Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Questioning’ Category

I recently completed the book, “Visual Theology”, by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. I can recommend the book as a good overview of practical theology and encouragement in godly thinking and living. The book has colorful, well explained diagrams, infographics as the author calls them in keeping with the latest buzzword. A friend at church gave me the book because she knew that I like to teach using diagrams. I pursue diagram making to organize, simplify, help memory, and give insight into complex or voluminous concepts. I think my diagrams and tables have insight and are useful, realizing they may not communicate to all minds. A few examples include “Effort and Empowerment“, “Spiritual Growth“, “God’s Word and Community“.

A number of the diagrams in “Visual Theology” are instructive, convicting, and sufficiently deep to draw you into figuring them out. The one I found most useful and convicting was the one on pages 96-97 that is a flowchart about “How to put sin to death” by biblical thought and action. It rightly does not let one get off the hook with excuses. It does this by directing you to see that either you aren’t a Christian, you aren’t believing what God says about His power to overcome sin, or you don’t believe in the seriousness of sin. The flowchart then cycles back around to how to confront these problems.

Also, the summary diagram on pages 104-105 that shows the spiritual disciplines enabling movement from “putting sin to death” to “putting on the new” is beneficial. The color scheme of red to green speaks death to life. I only wished the diagram had started low with “putting…to death” and come up to “putting on…new”, instead of the other way around.

Perhaps the best infographic is the very simple one on page 108, “True Life Change”. It features two arrows cycling around amongst four major spiritual changes continuously going on in the believer’s life: “spiritual awakening”, “true repentance”, “new behavior”, and “receiving forgiveness”.

I am disappointed with the scope and depth of many of the other infographics in the book for three reasons. First of all, as my son-in-law commented after a cursory glance through the book, “It has too many words and not enough diagrams.” After reading the book, I saw the words were indeed good explanations of the points, but they did make the diagrams seem less useful. Perhaps the diagrams should have spoken for themselves and then minimal explanation given for the purpose of preventing misunderstanding.

Secondly, I feel as though several opportunities to deepen the diagrams’ messages by multiple levels interaction between the parts rendered many of the diagrams monochromatic or merely one-dimensional. For example, in the last section on vocation, the authors have a diagram called “The Work Of A Christ Follower” (page 122) that diagrams the three areas of vocation, “being”, “calling”, and “passions”. These are connected by lines to various vocations of the Christian like artist, father, husband, neighbor, athlete, etc. These vocations are placed randomly on a circle around a center circle labeled “You have many vocations”. Why not rather make the center circle say something like “What God has given you to do.” Then each concentric circle could be a priority list of vocations. In my case I would diagram what God has given me to day in this order from the center outward: Christian, husband, father, grandfather, church member, citizen, neighbor, carpenter, rock climber, writer, etc. Then connect the three areas of vocation to these. The only real difference I have made to the diagram is priority ordering the vocations rather than randomly listing them. To me that gives the diagram more depth.

Thirdly, I reflect that many of the infographics were merely pretty bulleted lists. They did not in themselves communicate or extend the concepts they presented. An example of this is the diagram in chapter 5 titled “Doctrine Leads To” on pages 82-83. These words form the center of the circular diagram with the words “Love”, “Humility”, ” Obedience”, ” Unity”, and “Healthy Growth” surrounding the title. On the adjacent page the words are bulleted with explanation. On the pages before and after this diagram explanation is given for how each of these words proceeds from doctrine. The explanation suggests a much more in depth diagram that shows progression.

Following is my attempt at making a diagram that represents the author’s own explanation of the benefits of doctrine in the life of the believer and the church. Notice that “Knowledge”, “Assent”, “Affection”, and “Trust” are not in the above list of items on his diagram. But these words do appear in his explanation and I think are the key to the sequence of changes that begin to take place in the believer that result in actions. Notice also that I do not say that this process is one-dimensional, always following this single pathway. “Doctrine” results in an acceleration of “Growth” in many areas at once. I also began to see that doctrine changed the will which changes the emotions which results in right actions. The penciled in “trust?” and “humility” are suggestions of friends as to possible changes to the diagram. And that is the benefit of more extensive diagrams of ideas: thought, discussion, musing, critical thinking, deepening.

The husband of the lady who gave me the book reflected that the book was “ground-breaking” in the area of communicating theology using graphics, and it would lead others to do more and better efforts at diagramming theology because the idea had been initiated and because we have become such a visual, quick information acquisition society. He urged me to write a follow-up book, which I said I would call “Theology Diagrammed”. The main problems with that are lack of time and a lack of completeness and coherence to the diagrams I have made. But perhaps with time, encouragement, and help, it might happen.

Read Full Post »

We don’t enjoy harsh teachers, but we can learn from them nonetheless. “But it isn’t fair”, “such a teacher shouldn’t be allowed”, and “we must do everything in our power to rid the system of such teachers”. Unless of course the teacher has tenure with no intention of retiring any time soon.

Pain is just such a teacher. Now I’ve lost some of you. We want the fun, picture filled blog entries. But life has not been so fun lately, and that is not the goal of life anyway. So I decided to share a little of the less pleasant side of life, not for pity or running readers off, but because it is part of life and part of my life at present. And there are lessons to be learned from this less than favorite teacher.

I started having mild back pains about three weeks ago. I have had back problems all of my life and I think there is evidence of it being genetic since my three brothers have and father had back problems. I do exercises to keep my core strong and avoid extreme motions.* However, this time I didn’t do anything that I could have avoided to prevent the problem. I guess if I had been able to see the future and its ramifications, I could have worked around it, but I don’t have that ability. Sometimes it is just small things that trip us up.

Anyway, I have these down periods with back maintenance, but this was a perfect storm. The two most painful things were getting in and out of bed and putting shoes and socks on. Function and activity came to a standstill.

In the midst of this particular storm**, my attention was riveted by the frequent bolts of lightning running along my lower back. The teacher had my attention. When in pain, you pray more. Certainly a prime topic is relief, but I found myself praying for others I know who experience constant pain and wondering how they cope. And what of people who have reduced functionality because of pain? Couldn’t I be more compassionate and helpful? And the thought occurred to me several times that at my age, when a significant regression in health occurs, is this the downturn from which there will not be recovery or serious reduction in functionality? And if it is, what is my new focus? What would be my purpose? What new goals do I set? In short, I found this bout with pain highlighting (throwing a shadow on?) my mortality. Life is short and the end is coming, sooner perhaps rather than later. Don’t think so darkly you may say, but in the midst of the pain, lighter thoughts are hard to come by, and they may be no more than whistling in the wind anyway.

So here are the deeper and brighter, not lighter, thoughts that resulted from what I am going through. Life is good, because God is good. I have purpose and meaning because He has assigned those to me. Even if my body wears out or continues in pain, I can pray for others, for my family, the infirm, this sick nation, my lost friends, and my church. I have peace with God even in the midst of turmoil within and without. I am more content when I am thankful, even in the midst of difficulty. Even though I knew all of this beforehand, I know it at a deeper level now. I suspect the lessons are not done since the holidays (the second advent) have not come, but I will have to focus on these and like thoughts as soon as the next lesson starts rather than days into it.

That should make the teacher and lesson seem less harsh, even though still uninvited and unwanted.

.

I should report that my back has shown some improvement in the last few days, though I don’t know what that means for work and play just now. I am privileged to be able to start again, but wary of the fact that physically that is not sustainable in the long-term. Life is full of ups and downs, but I don’t have to pin my hopes on the ups nor dread the downs. I belong to God.

*I hear some of you snickering (LD and BF, for instance).

**See “Midst the Storm”.

Read Full Post »

Early this summer I had a student ask me a question by e-mail: “Do you think it is truly possible for someone to find the correct answer to the Drake Equation? If so, how would they prove it?”

After some research I gave the following reply:

“”The equation was written in 1961 by Frank Drake, not for purposes of quantifying the number of civilizations, but as a way to stimulate scientific dialogue…”(1) Therefore, the terms in the equation are considerations of what would have to be known in order to quantify (that is, count) civilizations. It is a thought experiment, and since we cannot go to many of those places (or probably any of them) because the distance is too great for even several lifetimes of travel [“Hey, grandkids, the goal of this mission when we started out 60 years ago was for you to visit two planets around the third star from our home star, Sun, to see if there is anybody living there. We’ll be there 40 years or so after your grandchildren are born.”], the whole scheme is pure speculation. In fact, I would go a step further and say that it is not even useful speculation.

So, to answer your question, no, it can neither be solved nor checked (proven). Based on my belief in the God of the Bible, I believe that it is not even a useful thought experiment. The Scripture says,”in as much as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28) Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), and since “Christ…offered once [died]”, then if any civilizations did exist, they would be without hope because God has not redeemed any of them. Instead, I think that it means they do not exist. And because of the distance we cannot know if they exist. The whole thought experiment becomes fruitless, a deceptive worldview way of avoiding the real truth about how [we got here and how] we “die once” and need that salvation.

A better thought experiment would be to explain how the rocks and ice we see confirm what God said about a worldwide flood in Genesis 6-9. Check out the “Lost Squadron” that landed on Greenland(2). Ask yourself some questions. 1) How deep were the “Lost Squadron” airplanes under the ice? 2) How long did it take for the ice to accumulate? 3) In how long of a time could the whole ice sheet have accumulated at that rate? 4) Has the rate of accumulation always been the same? 5) Is there any evidence for the rate of accumulation changing? 6) Comparing these estimates to the “declared age” of ice cores in Greenland, is there a problem with the present explanation of how the ice sheet got there?”

I think you will realize that the standard explanation for what the layers in the ice sheets means is flawed. Therefore, distractors are thrown up to keep us from seeing the logical fallacies of the ill-conceived conclusions masquerading as a scientific theory. There are many worthy thought experiments to be done. Einstein was particularly good at those, but much of today’s theoretical science is lacking in a creativity that adheres to truth as its basis, instead heralding false agendas and distracting from useful science. Let us be done with having any part of that.

1- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

2- https://creation.com/the-lost-squadron

Read Full Post »

It is very possible that you do not know what you fear most because you have not confronted that situation yet. There is also depth of fear and extent of fear, by which I mean absolutely horrifying as opposed to what you most guard against because it is constantly in your thoughts consciously or subconsciously. 

Evidently, I speak of the latter when I say what I most fear. I most fear being publicly humiliated for being incompetent and unprepared. I say evidently because occasionally I have dreams about just such things. I tend to have two kinds of dreams, those that may or may not seem significant, based on my emotional state after I awaken, but that I can’t remember any detail about, and those dreams that are very clear in every detail and seem to be communicating something profound to me or about me.

This morning was an occurrence of the latter. I am a science teacher. For some, what seems to me, a silly reason, I always have a few moments of first-year teacher nervousness about the first day of class (a tale tale indication of my greatest fear?). Now in terms of the school year, the dream I am about to relate to you is a mid-summer nights’ dream, making it all the more curious that it should happen, since school should be the last thing on my mind.

I was in a old school building that was very well remodeled. It was between classes of the last period of the day on the first day of class. I was required to rove to a different class this period, which when I have been required to do is the most bothersome thing to me, probably because it always involves some level of not being prepared for class when it begins. On the way there students in the bathroom were involved in some unknown rowdiness which my appearance and stern voice immediately dissipated. This further delayed my arrival to class. The students began filing out of the bathroom. I recognized most of them and many of them went into the classroom that I was entering. As we entered the tardy bell rang. The room was large with the classroom set-up at one end. Students were already in their desks. I knew all of the students, having had most of them the previous semester and others the year before. All of the students had attempted, out of a social habit that I have observed that makes them feel more comfortable, to sit in their previously assigned seats. Everything was in order except for one desk missing on the front row, so that a student assigned last year to that desk was sitting on the floor where the desk would have been. As I walked to the front of the room all faces turned toward me and the immediate thought came to me, “Why are these students here? I have had them all, most of them last semester, and they all passed (didn’t they?)?” I came to the desk, seeing that it was very neatly organized with every office supply gadget you could want and organizers for many colorful highlighters and markers. As I surveyed this wonder and the fact that there was not one piece of my papers, syllabus or otherwise, on the desk, the thought occurred to me, is this Earth and Environmental Science class that I have exclusively taught the last few years or the Chemistry class that I was told I might be teaching? If I ask the students which it is they will know that I am unprepared, not because I don’t know the subject, but because I have no materials to hand out and no lesson prepared. If it is Earth Science, I’ve done it so many times recently that I can totally wing it, but if it is Chemistry, as likely these “repeating” students imply, I’m clueless where to begin even though my head is filled with Chemistry facts. I stood overlooking the smiling faces in front of me, students who had likely taken Chemistry because they liked me as a teacher before, waiting for a spark of inspiration.

The dream ended by me awakening, lying flat on my back in the pleasant morning light and coolness, wondering what I would do next, and wondering why such dreams persist in my consciousness. Evidently, I fear being humiliated publicly for being incompetent and unprepared. Given that fact, should I share this dream?

Read Full Post »

With what are you struggling? Struggling with temptation is a matter of replacing it with something good and godly. I find that Romans 6:11 helps me to focus in times of temptation. Philippians 4:8 helps it to be less of a problem in the first place and less burdensome when happening. But what if the struggle is not a temptation but concerning a desire that you have thought to be a godly ambition? You pursue it, but thus far, to no avail. Patience and acquiescence to God’s will are certainly needed, but as platitudes they do not answer questions about how to proceed. So, here is how I am struggling:

My senses all say no
As do comments and circumstances
Whence comes this great desire
When all else says there are thin chances

To prayer I did devote
This ambition of which I now speak
Much counsel, plans I wrote
And God’s will in this matter I seek

How do I now proceed?
Exercise patience and longer wait?
More scrutiny it need?
Oh my mind and emotional state?

Is it time to give up?
To admit it was not in God’s will?
Accept this empty cup
As good providence rather than ill?

This I know above all
God is good and His will is the best
May stumble but not fall
Be bewildered but finally blest

I will continue on
Trusting God and in His guidance rest
Listening I will hone
Find His direction and pass the test

 

Read Full Post »

Why Me? There are generally two ways to answer that question.

Why me? Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?

         Or…

Why me? What is God trying to teach me? How is He using these circumstances to guide me?

On a very pleasant, sunny afternoon my wife and I were preparing to go for a walk on our local Greenway. We were talking and enjoying conversation and she was understanding well. You see, she is a stroke victim and most days communication is poor and ponderous. We went to the car, talking away as we went. I distinctly remember enjoying the moment.

I pulled out of the driveway, looking both ways. In my blind spot a car had pulled up on the opposite curb. I looked in my rear side mirror and reacted just soon enough to dent his passenger door no more than about four inches. Two inches less and a toilet plunger would have fixed the problem, but the main beam was damaged and irrepairable. It was an expensive mistake.

Now two months later I was at the body shop paying for the repair. I had planned other business nearby. When I came out of the shop, my truck would not start. After a half hour cleaning the battery cable, I was underway, too late to do the other business I thought so important.

Why had all of this happened? Why was I prevented and redirected? What chain of events is God orchestrating for His glory and my benefit through these less than pleasant events?

I may never know, but I do know that the Scripture says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) I lived a good portion of my life frustrated by annoying sidetracks and roadblocks, but I have come to understand what the Psalmist means when he says, “It is vain to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2) I want to end my days trusting God, as the Psalmist says, “The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:9-10)

Read Full Post »

Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains