Sunday, February 11, 2018

What Will Heaven Be Like?

Many books have been written about heaven.  Numerous people even claim to have visited heaven in a "near death" experience.

But honestly, the answer is...we don't know what heaven will be like.  

Genesis 5 records that Enoch "walked with God...and...God took him."

From Martin Luther's lectures on Genesis:
But what sort of life it is that [Enoch] is now living, we who are still flesh and blood cannot know. For us it is enough to know that he was taken away also in respect to his body...But what Enoch is doing, where he is, and how he is living, we do not know. We know that he is living, but surely not this physical life; for he is with God...God desired to impart to the hope of a better life after this life.
The experience of Enoch is recorded for our comfort and for our hope.
The apostle Paul recounts a revelation he had of the "third" heaven:
...and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter...because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.       2 Corinthians 12:4, 7 
In discussions and debates about Paul's famous "thorn in the flesh" we often miss the reason for that thorn - Paul's knowledge of heaven.

Detailed insight into heaven is God's privilege and not mine.  But He gives His Word for my comfort and hope.

These passages come to mind:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”...But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.    1 Corinthians 15:54-55, 57
And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 
...and so we will always be with the Lord.                                     1 Thessalonians 4:17b
The truth of heaven is...heaven is not just a better version of this world, where everything runs perfectly. There's something more, and that more is God.  In heaven, we will fear, love, and trust God above all things, and be in a perfect relationship with Him, and we will be with Him.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Which is Right: Evolution or Creation?

Spontaneous generation is an outdated idea that life can develop and grow from something that's not alive.

One summer, our family returned home after a week away and found fruit flies in our kitchen.  These small bugs were flying near some old bananas. 

When I think of spontaneous generation, I remember those bananas and all those fruit flies

The most famous example used to illustrate spontaneous generation is that old meat, left sitting out, produces maggots.  Of course, we now know that bananas don't actually grow fruit flies, and old meat doesn't create maggots.

Over our 20 years of homeschooling, we've studied the Evolution vs Creation debate, from many views, especially from the scientific angle.  We've looked at evidence for both sides, and there's lots of it.  

In the end...I think it all comes down to spontaneous generation.  Evolution is nothing more than spontaneous generation over a long period of time.  

And I don't believe in evolution.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

As I sit typing, I'm looking at my son's electric organ that someone constructed from wood and other materials.  I also see hymnals - music and words that many people composed and wrote.  And when Al is playing the organ, I hear that music.

Man, the living creation, is made in the image of his creator, God, and man also creates many things.  Spontaneous generation of life, today known as evolution, just didn't happen - life needs a creator, a God.

And, while certain Christians might believe in some type of evolution, it's the atheists who flock to evolution.  

And that leads to another aspect of the debate:  If there is a God, then I'm somehow accountable to Him; but if evolution is true and there's no god, I'm accountable to no one.

Evolution is attractive because it sounds good and freeing to "do whatever I want" and to create my own meaning for life.  

But, just as the scientific evidence for evolution falls short, the "meaning and fulfillment factor" for evolution is also lacking.

King Solomon was a man who had everything and even wrote:
...whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.  Ecclesiastes 2:10
But Solomon found that success and material wealth don't provide happiness or meaning.  He calls it all vanity, and concludes that:
...[God] has put eternity into man's heart... Ecclesiastes 3:11
And Solomon is so right. 
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord...Who was crucified, died, and was buried...the third day, He rose again...I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
God, our creator, is worthy of our devotion, our praise, our love.  

And because of the cross, Jesus takes care of the accountability issue; He brings life and gives meaning to that life. 

God put eternity in our hearts, and evolution can't compete with that.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

How Can a Good God Allow Suffering?

Everyone suffers, and the question of suffering is complex.  We suffer due to our own mistakes and failures, and we suffer at the hands of othersUltimately, because the world and our bodies are no longer perfect, we all suffer...and die.  

People often dismiss believing in God because, while God is supposed to be good, the world is still full of suffering. 

Shouldn't a loving God get rid of suffering?

One of the most freeing things about being Lutheran is...Lutherans don't insist on having all the answers.  We don't have to "connect the dots" or "have our ducks in a row" when speaking about God's ways
Some theological systems attempt to explain Biblical concepts in a logical and crystal clear fashion, leaving no room for the unknown.

But I contend, we can't understand the things of God.  "Having all understanding" is what makes God be God...and makes us not.  

I don't have the answer to suffering, and I don't want to minimize a person's pain.  It's God's Word that provides the comfort:

* God's answer to Job and Job's suffering was:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding. Job 38:4
Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.  Job 40:2 
It was God's decision to let Job suffer without knowing the reason why.  But Job could be confident that God knew what He was doing.

* About his suffering, Joseph told his brothers:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...Genesis 50:20
Paul says in Romans:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 
God's in control, and He uses evil and suffering for His good purpose.  Suffering doesn't mean that God is against me.

* Back to my question, "Shouldn't a loving God get rid of suffering?"  Yes, God has a resolution for our suffering, even today...Jesus.

God doesn't leave us in our suffering.  He sent Jesus, who dwelt among us, knows suffering and experienced the ultimate suffering, on the cross...for me. 
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  John 3:16-17
Jesus is "right there with us" in our suffering.  I don't understand the "why" but I know the Who...and I know that God is on my side.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Is the Bible Real?

My $10 Bible is the small, black one.

I grew up in a small town in Kentucky On my 10th birthday, I went to a downtown drugstore and bought a $10 King James Bible.  And I've been reading the Bible ever since.  

Today I counted - my family has 32 Bibles, not including the Bible I currently read, which is on my iPad.  We have 9 different translations.

So, of course, the Bible is real.  

But...Is it true?  Or have I wasted 45 years?

As a historical document...  

 - The Bible is externally consistent, meaning that outside evidence supports the historical events recorded in the Bible. 

- The Bible is internally consistent, meaning that it doesn't contradict itself. 

- The Bible is considered a reliable historical documentBiblical events, especially those in the New Testament, were recorded not many years after they occurred, by eyewitnesses or people close to those events.  

- And the Bible has been accurately copied throughout the centuries.  We're confident that the Bible we read today contains the same text that the ancient Israelites read.


When I consider how I would answer a person who asks, "Is the Bible true?" I have two thoughts.

First - the entire Bible is about Jesus and His work of redemption, His death and resurrection.  Paul wrote this about that truth:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain...If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.                    1 Corinthians 15:14 and 19
By faith, I believe Jesus did rise again - faith given to me by the Holy Spirit and based on the testimony of witnesses.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 
Second - science and historical facts, even if proven to be true, mean nothing to a person if those words of truth can't affect the human heart.

My pastor once said:  
God's Word always nourishes.  God's Word is never without effect.
He's right.  God's Word, recorded in the Bible, diagnoses and moves the heart.  
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
I haven't wasted 45 years.  Even today, God's Word cuts me to the heart and moves me; it diagnoses my sin, convicts me...and then gives me Jesus.  That $10 was money well spent.

*Our versions of the Bible:
King James Version
New King James Version
Revised Standard Version
New American Standard Version
New International Version 
English Standard Version
International Children's Bible, New Century Version
The New English Bible with Apocrypha
The New American Bible - The New Catholic Translation

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Is God Real?

In the classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, the lawyers ask the judge to make a ruling - "Is there or is there not a Santa Claus?"  Ultimately, the defense lawyer provides "authoritative proof" that his client is in fact Santa Claus.  

But when considering the existence of God, there's no clear-cut evidence or "silver bullet" that persuades and satisfies everybody that God is real.

Over the years, I've read lots of homeschool books dealing with apologetics and defense of the Christian faith.  And I can give sound reasons for the existence of God - based on science, logic, philosophy, history, and theology.

But all those "academic" answers fall short. 

"Is God real?" is a human question, coming from a real person.  The human mind may understand solid facts and arguments for God - while the human heart remains unconvinced.
If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.                                1 Corinthians 13:2
How would I answer "Is God real?"
Yes, Jesus.
Life's hard and it doesn't always make a lot of sense.  I know me and my faults, and I know that only Jesus has the answer and gives peace. 
Science and logic miss the human factor and don't offer comfort to the hurting soul.
But where the rubber meets the road - there's Jesus.  He came in the flesh, for the forgiveness of sins, so that you may have life.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Favorite Homeschool Books

One of the unique benefits of homeschooling is that a family reads and studies the same materials, together, and then has a common "experience" of learning.  

Several years ago, I was reading The Golden Goblet to my youngest son, when my oldest son walked into the room and said he remembered reading that book.  And we laughed and reminisced. 

Here's a short list of some of the books we've enjoyed:

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Although set during the French Revolution, the story is a romantic comedy, with an unlikely superhero.  High school.

The Golden Goblet - A historical novel, set in ancient Egypt, the story is about a boy who wants to be a goldsmith.  We loved the "one-eyed ancient" who peers at people with his one eye.  Upper elementary or middle school.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch - This is the true story of Nathaniel Bowditch, who became a self-taught seaman and wrote The American Practical Navigator.  Upper elementary or middle school.

The Man in the Iron Mask - This is the last of The Three Musketeers books, and arguably the best.  I cried when Porthos died.  High school.

The Little Britches Books by Ralph Moody - These historical books chronicle the adventures of Ralph Moody's family, during the early 1900s.  I cried at the end of book #1 - "So long partner."  Upper elementary to middle school, but good for all ages.

The Physics of Star Trek - We're a trekkie family.  The book explains:    1) various Star Trek marvels and devices that could never scientifically happen, and 2) Star Trek inventions that are now everyday realities.  High school.

Around the World in Eighty Days - We love Passepartout, and how he says "No" to the Mormon missionary.  And, in the end, Phileas Fogg gets the money and the girl.  High school.

Oliver Twist -I still remember reading this to the older boys, with Al, who was 4, sitting on my lap, and Al saying, "He's going to eat his head?!!"  Read the book!  High school.

The Taming of the Shrew - We read this Shakespeare comedy aloud, with assigned parts.  I had all the female lines.  High school.

The Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History - The guide has Bible readings in chronological order, along with questions and comments.  My sons love, love, love the Old Testament genealogies - something about the funny names.  All ages, except for early elementary.

The Bible - Even if you don't homeschool, reading the Bible together is a good thing to do with your family. 
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6-7