Abortion

Pictures speak a thousand words.

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One million American children each year.
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God still forgives.baby_bucket

Regrets? Need help? Silent no more.

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Categories: Current Issues | Leave a comment

Wordview Question #2: What is the nature of material reality?

I’ve been very slow covering my series on worldviews. Today I’ll look at question number two. To view all the questions and find links to each, you can view the original post.

So what is the nature of material reality? What I mean is, what is the world like around us? Is it orderly or chaotic? Created or autonomous? Does it have a purpose, or is it random? Is there a spiritual element to it or is it merely physical? And how do we relate to it?

I’ve already established that I base my Christian worldview on the historicity of Jesus Christ, the reliability of the Bible, and the fulfillment of prophecy. With that starting point, I believe the world was created. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). I take that at face value, not only because it’s written in the Bible, but because there’s so much evidence to back it up. In the whole universe of billions of stars, we are aware of one planet that sustains life. One planet with an exact axis that spreads out heat and cold so both hemispheres can grow food. One planet with perfect revolution so no season is too long or too short and perfect rotation so day and night are not too long or two short. If either changed, our water would freeze or evaporate. One planet with a perfectly designed water cycle, nitrogen cycle, oxygen cycle. One planet with the perfect atmosphere to protect us from space radiation and debris. Chance? I don’t think so.

As a created world, it is also regulated by carefully designed natural laws that order our world and our lives. Laws such as those that govern physics and mathematics are not random, nor was it chance that brought them into being. They demonstrate purpose, control, and design. And being created by a supernatural Creator, the world has a definite spiritual element to it. Though it is ordered by natural laws, God’s power can, has, and does supercede natural law, resulting in miracles and supernatural occurances such as the worldwide flood, the virgin birth, and the resurrection of Jesus.

How are we to relate to such a world? First, we must understand that it was created for us. For our use, enjoyment, support, and rule. God gave us dominion over it and the intelligence to govern it wisely. Such a gift implies value in the recipient. Value above the gift. We, even more than the Creation we are a part of, are a product of purpose and design.

Do you believe the earth is created? Without design, how do you explain the overwhelming coincidence that one planet would develop the many necessities to support life? How do you explain the development of complex mechanisms such as reproduction involving the pairing of two distinctly different and compatible cells? Without design, what is the basis of order and natural laws? Without design, do people have value? On what do you base your value?

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Hold a Seder in Your Home

You don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate Passover. The symbols in the Seder meal point directly to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. As Christians, this holiday takes on significant meaning. But undertaking a festival from a culture you didn’t grow up in can be daunting. So I’ll lay out the resources and recipes that have held me in good stead.

First, read up on the symbols and meanings. This is an excellent Messianic website explaining all the elements of the meal from a Jewish perspective so Christians might understand. Or check out my favorite reference, a book by Barney Kasdan that includes explanation of all the Jewish feasts, God’s Appointed Times. Here are a few of my blog posts you might find helpful, as well. (You can find similar posts covering other Jewish festivals in my “Holidays” category in my sidebar.)

Brush up on the Passover and Easter stories. Reread the Exodus story. Watch the old Ten Commandments  movie. My kids like to compare it to the biblical account. The animated movie Moses, Prince of Egypt is another great one for little guys. After the Exodus story, read the account of Christ’s triumphal entry, the last supper, the crucifixion. The Passion of the Christ is another excellent movie night choice for older kids. Then talk about how Jesus fulfilled the picture of the original Passover.

Plan a Seder dinner. It’s not hard. The downloadable documents below will give you a hand. Keep Kosher dietary rules in mind. Yeast is an important symbol in this meal and is completely avoided. Meijer and other big food stores will have boxes of Matzah (yeast-free bread like crackers) in their ethnic food sections. Milk combined with meat is another obscure rule for this meal that I usually ignore. We’re not really bound to the food rules, but I do follow the “no yeast” and the general “no pork” rules.

The Haggadah file below will be your best friend. Let me say that again. The Haggadah file below will be your best friend. This is the traditional “script” that is placed at every seat and followed the same way each year. It ties in the Exodus story and explains the symbols used during the meal. A Messianic script, which this is, also explains how each symbol points to Christ. It also explains all the symbols and items necessary and helps immensely with meal set up. Read it next. Take notes. I’ve posted it on my blog here, but the file below is formatted and printable (and updated from the blog post).

Seder Haggadah

You will also need a Seder Plate. The symbols used on the plate are explained in the Haggadah. Festive plates are available for purchase online but not necessary. Make your own using a nice platter and small bowls. (It calls for a lamb bone as one of the symbols. I use a chicken bone.)

Traditional recipes:

A few planning helps:

  • Seder checklist (Includes items mentioned in Haggadah.)
  • Food sign up list (This is the actual list I’m using this year. It might help you gauge numbers and dishes.)

Have fun! Hosting a Passover Seder is a great way to fellowship, teach Old Testament Jewish culture, and connect it to Christ’s death and resurrection. It gives a much deeper appreciation of Easter.

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A Purpose Shared with Lewis

Jack, a life of lewisI’m reading through George Sayer’s Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis at the moment. Very slowly as I dedicate most of my free time to finishing my current novel. I’ve always been a huge fan of The Chronicles of Narnia. A few weeks ago, I watched Shadowlands and afterward took an interest in learning Lewis’s real life story. It’s very interesting, this great man’s journey to faith. But so far, I’ve resonated most with his role as a children’s author. (Hmmmm…wonder why.)

I stumbled upon the following section of text in which Sayer summarizes Lewis’s thoughts on being a Christian author of mainstream literature, to which I’ve subscribed wholeheartedly without even realizing I was in agreement with him. Remember, Lewis was writing literature in the 1930’s-50’s.

“[Lewis] pointed out that the difficulties of the Christian writer or lecturer arose from the fact that the culture was not at all Christian. This meant that the influence of a Christian lecture or article would be undermined very quickly by the influence of films, newspapers, and novels in which an opposing point of view was taken for granted. This made it impossible for the Christian writer to achieve widespread success. What was wanted was not more ‘little books about Chritianity,’ but more books by Christians on the subjects in which the Christianity was latent.

“…Jack wanted the moral and spiritual significance of his works of fiction to be assimilated subliminally, if at all… Over and over in talking bout his fiction, he would say, ‘But it’s there for the story.'”

That’s it! That’s what I try to do when I write. I strive to create a story of excellence that will entertain yet rest on, to use Sayer’s word, a latent Christian worldview.

Another quote, a direct quote of Lewis’s that I found sadly humorous was in reference to the ignorant reception his sci-fi thriller Out of the Silent Planet received: “I think this great ignorance might be a help to the evangelisation of England; any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under cover of romance without their knowing it.”

That does seem to be the case today, as well. I plan to continue taking advantage of it.

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Worldview Question #1: What is the nature of ultimate reality?

It’s time I get back to my series on worldviews. To hold the posts together, I’m linking back to the original post, which will have all successive links at the bottom. The question I’ll tackle today is…

What is the nature of ultimate reality? (What is real?)

Included under this question are smaller ones, such as, is there such thing as the supernatural? Is there a God? What is he like? Is he personal? Knowable? What are his traits? Are there many gods? What are they like? If the supernatural is nonexistant, how did everything we see originate? What is real that we cannot see? I’ll attempt, in my own unscientific, untrained way, to explain what I believe to be the answer to these questions.

In my search for truth, I leaned heavily on the historicity of Jesus Christ, the reliability of the Bible, and the fulfillment of prophecy in making a decision for the Christian faith. So my answers will reflect a biblical worldview and rely on the Bible as my source.

Simply put, I believe that Creation is real–everything created by the spoken word of God. This includes all the physical matter we see around us, the earth, the sky, the universe. It encompasses the physical laws that hold Creation together. Absolute right and wrong are real. Spiritual beings are real. And of course, God is real.

God is infinite, triune, all-present, all-knowing, sovereign, and good. He is the only God. He is the basis of all reality. In him all things exist. Without him there is nothing. God is also personal. He’s knowable. And he’s revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures. God is the source of all reality. This is the underlying foundation of a Christian worldview, and all further answers hang decidedly from this singular belief.

Do you believe in God? If so, do you know him? If not, how do you explain all you see and all you believe to be true? What is the basis of your reality?

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What’s a Worldview…and Why in the World Do I Need One?

magnifying_glass_globe_sm6First of all, you don’t need a worldview. You already have one. It’s simply the way you see and understand the world through the lens of your own beliefs. A worldview answers the hard questions like Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Is there a God? And What happens when you die? Most people today, however, don’t think through what they really believe. Worldviews are often incomplete and even contradictory. They don’t make sense. But most people today don’t really care.

That’s unfortunate, because a worldview influences our decisions and attitudes. It comes through in our words and our actions. If, for example, someone believes their race is above all others, as happened in the American South or Nazi Germany, those persons will be cruel, brutal, and self-righteous. If someone believes all living things are connected, they will place special emphasis on preserving the environment. If someone thinks life is random chance without purpose or meaning, they will treat life with little respect.

The good thing is about worldviews, however, is that they can grow and change. We are constantly learning and modifying how we understand reality. It’s never too late to search for answers and tweak our beliefs.

Every author has a worldview. It influences what subjects we tackle, how we treat them, the language we use, the themes we write about, the point of view of our major characters, and the take away value of each story. It shapes how an author understands good and evil, what we perceive as moral or immoral, and the bias we take on controversial issues. By the time you finish a novel, you have learned much about what an author believes to be true.

I write from a distinctly Christian worldview. My books are not “religious”, but they are conservative and traditional. And not just because I write for a young audience–I’ve read plenty of children’s literature from non-Christian worldviews. They are an extension of the way I perceive the world.

Throughout the next year, I’ll be returning frequently to discuss the seven questions a worldview seeks to answer. And I’ll be sharing what I believe about each one. You need not agree with me, but I would encourage anyone who reads this to mull the questions over and answer them for themselves. Here they are listed below with links to further posts. See you next time!

1. What is the nature of ultimate reality? (What is real?)

2. What is the nature of material reality? (the physical world)

3. What is a human being?

4. What happens to a person at death?

5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?

6. How do we know what is right and wrong?

7. What is the meaning of human history?

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The Gospel in Plain English

No formidable words are needed to simply and concisely summarize what the Bible’s says. The message is not complex, but it is anathema to those who desire no authority beyond their own intellect. If there is a God, however, the opinions of men cannot negate his existence. A better use of human intelligence might be to judge scripture in light of the possibility that God does exist.

The Bible starts with an all-powerful God who created everything within the universe, including life, natural laws of order and mathematics and logic, and a moral code. Mankind chose to rebel against it. God is love, but he is also holy, and as Creator he has the authority to judge sin. He must, or he would undermine his own laws. The payment for sin is death.

But God in his compassion and creativity devised a way to take that judgment upon himself. He came to Earth in the person of Jesus, who was fully human and fully divine. He lived a perfect life and therefore was undeserving of death. Because he was human, and because he was perfect, his sacrifice is counted as a substitute payment for the sin of all mankind. Anyone seeking reconciliation with God need only claim this payment. We will still die physically, but Christ’s resurrection has proven his power over death. The Bible promises that the dead will rise. Those who claim Jesus will live in a recreated world free of sin and its effects. Those who reject him will suffer eternal, physical punishment.

Some things to think about:

Would any of this prove too hard for a Creator God? What objective does God’s plan meet? Is it unreasonable that he would share it with men? Is any part of this unfair? Is God inconsistent in character or action? Does history bear out the person and accomplishments of Christ? Does this explanation account for the presence of suffering and death? What does this plan imply about the value of human life? What makes the Bible reliable? Do I care enough to do further research, or am I content with what I think is true? What do I base my beliefs on? And finally, what if it’s true?

 

 

Categories: Faith and Logic, The Bible, Why I Believe What I Believe | Leave a comment

North Vietnam

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Remember this? It’s happening today.

I’ve been reading lately about the atrocities the North Korean government is visiting upon its people. Those targeted for concentration camps are Christians and politically suspicious individuals. “Suspicious”  means anyone remotely suspected of disagreeing with the government along with their extended family down to the third generation. I mean, there’s record of someone who accidentally mopped up a spill with an old newspaper that bore a picture of their “Dear Leader.” And all their loved ones. The guilt is in the blood.

Like Nazi camps, these labor camps are places of torture and death. Life has no value. Prisoners are given minimal rations and worked until thier bodies give out. Women are routinely raped and then “disappear” when they become pregnant. Children are beaten to death or commanded to beat other children. Babies are even bred within the camps for the sole purpose of being worked and starved to death. This is going on TODAY and has been since the 1950’s. Kim Jong Un, the new dictator (2011) and third in this dynasty, is carrying on his father’s and grandfather’s inhumane traditions.

Though North Korea denies their existance, these concentration camps are clearly seen by satellite. And there is a growing body of documented testamony by former guards and prisoners who have defected to China and South Korea. In addition, the UN has released a report of their findings of human rights violations.

I highly recommend the book Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden. It details the life of Shin Dong-Hyuk, the only prisoner who was born into the prison camps to escape the camp and the country. His story will stun you. (It is written from a secular perspective and the subject matter is not fit for children under 12 or 14.)

Be in prayer for this country, its leaders, and those who suffer under them. Be in prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith. Please don’t simply look the other way. Educate yourself about what’s going on and pray.

If you’d like more information about North Korea or about other countries where Christians are suffering, visit the Voice of the Martyrs website or request their free monthly newsletter. The newsletter is an excellent resource to help teach our kids about hostile areas of the world. Get involved. Plug in and pray!

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Wisdom

I was reading in Proverbs this morning. I don’t really like the book of Proverbs. Yes, it has a lot of good things to say, common sense things, righteous things, wise things. It’s the delivery I don’t like. I’m a novelist. I like to go into the Old Testament books and read chapter after chapter in the historical stories. I like to pick out themes, judge cause and effect, study characters, ponder creative word pictures, and read up on the cultures in which the stories take place. Proverbs, on the other hand, delivers punch after punch in a short number of verses. It’s too much for me to take in and chew on at once. Too many themes, too many individual thoughts. Too much information. I have to limit the amount I read at one time or I’m completely overwhelmed. So I just read one chapter today.

I must have read chapter 8 twenty times in my life, but I don’t ever recall absorbing verses 22-36. This is Wisdom speaking. The author uses personification to help us get across his point. Wisdom is portrayed as a woman calling out to men from the top of a high hill. Here are some of the points she makes:

The LORD possessed me at the begining of His way,
Before His works of old.
I have been established from everlasting.
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth…
When He prepared the heavens, I was there,
When He drew a circle on the face of the deep,
When He established the clouds above,
When He strengthened the fountains of the deep,
When He assigned to the sea its limit…
When He marked out the foundations of the earth,
Then I was beside Him as a  master craftsman,
And I was daily His delight…

Did you catch what the author is saying here? God created wisdom before he created the heavens and earth. It’s been established from everlasting. And he used this wisdom in the construction of his cosmos. Wow! I mean, I already know from basic science classes that the universe is ordered according to natural laws. The planets orbit in a certain way, allowing us to measure time with accuracy. Elements behave in predictable ways. Everything is structured according to unchanging laws that provide us with a sure, stable reference in which to live. We take many of these laws for granted. The sun will rise. Certain things will float; others will sink. We will not float away into space.

But God also established moral laws. Laws that come with blessing if they are followed and judgement if they are not. The proverbs are filled with warnings about good and evil, of what will happen if we choose one over the other. At the same time, our natural rebellion screams out, “I have my own mind. I want my own way. I’ll make my own choices.” That is happening today. America is full of these objectors. They reject God based on their own reason, their own faulty understanding, their own disbelief. God does give us the freedom to choose as we will, but these are laws. They have sure consequences just like natural laws. If you leap from a cliff, you will hit the ground. If you put a plastic bag over your head, you will die of oxygen deprivation. If you reject God, there will be judgement.

Lots of people today are also crying out, “What kind of God would dictate our behavior? How can he bring judgement on his creation and still be righteous? That sounds pretty hateful and bigotted to me. Who is God to demand our obedience?” But we forget he has a pretty massive claim to authority. He is the creator of all things. He organized the laws. He knows the natural consequences of them. And he must judge disobedience (sin), because to not do so would undermine his own authority.

The proverb ends with Wisdom saying:

Now therefore, listen to me, my children,
For blessed are those who keep my ways…

Blessed is the man who listens to me…
For whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the LORD;
But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul:
All those who hate me love death.

Categories: This and That | Leave a comment

Discovering God’s Will For Your Life

Oh look! I haven’t posted on here for two months! That would be about when track meets started regularly. Sigh. It was a great track season.

7214575Today I have only a short book review. I received the book Discovering God’s Will For Your Life from author Mike Lutz in exchange for an honest review. I was impressed with how easy the book was to read, how simple Lutz made the process, and how basic his advice was. Here’s the review I posted on Amazon:

Want to know God’s will for your life? Mike Lutz starts with the basics: quiet time, meditation, prayer, Bible reading. So elementary, yet so vital—and so overlooked in our busy society. This book is for those who want to get serious about their faith. Knowing God’s will takes effort, but Mr. Lutz breaks it down into simple-to-grasp steps in this conversationally styled book. Calling on roles models such as Joseph and Moses, he has created a great resource for those just starting out in their Christian walk and for those who need to get back to the simple truths.download

Now my question is, would anyone like me to pass the book on to them? It’s a paperback, and I’ll gladly send it to the first one to email me requesting it. If you’re interested, I’m at misenhoff@hotmail.com. :)

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