Thursday, December 11, 2014
1. It will help to feed Tim's wife and six children.
2. It will help to feed Tim.
3. You think Tim is a good author.
4. You think Tim is a bad author, and this will help pay for his continuing education so he can become a better author.
5. Tim's wife will be happy when she sees that Tim's investment in this project was not a big waste of money.
6. Tim's wife being happy will make Tim very happy.
7. You feel sorry for this poor, unrecognized author.
8. You want this poor, unrecognized author to stop badgering you about buying his book.
9. You are looking for a book to help you share your Christian faith with someone.
10. You want to know why anyone would have a Christian faith in the first place.
The books is presently available to order at Westbow Press and at Amazon. It will still take some time for the printer to run the initial copies and send them off if anyone orders online right now. But next month I plan to have hard copies available to purchase for people who know me locally. And I will be doing a book launching event in February as well, where soft and hard cover copies will be made available. Thanks to everyone for your interest and support in this endeavor of promoting my first book!
Thursday, March 13, 2014
I am thankful for the wisdom displayed by John Lennox (math professor at Oxford University). He is doing a tremendous job confronting the teachings of the New Atheists, having engaged in high profile debates with the likes of Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens.
In a talk given at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Lennox remarks, “Nonsense remains nonsense even when taught by world class physicists.” This is in reference to the increasingly popular proposition that the universe arises from nothing (as promulgated by men like Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss). This is true if one defines “nothing” in a new way, such as encompassing the laws of physics, which actually is something. Lennox goes on to explain that the laws of the universe are descriptive and predictive, not creative—just as the laws of arithmetic describe how money in a bank account will add up, but they do not create the money itself.
I am particularly thankful that an esteemed professor at Oxford is the one calling out the fallacy of the New Atheists’ arguments because if it were just little peons like myself doing so, everybody would say that we are simply not scientifically literate enough nor have the intellectual capacity to understand the complexity of their arguments (though this reminds me of the wise insight of J. Budziszewski that there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to achieve). Nevertheless, the New Atheists are indeed brilliant men who have advanced degrees, and I am thankful that Lennox can be counted on their level as he challenges their erroneous philosophy couched in complex scientific terminology.
All of this reminds me of another wise professor who confronted the prevalent philosophy of his day: the apostle Paul. In his epistle to the Romans, he states, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” speaking of those who abandoned the recognition of God and began to worship created things rather than the Creator. What is really going on today with the New Atheists is, in essence, nothing new—they are not only denying the existence of God but are worshipping the creation in His place. Listen to what some of them say about the universe:
Lawrence Krauss: If we live in a universe full of stuff, how did it get here? And many people think that very question implies the need for a creator. But what's truly been amazing, and what the book's [A Universe from Nothing] about is the revolutionary developments in both cosmology and particle physics over the past 30 or 40 years that have not only changed completely the way we think about the universe but made it clear that there's a plausible case for understanding precisely how a universe full of stuff, like the universe we live in, could result literally from nothing by natural processes.
Christopher Hitchens: If you want to be awe inspired. . . let me just tell you that those of us who do not believe we are divinely created, let alone divinely supervised, are not immune to the idea of awe and beauty and the transcendent. Let me invite you to look for a moment at the pictures taken by the Hubble telescope. Some of you may have done it. If you haven’t done it now, or yet, do it soon.
The extraordinary revelations of swirling yet somehow beautiful, new galaxies in color and depth and majesty, like nothing, I think, the human eye has ever seen.
Richard Dawkins: When I lie on my back and look up at the Milky Way on a clear night and see the vast distances of space and reflect that these are also vast differences of time as well, when I look at the Grand Canyon and see the strata going down, down, down, through periods of time which the human mind can’t comprehend, I’m overwhelmingly filled with a sense of, almost worship. . . it’s a feeling of sort of an abstract gratitude that I am alive to appreciate these wonders, when I look down a microscope it’s the same feeling, I am grateful to be alive to appreciate these wonders.
The universe created. The universe is transcendent. The universe is worship-inspiring. It sounds to me as if they have taken the concept of God and simply replaced it with the universe itself. The New Atheists are compelling, however, because they know how to present their views in a highly sophisticated and emotionally evocative manner, but in the end, they are simply professing wisdom rather than demonstrating it. Nonsense is still nonsense even if taught by world class, highly renowned and revered scientists. Thankfully, the God who does exist has provided a voice of reason in the midst of all of this through John Lennox. I encourage others to listen to what he has to say.
 John Lennox, “A Matter of Gravity - God, the Universe and Stephen Hawking” (2013), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xy4gMVlUCE; accessed March, 2014.
 Romans 1:22 (KJV).
 Lawrence Krauss, “Lawrence Krauss On 'A Universe From Nothing'” (January, 2012), http://www.npr.org/
2012/01/13/145175263/lawrence-krauss-on-a-universe-from-nothing; accessed March, 2014.
 Christopher Hitchens, Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson (DVD), 2009.
 Richard Dawkins, “Atheism is the New Fundamentalism” (debate sponsored by Intelligence Squared), 2009.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
One of my favorite television shows is Undercover Boss. I find it entertaining and often quite touching (I have to admit I usually have tears streaming down my face by the end of each episode. What can I say? I’m an emotional kind of guy!) The premise of the show, which intrigued me the first time I heard about it, is that a CEO or high official of a company goes incognito into his or her organization and works with individuals on the front lines to see how well the workers are doing and the company is running. It is always great to see the interaction that takes place between workers who think they are working with just an average, everyday person, when in reality, it is the CEO of the company. Because of the way the show is set up, we get to see workers deriding company executives (unwittingly right in front of the most important one!), or talking about how they love their company (in the presence of its head officer), or treating customers with patience or ridicule (while being unknowingly evaluated by someone who has the power to promote or fire them on the spot). In my opinion, it makes for great entertainment.
But in thinking about the show as a Christian, I have to admit the concept has already been tackled—2,000 years ago. . . by Jesus!
I’m thinking of a passage in which Jesus describes His return as King. Here is how He describes it:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:31–40; NKJV)
Sounds like Undercover Boss to me. These people seemed to have no idea that the most important Person in the church organization was evaluating them by the way they were treating ordinary people in need (particularly those people associated with Jesus—His brethren).
With this in mind, I would like to delineate a few principles brought out by Jesus’ teaching that are illustrated by its modern television counterpart, Uncover Boss.
1. What you do matters.
In the television show, the workers are evaluated by how they perform their job and the way they treat others around them. Our Boss, or Lord, evaluates not just what we say but how we are living. What is interesting is it is not the big, showy things that are brought out by Jesus, but really just showing concern and compassion. Love seems to be big on His list of priorities. And just as on the show little, kind things done for others is what is ultimately esteemed and rewarded, for Christians too, our love is huge in the sight of God, even if it goes largely unnoticed in this world.
2. There will be a day of reckoning.
The climax of the show Undercover Boss is always when the Boss brings individual employees to corporate headquarters and sits in front of each employee that he or she has worked with. The employees are often shocked when they find out who they have really been working with. (It’s just great to see their reactions–joy, fear, bewilderment, panic, etc.) It is at this point when the boss can really disclose his or her opinion of the employee. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not good.
In Jesus’ teaching, He too says there is a day of reckoning when people will be shocked to hear about who has been watching them and what He thinks about their lives. The righteous cared for people, particularly for those who associated with Jesus. They will be amazed to hear the Boss say how much He appreciated the way they treated Him. “When did we do those things for you?” they will ask.
Jesus will reply, “By caring for my people, You have shown your love for me.”
It is like a CEO saying, “I am so deeply connected with this company that the way you act in relation to it affects me personally.” So Jesus says, “I am so deeply connected with My church (His brethren) that the way you act in relation to it affects Me personally.” We need to be good representatives of our Boss; He is deeply affected by our behavior.
3. Overwhelming generosity is in store.
Probably what strikes a chord the most with me about Undercover Boss is the lavish generosity shown by the CEO’s. I love it when they give people who have very little money, who are struggling to make ends meet, a large sum of money, a huge promotion, or even a car or a house, in some cases. The worker, at this point, is usually completely overwhelmed that the boss would do something like this. It’s so unexpected. It’s so lavish. It’s so generous. To think of the highest company executive taking note of the needs of this unknown, everyday worker and meeting that person’s specific needs!
I find it moving, too, to think of how Jesus will one day do the same thing. He, the King of all kings, the highest and most exalted of all, will condescend to show His appreciation and generosity to average, everyday nobodies like us and give us more than we could ever dream,
“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!”
Do you feel unimportant, unappreciated? Well, remember our Boss is watching, and He is very much taking note of what we are doing (even the little things). I think it will be just as surprising and overwhelming to hear what He has to say as it is for the participants on Undercover Boss.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Good Tool for Understanding the Bible
I really appreciate John Cross’s book. I am a pastor who cares very much about people reading and understanding the message of Scripture, and this book is a gift to the church (literally, it’s free on Kindle!). The author presents an overview of the Bible and how its message points to Jesus, using Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the Road to Emmaus as a springboard for its contents. It is a very unassuming work, not trying to be anything amazing but seeking to give a simple, clear presentation of the Bible to anyone willing to read it with an open mind.
Good Things about this Book
1. It gives a chronological, well-organized overview of the Bible
The chapters cover main themes and are broken down into sub-themes in a way that makes sense and helps to fit the big picture together.
2. It does not get bogged down with a lot of theological debate
This is good for a book that is trying to give the overall message of Scripture. It is, on the whole, trying to let the Scripture speak for itself.
3. It is written on an understandable, non-technical level
This is very important for people who do not know much about the Bible or Christianity. The author does a great job of writing to everyday people (obviously, he picked this up well from ministering in another culture where the message had to be adapted).
4. It presents the story of the Bible
This idea is becoming more popular today (as seen in various Christian products using the word “story”), but it is helpful because it helps present a metanarrative by which to view life. It also keeps the Christian message from coming across as some mere abstract propositions. It shows that God has worked and is working in real life.
5. It presents the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ)
This is the most important “good thing” about this book. It spells out why Jesus came and what He accomplished. It presents essential teaching on the gospel by giving the contextual basis for Jesus’ coming and work on the cross, which is much-needed in an increasingly biblically illiterate society. Not only does the author present the work of Jesus, he personally calls on the reader to place his or her faith in Christ, following the pattern of the first proclaimers of the gospel.
Uses for This Book
1. Personal reading as an introduction to the Bible
Perhaps you are not familiar with the overall teaching of the Bible and how everything fits together. This book gives the clothesline (as the author would say) on which to hang the truths of Scripture.
2. Group Bible study
This book is designed to be read as a group. I have the interactive edition, which contains a DVD with on-location in the Holy Land video footage, portions of John Cross’s live teaching with his use of visuals (really good), and some commentary from a man and woman (my least favorite part). There is also a DVD set available to be used with group study, which some will find very useful.
3. Giving away to unbelievers
It could be given to someone in order to explain Christian beliefs. The Kindle version is free, making it even more accessible to be distributed widely.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Treating Others as We Would Want to be Treated
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Jesus, Matthew 7:7–12)
In looking at what Jesus says about how we should relate to others, we have observed
that we must be understanding, not critical. Secondly, we are to treat others as we would want to be treated. This is popularly known as the “Golden Rule.” The question, though, is whether it is popularly obeyed. In theory, we seem highly supportive of this principle, but in practice, we seem to have many reasons for not applying it.
It is encouraging to note what Jesus says beforehand, for He reminds His listeners that they have a heavenly resource for accomplishing what seems impossible. When we think we could never love a person who treated us so badly or failed us so miserably, God is able to supply what we lack.
A Christian woman named Corrie Ten Boom, who survived the WWII holocaust, tells the story of speaking to a group of people in Germany after the war about God’s forgiveness. She says that afterward:
People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
The place was Ravensbruck, and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard— one of the most cruel guards.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors, and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard
there.” No, he did not remember me.
“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well, Fraulein.” Again, the hand came out, “Will you forgive me?”
And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could
not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it—I knew that. . .I knew it not only as a commandment of God but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands.
And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Ten Boom, 83–86)
Ten Boom says that her ability to forgive and show love in this trying situation was not her own. Asking, seeking, and knocking at the throne room of heaven is our only hope of having the power to love as we are called to.
So we can love others because we have a Father to help us, but we can also love others because we have a Father who demonstrates love to us. Jesus shows that even humans, which are “evil,” desire to give to their children, so a perfect Father will most certainly give good things to those who ask. Knowing the love and care of God should lead us to treat others with grace and kindness.
Finally, treating others as we would want to be treated fulfills God’s will. The message of Law and the Prophets can be summed up in the idea of love. This is brought out in other places in the Scripture. Paul says, “ Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). And James says, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8, 9). Clearly, the Christian ethic is to be epitomized by love, and followers of Christ should stand out because of the love they possess and share, treating others as they would want to be treated.
Corrie Ten Boom, Jamie Buckingham, Life Lessons From Corrie Ten Boom: Tramp for the Lord (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1974, 2004).
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.