Monday
Sep292014

The Gospel - Good News or Good Message?

In preparing for the last of the "Awake and Alive 2014 Summer Series" messages, we wanted to focus on the prayer that Paul had in his letter to the churches, specifically to Ephesians.  In it he asks them to pray for him that he would declare the Gospel message faithfully as he should.  I asked one of my pastoral mentors about the original Greek language translation and how we might better understand it.  It is pronounced "Oi - Angelian", (don't ask me to spell it) and the general translation looks like this.  Oi - is the word for "good", Angelian - is the word that is more like an angel, which in bible language is also a "messenger" of God.  A translation might then read "The Good Message"

If you are like me and you were raised in the church all your life, you came to know the Gospel to mean "The Good NEWS".  This deeper look really made me wonder at how I had grown up with it and something struck me.  Perhaps a couple generations ago and even in older days beyond that, communities, families and individuals were really craving news.  It was the lifeblood to understanding what was happening and what might be coming.  You think about Paul Reveere's ride with the news that the colonies would be called to arms.  You think about people in the 1940s huddled around radios that were almost as big as pianos to catch some of the news about the war going on in the greater world.  You think even back to these original letters of Paul, NEWS of his well being and his encouragement.

But today, I don't think we value news.  News is negative, it's polarizing, it's a sham, it's communicated in a way to draw viewers, often through sensationalism as much as its desire to inform people for the well being of community.  You can get it on demand, you can get it on a billion channels, you can get it online, you can get it on your phone.  We don't trust it, because it is increasingly done with lower journalistic integrity in an effort to beat the other network to the punch, even if it means we don't get all the facts right when we go to press...  News is typically not good, even though we still want something.

That has got me thinking about the way Christians translate "The Gospel" and what it means and I think it's a problem for two reasons.  1. As I mentioned, news typically is not viewed as good anymore, nor is it trusted.  And then 2. We can get it when we want, we control it, what we read and how it's read to us, so there isn't much urgency to it and it's really not all that personal.  Perhaps this is a cultural reason why people don't want to hear about Christian "Good News".  We don't have an appetite or respect for NEWS.  Times have changed.

This is where I think the original meaning has so much more value, especially in our culture today and in our church today.  This is not just The Good News, the Gospel is The Good Message!  And there is a difference today.  A message conveys that the content is personal.  A message contains information with an expectation that the receiver of the message will respond to it.  In other words, a MESSAGE will have personal impact and will demand personal response to it.  NEWS is something that you can pass on, turn off, tune out and get someone else's interpretation on.  NEWS is academic and often impersonal.  NEWS says "take it or leave it", but a MESSAGE says "Respond to this".

I think there is some real power in understanding The Gospel in this light.  That it is not simply news, it is, as translated, a message.  That the God of heaven has a personal message for the receiver of the message.  The message is related to things that are extremely personal and eternal in nature.  That they are, above all, GOOD things for the individual recipient of the message.  That good message is this.  That when you and I dare to be honest and look at ourselves, you know you aren't perfect.  You know there are flaws.  Your life is filled with "shoulda's" and "coulda's".  You have caused harm and you have caused pain and there is pain in our lives that we cannot understand.  Even if you only did one thing wrong/bad/not right and otherwise led an awesome, kind and helpful life, that one thing sits lurking in the background diminishing joy.  The reality that we all carry guilt and we all walk in pride and neither of these things lead to good things.  In fact they tend to ruin things in the end.  Even our greatest strengths often become our greatest weaknesses.

The good message starts with this reality, it doesn't hide behind self help books and positive personal empowerment.  It says what it says.  The message is that You and I are dead.  We have no relationship that we can create with the God who created us.  We are in essence, zombies... walking dead (Ephesians chapter 2).  That is what we are on our own and our culture overwhelmingly confirms this - when we care to be honest.  The good message has to start there, because otherwise there is no good in the message.  The Gospel helps us affirm that we have no relationship with God, but that God wants relationship with us.  In fact, while we were dead in sin and relationship, God made us ALIVE through Jesus (that's what the cross and resurrection are all about)!   He breathed life into a heart that would never beat for truly right things.  With a new heart, he has opened up our minds to what the bible calls "The renewing of our mind" that we would think correctly as true human beings.  With new thinking he has enabled renewed living, living for right things, living for things that matter most.  The good message says then that he has brought us to a place and a path that leads to what Jesus called "Life to the full".

The Good message is personal - By Grace, God has given us a new heart, one that beats for a relationship with the God who loves us.  This new heart gives us a new identity and a new eternity.  This leads to changed thinking, which leads to changed living, it leads to a new purpose and that purpose is to FEARLESSLY make known the mysteries of this GOOD MESSAGE, that even while we were sinners, while we were dead in relationship with God, Christ died for us and raised us to life - no matter how far from God you may think or feel you are.

So one last thought.  Studies are being done on this idea.  Do you have a smartphone?  Ever watch someone with a smartphone?  He'll casually check email, she'll look up the news, we'll look to see what's going on when we have a free moment.  BUT... when that phone vibrates and indicates that you received a text or a facebook message...  people tend to stop what they are doing and all focus goes to that message.  Why???  BECAUSE IT'S PERSONAL... and it demands our attention... RIGHT NOW! And even if we don't respond to it right away, the moment that we know there is a message waiting for us, much of our thought goes to it, demanding we take action.

The Gospel is more than good news.  It's personal, it demands attention and it requires action.  The Gospel is the best good message we could hope for, because the sender of that message wants you and I know where life comes from, what it is and how it lasts forever.


For a great starting point, consider reading the book of Ephesians in the Bible.  You won't be disappointed!

Friday
Dec202013

When Push Comes to Shove

Recently as part of our "Gathering" Series of speakers for our campus ministry in Milwaukee, we had well known author/speaker on the topic of Creation and Evolution named Jay Seegert.  Jay opened his talk just readily admitting that he is a Christian and as such, believes in God and that the Bible is His Word.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a bit of a back and forth between differing views on the topic and found it interesting to wrestle with what I know, what I don't know and the essence of faith and what I believe.  As it so often does on the internet, the conversation boiled down to people on two sides that ultimately started talking past each other.  This was my response to it and thought it might help others who are stuck in the middle of these "debates/arguments".  I don't have it all together, but Jesus is what I have and that is more than enough.  I hope somehow it's an encouragement.

 


 

I have been watching you guys argue about definitions of words and research.  I've been reminded of why I need to be a good listener so I can properly defend what I believe.  I remembered that intelligent people want to be respected and that requires a willing listener.  I've been reminded that whether you're a creationist or evolutionist, all of us agree that we're here because of a miracle.  A miracle of divine proportions or the existence that we see against astronomically impossible odds for evolution to be true in the "traditional" portrayal of evolution.  

I'm reminded that part of why anyone believes something is partially based on faith and partially what they know or have experienced personally.

I'm reminded that we are ALL one experience away from having our world rocked, where everything we thought we knew is stressfully challenged.  Whether it's a new study, a personal tragedy, a national catastrophe.

I'm reminded that we will all die and that every one of us will take only our faith to the grave.  Faith that nothing is there, faith that pearly gates are there, faith that there is a Savior, faith that hell awaits...

I'm reminded that people won't usually believe in a God that loves them when the people pushing that God demand that the ignorant people give up their idols of evolution and accept creation as a prerequisite to Salvation.  (I hate when Christians do this because all too often they "communicate" the opposite of the words they say... we need to let the Spirit do the convincing)

I'm reminded that you can throw out "did ya knows" until you're blue in the face, but it will never prove your stance because it must be answered within the big picture, not just the lab.

I'm reminded that there is not one example of Kind mutation, but lots of species mutations.

And I'm reminded that at this time in my life and understanding, I believe in a young earth for a number of reasons:

* When God said "let there be", how old were all the things he called into existence?  I wonder if the planets and solar systems have a "born on" date.  If we used our calculations at the moment God said "let there be", what would the calculations be?

* Scientists are studying a fallen world, not the world that the Christian believes was called into existence.

* If God was an instigator and then it took Billions of years for things to come together... he's pretty lousy at creation and probably can't be trusted to supply my daily needs.  Certainly doesn't seem to jive with the God of the bible.

* The biblical translation for "day" in Genesis is 24 hours, not period of time.  There are other words that the writers use for "long periods" and it is not the same word.  If I believe the Bible is God's word, I think God would know the difference.

* If God started evolution, death has been a part of the world much longer than Adam and Eve.  Theologically it nullifies the need for a Savior and the whole "love of God" thing because the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life, which is the main story of The Bible.  God would thus be a liar and a poor designer requiring billions of years of death before he finally accomplished Life.

* Everything tends to decay (laws of thermodynamics), not bigger and better things.

* The big bang... sounds an aweful lot like "Let there be"

* Science is the study of what is, and is not interested in the "truth" as we normally talk about it.  It is the uncovering of information on how things and why things work.  As one scientist told me "Science is self correcting"... so you never really know if we're at the end of understanding.

* Science is filled with a history of hypocrites as rich as the church and has many examples in which money taints pure research (just think of the tobacco/oil company research arguments).

* If the proof for creation is the bedrock of your faith... you will be tossed about by the latest research, you will be a very defensive Christian and you will spend a lot of your life not living in the peace of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only Foundation that is unshakable and the only one that doesn't change.  Science admits that it is "self correcting", which means the conclusions can and will change, especially in historical science.  To the Christian, we need to be careful that "evidence" does not become our God, which is a matter of Faith - sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see - which is also a huge component of Historical Science.  They are certain of something they don't see, which is why they continue to pursue it so passionately.  It would be great if Christians also pursued their faith as passionately.



That's where I am today, right now.  This banter has been an experience that caused me to dig a little bit into what I saw going on between viewpoints, which devolved into the classic "he said she said", "you're not listening" as it predictably does.  I come away being reminded of some of the things I believe to be true about the world around me and I'm sorry, I just don't see the scientific excellence in the theories of evolution as they have been taught to me and pushed on me in museums and in our culture.  If you tell the lie long enough, people will blindly believe it.  A great example of that is in the Field museum in Chicago, which has a fascinating colorful display that tells the story of evolution, without any proofs other than "Scientists NOW believe..."  Looks convincing until you really dig in and look under the hood and take in the big view, that according to many Christians who are also excellent scientists, say could not and did not happen.

In the end, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one that was to come into the world and with his life atone for the sin of every person.  So that we would know how great the Father's love that for us, even in a broken world that God himself weeps over.  That the author of life and purpose, would step into time and fix the sin problem for humanity and make a way that we could find the peace that all of us are looking for... you only find it in one God, the God of the bible.  Why would I believe that?  Because by faith, I see this "life" all around me in the world today.  

I love Science, thanks for reminding me that I really do love it.  And I love my evolutionist friends that I will likely never win an argument with.  I just hope they'll know that Jesus loves me, and I love them because Jesus loves them and when life gets hard and they are wondering where peace comes from in the hard times, I can share where I believe peace comes from.  Not as a Scientist, but as a Christian friend who wants everyone to know that Jesus is the Way, is the Truth and ultimately is the Life we are looking for.

Thanks guys, have a great rest of your week!

Recently as part of our "Gathering" Series of speakers for our campus ministry in Milwaukee, we had well known author/speaker on the topic of Creation and Evolution named Jay Seegert.  Jay opened his talk just readily admitting that he is a Christian and as such, believes in God and that the Bible is His Word.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a bit of a back and forth between differing views on the topic and found it interesting to wrestle with what I know, what I don't know and the essence of faith and what I believe.  As it so often does on the internet, the conversation boiled down to people on two sides that ultimately started talking past each other.  This was my response to it and thought it might help others who are stuck in the middle of these "debates/arguments".  I don't have it all together, but Jesus is what I have and that is more than enough.  I hope somehow it's an encouragement.

 


 

 

I have been watching you guys argue about definitions of words and research.  I've been reminded of why I need to be a good listener so I can properly defend what I believe.  I remembered that intelligent people want to be respected and that requires a willing listener.  I've been reminded that whether you're a creationist or evolutionist, all of us agree that we're here because of a miracle.  A miracle of divine proportions or the existence that we see against astronomically impossible odds for evolution to be true in the "traditional" portrayal of evolution.  

I'm reminded that part of why anyone believes something is partially based on faith and partially what they know or have experienced personally.

I'm reminded that we are ALL one experience away from having our world rocked, where everything we thought we knew is stressfully challenged.  Whether it's a new study, a personal tragedy, a national catastrophe.

I'm reminded that we will all die and that every one of us will take only our faith to the grave.  Faith that nothing is there, faith that pearly gates are there, faith that there is a Savior, faith that hell awaits...

I'm reminded that people won't usually believe in a God that loves them when the people pushing that God demand that the ignorant people give up their idols of evolution and accept creation as a prerequisite to Salvation.  (I hate when Christians do this because all too often they "communicate" the opposite of the words they say... we need to let the Spirit do the convincing)

I'm reminded that you can throw out "did ya knows" until you're blue in the face, but it will never prove your stance because it must be answered within the big picture, not just the lab.

I'm reminded that there is not one example of Kind mutation, but lots of species mutations.

And I'm reminded that at this time in my life and understanding, I believe in a young earth for a number of reasons:

* When God said "let there be", how old were all the things he called into existence?  I wonder if the planets and solar systems have a "born on" date.  If we used our calculations at the moment God said "let there be", what would the calculations be?

* Scientists are studying a fallen world, not the world that the Christian believes was called into existence.

* If God was an instigator and then it took Billions of years for things to come together... he's pretty lousy at creation and probably can't be trusted to supply my daily needs.  Certainly doesn't seem to jive with the God of the bible.

* The biblical translation for "day" in Genesis is 24 hours, not period of time.  There are other words that the writers use for "long periods" and it is not the same word.  If I believe the Bible is God's word, I think God would know the difference.

* If God started evolution, death has been a part of the world much longer than Adam and Eve.  Theologically it nullifies the need for a Savior and the whole "love of God" thing because the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life, which is the main story of The Bible.  God would thus be a liar and a poor designer requiring billions of years of death before he finally accomplished Life.

* Everything tends to decay (laws of thermodynamics), not bigger and better things.

* The big bang... sounds an aweful lot like "Let there be"

* Science is the study of what is, and is not interested in the "truth" as we normally talk about it.  It is the uncovering of information on how things and why things work.  As one scientist told me "Science is self correcting"... so you never really know if we're at the end of understanding.

* Science is filled with a history of hypocrites as rich as the church and has many examples in which money taints pure research (just think of the tobacco/oil company research arguments).

* If the proof for creation is the bedrock of your faith... you will be tossed about by the latest research, you will be a very defensive Christian and you will spend a lot of your life not living in the peace of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only Foundation that is unshakable and the only one that doesn't change.  Science admits that it is "self correcting", which means the conclusions can and will change, especially in historical science.  To the Christian, we need to be careful that "evidence" does not become our God, which is a matter of Faith - sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see - which is also a huge component of Historical Science.  They are certain of something they don't see, which is why they continue to pursue it so passionately.  It would be great if Christians also pursued their faith as passionately.



That's where I am today, right now.  This banter has been an experience that caused me to dig a little bit into what I saw going on between viewpoints, which devolved into the classic "he said she said", "you're not listening" as it predictably does.  I come away being reminded of some of the things I believe to be true about the world around me and I'm sorry, I just don't see the scientific excellence in the theories of evolution as they have been taught to me and pushed on me in museums and in our culture.  If you tell the lie long enough, people will blindly believe it.  A great example of that is in the Field museum in Chicago, which has a fascinating colorful display that tells the story of evolution, without any proofs other than "Scientists NOW believe..."  Looks convincing until you really dig in and look under the hood and take in the big view, that according to many Christians who are also excellent scientists, say could not and did not happen.

In the end, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one that was to come into the world and with his life atone for the sin of every person.  So that we would know how great the Father's love that for us, even in a broken world that God himself weeps over.  That the author of life and purpose, would step into time and fix the sin problem for humanity and make a way that we could find the peace that all of us are looking for... you only find it in one God, the God of the bible.  Why would I believe that?  Because by faith, I see this "life" all around me in the world today.  

I love Science, thanks for reminding me that I really do love it.  And I love my evolutionist friends that I will likely never win an argument with.  I just hope they'll know that Jesus loves me, and I love them because Jesus loves them and when life gets hard and they are wondering where peace comes from in the hard times, I can share where I believe peace comes from.  Not as a Scientist, but as a Christian friend who wants everyone to know that Jesus is the Way, is the Truth and ultimately is the Life we are looking for.

Thanks guys, have a great rest of your week!

- See more at: http://mikewestendorf.com/blog/when_push_comes_to_shove/#sthash.81wLVtyF.dpuf

Recently as part of our "Gathering" Series of speakers for our campus ministry in Milwaukee, we had well known author/speaker on the topic of Creation and Evolution named Jay Seegert.  Jay opened his talk just readily admitting that he is a Christian and as such, believes in God and that the Bible is His Word.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a bit of a back and forth between differing views on the topic and found it interesting to wrestle with what I know, what I don't know and the essence of faith and what I believe.  As it so often does on the internet, the conversation boiled down to people on two sides that ultimately started talking past each other.  This was my response to it and thought it might help others who are stuck in the middle of these "debates/arguments".  I don't have it all together, but Jesus is what I have and that is more than enough.  I hope somehow it's an encouragement.

 


 

 

I have been watching you guys argue about definitions of words and research.  I've been reminded of why I need to be a good listener so I can properly defend what I believe.  I remembered that intelligent people want to be respected and that requires a willing listener.  I've been reminded that whether you're a creationist or evolutionist, all of us agree that we're here because of a miracle.  A miracle of divine proportions or the existence that we see against astronomically impossible odds for evolution to be true in the "traditional" portrayal of evolution.  

I'm reminded that part of why anyone believes something is partially based on faith and partially what they know or have experienced personally.

I'm reminded that we are ALL one experience away from having our world rocked, where everything we thought we knew is stressfully challenged.  Whether it's a new study, a personal tragedy, a national catastrophe.

I'm reminded that we will all die and that every one of us will take only our faith to the grave.  Faith that nothing is there, faith that pearly gates are there, faith that there is a Savior, faith that hell awaits...

I'm reminded that people won't usually believe in a God that loves them when the people pushing that God demand that the ignorant people give up their idols of evolution and accept creation as a prerequisite to Salvation.  (I hate when Christians do this because all too often they "communicate" the opposite of the words they say... we need to let the Spirit do the convincing)

I'm reminded that you can throw out "did ya knows" until you're blue in the face, but it will never prove your stance because it must be answered within the big picture, not just the lab.

I'm reminded that there is not one example of Kind mutation, but lots of species mutations.

And I'm reminded that at this time in my life and understanding, I believe in a young earth for a number of reasons:

* When God said "let there be", how old were all the things he called into existence?  I wonder if the planets and solar systems have a "born on" date.  If we used our calculations at the moment God said "let there be", what would the calculations be?

* Scientists are studying a fallen world, not the world that the Christian believes was called into existence.

* If God was an instigator and then it took Billions of years for things to come together... he's pretty lousy at creation and probably can't be trusted to supply my daily needs.  Certainly doesn't seem to jive with the God of the bible.

* The biblical translation for "day" in Genesis is 24 hours, not period of time.  There are other words that the writers use for "long periods" and it is not the same word.  If I believe the Bible is God's word, I think God would know the difference.

* If God started evolution, death has been a part of the world much longer than Adam and Eve.  Theologically it nullifies the need for a Savior and the whole "love of God" thing because the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life, which is the main story of The Bible.  God would thus be a liar and a poor designer requiring billions of years of death before he finally accomplished Life.

* Everything tends to decay (laws of thermodynamics), not bigger and better things.

* The big bang... sounds an aweful lot like "Let there be"

* Science is the study of what is, and is not interested in the "truth" as we normally talk about it.  It is the uncovering of information on how things and why things work.  As one scientist told me "Science is self correcting"... so you never really know if we're at the end of understanding.

* Science is filled with a history of hypocrites as rich as the church and has many examples in which money taints pure research (just think of the tobacco/oil company research arguments).

* If the proof for creation is the bedrock of your faith... you will be tossed about by the latest research, you will be a very defensive Christian and you will spend a lot of your life not living in the peace of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only Foundation that is unshakable and the only one that doesn't change.  Science admits that it is "self correcting", which means the conclusions can and will change, especially in historical science.  To the Christian, we need to be careful that "evidence" does not become our God, which is a matter of Faith - sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see - which is also a huge component of Historical Science.  They are certain of something they don't see, which is why they continue to pursue it so passionately.  It would be great if Christians also pursued their faith as passionately.



That's where I am today, right now.  This banter has been an experience that caused me to dig a little bit into what I saw going on between viewpoints, which devolved into the classic "he said she said", "you're not listening" as it predictably does.  I come away being reminded of some of the things I believe to be true about the world around me and I'm sorry, I just don't see the scientific excellence in the theories of evolution as they have been taught to me and pushed on me in museums and in our culture.  If you tell the lie long enough, people will blindly believe it.  A great example of that is in the Field museum in Chicago, which has a fascinating colorful display that tells the story of evolution, without any proofs other than "Scientists NOW believe..."  Looks convincing until you really dig in and look under the hood and take in the big view, that according to many Christians who are also excellent scientists, say could not and did not happen.

In the end, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one that was to come into the world and with his life atone for the sin of every person.  So that we would know how great the Father's love that for us, even in a broken world that God himself weeps over.  That the author of life and purpose, would step into time and fix the sin problem for humanity and make a way that we could find the peace that all of us are looking for... you only find it in one God, the God of the bible.  Why would I believe that?  Because by faith, I see this "life" all around me in the world today.  

I love Science, thanks for reminding me that I really do love it.  And I love my evolutionist friends that I will likely never win an argument with.  I just hope they'll know that Jesus loves me, and I love them because Jesus loves them and when life gets hard and they are wondering where peace comes from in the hard times, I can share where I believe peace comes from.  Not as a Scientist, but as a Christian friend who wants everyone to know that Jesus is the Way, is the Truth and ultimately is the Life we are looking for.

Thanks guys, have a great rest of your week!

- See more at: http://mikewestendorf.com/blog/when_push_comes_to_shove/#sthash.81wLVtyF.dpuf

Recently as part of our "Gathering" Series of speakers for our campus ministry in Milwaukee, we had well known author/speaker on the topic of Creation and Evolution named Jay Seegert.  Jay opened his talk just readily admitting that he is a Christian and as such, believes in God and that the Bible is His Word.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a bit of a back and forth between differing views on the topic and found it interesting to wrestle with what I know, what I don't know and the essence of faith and what I believe.  As it so often does on the internet, the conversation boiled down to people on two sides that ultimately started talking past each other.  This was my response to it and thought it might help others who are stuck in the middle of these "debates/arguments".  I don't have it all together, but Jesus is what I have and that is more than enough.  I hope somehow it's an encouragement.

 


 

 

I have been watching you guys argue about definitions of words and research.  I've been reminded of why I need to be a good listener so I can properly defend what I believe.  I remembered that intelligent people want to be respected and that requires a willing listener.  I've been reminded that whether you're a creationist or evolutionist, all of us agree that we're here because of a miracle.  A miracle of divine proportions or the existence that we see against astronomically impossible odds for evolution to be true in the "traditional" portrayal of evolution.  

I'm reminded that part of why anyone believes something is partially based on faith and partially what they know or have experienced personally.

I'm reminded that we are ALL one experience away from having our world rocked, where everything we thought we knew is stressfully challenged.  Whether it's a new study, a personal tragedy, a national catastrophe.

I'm reminded that we will all die and that every one of us will take only our faith to the grave.  Faith that nothing is there, faith that pearly gates are there, faith that there is a Savior, faith that hell awaits...

I'm reminded that people won't usually believe in a God that loves them when the people pushing that God demand that the ignorant people give up their idols of evolution and accept creation as a prerequisite to Salvation.  (I hate when Christians do this because all too often they "communicate" the opposite of the words they say... we need to let the Spirit do the convincing)

I'm reminded that you can throw out "did ya knows" until you're blue in the face, but it will never prove your stance because it must be answered within the big picture, not just the lab.

I'm reminded that there is not one example of Kind mutation, but lots of species mutations.

And I'm reminded that at this time in my life and understanding, I believe in a young earth for a number of reasons:

* When God said "let there be", how old were all the things he called into existence?  I wonder if the planets and solar systems have a "born on" date.  If we used our calculations at the moment God said "let there be", what would the calculations be?

* Scientists are studying a fallen world, not the world that the Christian believes was called into existence.

* If God was an instigator and then it took Billions of years for things to come together... he's pretty lousy at creation and probably can't be trusted to supply my daily needs.  Certainly doesn't seem to jive with the God of the bible.

* The biblical translation for "day" in Genesis is 24 hours, not period of time.  There are other words that the writers use for "long periods" and it is not the same word.  If I believe the Bible is God's word, I think God would know the difference.

* If God started evolution, death has been a part of the world much longer than Adam and Eve.  Theologically it nullifies the need for a Savior and the whole "love of God" thing because the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life, which is the main story of The Bible.  God would thus be a liar and a poor designer requiring billions of years of death before he finally accomplished Life.

* Everything tends to decay (laws of thermodynamics), not bigger and better things.

* The big bang... sounds an aweful lot like "Let there be"

* Science is the study of what is, and is not interested in the "truth" as we normally talk about it.  It is the uncovering of information on how things and why things work.  As one scientist told me "Science is self correcting"... so you never really know if we're at the end of understanding.

* Science is filled with a history of hypocrites as rich as the church and has many examples in which money taints pure research (just think of the tobacco/oil company research arguments).

* If the proof for creation is the bedrock of your faith... you will be tossed about by the latest research, you will be a very defensive Christian and you will spend a lot of your life not living in the peace of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only Foundation that is unshakable and the only one that doesn't change.  Science admits that it is "self correcting", which means the conclusions can and will change, especially in historical science.  To the Christian, we need to be careful that "evidence" does not become our God, which is a matter of Faith - sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see - which is also a huge component of Historical Science.  They are certain of something they don't see, which is why they continue to pursue it so passionately.  It would be great if Christians also pursued their faith as passionately.



That's where I am today, right now.  This banter has been an experience that caused me to dig a little bit into what I saw going on between viewpoints, which devolved into the classic "he said she said", "you're not listening" as it predictably does.  I come away being reminded of some of the things I believe to be true about the world around me and I'm sorry, I just don't see the scientific excellence in the theories of evolution as they have been taught to me and pushed on me in museums and in our culture.  If you tell the lie long enough, people will blindly believe it.  A great example of that is in the Field museum in Chicago, which has a fascinating colorful display that tells the story of evolution, without any proofs other than "Scientists NOW believe..."  Looks convincing until you really dig in and look under the hood and take in the big view, that according to many Christians who are also excellent scientists, say could not and did not happen.

In the end, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one that was to come into the world and with his life atone for the sin of every person.  So that we would know how great the Father's love that for us, even in a broken world that God himself weeps over.  That the author of life and purpose, would step into time and fix the sin problem for humanity and make a way that we could find the peace that all of us are looking for... you only find it in one God, the God of the bible.  Why would I believe that?  Because by faith, I see this "life" all around me in the world today.  

I love Science, thanks for reminding me that I really do love it.  And I love my evolutionist friends that I will likely never win an argument with.  I just hope they'll know that Jesus loves me, and I love them because Jesus loves them and when life gets hard and they are wondering where peace comes from in the hard times, I can share where I believe peace comes from.  Not as a Scientist, but as a Christian friend who wants everyone to know that Jesus is the Way, is the Truth and ultimately is the Life we are looking for.

Thanks guys, have a great rest of your week!

- See more at: http://mikewestendorf.com/blog/when_push_comes_to_shove/#sthash.81wLVtyF.dpuf

Recently as part of our "Gathering" Series of speakers for our campus ministry in Milwaukee, we had well known author/speaker on the topic of Creation and Evolution named Jay Seegert.  Jay opened his talk just readily admitting that he is a Christian and as such, believes in God and that the Bible is His Word.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a bit of a back and forth between differing views on the topic and found it interesting to wrestle with what I know, what I don't know and the essence of faith and what I believe.  As it so often does on the internet, the conversation boiled down to people on two sides that ultimately started talking past each other.  This was my response to it and thought it might help others who are stuck in the middle of these "debates/arguments".  I don't have it all together, but Jesus is what I have and that is more than enough.  I hope somehow it's an encouragement.

 


 

 

I have been watching you guys argue about definitions of words and research.  I've been reminded of why I need to be a good listener so I can properly defend what I believe.  I remembered that intelligent people want to be respected and that requires a willing listener.  I've been reminded that whether you're a creationist or evolutionist, all of us agree that we're here because of a miracle.  A miracle of divine proportions or the existence that we see against astronomically impossible odds for evolution to be true in the "traditional" portrayal of evolution.  

I'm reminded that part of why anyone believes something is partially based on faith and partially what they know or have experienced personally.

I'm reminded that we are ALL one experience away from having our world rocked, where everything we thought we knew is stressfully challenged.  Whether it's a new study, a personal tragedy, a national catastrophe.

I'm reminded that we will all die and that every one of us will take only our faith to the grave.  Faith that nothing is there, faith that pearly gates are there, faith that there is a Savior, faith that hell awaits...

I'm reminded that people won't usually believe in a God that loves them when the people pushing that God demand that the ignorant people give up their idols of evolution and accept creation as a prerequisite to Salvation.  (I hate when Christians do this because all too often they "communicate" the opposite of the words they say... we need to let the Spirit do the convincing)

I'm reminded that you can throw out "did ya knows" until you're blue in the face, but it will never prove your stance because it must be answered within the big picture, not just the lab.

I'm reminded that there is not one example of Kind mutation, but lots of species mutations.

And I'm reminded that at this time in my life and understanding, I believe in a young earth for a number of reasons:

* When God said "let there be", how old were all the things he called into existence?  I wonder if the planets and solar systems have a "born on" date.  If we used our calculations at the moment God said "let there be", what would the calculations be?

* Scientists are studying a fallen world, not the world that the Christian believes was called into existence.

* If God was an instigator and then it took Billions of years for things to come together... he's pretty lousy at creation and probably can't be trusted to supply my daily needs.  Certainly doesn't seem to jive with the God of the bible.

* The biblical translation for "day" in Genesis is 24 hours, not period of time.  There are other words that the writers use for "long periods" and it is not the same word.  If I believe the Bible is God's word, I think God would know the difference.

* If God started evolution, death has been a part of the world much longer than Adam and Eve.  Theologically it nullifies the need for a Savior and the whole "love of God" thing because the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life, which is the main story of The Bible.  God would thus be a liar and a poor designer requiring billions of years of death before he finally accomplished Life.

* Everything tends to decay (laws of thermodynamics), not bigger and better things.

* The big bang... sounds an aweful lot like "Let there be"

* Science is the study of what is, and is not interested in the "truth" as we normally talk about it.  It is the uncovering of information on how things and why things work.  As one scientist told me "Science is self correcting"... so you never really know if we're at the end of understanding.

* Science is filled with a history of hypocrites as rich as the church and has many examples in which money taints pure research (just think of the tobacco/oil company research arguments).

* If the proof for creation is the bedrock of your faith... you will be tossed about by the latest research, you will be a very defensive Christian and you will spend a lot of your life not living in the peace of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only Foundation that is unshakable and the only one that doesn't change.  Science admits that it is "self correcting", which means the conclusions can and will change, especially in historical science.  To the Christian, we need to be careful that "evidence" does not become our God, which is a matter of Faith - sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see - which is also a huge component of Historical Science.  They are certain of something they don't see, which is why they continue to pursue it so passionately.  It would be great if Christians also pursued their faith as passionately.



That's where I am today, right now.  This banter has been an experience that caused me to dig a little bit into what I saw going on between viewpoints, which devolved into the classic "he said she said", "you're not listening" as it predictably does.  I come away being reminded of some of the things I believe to be true about the world around me and I'm sorry, I just don't see the scientific excellence in the theories of evolution as they have been taught to me and pushed on me in museums and in our culture.  If you tell the lie long enough, people will blindly believe it.  A great example of that is in the Field museum in Chicago, which has a fascinating colorful display that tells the story of evolution, without any proofs other than "Scientists NOW believe..."  Looks convincing until you really dig in and look under the hood and take in the big view, that according to many Christians who are also excellent scientists, say could not and did not happen.

In the end, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one that was to come into the world and with his life atone for the sin of every person.  So that we would know how great the Father's love that for us, even in a broken world that God himself weeps over.  That the author of life and purpose, would step into time and fix the sin problem for humanity and make a way that we could find the peace that all of us are looking for... you only find it in one God, the God of the bible.  Why would I believe that?  Because by faith, I see this "life" all around me in the world today.  

I love Science, thanks for reminding me that I really do love it.  And I love my evolutionist friends that I will likely never win an argument with.  I just hope they'll know that Jesus loves me, and I love them because Jesus loves them and when life gets hard and they are wondering where peace comes from in the hard times, I can share where I believe peace comes from.  Not as a Scientist, but as a Christian friend who wants everyone to know that Jesus is the Way, is the Truth and ultimately is the Life we are looking for.

Thanks guys, have a great rest of your week!

- See more at: http://mikewestendorf.com/blog/when_push_comes_to_shove/#sthash.81wLVtyF.dpuf
Thursday
Jul112013

Clarity Through Tragedy

I was recently asked about how I view what happened in Oklahoma City, if I get excited to see weather of that magnitude or if the seriousness of the situation trumps my excitement.  To be honest, the reason I loved the weather was because of a huge storm in Michigan when I was about 7 years old.  A funnel cloud went over our sub division and touched down about a mile from our house.  The damage wasn’t like OKC, but to a 7 year old what we saw was nothing short of amazing.  I remember having to walk through corn fields to find some of our outdoor stuff including a hoppity horse that was 10 rows into the corn.  For me, that’s where my amazement with the weather took off and I still am awed by it every day.

But that question is a pretty easy one.  The weather really does inspire awe when it reaches that magnitude and it is utterly humbling, but the seriousness of what has happened far outweighs it.  We spend a lot of time running around in life with things that are so important, yet in a heartbeat, all of the chasing after stuff, running a million miles an hour, worrying about the smallest of details, suddenly doesn’t matter.  In that moment, you know in your heart what matters most, because they are the things that you hope against hope for.  In OKC, the stories that are being made known have been interesting and heart wrenching to follow and even from a distance some of them resonate with me too.

As a student of American culture, I am reading and hearing the responses from people who “praise God” for seeing them through this tragedy and who hope in Jesus despite having lost so much and it is awesome to hear and see those testimonies.  You hear the remark that the only thing that really matters is the people, because the stuff you can replace.  You hear the quiet and not so quiet comments of a growing number of people who don’t believe in a god, but the goodness of people.  And of course you hear the loudest question to Christians “If your god is all powerful, where was your god in this?”  After which the conversation often turns to a caricature of a god who stands aloof, has a huge ego or has it out for people as he stands in judgment and doles out punishment on the land.  Perhaps worse is the shrug of the shoulders and the comment, “what god?” Increasingly the commentary for some in America is that Christian belief is at best unbelievable; at worst it is responsible for all sorts of injustice… “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it”- John Chapter 1.

When tragedy strikes, especially like this, what we hold closest to us becomes clearly focused.  One author wrote “Where there is hope for the future, there is power in the present.”  For the atheist and humanist who are content to see life with no loving God, it seems as though it is the human will to overcome and to deliver justice as people work to improve life with general claims of the “goodness” of mankind.  People find great comfort in knowing that our history includes stories of people who have done seemingly amazing things when they put their minds to it.  For 13 million people in America, they will claim to do it without god in their life.  They care about their communities, help their neighbors, are good to others and would agree with most of the 10 commandments.  In fact, if they didn’t say they were atheist and we didn’t say we were Christians, we may look and sound a lot alike.

When tragedy strikes for the Christian, what we hold onto becomes clearly focused as well does it not?  It reveals that all of us are at different places with a maturing faith because it asks us to wrestle with the hard questions of faith.  In so many places the bible tells us that we will suffer, sometimes for the sake of Christ, sometimes because we live in a fallen world.  Jesus himself tells us that we cannot worry about tomorrow because today has enough concern of its own.  We are warned that we will hear of wars and rumors of wars and that the travesties and realities of life in a broken world, broken society and broken people, will be felt by all of us.  We will pick up our cross and follow Jesus.  So what on earth are we holding onto when it would be so much easier to shake our fists at God and kick the dust off our shoes never to utter a prayer again!  Why bother hoping when disappointment is just around the corner?

That’s when we start to come to the awesome, but at times, hard realities about Christian life and Christian faith.  Tragedy often shows us that we have made plans for our lives and told God to bless them our way and in our time.  Tragedy challenges our notions of needs vs. wants.  Tragedy makes us aware of the needs of others, because we often find ourselves in need.  For some of us, we are shown humility because we are brought to a place where we can’t do it on our own and that we absolutely need the help of others.  We pray for miracles. 

More than that, it is ultimately a reality check to what we believe is the purpose of and definition of “life”.  Jesus said, “I have come that they (you and I and even those who don’t know him) may have life, and have it to the full.”  We will spend a lifetime trying to understand this, but in its simplest terms, it means that Jesus brought us from spiritual death to spiritual life by his death and resurrection.  That by pouring out his grace and the Holy Spirit in our life he has given us hearts that can believe this message.  That by redeeming us through Jesus he now empowers us to live lives for his glory as his kingdom comes to this generation through his word (the Bible) and sacraments and his will comes through those who make his faithfulness known through all generations (Psalm 89).  We begin to see that ours is a life that walks in quiet times in the peacefulness of faith and is sometimes carried through tragedy and joy in this world with Jesus.  That we may walk with Jesus with a hope beyond this life in the fullness of life for eternity, even after we have suffered bodily death.  For some relationships with people around us, this view of life may be the only thing that separates us; that we believe there is more to life than living and dying and we want people to know that life.

The Christian’s greatest hope in tragedy is Jesus, because we don’t fear death, more than that, even in adversity we can live life and have it to the full.  Our greatest prayer is that everyone we know could understand and believe that life is more than overcoming for a time in this world, but that it is acknowledging that in our greatest need, we were rescued from drowning and now get to walk with Jesus as he accomplishes his purposes to save.  What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief’s to bear.  What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.  O, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pains we bear.  All because we do not carry, everything to God I prayer.

See you next time!

Wednesday
Apr032013

InHuman

Did you ever stop to think about this term? Sometimes we use it as a way to say that a person is completely crazy. Sometimes it’s used to infer that a person is impossibly greater than the normal average guy. Sometimes we use it to refer to someone without any sense of compassion or caring. It’s also interesting that when we mess up, one of the first excuses that we learn to deflect our responsibility in the failure is to say “well, I’m only human” or when someone makes a major mistake – “don’t judge, they’re only human”. How much do we really think about humanity and what it means to be human?

In Genesis, God says that man was made in his own image, in the image of God, Adam and Eve were created. They were made to worship God and they were fully capable to do it. They were made to love each other in perfect love and yet in just a couple chapters they had made a “mistake”. This is another word that our world likes to use when talking about “humans”. We make “mistakes”, we don’t really like to talk about sin, because that implies a personal and profound deficit in the account of our human morality. But the reality of it is we sin… we miss the mark that God has set, we fail to reach the bar because of that first sin. We’re not just “mistakers” we’re sinners and it is that sin that makes us less human.

NT Wright put it this way – “worshiping God makes us more truly human. You discover more of what it means to be fully alive. Conversely, when you give that same total worship to anything or anyone else, you shrink as a human being… you may feel a brief high, but when the effect is over, you are less of a human being than you were to begin with. That is the price of idolatry.” (From Simply Christian). “I’m only human”, biblically that would be a compliment, made in the image of God, but in this world what we really mean by it is “I’m just a sinner”. Sin makes us Less Human, in fact it makes us dead – we see it in ourselves and in the world around us… it is the world, it is the individual, who runs away from true life, in pursuit of an inhuman one and we cannot by ourselves change this course on our own.

It would be a sad day if we were left to that reality, after all, it’s really what hell is all about. A place devoid of the presence of God, filled with people who have become fully inhuman. But that’s not where he left us. Jesus said in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” While we could not follow God with all our heart, Jesus did. His death/resurrection/ascension not only frees us from the curse of sin (death), but allows us to experience true life in this world with the hope of a full life in heaven. It allows us the capacity for peace through Christ by the forgiveness he gives by his Grace when the world around us becomes inhuman. Not because of anything we do to earn good standing back, but all because of Jesus, true human and true God. It’s a wonderfully simple and exceedingly deep story that will rock our world – that we life is living out our worship of this God and in doing so experience the life as a human that he intends. Not perfectly on earth, but a glimpse of what heaven will be, fully human, fully alive.

Monday
Mar252013

Little Big Steps

Have you ever played the game “Captain May I”?  We play it around the house from time to time and of course one of the things the captain will say is “Adam… take 3 Big Steps (captain may I?), yes you may”.  Abby, take 2 little steps (Captain May I?), yes you may…” and so on.  This idea of Big Steps is something that I’ve been thinking a bit about lately so here’s a thought -let me know what you think.

When it comes to matters of life and especially the Christian walk, ideally there are no BIG steps.  If we do it right, there are really only a bunch of little steps.  That “Big Step” becomes simply… the NEXT step.

Think about that for a second.  That choice of a college, a spouse, a house, what church to go to etc… they all tend to be significant choices.  How many times are we in a situation where we just don’t know how to make the decision.  We pray about it and we talk to people about it, but so often it is on this DECISION.  But when we stop to think about it… just HOW do we make those decisions?  Where do we find peace in it?  If you’re like me and it feels like a Big Step, then we probably have a few more little steps to go.

The thought I had was that, when we feel uneasy, apprehensive or anxious over some big decision or step in our lives we need to stop and take our focus from the “big step” to our Savior and ask what little steps need to be taken first.  When we walk down a road that we shouldn’t be walking down, there’s anxiety there.   I don’t know about you, but I have struggled with any number of big decisions, but the BEST decisions (the ones that work out and don’t backfire on us big time) are often ones that we have a lot of confidence in.  Why?  We’ve thought it out, sought counsel, been in prayer and as we take each step to answer the questions, we find the “leap of faith” becomes a simple act of obedience.  If that anxious feeling just won’t go away, we may not have only missed a few steps, we may be walking down the wrong road.

So anytime you’re feeling pressured to take a big step – take a step back and see how well you’ve walked in the little steps.  If you haven’t followed through, haven’t prayed about it, haven’t found advice and help you can trust, then chances are pretty good that you are taking a BIG STEP.  In my experience if when I feel that way, I’m usually in trouble.  If you have approached the step with the wisdom that comes through walking down the right road and taking every step – then it’s not a big step – it’s just simply… the NEXT Step.

Do you have any thoughts or examples on this idea?

Blessings to you as you be the blessing!

Mike Westendorf

TPOG - Gathering and Partner Outreach