Archive for January, 2011
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is se before us, fixing our eyes in Jesus, the author and protector of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Having a focal point helps us to prioritize our choices, decisions, and activities. The sinful things we are to avoid are obvious, but what can even more distract from the goal of glorifying Christ are those things that though not sinful, and possibly even good, entangle and distract us from what we should be doing.
Have a focused day.
“I am the resurrection and the life…”
The boyhood struggles of the imaginative artist, Pablo Picasso, in such definitive subjects as mathematics are highlighted in Robert K. Cooper’s book, High Energy Living. Part of the problem was that through the artistic eye of Picasso the number 4 had a nose. When called upon to write the number 4 on the blackboard, the protuberant nose he saw hanging there would compel him to continue on until he had chalked-in the rest of the face.
I suppose an oppressive teacher could have suppressed his imagination for the sake of a better grade in math, but the world would have been denied the skill and imagination of a great artist. While most who looked at a 4 saw only a 4, the imaginative gaze of an artist saw much more.
Just as the prism of Picasso’s imagination enabled him to see great art in the simplest of shapes, the risen Christ calls his followers to view life, and others, through the prism of the resurrection; that we might see beyond the simplistic view of lives defined by circumstances and consider the transformational possibilities that are offered by God’s love.
“It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes” (Deuteronomy 17:19).
Even with the advent of digital books, a report by the National Endowment of the Arts reveals that Americans aren’t just reading fewer books, but are reading less and less of everything, in any medium. Americans have become so averse to reading that one 2006 study indicated that among 15-24-year-olds only seven minutes was spent reading on weekdays, 10 minutes on Saturday and Sundays, while spending two-and-a-half hours a day watching television. Before you dismiss these startling statistics with “Ahh, these young people today…” there is only a minimal “uptick” in the numbers for any of the older population segments.
While such data offers ample warning to the general declining literacy of the nation, it is also the major contributing factor to the waning biblical literacy that occupies the pews of the nation’s churches. A working knowledge of scripture is best realized by the discipline of reading. When the Apostle Paul extended the challenge, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15), the expectation was that Timothy would daily immerse himself in the sacred text.
I am not without hope. If Oprah’s endorsement of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina can drive this classic tome to the top of the best-seller list, anything is possible. What it requires is a passionate thirst and desire to know and understand the heart, mind, and purposes of God…”As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1)
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
Perhaps you have seen or read of these billboard images. Millions of cumulative dollars have been spent this past year by AustinCoR.org, FreeThoughtAction.org, AmericanHumanist.org, and other such atheist organizations in a national effort to refute the existence of God and promote their message and views of life without God. Combine this with the popular titles and hostile tones of the new academic atheists such as Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and Sam Harris (The End of Faith) and you quickly realize that for a people whose life is based, supposedly, on purely rational thought such effort and expenditure is completely irrational.
As adults, we do not believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy but we do not spend our time, energy, and resources to disprove their existence. To do so would be counterintuitive. I never think about these fictional characters during the course of the day; they never enter my “radar screen.” And I certainly don’t spend time and the better part of my thought processes to write books and create advertisements to prove false their existence.
However, I am sympathetic to the plight of the atheist. Prior to becoming a believer during my college years, I had determined that I was going to be an atheist. My thought was that if I embraced atheism, I could just exist and live life (a rather selfish approach) and, hopefully, the result would be that my haunting thoughts of God would just go away.
About a year into this faithless journey, I realized that I was not a very good atheist. In fact, I was an abysmal failure as an atheist because, like these vitriolic new atheists of today, I was obsessed with God. I simply could not escape the notion that there is something or someone that transcends the human experience, and the only option left was to call “it” God. The next step of my journey would lead me to further clarification and a defining of God as being embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.
Is my faith rational? Perhaps not in the scientific laboratory where the burden of do-ability, provability, and repeatability is necessary, but I do consider it to be reasonable and philosophically consistent.
Inherent individual freedom allows a person the right to be an atheist and disbelieve in the existence of God, but it seems to be a contradiction that such “rational” thought would result in such irrational behavior.
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
The possibilities of what might be reach far beyond our circumstances. Mark Speckman, in his 13th year as the head football coach of Williamette University, was born without hands. As a player he started 40 games at Azusa Pacific University as a linebacker. Even though he needed help from teammates to put on his shoulder pads and tie his pants, Speckman intercepted several passes, recovered fumbles, and was once called for illegal use of the hands. He even earned NAIA Honorable Mention All-American honors.
Speckman says of his “handicap”, “I have embraced it: It’s part of who I am, it’s a good story, and people get a lot out of it.” His “can do” spirit has given him a full docket of speaking engagements, from junior highs to Fortune 500 companies. The message is always the same: “We all have self-doubts, trouble getting over problems, figuring out different ways of doing things; but we can all do more than we think we can. We all have gifts.”
As you face not just a new year, but even the day before us, both scripture and the testimony of the lives around us challenge us to greater heights than we ever imagined.