learn their values from the TV and internet. We have fathers who have never shown their children how to study the Bible or how to pray. They have spent more time making sure their kids know football statistics and the history of Star Wars characters instead of teaching them Scripture and the history of the Bible. With that lack of leadership in the homes, we will only continue to have spiritual babies who know nothing about their faith and nothing about God’s Word. As one friend phrased it, “We will be like atheists with one less hour of free time on Sundays.”
So what is the church to do now? TEACH. Teach boys how to be men – and I don’t just mean “boys” by their age, but by their spiritual maturity. Teach them how to be Godly husbands. Teach men how to be Godly fathers. Teach men how to be strong spiritual leaders in their house, on the ball fields, at the gym. Teach men how to be strong spiritual figures in the work place. Teach them the Bible and the intellectual defense of their faith. Teach them so there’s no way they can say faith is for weak-minded, emotional people but for the scientific, logical thinker and the philosopher. Teach them the real men of the Bible who were sound in faith – men like Peter and John and Paul who were fishermen and Pharisees. They were strong men who didn't back down in their commitment to Christ even under intense persecution. Teach about them as the Godly, manly leaders that they were.
To the Christian men out there, don't be discouraged. This message is not about disparaging men, it is about calling men to rise up to the challenge. You have been gifted with such an important role - and we need you to step up to that call of leadership. Rise to the opportunity to pour something of lasting value into the next generation. We need you. We need men of sound faith. We need men who are mature believers to lead our churches, our marriages, and our children. We need you to be strong spiritual leaders in the church. We need you to be the spiritual leaders of our marriages so that it is a headship we want to submit to. We need you to be the spiritual teachers of our children so that our children are raised up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We need you to be an example to others in the church of what Godly manhood looks like. We need you to show the unbelieving world what God truly intended man to be.
In this post I wanted to pass along a couple of recommendations.
First, I came across some videos done by Wayne Ferguson. Wayne was raised in an unbelieving home and came to Christ at the age of 20. After that transformation of his life, all he wanted to do was tell people about Christ in some way, and that eventually transformed into wanting to be a pastor. After attending a Christian college he followed that call to be an academic minister and disciple-maker. Wayne has a heart to build up Christians and save the lost by breaking down scripture to those who are trying to learn it. He is living out this call at a church in New York called Graffiti. It was originally established 30 years ago in the lower east side when drugs, gangs, and other issues were rampant on the lower east side. So their goal was to help the children living in those conditions to grow up in a way that might be helpful. They of course used this avenue to preach the Gospel to those who appreciated our help, which the church has been doing for the past 30 years.
Wayne has been with them the past couple of years and noticed that the church is not a reader culture and is trying to spread its reach to the millienials and younger Christians. Here Wayne has been able to use his passion for Biblical understanding (and literacy!) and teach at what they call Night Church, where they are reaching people with the doctrine of the Bible. As part of that, Wayne started taking his lessons to video and providing them on YouTube. He does a fabulous job of making Biblical concepts understandable for everyone. Here is a link to one of his longer ones that he did on Islam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjkZrOtlEMk&t=52s as well as one he did on the preeminence of Christ as the firstborn of God https://youtu.be/Llb9-C5kFKs. I hope you subscribe to his YouTube channel (I have!) and give him some good feedback. He is doing wonderful work there in New York!
Second, I wanted to recommend a book called A Child of Grace written by Chris Brown. As full disclosure, Chris Brown and I attended high school together in Birmingham and remained close friends through college at UAH. He is a brilliant young man with a Ph.D. in Engineering Management, a Master’s degree in Management of Tetchnology, and Bachelor’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering and Astrophysics. However, Chris had a very difficult upbringing. But it’s not your typical story – see, his dad was on death row and his mom was wanted by the state. Being raised by his grandparents and having weekly visitations to his dad on death row, Chris had some difficult choices of his own to make. Chris tells his amazing story in this book and reveals the grace of God made available to all of us – no matter where we are in this world. I was able to see how God worked through his life to bring salvation to both him and his dad, and now you can see the amazing transformative power of God in their lives through this book. You can purchase the book in paperback and Kindle formats at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N6H7FHT and paperback and Nook formats at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/child-of-grace-dr-chris-brown/1129951886. Also if you are in the North Alabama area, Chris will be having a launch party for his book on Tuesday March 5th at 6:30 pm at Sugar Belle on Jordan Lane in Huntsville.
Several weeks ago there was quite a commotion in the religious community over comments made by singer Lauren Daigle on the issue of homosexuality. At the time she was considered a Christian singer, although recently she takes issue with such a label. When asked whether or not homosexuality was a sin, she replied, “I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.” The responses to Daigle were exactly what you would expect. One set of Christian bloggers and commentators blasted her for not taking the opportunity to speak Biblical truth to the masses. The other set praised her for not excluding the homosexual community. I, on the other hand, think the problem runs much deeper than that. I don’t think she shied away from speaking the truth, nor did I think she was intentionally trying to include the homosexual community. I think she most likely had no clue how to actually answer the question. And you can see that in the way she chose to answer the question. No, she’s not God (and hopefully no one was confused on that point), but we are not devoid of information on what God considers sin.
Now I know that’s very presumptuous to say she didn’t know how to answer the question – and of course, I could be completely wrong about that – but given what I’ve seen in how this issue is addressed inside the church, the odds are in my favor that I am right. How many people who have blasted her on this response would have known how to respond in a Biblical way – and articulate why? I’m willing to bet that the extent of her knowledge on the issue is that everyone in church has said it’s wrong but she has no idea why. And now she’s met a lot of really nice people who are part of the homosexual community, and now she really doesn’t know why it’s wrong. In fact, the reason why she said she wasn’t sure about how to respond was she had “too many people that I love” that “are homosexuals.”
Sadly, I think that’s how the majority of the youth in our churches are going out into the world. Do any of our youth (or even adults) really understand why some churches think homosexuality is a sin? Why some churches think it’s not a sin? And how to make sense of it? The issue becomes even more confusing when they encounter “gay Christians” who seem nicer and “more Christian” than heterosexual Christians. How can they still insist homosexuality is sinful when they are now their friends and so loving? The reason why there is this general confusion on this issue is that, despite the outcries from outside the church, this issue is not addressed sufficiently in the church.
1. The niceness of the person is not the measure of sin
The first thing we must remind ourselves and our youth is the niceness of the person is not the measure of sinfulness. We know the truth of this when we stop to consider the alternative, but it sometimes gets lost when we start inserting our emotions about people when we are judging people’s actions. Someone could just be the nicest, friendliest person you know but they have cheated on their spouse. I think we would agree that their “niceness” does not then negate the sin of adultery. Someone could be the most charitable and generous person you’ve seen, but if they abuse their children, you wouldn’t allow their charity to mean child abuse is no longer sinful. Those outside the church are making these same judgments too, though it’s not on the issue of homosexuality. If a pastor of a church were to be exposed as having embezzled money, you better believe the nice factor of the pastor would not be used to excuse his actions. Nor should it. Nice people do sinful things all the time (that’s because we are all sinners) so clearly that cannot be how we determine sin. It is so important that our youth understand this. They will meet many wonderful, nice homosexuals, but that does not mean God approves of homosexuality.
2. The Bible is not silent on this issue
The second thing to remember is that the Bible is not silent on this issue. So the larger concern is that most youth (and adults) are not even aware of what Scripture has to say on this. This was part of Miss Daigle’s problem. She thought she had to be God to make a statement on this issue instead of realizing that God has already made a statement (LOTS of statements) on this issue. But here’s where the church has to be even more diligent on how it addresses homosexuality, and any hotly debated social issue for that matter: it not only must expose how Scripture addresses homosexuality as sin, but how those who say it’s not a sin use Scripture to affirm homosexuality. That way people can know how to engage in a discussion with others and hopefully explain Scripture in context.
3. The Biblical stance on homosexuality should be convicting - even to heterosexuals
The third thing to remember is that speaking on the issue of homosexuality can be terribly convicting – no matter your sexual orientation. While there are many passages across both testaments that speak to the sinfulness of homosexuality, the overarching concept of how God intended all sexuality to be is given in the words of Jesus Christ. When asked about the issue of divorce in Mark 10, Jesus quotes from Genesis 1 and 2, saying, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he [Moses] wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Here Jesus establishes what God intended for us with respect to relationships and marriage. God made us as two distinct genders and established the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman. He even assumes a heterosexual relationship when He says a man shall leave his father and mother to be joined to his wife in marriage. God invented and gave us the pleasure of sexual union to be enjoyed within this perfect design of marriage. Satan has thus distorted that in numerous ways to pull us away from God’s perfect design; Satan cannot create new pleasures for us so he works to pervert those that God gave us.
This is how God designed us to work: one male, one female joined together in marriage to create the family. As the Creator of all things and the Author of life, He knows what is best for us – not because He wants to deny us things, but because He knows what is best. It’s exactly how every parent is with their children. From the child’s perspective, parents seem so unfair because they deny them from experiencing certain things. But from the parent’s perspective, those restrictions are there because they know what is best for the child; the parents want to direct the child’s path and decisions to be the least destructive and the most fulfilling for the child. Just like the parent denies those things that may appear fun to the child but actually bring harm, God does the same with us. Satan wants us to think all of these sexual unions and relationships are where the fun is, but God wants us to experience what is best for us. Just like the child thinks eating hot fudge sundaes every meal would be so much more fun than eating vegetables and grilled chicken -- but the parents know what is best in the end. Here’s why this is convicting for everyone. This construct of how God intended us to function in relationships excludes all sexual unions that are not within the marriage between one man and one woman. While obviously God’s design excludes homosexual activity, relationships, and unions, it also excludes a lot of heterosexual activity, relationships, and unions. Therefore God’s stance on this issue is very clear. Unlike what Daigle thinks, we don’t have to be “god” ourselves to understand what He desires for us.
4. We are all a sinful and rebellious people
The fourth and final thing to remember is that though this is God’s purpose and design for all humans, we are a rebellious people. We consistently shake our fists at God and say that we know better than He does. We insist on “following our hearts,” thinking the perversions Satan has set before us are better for us than God’s design. For those who have called on the name of Jesus for forgiveness of sins, our call is to live like it. We need to remember our true purpose is to walk in obedient submission to God’s will because God’s will is what is best. Even though that’s impossible to do while here on this sin-filled earth, we must continually strive toward that. This is what Jesus meant when He said to “pick up our cross” and follow Him. We have lost the context of this since a cross to us is just a symbol of Christianity. But when Jesus spoke those words, the cross was a symbol of public execution. We are to die to our own selfish desires and submit to God’s will. As we realize that God’s will is better for us anyway, that becomes easier to do. So for the Christian engaging in sexual activity – whether heterosexual or homosexual – outside of marriage between one man and one woman, they need God to draw them out of disobedience and back into obedience.
For those who have not asked forgiveness through Christ, they are walking in full disobedience and rebellion to God - whether homosexual or not. Therefore, unbelieving homosexuals don't need God to save them from their homosexuality, they need God to save them from their sins – all of them. The reform needed for them is not just to "stop being gay" but to understand that all of their sins - sins of bitterness, envy, lying, anger - are keeping them separated from the very One who created them. Our sins, even the tiniest of moral indiscretions, are so offensive to this perfectly Moral God that we cannot be in His presence. But out of His great love for us, He came down to this earth and laid down His life so that this relationship could be restored. It is because He loved us first that we love Him. And as Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commands." (John 14:15). We are to strive with the Holy Spirit to live holy lives because we follow a God who is holy and we are to honor Him with our lives. Only in His power we can overcome the sins that so easily entangle us.
Having just finished the Christmas season, have you noticed that there is a universal question asked of all children this time of year? “Have you been a good boy/girl this year?” And, without fail, the child nods their head in the affirmative. “Oh yes!” That kid could’ve burned down the neighbor’s house and he’ll still say he was good enough to stay on Santa’s nice list. Apparently, we need to do a better job of reminding kids that some children might get coal and switches from Santa at Christmastime!
Now, we can shake our heads and question our jobs as parents that every child regardless of their behavior thinks of themselves as little angels. Or, we can look in the mirror. Aren’t we just like them? Granted we aren’t so much concerned with Santa’s naughty or nice list, but we have an over-inflated view of ourselves too, don’t we? If asked if you’re a good person, most people would say yes. If asked if you are good enough to get to heaven, most people would ponder a moment and say, “Uh, yeah I’m a pretty good person.” Then we start comparing ourselves to others…always those who are worse. But we think, “Well, I don’t do really horrible things, so I’m pretty good.”
Pretty good?? Is that the standard for entrance to heaven? This is really how we should answer the question about whether or not one can get into heaven: what is the standard to get into heaven? I mean, if you asked a student if they were smart enough to get into med school, they can’t say, “Well, I’m smarter than this guy.” They have to know the criteria for entrance into med school and then determine if they were smarter than that. So just saying that you’re better than that guy over there who does terrible awful things doesn’t really tell you where you stand with respect to getting into heaven.
So what is the entrance criteria for heaven? We could use the Ten Commandments as a starting point, but atheists would view that as just religious propaganda, or really rules that don't apply to them. Other religions would say they have their own standard of behavior. So let’s look at the “major” things that all worldviews would agree on: stealing, lying, and killing. We figure we don’t steal (at least not big stuff, but maybe if you count charging time to our employer when we’re not really working); we don’t kill people (we just really hate some people); we don’t lie (maybe a little when the truth is inconvenient but not all the time). Yikes.
And that’s not even looking at the issues of the heart. Jesus defined our level of “good enough” not just by our actions but by our thoughts. That turns committing murder into just hating someone; adultery into just lust. We all stand guilty of those. Of course now I’ve inserted Jesus into this; other worldviews would push back on that. Why should they care what Jesus has to say about all of this? Well, all people look at the heart when evaluating human decency. We see as deplorable those people who act nice but are hateful in their hearts, even though they may do good deeds. We may even justify bad deeds by saying we had good intentions. Therefore Jesus saying that what goes on in our hearts has bearing on our "goodness" is something we already know, we just don’t like to acknowledge it about ourselves.
What about the rest of the Ten Commandments? We honor our parents (if we overlook all the rebellious teen years). We don’t covet (well not much, but we do have to have the latest technology before anyone else does). We don’t take the Lord’s name in vain (unless our favorite football team loses). What about the first commandment about ? We fail at that every day. We elevate ourselves in the place of God on a regular basis.
Given all that, maybe we’re not so good after all. I mean we can’t even meet the standard our mother set for our behavior. Who are we kidding, we don’t even meet our own standard of behavior! How often have we disappointed ourselves that we can’t be kinder and less selfish, that we lash out in anger or are hurtful in what we say to people? Although we may behave better as we grow older, time does not erase our sins of the past.
If we are all failing to adhere to our own standard of behavior, how do we measure up against the standard to get into heaven? And who gets to determine the standard for heaven? If it’s up to each individual, then we would all draw the line just past ourselves. That way the “really bad” people are excluded, and yet we’ve managed to include ourselves. Unfortunately, we don’t get to set the standard for entrance to heaven. God does. But we shouldn’t view it as God arbitrarily establishing some unattainable standard to keep everyone out. The standard is rooted in who God is as perfectly holy. Our failures to meet that standard is what separates us from His perfect holiness.
What can we do about that? Absolutely nothing. We have broken all those standards, violating the very purpose for which God created us. We can’t fix it ourselves; what’s been broken has been broken. We can’t time travel and undo what’s been done. Even if we could, we’ll still violate that standard tomorrow. So God out of His great love for us offered up Himself to cover over all of our brokenness – if we will just confess our brokenness and admit our need to be saved.
As we look back on 2018, we consider what was good and bad about it, and even what within us was good or bad or may need to change. May we remember that we all fall short of the glory of God and it forfeits our entrance into heaven, no matter how many seemingly good things you may have done last year. But God does not leave us helpless. He sacrificed Himself so that we may be forgiven. I pray that 2019 brings new spiritual life to those who have not found that forgiveness. For those who have, I pray that 2019 will bring a fresh commitment to follow intently the God who gave up His life for you.
Every Christmas, the Christian blogs and articles start flowing on the biggest topic of the season. No, ironically, it’s not about the birth of Christ, but about whether you should or should not play Santa. In the mix of those articles and blogs, the well-esteemed Dr.William Lane Craig wrote an article criticizing the idea of playing Santa with your children. In it, Dr. Craig described in multiple ways the problem created for a child’s faith in God later in life: that children may try to associate God with Santa and find disappointment in God when they realize He is not a giant gift-giver in the sky.
He also said it’s a bad moral example to set for our children to perpetuate what he perceives as a lie: telling our children that some guy from the North Pole exists and brings presents to undeserving children all over the world by sneaking down their chimney and disappearing on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Scripture teaches that lying is wrong - period. It doesn’t tell us to teach that some lies are ok while others are not.
Craig also mentions how Santa increases selfishness and it creates an entitlement attitude in our children, teaching them to expect rewards for their behavior. Finally, he discusses the issue of the damaging effects to someone’s faith by saying God is just as much a fantasy character as Santa is. Many atheists say God is no different than Santa, in that neither one exists. They equate their loss of belief in God with their loss of belief in Santa (…and the Easter Bunny…and the Tooth Fairy).
While some of those points seem to make sense, and have most likely encouraged those parents who choose NOT to play Santa that they are making a wise and healthy decision for their children, many parents disagree. It leaves those of us who do play Santa with our children wondering if we are now creating a future crisis of faith for our children. Are we horrible parents for “lying” to our children about Santa? Are we perpetuating another generation of greedy little skeptics? I thought it would be good to offer a dissenting opinion that would address these points raised by Dr. Craig (as well as a few others). I do want to remind everyone though that this is a non-salvific issue (meaning this is not salvation dependent) . Sincere and devoted Christians can fall on either side of this issue making it unhealthy and unhelpful to condemn the other side over this point.
1. First, are we bad parents for lying to our children? While I agree that the Bible does not say that some lies are acceptable and some lies are not, we want to insert some caution and common sense at this point -- because we “lie” to our children all the time!! And one day they will find out about them!! One day they will learn that, no, that stick figure they drew was not the most beautiful horse we had ever seen. And no, that dance they made up at the age of 6 would probably not make it on Broadway. And no, that lion did not really save from the evil queen those children who found a fantasy land by walking through their wardrobe. And so, no, there wasn’t a man in a big red suit who brought gifts to every boy and girl around the world. Will this lead them to believe we are giant hypocrites who disregard all the truth of the Bible? I seriously doubt it. Is it really a faith shattering experience when they discover any other childhood fantasy and story to be make-believe? Why does Santa have to be such a horrific experience? We see “lying” to our children about Santa as not so different from all the other things we “lie” to our children about. And besides, when the parents are the ones playing Santa, is it really such a lie to say that “Santa” knows when they’ve been good or not?
Furthermore, “playing Santa” does not really constitute lying to our children in the same way that most people claim. Here’s a question to get you thinking: are we lying to someone when we deliberately mislead them in order to surprise them, say with a surprise party on their birthday? The latter falls into the category of a ruse and though technically it could be called a lie, the intention behind it is vastly different. Is the intention behind playing Santa with your child the same as deliberately lying in order to avoid the truth? No, it’s playing a ruse and joining in on fantasy in order to have fun and create a sense of wonder and excitement for one’s children. It also can get their imaginations going on full blast as they try to figure out how Santa does what he does. Whenever our children would ask, how Santa works, we, with a wink and a smile, turn the question back on them: “Mommy, how does Santa get down the chimney? How does he get around to all the houses in the world in one night?” “Well, darling child, what do you think?” I’ve given the same kind of response when they asked at Disney World if Lightning McQueen was happy they had come to visit him.
The other issue this presents is the implication that our children one day will not be able to separate fantasy from reality. I believe most children know very well when something was just “a-tended” (that’s pretend for those who don’t speak my child’s toddler-ese). My youngest son has a very vivid imagination, pretending to be all sorts of things like poison snakes and even an animal that he has invented (which has included this pretend animal’s dietary habits and hunting calls). However, he definitely knows when he’s pretending and when he’s not. And when he is older he will continue in that discernment between the dinosaur he imagined lived in the front door and Jesus as described by the Gospels, just as he will discern between Santa and the Almighty God Creator. Granted, that is part of my job as a mom to make sure he understands the facts of the Scriptures and the evidence that shows it is truth. It is my job to show him the logic and reasoning that tells him when things are imaginary will be the same logic and reasoning that tells him God is real and Jesus has resurrected.
2. Second, will our children really think God is just like Santa? Santa is someone whom they cannot see who gives them extraordinary gifts which they do not deserve. Is this not what God does for us? Is not existence itself a great gift given to us by One we haven’t (yet) seen - not to mention all the wonders of creation that go along with it? And this Cosmic Gift-Giver has given us the gift of abundant, eternal life something we do not deserve and did not earn, yet it came at great cost to Himself. So if Santa can give gifts, how much more can the Creator of the Universe! In this way, God is akin to Santa but on a grander scale because God is so much more.
The problem comes though when people think God, as the Ultimate Gift-Giver, should give them everything they desire. Now instead of being disappointed that Santa didn’t deliver that shiny new skateboard, there is resentment when God doesn’t answer our prayers. Honestly, this association of Santa with God might be true, but this issue runs deeper than just the idea of Santa Claus. It stems from a deficient understanding of God and theology. Unfortunately, many adults view God as merely a gift giver to whom they are not morally answerable. God is the Cosmic Gift-Giver, but in His infinite wisdom and love, He doesn’t give us everything we ask for. This Cosmic Gift-Giver knows best. Like a loving parent, we may deny something our children demand, causing them disappointment and sadness, but it’s because we know that particular gift was not what was best for them.
Sadly, the root of this line of thinking oftentimes comes from within the church, not from the man in the big red suit. Many times devotions or children’s lessons will present a scenario where something bad has happened, the person prays, and then instantly everything works out. Without even using the word Santa, it has reinforced the misconception that praying always makes everything work out just how we want. Out of this faulty view of God, we will pray for certain things and then get mad when He doesn’t deliver. But that is not a sound, biblical view of God, or the purpose of prayer for that matter. That concept of God is a consequence of our assumption that we know what’s best and that we “deserve” whatever we want. This is a selfish, human nature trait to which none of us are immune. This flawed understanding of God, more so than a childhood game of Santa Claus, gives our children the impression that God is only there to grant your every request.
3. Third, will our Santa-believingchildren be more selfish and entitled than those who don’t play Santa? Well, the job we as parents have to remedy those traits runs much deeper than playing Santa. Children are naturally selfish and entitled. It’s one of those things that parents don’t have to teach - they come out that way (a great little microcosm of human nature). Our job is to try to show them humility and gratitude and generosity. So if a parent never teaches those things the remaining 364 days of the year, doing or not doing Santa on Christmas Day won’t make a difference at all. It all depends on the other instruction and training done in the home. So the concept of Santa is not the ultimate deciding factor on how grateful a child will be. In fact, the concept of Santa can be used instead to TEACH generosity instead of allowing it to teach greed and selfishness. We could teach our children to focus on the generosity of Santa in giving gifts to undeserving children to encourage them to do likewise for those in their community or for those around the world.
4. This leads us to the fourth and most important point. Will playing Santa jeopardize our children’s faith when they get older? Many people claim that teaching our children about a mythical figure alongside teaching them about God will cause them to associate one with the other and, thus, invalidate the truth of who God is. Many atheists have linked their rejection to God to the rejection of Santa, often saying they grew up to discover that both Santa and God were a lie. I think we will now extend our reasoning used on our third point. It all depends on the other instruction done in the home. If God is never discussed outside of the one hour a week spent at church only every so often, then your children might very well reject the faith of Christianity – whether you “do” Santa or not. If your child is never taught the foundation of the truth of Christianity, then your child might very well reject the faith of Christianity – whether you do Santa or not. If you only teach the happy parts of Christianity, that God loves everything, that being a Christian means God will answer your every request, and that God is only interested in you being happy, then your child might very well reject the faith of Christianity – whether you do Santa or not. You see, Santa is not the problem. The problem is what and how things are taught in the home about God. In reality these issues and concerns about Santa highlight the importance of proper and consistent teaching in the home. It shows the importance of teaching our children that being a Christian does not mean we “get everything we want” from God. It shows the importance of teaching our children the many logical and intelligent reasons to believe that God is real and Christianity is truth. It exposes the problematic behaviorof just taking your children to church but never living out your faith or instructing them in the faith the other six days of the week. Those are the things that will cause a child to walk away from their “faith” when they are older - not whether or not you do Santa Claus.
And to be completely honest, you can do all of those things and STILL have a child leave the faith. Unfortunately, there is not some magic formula, that if you do “this” when they are young, they will never leave the faith. What Proverbs 22:6 says about training your children up is a proverb, not a promise. It means this is what you should do because it is the BEST way for you to parent your children, but this is not a guarantee that your child will then be saved. Our children must make that decision for themselves; we can’t save them because of our faith. We can only give them the best information, the best case for Christianity, the best evidence of a life changed by God, the best way of seeing that our eternal hope is found only in Christ, and then pray that they will choose to walk in the way of the Lord.
Some atheists as adults have chosen to make a correlation of Santa to God, comparing the rejection of one to the rejection of the other. Yet to those who have done their homework and have studied the rich theological discourse surrounding the concept of God, this is a poor excuse. The comparison between lack of belief in Santa and lack of belief in God only reveals how little the atheist knew about God to begin with. So, do not let these atheists make you feel guilty for playing Santa with your children! The problem goes much deeper than a little fun around the holidays.
In the end it’s a personal call that each parent should make. You know your child the best (apart from the Cosmic Gift-Giver, of course). If your child is of a particularly serious or literal bent, then play Santa with caution or not at all. And leave room for plenty of grace on this, too. If your child is devastated after learning that it was a ruse, apologize and have a frank talk with them about your intentions.
When all is said and done, I believe that playing Santa is not an ethical issue. I am with G.K. Chesterton on this one:
“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.
As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.
And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me…What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.
Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.”
I was talking with a friend the other day about his job and how things were going. He told me that things were getting really difficult and what was supposed to be a great opportunity for him was now rife with drama and stress - all those things that lead to a lack of fulfillment and overall unhappiness. The conclusion was that this job was clearly not where God wanted him to be. Things had become so difficult, so maybe God was closing the door on this place in order to move him on to something bigger and better -- or at least something not so miserable.
The thought occurred to me that I had been in a similar situation last year with the same kind of conclusion drawn. God had directed my path to an entirely new career, one that I had never sought out and one that I honestly had never desired. I went to school to be an engineer, not a teacher. So when this opportunity to teach both Calculus and Apologetics at a private high school was brought to me (combining my engineering background and my current heart for apologetics), it was clear to me this was where God wanted me to be. But when that first year got under way, it was so much more difficult than what I anticipated: ridiculously long hours preparing lessons; hours spent re-learning all that calculus I hadn’t done in 20 years; challenging parent conferences; figuring out a fair way to grade; trying to figure out how to keep teenagers engaged and learning. Pile on top of that the grief in the recent loss of my mom only four weeks before school started; the sleepless nights; the struggle to maintain this ministry; my oldest son starting kindergarten; my youngest now having to go all-day at pre-school. None of this was what I had planned for my life, career, family, and ministry. It was emotionally, physically, and spiritually the most draining and exhausting thing I’ve ever done. All at once.
Now, I know that compared to many jobs and many situations, this was not “difficult,” but it was certainly not what I thought it was going to be. I began to ask those same questions as my friend. If this is really God’s will, why is this so hard? If He brought me to this place, then isn’t it supposed to just “all work out”? Wasn’t it supposed to just all fold nicely into what I wanted my schedule to look like? Why did that first semester just feel like a black darkness of misery? Surely this means I had misunderstood God’s will. Surely this isn’t what God had really planned for me. I must have made a mistake because being in God’s will means that “doors are opened” and things are successful.
By the grace and strength of God, and the prayers of some cherished people around me, I survived that first semester. And by the second semester I could start to see the many reasons why God put me in that place, as difficult as it was. I had formed new and precious relationships. I had seen those kids have their eyes opened to the battle of ideas they would soon be facing out in the “real world.” And I grew to love those teenagers (and I re-learned Calculus too!).
What I wish I could have understood better at the time, and what I do understand now, is that being in God’s will does not mean things will be easy. We have the tendency to think that if God has called you into something then it’s going to be a smooth course of action. I don’t mean we think there won’t be any problems, but that the problems are supposed to be manageable. We even think that the mission is supposed to be successful. How often have we started down a path that we think God has led us down, and we hit a bump in the road, and then turn around thinking God has “closed the door” here? We think every difficulty must mean God doesn’t want us there and every easy open path means God wants us there. Think about how dangerous that can be to us! Have we ever stopped to consider that maybe the difficulties are there because it’s what Satan is trying to stop and the clear path is where Satan is trying to trap us? Or maybe the difficulties are there because God is teaching us and growing us so that we are equipped and able to fulfill the mission He has for us?
Or even worse, have we ever stopped to consider that maybe the difficulties are there because it’s what God is trying to do? I think about the life of David. God sent Samuel to Jesse’s house when David was just a young boy. And he was anointed as the next king of Israel. But he spent the next 8 years fleeing for his life, hiding in caves, and seeking shelter from the enemy. Eight years. Eight years, folks. Could you be on the run for your life for eight years before God actually brings to pass what He promised you? Or would you conclude that you made a mistake in thinking God wanted you to be king and then decide to move off to another place and be a shepherd? I mean, the path for David to move off and be a shepherd would certainly have been easier. Can’t you hear the conversation now? “Well, clearly God closed the door for me to be king because Saul really wasn’t having any of that. There was just so much drama surrounding it. And in my wanderings I came across this little piece of land JUST when this guy put up a for sale sign. Clearly God just opened the door for me to go back to being a shepherd.” On the contrary, God was using that time to test David in his faithfulness and to teach to be David fully dependent on Him.
We can see the same thing with Joseph. When he was 17, he had a prophetic dream that his brothers and parents would bow down to him. And instantly that happened! Nope. Joseph was first captured by his brothers, sold into slavery, moved to Egypt, worked as a slave, falsely accused of rape, and thrown into prison. Thirteen years after his dream – and after going through more than you and I could imagine – Joseph was made overseer of Egypt. But it was another nine years before the dream of his brothers bowing before him became a reality. Yet everything that happened along the way was part of God’s plan for the salvation of His people. Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” The fulfillment of God’s plan included slavery, imprisonment, and twenty-two years of a less than comfortable life for Joseph.
David, Joseph, Paul, John the Baptist, and so many others were right where God wanted them to be, yet their journeys were difficult and long. But in each of those circumstances, God was still faithful; God was still present. It says God is not so much interested in our comfort as He is in our obedience. He desires our willingness to follow Him over our happiness. So maybe we should stop using our comfort level and happiness to ascertain God’s will. I look back at last year and I see how even with the strife and difficulty, I was still right where God wanted me to be. The hard times was not God “closing the door,” but instead it was God teaching me something new. Besides, as my dad always says, if it were easy, they’d get anybody to do it.
Or is it all relative...
The Senate hearing on Judge Kavanaugh has much larger implications than just who gets to fill an empty Supreme Court seat. It is ultimately determining if we are going to continue to be a nation of laws or if we are going to allow our post-modern mindset to continue to sink us into the mud pit of emotion-based decision making. After the testimony given last week by both Judge Kavanaugh and Ford, the news analysts went crazy trying to decide who was more sincere or whose testimony was more convincing. The problem with all of this is that it doesn’t matter who was sincere or convincing. This isn’t like they’re trying to convince us of their favorite flavor of ice cream. We’re talking about an event that either did or did not take place. It matters what the facts are.
This is the problem with post-modernism, which says that truth itself is relative. It uses phrases like “My truth is different from your truth” or “What is true for you may not be true for me.” Or in the words of a former President accused of sexual misconduct, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is" (and that case had physical evidence to corroborate the accusation). People like to embrace the post-modern ideology because it seems so freeing. It makes all things flexible enough to include anything. Our society thinks that “truth” is just so limiting and exclusive. The proposed solution is to just move beyond truth to make it subjective to the individual. That way no one is answerable to anyone. You can’t tell me what I did was wrong – because your truth is not my truth!
Well, at least post-modernists got one part right. Truth is limiting and truth does exclude. Truth, by definition, must exclude the false. So when we hear the testimony from Judge Kavanaugh and Ford, it doesn’t matter who appeared more sincere, it matters what the truth is. The truth of what actually happened 36 years ago should exclude all statements that claim something different. If what Ford claims is the truth, then it shouldn’t matter “how sincere” Judge Kavanaugh appeared. If what Judge Kavanaugh claims about what happened 36 years ago is the truth, then it shouldn’t matter “how sincere” Ford appeared. Isn’t this what this nation should be about? Especially when we’re talking about someone who is going to sit on the Highest Court in the land?? Don’t we want the Supreme Court Justices to rule according to the facts and merits of the case in relation to the Constitution instead of how they feel about it or how emotionally drawn to the defendants they are?
For example, in 2006 three Duke Lacrosse team members were wrongfully accused of raping a stripper at a party. At the time of the case, the media drew every social-justice line you could draw between these young men and the woman accusing them of rape. As we watched the case unfold, you could either feel sympathy for the young men whose reputations and careers were being destroyed or you could feel sympathy for this young woman whose life was ruined by this horrific event. But only the truth can determine where your sympathy should fall. Your sympathy for the young men is only valid if they were wrongfully accused. Otherwise, how could anyone possibly sympathize with three men who gang raped someone at a party, no matter what her profession was? And your sympathy for the young woman is only valid if these three men really did that to her. Otherwise, how could you possibly sympathize with someone who fabricated this story just to get attention? The point is only the truth of the situation, not her truth vs. their truth, but the actual truth can tell us the proper way to feel about this case. Turns out we could sympathize with these kids whose lives were destroyed – and a coach who stood by them who lost his job – because they were wrongfully accused.
On the other hand, in California Brock Turner was convicted of raping an unconscious girl. Through the trial and especially during the sentencing, his attorneys and family begged for sympathy for Brock. He was an Olympic-hopeful swimmer at Stanford and his future was now jeopardized; his reputation ruined. Were Brock actually innocent of that crime, then we would be justified in sympathizing with his plight. However, that pesky thing, the truth, comes in and shows us that we should not sympathize with his ruined future, but sympathize with the young girl who was the victim.
It wasn’t the Duke Lacrosse players’ truth vs. the accuser’s truth. And it wasn’t Brock’s truth vs. the victim’s truth. It was the absolute, objective truth of what happened. It wasn’t who appeared more convincing or more sincere, but who was right. These examples highlight the failings of post-modernism. Truth is not subjective What does the evidence say actually happened? Whose story can be corroborated by something other than just an emotional response?
This is where the idea of absolute, objective truth is not only necessary, but in a way it is more freeing than post-modernism. The facts and evidence tell us what happened so that we are no longer drug around by unreliable emotions, fickle desires, and personal biases. We can instead determine what the facts are, what the absolute truth is, and make decisions based on that. And from that position of knowledge of the truth, we can then allow our emotions to follow – feel anger towards one party because it is fully justified. Feel sympathy towards the other party because it is fully justified, not just because we prefer that person, or the situation was horrible, or they cried a lot on the stand. But feel that way because it is truth, and therefore it is right. That is the proper order of things. The danger to our society is when we allow the emotional circumstances of something and the fluid definition of “subjective truths” rule over our judgments. This won’t just cost us a controversial Supreme Court seat, but the very moral fiber of our society itself. Innocent until proven guilty? No longer. Guilt or innocence decided by an emotional plea by one party? Apparently so.
Due to both my overwhelming schedule and life this past year and the difficulty I’ve had in finding the right words for a new post, it’s been over a year since I’ve been able to sit down and write. It was a struggle to figure out how to break radio-silence after that amount of time. So I thought a more personal post to explain the silence and my thoughts in the silence would be fitting.
2017 was the worst year of my life, and while I can’t yet say this about everything that happened in 2017, I can see in some of those things how God truly does work even the crappy things for His glory and for the good of those who call upon His name. The fall of 2017 brought yet another career change. So far God has taken me from engineering, to being a stay-at-home, to writing a book and founding a ministry for Christian apologetics, and now He has combined all of those experiences and skills to bring me to a high school teaching position - teaching 12th grade apologetics and AP Calculus. The change was more difficult and time consuming than I ever predicted - mostly because of what all had happened at the beginning of 2017.
February 2017 brought the diagnosis that my mom’s leukemia had returned and it would require a very difficult stem cell transplant. May 2017 brought the news that she could not have the stem-cell transplant but would have to rely on a clinical drug trial. June 2017 brought the diagnosis of pneumonia and her decision to stop treatment. And on July 4, 2017 I was holding my mommy’s hand when I had to say good-bye to her. It is a horrible reality every day yet still an unimaginable nightmare that can’t possibly be true. I miss her every day. Every day there is something that I can’t wait to tell her…only to be reminded that she’s not here to hear it. Every day I wonder what we would be doing together if she were still here. Every day I feel like there was still something left for me to, and then I find that it’s because my days still don’t seem complete until I’ve talked to her. I’ve realized even after a year that it is a pain that will never go away. It is simply a pain you just have to live with.
Yet in my pain I know that she is experiencing perfect joy as she is finally with her Lord and Savior. And I know that my good-bye wasn’t good-bye forever, but more like “I’ll see you soon” because my mom loved Jesus. And I do too. However, in this situation, many people would wonder why I would still say that because Jesus didn’t “answer my prayer.” I had prayed relentlessly for her healing - not just me, but countless others who loved the beautiful, Godly woman that she was. She was always so joyful and so kind. I can definitely say that after a year, I still have no idea why His answer was different from what I wanted. But I can also definitely say that God is still real and God still loves and cares for me. Because, you see, God’s existence and love for me exists outside of how happy and comfy my life is. That is a truth…whether He had healed my mom or not. Those truths have no bearing on whether I get “my prayer answered” or not.
How can I say that God still loves me if He would take away someone so special, so dear, so important to me? Because I can see how much God hated this too. He hated it enough to do something about it. No, I don’t mean that what He did about it was heal her (although I desperately wanted that to be the case). It’s because He did something about death overall. He hated that His precious creation had chosen the path of sin, and pride, and rejection of Him – because He knew what that meant for us. He knew that part of His character is perfect Holiness (something we truly can’t fathom). So He can’t be in the presence of unholiness. But if the creation that He loved were sinful, how can He possibly remain with His creation and still be His other attribute: Just? That sin issue has to be dealt with before God’s creation can be in His presence…yet that is what God wanted because of yet another attribute of God: Love!
If God is perfectly holy so that He can’t be in the presence of sin, and perfectly just so that He must judge sin (which we would want someone who is good and holy to do), yet perfectly loves His sinful creation so that He desires relationship with us, what can He do? Well, He can pay the penalty for that sin Himself. The judgment has been made on sin – and it is death. This is where my personal situation falls. Death is an unavoidable part of our existence. It is what happens eventually to all of us, whether it is at the ripe old age of 102 or too soon at the age of 63 like my mom by a wretched disease or even in the youth of life by a tragic car crash. Death will come to us all because we are in this sinful world. The fix to that is to stop death. But if God stopped death here, meaning He made us eternal in this world, that would truly be a miserable existence. We wouldn’t want eternity where there is sin and suffering and pain and injustice. What we really want is for this to not be the ultimate point of our existence.
When Jesus came down to earth, if He could heal the sick, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, but could not do anything about death, His existence here would have been useless. His claims as God would have been nullified. But when Jesus died on the cross and resurrected, this was how God fixed our problem of death. Death was defeated here on earth and our eternity in God’s presence was made possible. That was how much God hated what happened to my mom. Though I would have given anything to have my mom healed of her leukemia, to have her by my side as I raise my children, to have my children see her life as an example of Godliness and faithfulness, it would have still been temporary. Death would have still come. But now it’s not our time on earth together that is temporary, it is the separation at death that is temporary. Jesus came to give us life and give it more abundantly. Death has been defeated. So now it is no longer good-bye, but I’ll see you soon, mommy.
My husband and I both for a time worked in the aerospace industry (of course I no longer do, but he still does). The other day we were discussing the future of the space industry, the new ideas for different launch vehicles, and the goals being set by different companies. As we talked about the explorations of the past, through things like the Voyager program, and the hopes for future explorations, I became once again amazed at the unfathomable vastness of this universe. It's size and expanse is truly incomprehensible to us.
Look at some of the facts about this universe:
Then in 1977, as part of exploring this vast universe, The Voyager Program launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. The probes explored the planets and moons of the outer Solar System over several decades as it traveled toward interstellar space. On March 20 2013, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to leave the Solar System and is now the furthest human-made object from Earth, currently 124.34 Astronomical Units away (more than 11 billion miles from our sun). Voyager 2 is speeding along at more than 39,000 mph, but will take more than 296,000 years to pass Sirius, the brightest star in our night sky.
While on its journey, in 1990 Voyager 1 turned its camera back on our home planet and took a picture. This became known as The Pale Blue Dot. Seen from 6 billion kilometers away, the Earth appears as a tiny blue speck in the depths of space. It reminds us how seemingly insignificant the earth is by comparison to the vast expanse of the universe.
However, as small and insignificant as we may seem, we are strangely unique. We are the only planet that is capable of sustaining life. Yet, if we believe that God uniquely created us, that humans on this earth were made in the very image of God, it brings up an interesting question. Why all this stuff in space? Why are all of those huge stars and galaxies and planets necessary? Why are we surrounded by all of this?
Well, it made me wonder. Why would God go about creating all of that? And I understand that much of it really is in place for our benefit. The sun gives us things necessary for life; the moon controls our tides; the gravitational pull of Jupiter protects us from meteor strikes. But then I realized - it just speaks to the awesome wonder of our Creator God. Why wouldn't He fill up space with other wondrous things?
The best analogy I could think of us with our own backyards. No matter what size yard you have, we all try to add something to it simply to enjoy looking at it. And it's not always situated in the same spot. You spread it out. In one corner you plant an azalea bush (or two or three because in the south we love azaleas). In another corner you might have a rose bush surrounded by smaller daisies. And in between you have a small rock garden with a fountain and lilies in the water, maybe a few pansies around the twists and turns of a path. Then you have a nice apple tree in the middle to give you some shade. We do all of that to enjoy the beauty of what we can plant - create - and cultivate. You are the master of your yard and you can design amazing things simply to see their beauty and grandeur.
Think about what all that looks like to something small and insignificant, say, the ant. He's so tiny so all he sees are these monstrous colors spread out across this huge expanse. And he wonders why did someone put that camellia bush so far away that he can barely see it? And it will take him years to travel out there to it, just to see what it smells like.
Consider what all that can also reveal about the gardener. I love to design gardens and pick out different plants and colors and combinations. But I am TERRIBLE about them actually surviving. My son even asked me during one gardening project, "Are you putting that plant in the corner there so it can die too?" So if I had an even bigger yard, you would see how truly inept I am at gardening. But when you have a master gardener and you give them a large space, we usually sit back amazed at the beauty they can create. So the larger the space to garden, the more you can tell about the gardener.
The point is, it occurred to me that the vast expanse, wonder, and grandeur of space - and how much of it is even still undiscovered - all point to the vastness, wonder, and grandeur of our Creator. He is using this universe like His giant garden, planting a galaxy here, a planet over there, and stars all around. He does it with the same purpose that He made us - to bring glory to Himself. It is why we should be in even more awe that a God so incredible who could create the wonders of this universe would care so deeply to desire a relationship with the seemingly insignificant person that I am.
When John the Baptist was sitting in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he were the Coming One or if they should look for another. And Jesus responded, "Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them." Jesus pointed to the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the miracles that would be worked through the Messiah. It was by these miracles that Jesus proved His deity. It was by the spoken word of Jesus that these works were done instantly and completely. It was that feature that signified to the people that these incidents were supernatural and thus done by someone who is Himself outside of this nature. Granted, these were first century times so they didn't have all of the modern medical devices that we have or all of the scientific instruments and knowledge that we have. But they knew when people were dead. They knew when a person had been blind their entire life, or when they had leprosy, or when they were paralyzed. It wasn't the fact that they didn't understand how nature worked that made the crowds flock to Jesus for healing. It was the fact that they knew how nature worked that told them something un-natural was taking place. The lame don't suddenly get up one day and carry their mats off and the dead don't suddenly walk out of tombs out of a natural process. The people knew it was a supernatural process that could instantly and completely do these works.
The Miracle of the Paralytic
In Mark 2:1-12 (also in Matthew 9:1-8), four people bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus while He is speaking in a crowded house. There was no way for the friends to carry their paralyzed friend's stretcher through the crowd so they climbed onto the roof, dug a hole, and lowered him down before Jesus. Jesus first tells the man that his sins are forgiven, but to show His authority over all things, Jesus tells the man to rise up, take up his mat, and go home.
I honestly didn't think about the completeness of this healing until I had children, which may seem like an odd connection. But after I had my first son, I was able to see the long progression for someone learning how to walk. A child is typically seven to ten months old before they are able to push themselves up on their hands and knees to crawl. Around ten or eleven months, they will start trying to pull themselves upright. Around the one-year mark a child will begin to take those first few wobbly steps. They'll typically take the next six months to one year gaining coordination and balance before they are able to really walk or run. The funniest thing to me was watching how long it took a child to learn how to jump. After conquering running, my son wanted to start jumping. But for the first several months, he would just bend his knees and swing his arms - building up for a huge jump - yet never leave the ground. It was absolutely hilarious! It wasn't until he was three years old that he could actually jump off the ground.
Now let's go back to Jesus' miracle with the paralytic. When Jesus said, "Get up," the paralytic did not have to go through any of those stages to be able to stand up, bend over, pick up his mat, and walk out. Granted, we weren't told if this man had been lame since birth, but for any significant period of time of being immobile, some form of rehab would have been necessary if this healing were of natural means. But there is none of that here. This man is instantly and completely healed. Think about anatomically what all was healed supernaturally and instantaneously. His muscles were no longer atrophied. His joints were not tight and cramped. His bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves worked perfectly - the instant Jesus spoke. His balance was perfect to be able to stand up and then bend over to lift an object. He legs were perfectly coordinated to lift one leg at a time and walk. There was no learning curve. This man who came in paralyzed, unable to move, was instantly and completely healed so that he could walk as though he had been walking his entire life. (To see this illustration even further, take a look in Acts 3 where Peter and John healed in the name of Jesus a man who had been paralyzed since birth who then stood up and leaped!)
Even people in the first century could recognize that kind of healing is not from a natural process. Jesus did not use therapy and ointments to eventually cure the man's ailments. He supernaturally did instantly what nature does slowly. Though this is just one example, you can see that with all His miracles. The nobleman's son was healed the moment Jesus spoke in John 4:53. The man's withered hand was instantly healed in Matthew 12:13. The woman with the flow of blood was healed the moment she touched Jesus' hem.
The Miracle at Cana
The same thing is seen in the very first miracle Jesus worked in the New Testament in John 2 at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. They had run out of wine, so Mary went to Jesus. Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots with water, draw some out, and then take it to the headwaiter. Instead of drinking water though, the headwaiter drank wine, a substance that was chemically different from water. And it was not just cheap wine either. It was the good stuff. The headwaiter commented that most people serve the best wine first and then serve the cheap stuff. But this wedding had saved the best wine for the end! In this miracle, Jesus instantly and completely turned water into high-quality wine. Wine typically takes at a minimum 10-15 days for the fermentation process to complete. But the longer it ages, the better it is. So at this wedding feast, how old would the headwaiter say the wine was? Chemically, how old was the wine? But Jesus had only just then changed it from water into wine! Jesus did instantly and completely what nature does slowly.
To reassure John the Baptist, Jesus pointed to these works that give witness to His deity. However, in John 5:39-47 Jesus also refers to the Scriptures that give witness to His deity. In verses 45-47, He says, "Do not think that I am the One who will accuse you before the Father. There already is one who accuses you: Moses, the very one in whom you have placed your hope for salvation. For if you believed and relied on the Scriptures written by Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me personally. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” The Jews knew what Moses had written but did not believe it. If they doubted those scriptures, then of course they would doubt His words. After the Resurrection, Jesus instructed the disciples. "Then beginning with Moses and throughout all the writings of the prophets, He explained and interpreted for them the things referring to Himself found in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24:27) According to Jesus, the Scriptures that give witness to Him and that are valuable for instruction begin with the writings of Moses.
The Miracle at the Beginning
So what did Moses write about Jesus? Some commentaries may reference Deuteronomy 18:15 as a Messianic prophecy. But that is short-sighted for two reasons. First, Moses didn't only write Deuteronomy. He wrote four other books as well. And if we think Deuteronomy is credible enough to cite Messianic prophecy, then we must find his other books credible too. In other words, if we go about saying that Genesis and Exodus do not qualify as legitimate sources of Scripture from Moses, then who are we to say that Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy are? When Luke says that Jesus taught from the scriptures "beginning with Moses," why would we think that does not include Genesis? Those were the very first words written by Moses. It doesn't say that Jesus started teaching from the Scriptures about Moses' life but that He started from the words of Moses. He said specifically, "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" Maybe we should ask ourselves that today. Furthermore, the first Messianic prophecy we receive from Scripture comes from Genesis 3.
The second reason it is short-sighted to only reference Deuteronomy is that it forgets the Triune nature of God. Because humans are limited in their capacity, we sometimes find ourselves separating out the Trinity into three different Gods. That is simply because it is a difficult concept for us to comprehend. However, we must remember that it was not just God the Father at creation, God the Son at the crucifixion, and God the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was the Godhead three-in-one, ever present. John opens his gospel with this very point. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." The Word was Jesus, and Jesus was in the beginning making all things. Without Jesus, nothing was made.
In talking about Jesus, Paul says in Colossians 1:15-17 "He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation. For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him. And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Paul says again in Ephesians 3:9, "and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ." Jesus was there at the beginning, at the creation of all things. God created through Jesus Christ and all things were created by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus.
And so, the miracle, the supernatural event, of creation was done by the very words of Jesus, instantly and completely. When Jesus spoke, it happened immediately and fully. Jesus spoke light into existence and it immediately appeared and was completely accomplished. When Jesus spoke, the trees, the rocks, the animals, the birds, and the fish all came into existence immediately and completely. The nothingness was immediately and completely changed into something - this universe and all the variety of life that exists. Jesus supernaturally did instantly what nature would do slowly. Nature would slowly change water into wine, but Jesus did it instantly. Nature would slowly heal broken bodies, but Jesus did it immediately by the His spoken word. Those are the works that bear witness of His deity. And those are the words of Moses about Jesus from the very beginning that testify to Jesus. If we can't believe the words of Moses, how can we believe the words of Jesus?