Arbitrary Miracles and Steve Jobs

rabbit_out_of_hat

Are miracles arbitrary?

Imagine with me an ordinary guy named Bob.  Nothing too exceptional ever happens to Bob, so far.  Bob considers himself a bit unique as he is the proud owner of a MacBook.  Yes, it was more expensive, but personally, Bob finds Mac more desirable than Windows.  Then one day everything changed for ordinary Bob.  It began on a Monday in August.  Bob met what he assumed to be a Steve Jobs look-a-like.  At his doorstep. First of all, it would be flattering but highly unlikely that Steve Jobs would drop by average Bob’s house.  Secondly, this was shortly after the terribly sad news of Job’s death.  Certainly this could not be the real Steve Jobs.  Surprisingly, the man introduced himself as “Steve Jobs” and “pleased to meet” one of his greatest fans.

“B-b-but you can’t be Steve Jobs. He’s-”

“My death was highly exaggerated. Mind if I see your MacBook?”

“Maybe… but why?”

“Aren’t you just a tad curious?”

“Okay, sure. Just don’t break it.”

The man grew a smile that was ready to erupt into laughter.  He brought up screens Bob had never seen before, and he sped through programming lines like a serious hacker.  Just about the time Bob was able to move his limp jaw to interrupt, the man sat back with his arms folded up behind his head.  He pushed away from the table where the new MacBook sat.  Well, it may as well be brand new, for the improved programming put into it.  The welcome screen had realistic jets flying crisscross until their jet-lines spelled WELCOME BOB in Bob’s favorite color and Bob’s favorite font, jets being Bob’s second favorite thing (His first favorite was Apple products).  And the startup sound, well, that would be Bob’s favorite song, Stayin’ Alive.  The MacBook started up faster than ever, and every one of Bob’s programs ran better than ever.  In fact, his jet-fighter game had more definition and unlocked extras.

After looking through everything on the MacBook, Bob was impressed to say the least.

“How?! How did you even know what I like?”

“Well, that part was easy.  It’s found in your computer’s memory.  Besides, you are one of my biggest fans.  Remember when you signed up to give feedback?  Well, you certainly had a great deal of input, and I took notice.”

So goes the story of average Bob and Steve Jobs.  Were this to actually happen to a real-life Bob, he might just believe that he had truly met Steve Jobs.  Let’s temporarily work with the assumption that Steve Jobs did make this special visit, and let’s agree with Bob that it’s a miracle.  If nothing else, Bob’s visitor has given strong proof of his identity as Steve Jobs.

Now let’s ask ourselves how a God who created the universe might prove His existence.  Could He work through miracles?  Wouldn’t that mean breaking His own laws, the physical laws of nature?  Well, isn’t that what Steve Jobs did in our story?  Bob’s MacBook came pre-programmed with the rules coded by Apple.  But in order for Mr. Jobs to prove himself, he overwrote some original lines of code and set new rules.  How else would he have proven himself?  Even if there were some other way, doesn’t Mr. Jobs have the right to choose a personal touch?

What about the arbitrary factor of miracles?  Doesn’t that fly in the face of a God of laws?  How can we even know His works if He might just suspend all His own laws and do whatever He wants?  Again, let’s ask the same of our Steve Jobs.  Imagine Steve tried to prove himself as the founder of Apple by making a rabbit appear out of a hat.  Although that might impress Bob, it wouldn’t help answer his pressing question.  The apparent miracle of spontaneous appearance has nothing to do with MacBooks.  Breaking Bob’s reality – the reality that rabbits only appear from holes in the ground – is arbitrary.  However, breaking Bob’s preset coding in his MacBook is very meaningful (the opposite of arbitrary.)  So why can’t God suspend His laws of natural law to prove His existence, so long as He does so in a meaningful way?  Perhaps we are the arrogant ones, when we suppose that God should be firmly restricted to the laws with which we humans are comfortably knowledgeable.

So what then would be the non-arbitrary miracle that God would perform?  The answer depends on the expressed nature of God.  Just like our Steve Jobs candidate, where he would have to live up to the reputation of the man behind Apple.  Now the God of the Bible expresses His power in many ways.  Nevertheless, we find His attention focused on a humbling place – human life.  As the Psalmist said, “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? Psalm 8:4 NKJV

Since the God of the Bible is focused on human life, we would expect to find His miracles focused on human life.  Of course, God doesn’t have to meet our expectations, but this expectation would make the most sense.  When we read the New Testament, we are reading about “Immanuel” meaning  “God with us”.   Jesus, if He were living up to the claim of being God in the flesh, should be performing miracles that reflect the intentions of God.  What we find is no doubt consistent with this assumption.  The majority of Jesus’ miracles involve healing, returning life to human limbs, human sight, human flesh, and so on.  And then we find Him building up to the crescendo of resurrecting the life of His friend Lazarus.  It’s very interesting to note what Jesus says in anticipation of this miracle.  He does not say,” Well, I just feel like doing a resurrection today”, nor does He say, “I happen to do resurrections as a side gig.”  Instead He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”  John‬ ‭11:23, 25‬ ‭NLT‬‬.  So Jesus actually defines Himself to be the source of life, just as Steve Jobs would define himself to be the man behind Apple.

Furthermore, there are a few occasions in the New Testament where Jesus refused the requests of religious leaders and His own disciples.  Apparently these flash-in-the-sky miracles didn’t fit a pattern, a directive that Jesus sought to accomplish.

I encourage you to also study and consider the Anthropic Principle.  If the God of the Bible did create the Universe, we could reasonably conclude that He is the engineer behind the Anthropic Principle.  Since the Anthropic Principle is focused on human life, this would coalesce with the God of the Bible, and thus with the “non-arbitrary” premise.  We could say there is a higher law, and it is non-arbitrary.

God being the Creator of the Universe, has the right to intervene in any way He chooses.  If you read the whole Bible, you’ll see He does take lordship of His broader domain.  Between God, life, and the entire Universe, things can get complicated.  Furthermore, God is interested in our whole being, our spiritual life.  But when we see God intervening by restoring physical life, the message is loud and clear.  When Bob asked who the stranger was, the stranger showed himself as the author of Apple.  When we ask God who He is, He showed Himself as the author of life.  Perhaps the best way to find clarity and meaning is to see the personal interaction going on here.  God has knocked on the door of your heart.  You may not be sure He’s a real God, or even living God (His death has been highly exaggerated), but you’ll never know unless you let Him in.  He knows all the comfortable rules you’ve set for your own life, but He wants to restore your life for the better.  The pressing question is not whether God can break His own rules, but whether you’ll surrender yours.

Intro – How Did We All Miss It?! (Jesus & DNA)

Friends, thank you for following apoloJetics – apologetics with a capital ‘J’.  You might also enjoy a new blog I’m starting that discovers the amazing connection between Jesus and DNA.  At first, the two don’t seem to mix in any rational way.  My background in both Bible studies and Mathematics gives me a unique vantage point.  I’d like to challenge each of you to go beyond your memes and bounds.  There’s more to Jesus than a nice teacher giving fishing tips.

Intro – How Did We All Miss It?!.

In Christ,

Tim

Memes and Anti-Memes

Two Face

One of the claims of the New Atheists is that church-goers get disillusioned by a type of mirage called a “meme.”

According to merriam-webster.com, a meme is:

“ an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”

Let’s take, for instance, an image where God is a father.  In this meme, we might have an image where God looks like a smiling father with a child sitting comfortably in His lap.  This image becomes a meme when we freeze the bounds, where God can be nothing other than this picture.  Yes, God is certainly like an earthly father, but he is not constrained to those characteristics.  So when we find God to be something other than that meme, we have a set of choices to make.  The options I can see are four-fold.

  1. Unwaveringly hold on to the meme. God is a charming earthly father and nothing more.
  2. Study to find what else God might be. What might a Heavenly Father look like?
  3. Replace the meme with another meme. God is not a charming earthly father, but rather an impatient, abusive father.
  4. Study to find out whether God is a product of fiction. Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.

Notice the other meme in option 3.  This is done by sloppy study of the God of the Bible.  By cherry-picking verses out of the Bible rather than doing serious study, we can make God out to be a very angry father.  I call this other meme an anti-meme.  Rather than taking a hard, honest look at what a Heavenly Father entails, we take a quick glance and end up with another false image.  Now we have a “raging father” meme rather than a “charming father” meme.  And if we make a false assumption that we have honestly and diligently studied Biblical history, we could skip to step 4 and state, “Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.”  So a false set of options would look like this:

  1. Unwaveringly hold on to the meme. God is a charming earthly father and nothing more.
  2. Study to find out whether God is a product of fiction. God is not a charming earthly father, but rather an impatient, abusive father. Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.

Coincidentally works out for the atheist, doesn’t it?  And yet the other options are subtly out of view.

So what happens if we explore option 2 out of the 4 options?  I’ve been reading a book by Paul Copan, “Is God a Moral Monster?”  If we read books like this in light of the new atheists’ claims, we’ll at least have a balanced view.  Taking this in addition to my own study of the Bible, I can consider what a Heavenly Father might look like.  For starters, He’s got billions of children over the course of thousands of years in various cultures of various ages.  Consider that some of His children are tyrants, while others cry out for deliverance.  A Heavenly Father’s patience may last for hundreds of years, and yet cries for help cannot be ignored.  And how did ancient Biblical people view things?  From my own research, ancient Middle-Easterners would look at modern Westerners as a bunch of softies.  But don’t take my word for it; do your own research and find for out yourself.  You’ll find their situation is no easy picture, no quickly-forming meme.

The word ‘antimeme’ or ‘anti-meme’ does not have a definition according to the latest Merriam-Webster results.  By ‘anti-meme’ I refer to:

“a fresh meme that is invented to replace another diametrically-opposed meme”

This meme will probably not behave like the original meme, since it is new or falsely presented as new.  Therefore, it will not appear mindless or viral, rather as fresh and original.  Like a meme, an anti-meme will have some reasoning behind it, reasoning that supports the opposing viewpoint.  However, like the meme, the anti-meme will depend on assumptions and caricatures.

A popular anti-meme says that Jesus’ crucifixion was a form of cosmic child abuse.  What images come to your mind when you think of ‘child abuse?’  The first image I get is a child in elementary school that wears long sleeves in summer to cover her bruises.  I confirm the moral injustice, the unethical treatment within the situation.  Abusing a child is certainly wrong.  So does the crucifixion fit this profile?  Let’s read from Jesus’ own words to His Father before the crucifixion:

John 17:1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was…”

From an eternal perspective, the focus shifts from the word ‘child’ to the word ‘cosmic.’  Jesus is a child to God only in the sense that He is a Son; not in the sense of being younger or less mature.  Often the Biblical reference to the word ‘child’ is misinterpreted due to the strength of family tradition.  You could be 70 years old and be the ‘child’ of a 100-year-old, because your father would always be your father.  On top of this, we have an infinite son of an infinite father.  How meme-shattering the ‘cosmic child’ proves to be!

So should we hastily throw away all our memes?  No.  Memes are a good starting point, like intuition to a child.  Think of memes like icons on your computer.  What If instead of small pictures that represented the entire programs on your computer desktop, you had the entire programs all running simultaneously on your screen?  Actually, this would waste a ton of memory and keep the other icons out of sight.  I suggest that instead of totally blowing all our memes away, we should investigate them one by one.  We might just enrich each one.  God is a very loving Heavenly Father, one that has an eternal plan in mind for each one of us.  Yes, it is more complicated and sometimes quite bewildering.  It ties in a multi-dimensional love woven through times and cultures.  It defies a simple explanation, and yet ultimately becomes a reality in a future world.  Let’s be careful not to hastily adopt memes or anti-memes.  For the serious Bible student, this means to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Copyright 2014

WHO is this Doctor?

The deepest mystery of the universe stepped into time.  He called himself a Doctor, and healing flowed from his touch.  Though alien from the high heavens, this bright star traveled to planet Earth.  His vessel disguised as a wooden box, otherwise a feeding trough, contained in its tiny place more than time-space revealed to the eye.  Frequently grabbing companions for his worthy quests, this Doctor seemed determined to save humanity.  The non-human invaders who sought to take over the human form, the darkness that greedily swallowed the life-giving light, stood no match against the Doctor.  And no matter what fate pursues the universe, though sun, moon, and stars collapse, he offers us salvation through immortality.  He’s seen your future, your appointments in time, the choices you hold in the recesses of your heart.

So WHO is this Doctor?

From Heaven’s throne to our dirt roads comes Jesus.  The Great Physician offers to save your heart and your planet.  New creation on a New Earth.

Luke 2:16 (NKJV)” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.” (manger/wooden box)

Mark 6: 56 “Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.”

Rev. 21:1 “[ All Things Made New ] Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.”  (No more sea or no more darkness of the sea)

See also Matt. 4:19 (companions) and Luke 5:31 (physician) and Romans 8:21-24

Why are we intrigued by the Dr. Who character on television?  Could it be that something inside us cries out for a healer, a rescuer from our devastated or mundane lives, or even from our disappointing highs?  So we look into colorful fantasies like Dr. Who.  But wait – just keep him on that side of the galaxy; he’ll do well to help those aliens; I don’t need him stepping into my business; I don’t mind help, but not some self-righteous, imposing lifestyle change.  The Doctor stays on the tip of our imagination but away from our heart.  Jesus gets way too close for comfort.  And yet our imaginations betray us; we long for better and we dream for higher.

Jesus is the Doctor that hits home.  He arrived in a state of poverty and yet with veins of royal blood.  Temptations of every kind, on every side, offered him “better than.”  Ignorant ridicule, flesh-and-blood suffering, quenched dreams, put Him at our epicenter.  Now He knocks at the door of your heart.  He diagnoses your sinful condition.  The Lord of all time offers you the cure that restores the immortality you were intended to bear.  The question is, will you open that door – will you welcome the Doctor?

Martin Luther King Jr. and What He Really Said

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The famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. shook the heart of America with his visionary speeches.  Ironically, the words that propelled a monumental freedom movement are now bound up under legal copyright issues.  The words ringing of freedom are not free for public use; the videos are available at a financial charge, so your poverty level just might keep you from envisioning the key to your shackles.  For those of us who grew up in America during King’s profound influence (lasting years after his death), we carry his words in our soul.  I still remember the concept of not judging a person by their skin; as a child I could easily accept and grant this equality to my fellow classmates.  However, many Americans have seen the abuses of taking a positive flame of this bright candle and throwing its fire onto the carpet.  Of the wonderful revelations Martin Luther King Jr. gave us, some of them stand vulnerable to being discarded by those of ignorant haste.

The first revelation reminds us that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a devout Christian, but a Reverend who looked favorably to Jesus Christ.  An honorable man of values, he preached against moral relativity, a troubling trend in our times.  In fact, his famous dream that his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin” binds with the dream that they would be judged “by the content of their character.”  To say that we should not judge at all is a treacherous slope that even this civil rights leader would not tread.  We can judge character and even use wise judgment to promote hard-working people of any background.  The question of judgment boils down to the consistency of the human being.  Are we, as some scientists propose, entirely chemically driven, pulled by DNA strands like strings of a puppet?  Or is there a human soul, taking the invisible software and making physical impressions upon the hardware in the chemical being?  If we are to take the American civil rights leader seriously, we believe in a higher existence.  There is a part of our physical being that cannot change (e.g. skin) because it has no bearing on our moral character.  Then there is a part of the human that wants to love alcohol or the neighbor’s wife.  Calling this a genetic disposition will not make it as permanent as skin color.  Even the chemical tendencies are subject to a higher part of our being, the soul.  We hear the call of Jesus to be an overcomer, and we strive to find our character judged with “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Another revelation gets stampeded by the skeptic’s ignorance of the Bible.  They see God as some bullying ethnic cleanser, perhaps due to their own prejudices.  What lenses should we even put upon our modern eyes, when reaching back to a time and place so far removed from our own?  If anything, we understand that the Hebrews were the minority with no homeland, escaping slavery to roam in tents across the wilderness.  This being the very reason Martin Luther King Jr. felt no shame in associating his people’s rise from slavery with the Israelite’s rise from slavery.  Furthermore, he could equate the non-violent takeover of American freedom with the warfare-engaged takeover of the infamous Promised Land.  How did he do this?  The same way Christians have been doing it since Christianity started!  Christians swiftly understand Jesus non-earthly kingdom of spiritual battle, of putting down the sword and turning the other cheek.  Church history has temporarily departed from this ideal as cults do, when blinding the masses to the entire truth of the Bible.  But if we dare to study further, we find God to be a defender of the bullied, choosing the weaker people in order to prove His power.  Paul Copan deftly argues against the hasty accusations toward this God.  http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201004/201004_138_Canannites.cfm

There are surely more misuses of “civil rights.”  So how have we taken the powerful ideals of King and turned them around to the point where such misinterpretations of “hate speech” would incriminate the Reverend King in his Biblical stance?  Extremists on both ends of the spectrum have undoubtedly grabbed the microphone in violent ambition.  “You’re going to hell” should never be the first words heard from a Christian tongue; “You’re politically incorrect” is just as stifling.  As an American, I have a dream.  I dream that we can respect each other in word in deed.  Let’s see past the preconceived images.  Let there be open doors to the poor, open hearts within the rich, and solid ground for the rest of America.  The open door of opportunity was Martin Luther King’s check due to be cashed in.  Let’s speak freely from the heart, issuing the truth in love.  Let’s renew the desire of discovering our value in God’s Word.

Though many of King’s words are for sale or copyrighted, here is one of the public sources remaining:  http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

The Conclusive Teapot in Space

teapot space

Bertrand Russell  proposed the concept of a teapot in space, somewhere between the Earth and Mars.

 If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. [1]

The unpleasant dilemma is that an unobservable teapot can neither be proved nor disproved.  I can go about shouting from the rooftops “There’s a teapot floating in space,” and no one can prove me wrong.  If all I do is go about shouting, I could be considered a lunatic.  But shouting is not all I shall do.  

Scenario 1: A Teapot Floats in Space

I propose that I can conclude a teapot floats in space without observing a teapot in space, as long as I have two other things.  The first thing would be a diary I happen upon.  On the last written page of the diary, in beautiful cursive, I find written:

“I love my tea set almost as much as I love my grandson.  He is a bright, gifted man, and I always told him he could be anything he wanted to be.  Often I would tell him this over a cup of tea.   I suppose he believed me.  He’s an astronaut, and he’s about to board the space station.  My tea set is also special and dear to my heart.  It has a hand-painted rose on the teapot and on each of the cups.  It is my dying wish to see both dreams realized, that my grandson should always be remembered, if only my tea set were sent traveling through space.”

Of course, having only the written account could be babbling nonsense if taken by itself.  There is one more item to satisfy my conclusion.  Supposing I lift my telescope and spot a rose-printed teacup floating just beyond the orbit of the space station.  Now I have a second item (the cup) to confirm the first (the diary), to assume a teapot in space without ever seeing a teapot in space.  Assuming the 2 things, I now have a reason to scour the heavens for a rose-print teapot, and should I one day spot it, I will not be the least bit surprised.

Now I begin to wonder why this was never publicized before my observation.  I would love to get my name in the headlines as the one who first observed the teacup from Earth, but wouldn’t NASA or the news be weeks ahead of me?  I begin to formulate a theory on the release of the tea set.  Mack, the grandson, knew of his grandmother’s dying wish and made it his own living wish.  Noone else in NASA would understand.  He would sneak the tea set inside his space pack, sacrificing room for his own nutrition and medication.  After he was aboard the space station, and as soon as he was given a task outside the station, he would release the tea set.  The teapot and most of the cups must have been flung out farther, beyond the reach of my telescope.  Perhaps one cup hung behind, suspended along a lower orbit.  Then Mack would simply wait for the discovery to be made, for his grandmother’s dream to be immortalized.

God is like the grandmother’s teapot.  He made his wish known, His desire for us to be made in His image, in His written Word.  He even went so far as to become one of us and demonstrate that this was literally His dying wish.  Truly we bear a similar imprint.  In the Bible we find wisdom, logic, passion, compassion, and all the invisible qualities that we see both in ourselves and in God.   God’s spirit, like tea from a teapot, is poured into the vessel of man.  Denying God is denying a greater capacity for a greater relationship.

Scenario 2: The Teapot Rests in the Expected Place

What of others who cannot see the teapot?  And would they really find it in orbit around the sun between Earth and Mars?  We could attempt a mathematical formula based on masses and gravitational forces within the solar system to determine the placement of a teapot’s orbital path.  Or we could use a simpler mathematical solution, sets and probability.  The set proposed is the set of all objects orbiting the sun, which we will call set S for sun.  We can easily place planets and comets into this set.  The teapot, however, is at a low probability of being in this set.  We know this, not simply because of our lack of finding a teapot orbiting the sun, but rather because we find teapots somewhere else.  The other set includes all objects found in the dining room, set D.  Since we expect to find a teapot here with a much higher probability than anywhere else, we can safely assume the teapot exists in set D rather than in set S.  In other words, I could point a telescope out the dining room window and never see a teapot until I take my eye out of the telescope and look within the room.

So now we have a different scenario to consider.  Let’s assume the diary is a fraud and I hallucinated the teacup.  Considering our sets S and D, the first question to ask becomes, why limit the placement of the teapot?  We will easily find one if we look in the dining room, won’t we?  If, however, an egotistical dictator determined that the warm feeling of tea threatened the loyalty of his subjects, and if he banned tea or any related objects from ever touching his territory, then a citizen of such a country might never even consider finding a teapot sitting exactly where it belongs, in the dining room.  The same could be said of God.  Characteristically, He is a spirit.  He belongs in a set of immaterial things, which includes ideas and principles and so on.  We could look into every physical atom and never see His existence until we look into the immaterial realm. We would hardly find Him if we lived in some communist country.  Nonetheless, as it has happened in history, even the banning of religion cannot remove the desire to find the same Spirit that gives all of us life.

1. Russell, Bertrand. “Is There a God? [1952]” (PDF). The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-68. Routledge. pp. 547–548. Retrieved 1 December 2013

Tolerance in Syria

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Beneath the surface of the political struggle, Syria is engaged with persecution. In a part of the world where Christianity is a minority, religious persecution gets a back-row seat to world powers.  But religious persecution is nothing new to the area.  On the way to Damascus, nearly 2000 years ago, a religious man with political ties determined to obey the laws of his God.  The man named Saul determined that these laws ordered him to wipe out a rising sect of Jews.  Later on, this sect would be known as ‘Christians’ – followers of Jesus Christ (A name still cursed internationally.)  On the way to Damascus, a power stopped Saul in his tracks.  The power was not political, chemical, or legal.  The power was a person, a person of divine nature.  Jesus himself revealed his glory and presence, blinding Saul.  Saul became physically blind but spiritually aware of a greater battle waging behind the scenes. The battle, as it has always been, is over the souls of men.  After his conversion, Saul took on the name Paul, not a follower of a new religion, but a follower of a living person.  His new vision of the powers we struggle against would inspire him to write:

Ephesians 6:12 King James Version (KJV) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

And from prison, Paul wrestled in a kneeling position, utilizing the great weapon of prayer.

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How different is the Western viewpoint, where ‘persecution’ is simply speaking one’s belief in front of an offended listener.  I see the TOLERATE bumper sticker, and I wonder if it’s in the wrong place.  Maybe these cars should be cruising through the Middle East.  Car-bombings, imprisonment, destruction of homes and churches are far from tolerance.  Start in the areas of the world where persecution is the harshest.  Then come back to America and take in the refreshing air of religious freedom.

http://www.worldmag.com/2013/09/persecution_in_syria_no_comment

Drama Points – Coming Soon

drama points

WHAT is a DramaPoint? Not to be confused with helpful tips about acting, a DramaPoint is a skit with a relevant point, enhanced with Powerpoint. With Powerpoint in so many churches across the country, DramaPoints are modern, eye-catching means to engage today’s culture with the relevancy of the Gospel.

WHY use Powerpoint? The bright idea came to wattspress after realizing the multi-media potential and flexibility of Powerpoint as a theatre backdrop. Instead of roping around a bulky canvas, a Powerpoint file brings up the next scene with one simple button. And, you won’t have to scrounge around to track down those elusive or oversized props. The animation capabilities of Powerpoint and the built-in animations of DramaPoint can make a delivery truck drive right up to your stage. Hook up your computer to a sound system, and you’ll hear the sound effects as the truck makes its entrance. More importantly, a powerful point is wrapped beneath the colorful slides. Jesus used stories called parables to get a point across to his disciples. Think of DramaPoint as the modern version of the parable.

Check wattspress.com for the first of its kind, coming soon.

Those Boring Genealogies

boring book

An old man couldn’t wait to sit down with his granddaughter and watch a classic movie together.  The girl’s mother smiled as she watched her father pop the bulky cassette into the old VCR player, then sit down with an overflowing bowl of buttery homemade popcorn.  His granddaughter got drawn into foreign lands, captured by heart-pounding adventure, and wondering about the complexities of romance.  When the classic movie came to its profound conclusion, the girl wiped away tears of joy.  Just as she was about to get up and stretch, the grandfather put his arm out in a motion to stop.  The girl didn’t understand.  The movie was over.  Nothing showed on the screen except for the usual roll of credits, jumbled letters sinking into oblivion.  One name got the attention of the grandfather and knowing mother.  An old, wrinkly finger pointed it out, and all six eyes followed the name as it graced the screen.  Until now, the granddaughter had not known, that her grandfather once was a famous actor.  His name in the line of credits became the living proof that she was now directly related to a man of grandoise dreams, that same man who had poured his heart into the spell-binding adventures of a movie screen.  Looking deeply into the old man’s eyes, past the wrinkles, she could still see the dancing fire.

Have you ever heard the complaint that the Bible is boring, especially those meaningless genealogies?  A movie’s long list of credits might be the modern version of this boring list.  Another modern source of genealogies is a website like ancestry.com.  When you go on a site like this one, do you type in the last name of a complete stranger?  Don’t you instead go there and type in your own last name?  And when you track down the noble accomplishments and titles of your own ancestors, do these not become the hope of your own future dreams?  Now turn back to thousands of years ago, set wandering in the deserts of the Middle East.  Among the great empires, an underdog of a nation sprouts up.  Its heroes become captured on carefully preserved parchment, the stories recited day and night.  A mother reads her children one such tale, then refrains along the lines of a genealogy, pausing at a specific name.  With pursed smile she waits for her child to shout, “That’s grandfather!”  With straightened posture, she confirms, “That’s right.  And the same shining courage sparkles in your wide eyes, my child.”  Herein we find a gem of a moral.  No matter what millennium we inhabit, it’s not the genealogies themselves that bore us – the level of excitement hinges on whether we are or are not a part of that noble lineage.  The tracing of the names either establishes us or escapes from us.

If you find those Biblical genealogies boring, first ask yourself two soul-searching questions.  1. Are you adopted into this great heritage?  2. Have you taken the time to research the names and discover their inspiring stories?  The adoption process is a spiritual one, obtained by salvation through Christ.  There is another establishing of lineage written in the Bible, that being the confirmation of the Messiah, as introduced in the Gospels.

Child of the one true kingHebrews 11 gives a set of names, each with their own short bio.  The whole chapter is filled with the repeating phrase, “by faith.”   The following chapter encourages us as if we are a part of this great legacy.  Hebrews 12:1    “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  These witnesses are like the markings of DNA, reminding us who we are.  Those before us have firmly handed us a baton with which to carry toward a prized finish line.  As children of a Heavenly Father, we are no longer held captive by the sins of our earthly fathers.  We go to the database of the Bible and search not for our commonly-held surname, but for the name “By Faith.”  Mister Byfaith, Miss Byfaith, noble descendants of the historical Byfaith family.  One ginormous family with ginormous tales to tell.

Many of us have found a new way to mark our place in history, within the web-pages of social media.  You can even broadcast yourself on sites such as Youtube.  But consider the reality of your daily life.  Let’s pretend that itself is a screen, a screen viewed by your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends, your relatives, and even strangers.  Every choice you make in the open becomes another view in the view-counter.  Beneath the screen lies another button, the opportunity to “LIKE” your action or reaction to life’s demands.  So what story do you present in the grand drama of real-life?  The bad news is that you can’t edit out the bad parts.  The good news is that you can humbly ask forgiveness and do better.  Seriously, would viewers really LIKE what they see?  As a Christian, do you season your words and actions with desirable salt?  Do you walk with uncompromised quietness and confidence?  Or is it with hypocrisy?  Or with a holier-than-thou trot?  Do you tell the truth in genuine love?  Do you present the Gospel as enjoyable?  You don’t have to do jumping jacks and play the kazoo.  Just stay faithful in a meaningful Christian walk.  Even if viewers go for the other screens, the ones with more noise, when they come up empty-handed, they’ll be looking for something real.  Will you still be there?

There’s an aspiration greater than the hope of getting someone to find your name gracing a screen.  When I see a blockbuster hit composed with stunning orchestration, I don’t want to know the actors as much as I want to know who the director is.  Acts 4:13 demonstrates how our God-given attributes become overshadowed by the name of Jesus.   “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”  There’s a point at which we realize, God knows when we are ready, to relinquish the credit to whom credit is due.  The miraculous over-performance is readily explained by His name, and thereby all men are drawn to Him.  Not to worry, though.  Just as any noble parent would, God the Father proudly exhibits all His children to show what they have done with their gifts.  So stop being bored!  Read Hebrews 11 as a partaker rather than a spectator.  Be encouraged and inspired, brother/sister.  Look up the path, reaching behind only to grab the baton of the Byfaith heritage.

Did you know that the creative force behind Apolojetics is the same author of the inspirational fantasy A Hummen in Spiral Gorge?  You can support T. William Watts AND read more great stuff!  Thank you so much for your prayer and other support.

He Who Has the Most Gold

gold rule

If you drive long enough, you’ll see the bumper sticker.  “Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.”  It’s meant to be a direct jab at a deeper saying, a principle stated by Jesus.

The original meaning of the Golden Rule is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”    The Golden Rule has taken on both positive and negative forms, dispersing itself across religions and philosophies.  The positive form follows Jesus’ logic of doing good toward others as you want them to do good toward you.  The negative form says that you should not do evil toward others since we also do not want them to do evil toward you.  “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” is an example of the negative form.  However, this negative form leaves a door open for vengeance.  The positive form, as expressed through Christ, forgives and blesses in spite of evil.

While other religions have adopted this similar concept, Jesus went as far as to include it in the greatest commandment.  “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.   Love him with all your strength and with all your mind.’   And, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”  Jesus went on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan.  In this parable, a stranger of a different ethnicity crossed the path of another.  The other was robbed and beaten.  For all the stranger knew, the man was the bait of a trap waiting for some innocent do-gooder to stop and become a real victim.  I remember the first time I heard the term “rubber-necking.”  We were stuck in a slow-moving clog of traffic, only to discover an accident that had happened on the other side of the highway.  The police and amublance were there, but rubber-neckers were slowing down just to look over and satisfy their curiosity.   Jesus called the religious pretenders of his day “stiff-necked.”  They didn’t even care to satisfy their curiosity, let alone muster the empathy to turn aside.  The Samaritan faced the same test.  The stranger could have safely passed by and eased his conscience with the possibility of the band of thieves and their likely traps.  Instead, the stranger put himself in the spot of the victim and chose to do good toward him.  He went beyond rubber-necking and rubber-feeling to the pliable, stretchy effort of rubber-reaching.

This story was not preached in hypocrisy.  Jesus went to the most dangerous place for us, and He did become the victim of our circumstances.  More specifically, Jesus left Heaven’s atmosphere to enter the curse of our world.  Here, he chose to have sin’s curse inflicted upon Him, just to bring us to a place of safety.  He saw us longing for Heaven but lacking the perfection required, and He reached out with His arm of atonement.  He took our place so we could be in His place.

So another glance at the bumper sticker demands inquiry.  “He who has the gold…”  Here stands another philosophy chased by countless world leaders and entrepreneurs.  The power and influence supposedly held in the amount of wealth.  Those in poverty are herein looked down upon, the captive and hopeless.  In this world, money in the form of bribes and military power would appear intimidating.  Christianity has spoken otherwise throughout history.  If the fumes of emotions and religion were the hope of the disciples, Christianity would be long gone.  Rather, Jesus words became a powerful reality.  Doing good in the face of evil really does work, for those who know the payoff is deeper than currency or karma.  There’s a government which has no end, a kingdom of eternal reward, with a philosophy that encompasses heart, soul, and mind.  Jesus’ eternal kingdom rewards eternally, both now and forevermore.  Now, remember the image at the top of this article?  Here it is again:

If we really are counting gold, God still wins.  Wouldn’t you like to be adopted by the wealthiest guy, ever?  The Bible says God adopts us when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  The reality of our poverty lies in our spiritual poverty.  As fallen humans, we cannot attain perfection without Jesus’ redemptive mission.  All you have to do is accept it.  When He fills your heart, He changes you in a way that sees the Golden Rule through His eyes.  You’ll carry an empathy toward others as if they were closer than a sibling.  It’s so much more than religion or philosophy.  That’s Jesus’ way.  And that’s rubber-reaching.

Definition

rubber-reaching – (phrase) To go beyond mere curiosity, to reach out dangerously in order to help another.  One great leap above rubber-necking.  What the Good Samaritan did, sacrificing his own safety for the rescue of another.  Best done with God-given wisdom, courage, and love.