Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bill Nye, Black Holes and Evidence for God

In a recent debate, Bill Nye was asked the question "what would cause you to believe in God" and his answer was "evidence". I want to challenge Bill Nye on this for a second with a cosmic wonder, the black hole. Have you ever seen a black hole? In a picture maybe or on a video? I've seen lots, but you know what, they aren't real pictures. The truth is, we can't see black holes. We can't find them, we can't detect them and we have no idea if they are really there. We think they are, and there are things than help us guess they exist and even where they exist.

A black hole, in theory, is caused by a collapsed star that is a super dense mass of atoms, no empty space just packed in particles. It has major gravity, like a whole lot of gravity and it pulls everything down and smashes it to the thickness of an atom. It even traps light in the gravitational pull and nothing escapes. That is why we can't see it, we see things when light bounces off and comes back to our eyes. We also use radio waves and microwaves and sonar waves, all these things bounce back, just like light. We see the reflection. Black holes don't reflect, they don't send stuff out, so we can't see them. Guess that's a good reason they are called black holes.

Bill Nye believes in black holes, he has done shows on them. I believe in black holes too, but because I've seen one but for the same reason Bill does. I have seen the evidence. You see, when you have that much gravity, it effects things. Stars and planets and comets and stuff. They are influenced by the gravity, they lose energy, change orbits and are moved and otherwise changed. I can't see the black hole, but I see it's effects.

When I'm sitting in my living room, I can't see if there is a breeze outside. I can't hear it, I can't feel it, but I know if there is a breeze blowing. I can see the effects of the breeze on the trees and bushes. I see the evidence. It's true with a breeze, with a black hole and with God. I see the evidence of God in my life, in the life of other people and in the world. I know what He has done in my life, changed me and helped me. I have seen how He has worked in my wife's life and how she has grown in faith. I see Him working on my kids, on people at church, and those who were once far from God and now are close to God. I see the evidence of God, sometimes like branches swaying and sometimes like the pull of gravity so strong that not even light can escape.

My question for Bill Nye is, what evidence do you want? What does it look like? If the pull of gravity is enough for a black hole, isn't the work of God in the lives of believers enough evidence? If you don't have to see the black hole, why do you have to see God? You can't touch the black hole, you can hear it or see it or smell it. Why the black hole but not God?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Trump and Sanders Indicates About Education

Donald Trump is the front runner in the national poles. He is leading the pack for the Republican nomination. It's interesting and it points to something in our education system. On the other side of the aisle, it's Hillary but Bernie Sanders is closing the gap. The Socialist candidate is popular with the young voters. It's a telling situation. Even the election of our current President says a lot about where we have come with public education. Don't see the connection? Let me explain.

The founding fathers of the United States sought to put in public education. The reason is simple, America is a Republic with elected officials, voted on by the people.  We also vote on laws and measures and bonds, etc. As citizens, we must make complicated decisions and to do so, we must be informed and educated. The system of public education exists to make informed citizens, capable of making decisions to run the country.

Early on, the education system stressed teachings ethics, civics and government. We taught students how to be part of a community. We stressed community and the people understood that the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few. We taught, lived and believed in working diligently, serving others and making good choices. We made hard choices, and we sacrificed for those choices. The entire country came together during WWI and WWII, we didn't protest and we didn't argue over petty issues while our young men were spilling their blood.

Today, we don't come together, we protest and cry "raciest, sexist, homophobe" and demand a safe space. We are not the same people, and part of the issue is our education system. We have begun to educate children for the sake of education. They are learning facts, but not how to think or make good decisions. They are coming out of school lacking the ability to think critically. They don't think about the community, they don't think about effects or long term realities. They have no concept of supply and demand, of trade off and the fact that everything has a cost or a consequence.

It's time we need to start teaching common sense and ethics and community again. We have focused too much on teaching kids to feel good about themselves and trying to build self esteem. The humanist movement has produced it's fruit and it's not good fruit. Maybe it's time to return to the roots of the founding fathers. We need to focus on making good citizen and less about making kids who feel good about themselves.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Open Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,
     I am not writing to endorse you, I'm not even writing about your campaign or election. I am writing you today because I want to make an observation on something you recently said. I know that sometimes we say things later we wish we could take back, and I hope that is the case with this statement. To summarize the statement, you basically said you have never asked God for forgiveness, you just go on and make things better.  I want to address this statement and share with you what you have probably already heard. I want to share it anyway.
     Each of us has opportunities to make good and bad decisions. We have opportunities to tell the truth or lie, to help or to hurt. As humans, we are for the most part selfish and evil. We choose the wrong thing and we do the very things God tells us not to do. We don't love God and we don't love other people. We break God's laws. God gives us the basic rules called the 10 Commandments. We break them so often. Our hearts are selfish, our motives are selfish and our deeds are often evil.
     God is holy and righteous and because He is holy, He does not tolerate sin and punishes it accordingly. Sin is punished by eternal separation from God in a place the Bible calls hell. We all deserve hell because we are evil. There is no one who is a good person when we stand before a holy and just God. There is hope and good news, and that comes from Jesus.
     We owe a penalty we cannot pay, it would be like someone paying rent for an office space using paper clips. If they don't have US currency, they cannot pay rent. We owe God a debt of holiness, but we don't have any of our own. We have things we say are good, but they are not holy. We need some holiness, but we can't get any. The debt piles us every day and there is no way to pay for it. Jesus, however, has all the holiness we need. He has the ability to pay our debt for us, and as a result we give Him our life. He takes our broken, selfish and sinful life and covers it with His and our debt to God is paid in full.
     We turn from doing things ourselves, we trust Christ to be the Lord and master of our lives and follow Him. Now Mr. Trump, I've never met you, but I know you are a wealthy and powerful man. I am sure there are a few things hard for you. To admit you are wrong I know must be hard, it's hard for us all. To admit you are weak and helpless before God I am sure leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I am sure the idea of someone else having control of your life isn't something you are excited about either. I know it must be difficult to have all this worldly wealth a power and then submit to Jesus. You aren't the first rich guy to have this problem.
     I am going to pray that Jesus will touch your heart. You may be rich and powerful and you may even become the next President of the United States, but all the gains in the world will be nothing compared to your soul. An eternity of hell is not worth a life of pleasure and wealth. Mr Trump, my hope and prayer for you is that you do ask for forgiveness, that you trust Christ and give your life to Him. Nothing else really matters.

Sincerely,
Dan Barnes
The guy who owns this blog (and very little else)

Monday, January 18, 2016

I'm Emotionally Constipated

I don't know who coined the term emotionally constipated, but it's great and it fits me and maybe you too. The symptoms are the inability to express emotions that are appropriate at the time. You are happy when you shouldn't be, more often you are angry for no reason. You are irritated or complacent or just emotionally absent much of the time. Sound like you? Sounds like me too.

The root of my emotional constipation has been diagnosed. I don't let myself feel negative emotions. Pain and loss and grief are all bottled up inside, crammed down and tucked away. Why? Well it's really quite simple, I have bought into the lie that as a Christian I must be happy and ok all the time. I quote the "I have been content" and "I can do all things" verses, telling people my joy is in the Lord. Those things are true, but it doesn't mean we don't get sad or upset or tired and grieve. Jesus wept and cried out and got upset and irritated. Jesus felt things and He was open about feeling things. He wept in front of friends, He took time to himself, He spoke and shared and was open about things.

I have to learn to grieve. I don't grieve. I didn't grieve my parent's death, my friends death, my grandparents death. I had my dream die (or brutally murdered) a few years back, I kept a stiff upper lip. I stayed strong, I crammed my feelings deep down and now I'm emotionally constipated. I was once so full of despair that I had to get relief that I listened to a haunting song over and over until I finally broke down and wept. I cried on my wife for a while, she still has no idea what that was all about. I had to get some emotions out.

So now I'm learning about grieving. It's not easy when you haven't done it for the majority of your life. I'm not sure what it's suppose to look like or sound like or feel like. I don't know how to get the lid off the bottle and actually feel.  It's a long and slow process and I'm asking others to help me.  Are you emotionally constipated? Maybe it's time to get some relief and get some emotions moving again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

No One Taught You Evil

If you have ever been around little kids, you know there is often a struggle to get them to behave. We teach kids to be nice, we don't have to teach them to me cruel. We teach kids to share, we don't have to teach them to be selfish. We teach kids to be kind and gentle, we don't need to teach them to hit and to hurt. Somehow kids learn these negative behaviors, despite our best efforts. It's clear that kids are not the blank slates that some psychologists have tried to make them out to be.  The reality is, we are evil, and the evil behavior is in our hearts.

I know that I have often struggled with the desire to do the wrong thing, wanting to do what I know I shouldn't. I have never had a strong, overwhelming urge to do what is right and had to fight it off. That happens with evil. We are tempted to do evil, we often have to push ourselves to do good.  It's so much easier to be selfish and self centered. It's easier to let the rude and harsh words than the kind and encouraging ones. Like Yoda says, the path to the dark side is quicker, easier and more seductive. Why is it easier to give in to hatred than to submit to love.

We have to face it, we are people with dark hearts. We spend too much time attempting to justify our behavior that we know is wrong, but still do anyway. Our hearts our dark, our eyes are dark, our minds are dark, and apart from God and His grace, they will stay that way. Without the light that is Christ, we will never have brightness in our lives. We can deny it, we can fight it, but we can never escape the reality. We need to repent and turn to Christ, without Him we are evil.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Change Like Frog

I have written quite a bit about the issue of true change/discipleship vs behavior modification. Let's face it, behavior modification is easier, we can just get people to act like us, talk like us, even think like us. The problem will be the number of people in hell who have no idea why they are there. They will say "we were in church and did stuff for church" and Jesus said "apart from me, I don't know you". The truth is that behavior modification doesn't save people, it requires saving faith. Without faith, without grace and conviction of the Holy Spirit, an individual is not saved.

The smaller issue when it comes to behavior modification is that it can't make us perfect. The law cannot make us perfect, and behavior modification is basically New Testament law, which Paul warned us about over and over. At some point, even the strongest person will fail. We will blow it because we cannot keep the law. When we are focused on behavior modification and then we blow it, then what do we have?  It's a problem.

Sometimes I forget that it's about growing to be more like Christ and not just changing my behavior to act like I'm suppose too. It's a process of changing my mind and my thinking. Those changes effect my actions and behaviors. It's more like learning to ride than getting zapped by lightening. It's like slowing going from a tadpole to a frog, it's not an instant change. We need to understand that we are being transformed by grace and faith. We need to give grace to others and grace to ourselves.

I pray that you will reject the theology of behavior modification. It will leave you empty and broken. Instead embrace a God of grace and limitless patience who is changing you at the right time.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why Jesus and I Don't Hang Out With the Religious Leaders

I am going to tread lately on this post, because I want to make a point but I don't want it to be read for what I'm not saying. Jesus spent time with sinners and didn't really care for religious leaders, and I get it. You see, Jesus came to seek and save sinners and they are saved by grace through faith. Religious leaders wanted people to be saved by obedience through law. Today we seem to preach grace, but do we live out the grace we preach? Yes and no.

In churches today, if you have sinned and I mean really have blown it, you better not be a Christian. If you are a Christian then there is forgiveness and repentance. If you have already been saved and you blown it, then often you are lucky to escape with your life. We want those who are believers to suffer, bleed and pay greatly for their sins. It's true that obedience is important, as Christians we need to do all we can to crucify the flesh and the sin nature. What about the times we fail.

We blow it sometimes, sometimes in little ways, sometimes in bigger ways and sometimes in really big ways. If a Christian really messes up big time, how does the church respond?  I'm not talking about a habitual sin, because as Christians we need to do what we can to get one another out of destructive lifestyles. Often Christians need to be confronted in their sin, because the sin is a trap and a prison and will destroy their lives. I'm talking about the repentant Christian, the grieving Christian, the Christian who messed up and is sorry. Do we restore?

I see restoration happen less and less in the church today. More often than not, when someone really messes up, they leave the church. Have we asked why? Who do wounded Christians leave the church? Maybe it's shame, maybe it's embarrassment, but perhaps it's something more sinister. Maybe it's the condemnation, the expectation they are scum because they have messed up. They will never been looked at the same way again, and will always wear the scarlet letter.

Jesus didn't like the condemnation when the teachers of the law and the religious leaders brought in the woman caught in adultery. He didn't like their teachings, what He called the leaven of the Pharisees. They were hateful people and Jesus didn't care for their company and I understand why. I agree.