A picture out of context...

Today's thought:

Psalm 14:1a, "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

When you take God out of the picture, the picture looses its context and life becomes meaningless. 

In the heart of Manhattan, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hangs a famous painting by the 16th century Spanish El Greco. The painting, titled The Vision of St. John, was completed around 1614. But it looks like it could have been painted in Paris in the early twentieth century. Its feel is not only modern but also contemporary. 

Evoking the opening of the Fifth Seal in Revelation 6:9-11, the martyrs who bore faithful witness to Christ are given white robes while John (it seems) looks heavenward toward the epiphany of the Lamb. The colors of the painting are themselves a startling revelation of another reality.

But the painting as we view it today is only a fragment. The canvas that hangs in the Met doesn't tell the whole story. In the course of a "restoration" project around 1880, the unfinished canvas was trimmed by at least 68 inches (or almost half the original painting). In the name of "improvement," the scene is truncated by almost half. And so, in what seems a fitting parable of modernity, the exultant arms of the Apostle John reach upward to—nothing: to the top of the frame, to the edge of the canvas. The martyrs seem to receive gifts from nowhere, and John seems to praise the nonexistent. All of them seem to look for something no longer there.

Is it possible that much of our world operates the same way? In other words, we've been cut off from the Source of reality, the Source of all that is good and true. Is it possible that someone has trimmed the frame and we no longer see that there is so much more to the beautiful portrait of life? The problem is, if we cut God out of the picture it looses its context and therefore, its meaning. I see it over again, people living lives out of context to God and feeling the picture is incomplete. They search for something, anything to complete the picture. To live life out of context to God is foolish. It is an incomplete picture. Only God can complete the picture.

Prayer: Father, you complete the pictures of our lives and put our lives into a context that brings understanding, that is, a context that makes our life picture complete. Thank you that you have revealed yourself, and the greater scheme of the larger picture, to us so we may be complete. And we are complete in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, amen.

How significant you are!

Today's thought:

Psalm 8:3-4, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?"

I was backpacking in the back woods of Colorado. It was late but I still had some miles to go. The trail was clear and I had my new headlamp to try out. It was mostly pitch black in the dense woods. At one point the trail ran up a ridge and then out of the tree line. Coming out of the trees onto that high spur of the mountain I suddenly froze. Above me was a picture of the universe that I had seen in books and on a screen but never knew existed in reality. A billion points of light, milky galaxies and shooting stars streaking by, glowing and radiating in a sea of inky night. Alone on the ridge of that mountain I felt smaller than ever before. In that vast space this earth is just a speck of dust, and me, a particle on that spec.

My first response was the only reasonable one, that of insignificance. Nothing makes a human realize his or her insignificance than the cosmos. Ancient man, without as much light pollution, probably felt insignificant on a regular basis. It is the fog of our polluted lives that makes us think of it not as often. I laid on a boulder and gazed up for a long moment. 'What are the odds,' I thought, 'in all this vastness that my one solitary life has just come about?'

In fact probability mathematicians have answered that. The chance that the simplest life form could have come about from chance processes is greater than 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power (10 to the 40,000th is a 10 with 40,000 zeros after it!). If the earth is 30 billion years old, which most evolutionists hold to, in that 30 billion years there are 10 to the 18th power of seconds. So, even if nature could somehow have produced trillions of genetic code combinations every second for 30 billion years, the probabilities against producing the simplest one-celled animal by trial and error would still be inconceivably small.

No, the universe tells of the wonders of God, shows His fingerprints, not that of chance. Beyond the impossible probability of existence there lies the fact of life in the middle of a universe of cold harsh realities that are in every possible way opposed to that life. The forces and laws that must be in place to allow life, perhaps 20 to 50 of them, including things like gravity and the speed of light, have only a fractionally small margin that will allow life as we know it. Every single one of them is fine tuned to the infinitesimally small decimal that would allow life. This fine tuned existence of ours baffles the mind and points to an intelligence beyond the cosmos who dialed each level to its very fine parameters.

I lay there on the boulder with the universe unfurled before me like the flag of God and my conclusions took me from insignificance to a realization of uniqueness, and then to the ultimate conclusion of my God given significance. This is where the Psalmist leads us. One, the vastness of the universe shows our insignificance. Two, the improbability of any life in that universe points to a Creator. Three, we then recieve significance, not because we have it of ourselves, but because God gives it to us through the vastness and complexity of a universe that exists just so we may exist.

As I lay watching the heavens I was enveloped by the incredible implications of these facts. The obvious conclusion, that all this exists, this impossibly vast cosmos, just so we may exist leaves us with this realization: we are incalculably significant. How incredibly important you must be to God! All this just so you could live. Perhaps your life is not as mundane as you once thought.

The conclusion of what the Psalmist writes I see as this: God must love us more than we can fathom, or imagine—a logic defying love—to have put all this effort, creativity, power and intelligence in creating this existence just so you and I could live in it. God must really be fond of us.

Several years ago, Edward Farrell of Detroit took his two-week vacation to Ireland to celebrate his favorite uncle's 80th birthday. On the morning of the great day, Ed and his uncle got up before dawn, dressed in silence, and went for a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney. Just as the sun rose, his uncle turned and stared straight at the rising orb. Ed stood beside him for 20 minutes with not a single word exchanged. Then the elderly uncle began to skip along the shoreline, a radiant smile on his face.

After catching up with him, Ed commented, "Uncle Seamus, you look very happy. Do you want to tell my why?"

"Yes, lad," the old man said, tears washing down his face. "You see, the Father is fond of me. Ah, me Father is so very fond of me." [Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness (Harper San Francisco, 2002), pp. 25-26]

God is fond of you. He loves you more than you could comprehend. If you ever doubt that look to the heavens. All that exists so you could exist. See it and know that the One who made it must love you far beyond the very stars. How extravagant is the love of God for you!

Prayer: Creator of the universe, we stand in awe of the implications that we exist and the extravagance You lavished upon us by making it all so we could exist. We hand You our insignificant lives and You hand us back meaning, purpose, significance and destiny. We do not ignore the fact that since You made it all, You own it all, and that includes us. May we give You the honor You deserve since You have crowned us with honor we did not deserve. In Jesus name, amen.

God's not dead...

Today's thought:

Psalm 114:2-8, "Why do the nations say, "Where is their God?" Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them."

I sat down with my teenaged son and watched the movie, "God's Not Dead." The plot is very plausible. I had been reading various accounts of simular occurrences in higher education for many years now. Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), a Christian college student, enrolls in a philosophy class taught by Professor Jeffrey Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), an atheist, who demands that his students sign a declaration that "God is dead" to get a passing grade. Josh is the only student in the class who refuses to sign and is then required by Radisson to debate the topic with him, with the class members deciding who wins.

Though the movie is not entirely intended to be an apologetic (defense) for the existence of God it does pull together some important points with one of the main points being that Atheism (compound of "a" meaning "no" and "theism" meaning "God") is not an intellectual position as much as it is a heart position. The only rational position for someone denying the existence of God is agnosticism ("a" meaning "no" and "gnostic" meaning "knowledge") for to deny absolutely that there is no God would require one to be god, having the ability to be at all places and times and have all knowledge. Though the secular humanist is in essence saying that they are god they are finite and do not have the qualities aforementioned.

It was Friedrich Nietzsche who first coined the phrase "God is Dead." He said, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” He thought that once society became more technologically advanced the need for God would diminish and the idea of God be completely extinguished. The facts show he was very wrong. The arguments of Theists show that to eliminate the idea of a designer God is to leave one with no rational explanation to the beginning of the universe, atheists saying that everything came from nothing and by accident and chance the fine tuning of the universe (those parameters that allow for life on our planet which are infinitesimally small) came into being.

The bottom line, and what the movie also left me and my teenaged son with, is that you cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. It is not a matter of emperically verifiable science but of faith. One must choose a side not based on facts but on faith. The question then becomes which faith is more reasonable, which faith best explains reality as we can know it. Many are coming to the conclusion that a Theistic view is more rational and the resurgence of God has begun. As Paul said, "...since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Two thousand years has not changed that fact nor will two thousand more. Sorry Nietzsche, as you now know, and others will come to discover too late, God is most certainly not dead.

Prayer: Father the heavens declare Your wonders and power. We are in awe of You because of Your incredible design and the beauty, complexity and the vastness of what You have made. We declare to the nations that You were, are and ever will be. All praise, glory and honor go to Your name! In the name of Jesus, amen.