When Eternity Hits

If I believe there are eternal consequences for what happens here on earth, then I must either say I don’t care or I must find out what I have to do to be where I want to be when eternity hits.

What I have found out is that it is not what I do, but who I believe and follow.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:25-26, ESV)

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  (John 6:37, ESV)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)

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Photograph by John Seb Barber, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/johnseb/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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Can we figure out the Bible without cultural contexts?

There I am, standing in the parking lot, and a person who comes up and yells “There’s a murderer in your car!”  I notice the person is from a different culture than me.

Do I run?

OH YES, I run!

Let’s look at some specific examples to see how ridiculous and truly offensive I would be for me to disregard the warning based on my ignorance of the stranger’s culture:

“I’m sorry, but I can’t run from the murderer, because you are from Ethiopia, and I don’t really know much about Ethiopia.”

“Are you talking to me?  I can’t understood you because you are wearing a sari.”

“No, no, no.  I can’t run from the murderer because I don’t know how your culture relates to mine.  You see, you’re from Canada, and I don’t know all your customs, so it’s a no go.”

Ridiculous? Yes.

Offensive? Yes.

We are all humans, and we instinctively know how to relate to each other.

I once visited Hungary, and I found that, even though I knew only a handful of words, I could recognize compassion, generosity, empathy, and patience, because these virtues don’t belong to any one culture.  They belong to God.

I could also easily recognize anger, meanness, and abuse, because these vices don’t plague any one culture, either.  They belong to Satan.

The virtues and vices described in the Bible are in every culture.  Regardless of what I do or don’t understand about Jewish or Egyptian or Roman culture . . . I can understand God.  God is above all cultures, and yet He stepped into Jewish culture . . . and changed the world forever.

And He invites every one of us to become a part of His family.

We need no cultural context to understand Him.

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then pointing with his hand at his disciples, he [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers, because whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48b-50, ISV)

How can I know the origin of the universe?

If I can’t experiment (successfully) to find out the origin of the universe (Can something come out of nothing? blog) and if I can’t observe the origin of the universe . . . what can I do in the realm of science to figure out the origin of the universe?

I can observe objects in the universe in their current state of existence and try to figure out their origin.  This is where, for example, I could look at fossils and try to date them.  But there are problems . . .

I can only see the object in the present, and, without using historical documents, I must suppose what historical cause(s) brought it to the state it is currently in.

I can try to use what I know about observational science, but I still have big problems.  For example, how do I know the original state of the object (what it was to begin with)?  How do I know whether the processes that have aged the object happened suddenly at an event back in history or over a long period of time?

None of us have ever lived a million or thousand years, so we can’t date things back a million or thousand years scientifically.  We don’t know for sure what processes the object went through, whether they were fast or slow.

The only way we can date things with certainty if we weren’t there to witness the processes is if they connect to historical events we trust happened.

For example, I was not alive when Elvis was, but if I saw a costume that belonged to him in a museum, I would probably believe it was really his, because I believe the history I’ve been told about Elvis.  But that history exists in the past and cannot lend itself to observation.

The only thing I can observe is how the costume appears in the present, and other than being able to date the costume somewhat accurately (if someone hasn’t aged it quickly), I can’t know for sure who wore it.  I have to trust the historical artifacts (photos, documents, videos) to get anywhere.

Beliefs are the driving force.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:4-5, ESV)

Can life come out of nothing?

We can’t download a youtube video that shows the origin of the universe (although even that wouldn’t be an observation).  But could there be an experiment to show life can come out of nothing?

In a famous experiment to test evolution many years back (Miller-Urey), scientists tried to simulate the environment needed for life to begin spontaneously.  They put various gases together with electricity to try to simulate a random origin of the universe.

They made amino acids[1], which are sometimes the basic building blocks of life, but the scientists did not make life.  (See footnote [1] for more info.)

But even if a t-rex had jumped out of the test tubes, this experiment would not have been able to help prove that something can come out of nothing.

To do that, I would have to have an experiment with nothing.

Because where would the gases come from?  Where would the electricity come from?

Have you ever had a child “make” you something?  The child brings a picture or a Play-Doh® sculpture or a string of beads and says proudly, “Look at what I made you!”

Our response is not (nor should it be!), “Actually, you didn’t make that.  I gave you the crayons, pencils, scissors, Play-Doh®, beads, etc. to use.  What you did was turn what I gave you into something that looks different.  But you did not ‘make’ anything.  If I could take the crayon off the paper, I would have what I originally gave you.  If I balled up the Play-Doh®, I would have my Play-Doh® back.  If I unstrung the beads, I could have my beads back.”

The child has used supplies given to give back something beautiful and special.  But the child did not ‘create’.

In the same way, if I use gas and electricity and so forth and say I ‘created’ something, I’m wrong.

But even if I could get a t-rex to appear out of nothing . . . I would still actually not be able to explain the origin of the universe (although I’d have a very interesting youtube video).

Why wouldn’t this prove something can come out of nothing?  Because in the example with the t-rex, it might be that the matter already present and the intelligence already present somehow accounted for the dinosaur’s springing into being.

The only way I could prove that something could come out of nothing—a spontaneous generation of the universe—is to have nothing.  We would have to cease to exist.  Everything would have to vanish.  All of everything would have to be gone–and not just the everything I understand.   Everything of everything.

And then, if a t-rex appeared, then I could prove the theory.

Believing the universe came to being out of nothing . . . takes faith.

But it is the right faith?

Lord, I give myself to you;
my God, I trust you.
Do not let me be disgraced;
do not let my enemies laugh at me.
No one who trusts you will be disgraced,
but those who sin without excuse will be disgraced. (Psalm 25:1-3, NCV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

The Bible is not my crystal ball or money-making machine.

If I, claiming Christianity, offer lavish promises for health and wealth in the future by making certain “good choices” today (like giving me money), I have used God’s Word not as a crystal ball but as a money making machine, and I fall into terrible danger (see, for example, the story of Simon the magician in Acts 8:9-24 or Balaam, summarized in 2 Peter 2:13-17).

For me to claim to know Christ and abuse His Word, I have revealed who I really am (Matthew 7:15-23) and disregard what Christ says (i.e., Matthew 5:3-5, Matthew 5:10-12, Matthew 10:21-28,  Matthew 10:38-39, Matthew 17:26 [Jesus performs a miracle to be able to pay taxes because He is so poor!], Matthew 19:21-24, Mark 8:31-38, Luke 9:46-48 Luke 9:58, Luke 19:1-8, John 9:1-3).

One of the most famous Old Testament passages comes from Jeremiah 29:11:

I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord.  They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope. (GW)

For many years, I really didn’t know the story of Jeremiah.

The book of Jeremiah is painful to read.  It is the account of the life of a prophet who saw God’s plan when few, if anyone, around him did.  He was imprisoned, beaten, thrown into a pit, and belittled.

Jewish tradition says he was assassinated by his own people after they were exiled (forced to leave their country).

Jeremiah knew much about what would happen in his immediate future, yet he did not use this information in a way that made him wealthy, healthy, or even happy.

On the contrary, God revealed His Plan to Jeremiah to reveal the wickedness of the people, how they would refuse to turn back from their doom, and how God’s never-ending mercy would rescue those who trusted in Him during or after their exile. . . not a rescue from the troubles of this life, but a rescue of eternal death.

Revelation is comparable to the prophesies from Jeremiah in the sense that we are not told how to avoid the persecution; we are told to be brave in spite of it.

And that’s not a prediction any fortune-seeker is going to pay to hear.

The Bible isn’t just about our future.  The Word is about our past, present, and future.  Our past is washed clean in Christ’s blood, our present is made perfect by His redemption, and our future is kept safe in His love.

Whatever has happened, is happening, or will happen, we live by this faith . . . not by fortune.

We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7, NIV)

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV)

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Romans 3:21-22a, NIV)

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:22, NIV)

Are mistakes valuable?

“Mistakes are valuable, because we learn from them.  If they’ve valuable, they must be good.” –So I could try to justify my mistakes.

But it wouldn’t work.

First of all, what do I mean by mistake?  Do I mean natural accidents that happen in the curve of learning or do I mean bad choices?

None of God’s ten commandments are about things that are accidental.

On the other hand, if by mistake I mean a bad choice, the Bible tells me my “mistake” is not valuable in the least (e.g., Psalm 1:4, Psalm 37:20, Psalm 37:38, Proverbs 2:22, Matthew 5:29, Matthew 18:9, Mark 9:47, Romans 6:23, etc.).

The philosophy that mistakes (bad choices) are ok breaks down . . .when I think about what bad choices can cost.

It might not seem like telling a little lie is that bad, but what if that little lie spins out of my control into something very ugly?

It might not seem like one moment of jealousy is that bad, but what if that moment turns into a lifetime of malignant lust?

At what “level” am I willing to say a bad choice is a mistake, and at what level does it become a sin?  Whose standard am I using?

Speeding because I’m late for work on my first day on the job could be a mistake by my standards if I get a ticket, but a catastrophic sin if I hit a child on his way to school.  But, really, my behavior didn’t change.  My sin didn’t change either.  What changed was the circumstances outside of my control, so that in one instance, my sin didn’t cost a life . . . and in the other . . . it did.

The Bible is clear: All sin is life-changing.  All sin is a departure from God.  And while sin is a mistake in the sense that it’s not the right thing to do . . . it isn’t a mistake in the sense that it’s an accident.  Sin is a choice.  There might be easier immediate consequences for sin (like a speeding ticket) or more terrible (like hitting a child), but all sin costs the same amount: more than we can pay.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, ESV)

Could there really have been a worldwide flood?

There would be something kind-of fishy about me believing the earth was first a global fire ball and then a primordial swamp factory that produced the first life . . . but that it’s impossible the earth was ever covered with water, isn’t it?  Wouldn’t it seem as if I was deliberating avoiding the topic of a worldwide flood?

What might be the problem with me believing there was a worldwide flood (especially one that took place in recent history) if I want to believe in evolution?

  • A worldwide flood would support the Bible.
  • The “millions of years” in the fossil record would actually be evidence for the flood, since any pre-flood fossils would have gotten uprooted during the worldwide catastrophe.  This would be true regardless of whether the earth was millions of years old or only thousands.
  • The canyons could also have been formed during the flood.  People have observed quickly forming canyons: Durham’s Grand Canyon and Bulingame Canyon.  And people observed rapidly formed stratification in the Mount St. Helen’s volcanic action/earthquake/rock slide.  A worldwide flood would set off a number of disasters, as the plates of the earth were moved.

One of Ken Ham’s most famous sayings (also in a song by Buddy Davis) is that if the flood was a historical event, we should see “billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth”[1].  And we do!

Evolution science explains those fossils as having occurred over millions of years, with rock layers even billions of years old.  This science expects an old age.

Creation science explains those same fossils as having occurred mainly during a worldwide flood.  This science expects a young age.

What is different between the sciences?  Not the evidence, but the way the evidence is interpreted.

God honors our search for Truth, and He will open our hearts and minds if we truly seek Him:

Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. (Isaiah 55:6, NASB)

The Truth, and only the Truth, can give us the right worldview to interpret evidence, to understand history, to find purpose in our lives, and to prepare for the future judgment.  The issue of the worldwide flood isn’t just about rock layers or water . . . it’s ultimately about the destiny of our souls.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32, NIV)

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Learn more about the worldwide flood . . .

Genesis 6-9, read free here, listen free here

[1] For example, Two Histories of Death free article by Ken Ham

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Can good come out of evil?

If this was true, then evil could somehow be justified by the good that came after.    Evil could actually be commendable.  For example, if my jealousy could cause someone to be more content, or if my anger could cause someone to be more patient, then it would seem I was actually doing them a favor!

But we know this isn’t so.  The Bible calls sin as what it is: sin.  Sin is rebellion against God and separation from God.

Since nothing good comes out of sin, good can’t come out of evil.

But doesn’t God use evil for His will?

No.  If I use something, it is in some way mine.  If I use a cell phone or a pencil or a dish, I am, for some small moment anyway, claiming ownership over it.  Does God own evil?  No.

But if this is so, then why does the Bible say,

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, ESV)

II think God does give us clues to what this might look like.

I still remember when, at about eleven years old, a best friend had to move away.  I was totally distraught and basically thought life was over except for when we would visit each other.  I remember sobbing hysterically one night until my mom driving me to our Hallmark store, where she bought me a duck with a raincoat and a seal Beanie Baby.  Things didn’t seem near so bad after that (at least for a few hours).

This is a silly example, I know, but the point is that my mom wasn’t responsible for my friend moving.  But she worked through the difficult circumstances and brought about kindness for me.  But her kindness actually wasn’t contingent on the sad at all.  She still could have taken me to the Hallmark store.  So whether the sad event happened or not, my mother could have demonstrated her love.

Even though this is a simple and feeble story, it helps illustrate a truth about God.  God does not cause evil to happen.  But He does plan for what He will do about evil.  The Bible tells us that God had a rescue plan for us from before the foundations of the earth (e.g., Romans 16:25-27, Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, 1 Peter 1:20).

But God did not bring about the evil.  In fact, He could have demonstrated His love without there ever having been evil in the world, but Adam and Eve didn’t choose to go that route.  Instead, they chose to sin, costing God more than anyone except God would be willing to pay.  But God chose to pay . . . and He sent His Son to die.

I wasn’t sure for many years whether or not God wanted us to sin so He could rescue us.  What a beyond stupid thought, reminding me something like what the apostle Paul talks about (Romans 3:7-8).

God’s sacrifice of Christ was totally genuine and totally necessary.  If there had been any other way to save humanity, God would have brought it about (e.g., Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:42, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42).

I remember the day God in His grace revealed to me something I’d never seen, that changed my perspective about the cross:

There was a great deal more distress at the plan for the cross than we recognize, picturing God only as a master planner and not a father.

God knows what will happen, and He plans for it, but He does not bring all things about.  God has no part in evil (e.g., Daniel 9:14, Psalm 116:5, Psalm 119:137, Ephesians 4:22-24, 1 John 1:5, 1 John 4:8,1 John 4:16,  James 1:17) and He never will.

(This is not the same as saying God has no part in punishing evil.  Punishing evil is not evil, rather, the Bible tells us it is righteous.  See, for example, Daniel 9:7 and 9:14.)

Out of a mercy deeper than I will ever totally understand, God chooses to come along behind the wreckage of sin and His teaching and gifts bring about His incredible promise:

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, ESV)

Why can’t this work for everyone?  Why is it that God only promises His goodness to

those who are called according to his purpose

?

Without God’s good preceding and following the wreckage of sin we leave . . . all we have is that wreckage.  And we are condemned forever to face it.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5, NIV)

Can the Devil make me do something?

Remember the expression “the Devil made me do it”?  Although it’s been turned into a joke . . . there are a whole lot of times I look at the bad in my life and want to say, “Huh.  That must have been the Devil.  I wouldn’t have done that.”

But the Devil doesn’t “make” people do bad things.  The Devil tempts people, but he does not choose for people.  The Devil didn’t eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and he didn’t shove it down Eve’s throat.  He tricked Eve into willingly eating it.  And Adam, though he wasn’t tricked, ate the fruit willingly because Eve had.  Satan never forced either of them to break their covenant with God.  It was totally their choice.

If somebody came up to me in a parking lot, held out a baseball bat, and said, “How about you beat the windshield on your car in?” . . . and I took the bat and beat in my windshield . . . would my insurance company accept my claim: “I beat in my windshield because somebody told me to”?

So using the excuse “The Devil made me do it” . . is a no go.

Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. (Romans 14:12, NLT)

Does God make mistakes?

If  I assert that God makes mistakes . . . then where do I plan on spending eternity?

I think in our heart of hearts we all know God does not make mistakes, because, if this was possible, our universe would be nothing more than a crumpled wad of paper.  Even with the infliction of our sin on our universe, we still have an unspoken sense of the deep beauty poured into its foundations.

More than that, though . . . we know of ourselves . . . we were not created to be sinners.  Our longing for a utopia is no coincidence; we fumble through the dark corridors of corruption, hoping to find the door that opens perfection back up to us.  And yet, at the same time, we know that door is locked forever from sinners.

Our only choice, then, is to place our hope in our Creator, who can make right what we have made wrong . . . or to blame Him for the mess we have made and live forever in the never-ending cellars of consequence.

For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

‘The stone that you builders rejected

has now become the cornerstone.’

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12, NLT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.