eleven strangers: in haiku

eleven strangers
meet in winter’s bluster and
peel away their masks

she stitches stories
from silence and fleeting lives
this is her halo

he meets the world in
the curve of an integral
day breaks above sea

kindness is a word
he whispers through the marble
cutting the granite

double-spaced essays
dance in the base of his throat
breathed into new life

home is an anchor
where a mother strokes her hair
and makes the world flee

a little girl’s dream
paints too small a fantasy
for her new canvas

earth, wind, air and fire
she builds her castle in the
California sands

life is a labyrinth
but wings lift her above walls
a view from the skies

he walks in bare-faced
challenging the masquerade
the stage vanishes

learning stirs their souls
her classroom is a voyage
into the unknown

Trinity

I’m tired
of bleeding verses for the ones I lose
and I ask God
when will it stop? Because I
wish-wish-wish I could love you.
And maybe I do:
to feel the fragility and forget it
long enough to dream
of telling make-believe stories
and laughing at absurdities
and asking you to
stay.
These reveries are hollowed out
by the loss of things that never were,
anyway.

I’m afraid
of where your empty paths will lead
and I ask God
for a miracle. Because I
wish-wish-wish I could save you
from restless unbelief.
But in my helplessness, here I
find my peace:
That my God makes the blind to see
in Christ
He is more than our small fantasies
of what a god is like.
Majesty-meekness-holy-lovingkindness.
And though I
miss-miss-miss you
His ways are higher than mine.

I pray
that He meets you on a Damascus road
where the darkness dies to light
and you might know the God
who loves us more than life.

golden thread

You said You made foolish
the wisdom of the world
and I see, all around me, this mad race
to leave immortal imprints:
social good, politics and technology
to concoct hollow philosophies:
sealing God out of our closed-system
universe, like a vacuum,
trying to make sense of life without
the One who breathes spirit into dust
knit bones and flesh and soul
puts purpose in our being
what is teleology without theology?

we ask, what is God?
and the blasphemy of men shout
but at a sight of Your glory
the Psalmist asks,
what is man?
that You are mindful of him

yet You have loved the fools
redeemed the rebels
there is none who seeks You
but here is an alien grace:
You pursue, You purchase, You perfect
You wrestled with Jacob for a night
and met Moses as a friend
You loved Israel like Hosea loved a whore,
faithful to the faithless
You made the denier a martyr,
the chief of sinners, a prince of preachers

and You came after me:
it must be I can’t comprehend
the wisdom of God, that You would
make this wretch a vessel of mercy
to strip away all the empty things
so I might know Love that reached
from eternity
through the Garden, the Flood,
the Exodus, the Exile
through silence and blood, You never leave,
though all of us should have died
grace is a golden thread,
like a genealogy of outlaws crowned
in Christ

Top Reads of 2016: The Shortlist

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I’m a bit late to this game, but in case you’re looking for a few good books to add to your docket, I put together a shortlist of some favorites from 2016. These weren’t necessarily written last year; that’s just when I read them. In no particular order, here are my top 3 in non-fiction and fiction. Tolle lege!

NONFICTION

  1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This book is making waves, and it deserves its acclaim. Kalanithi was as skilled with words as with a surgeon’s knife. He writes of his ambition and incredible academic and career success without pomp or arrogance, and of his terminal cancer days with unflinching honesty. As his patients benefitted from his medical expertise, we too have benefitted from his personal story and reflections. Read it, and walk with him through the euphoric highs and bitter lows of his too-short life, and think hard about how we are living ours.

  1. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Pain turned into words. This is not the mind of the apologist, but the heart of the broken. I can’t agree with all of his theology, but I love his honesty and humanity. Yes, he questions if God is there, and if his faith is real at all. I don’t think Christians should balk so much at that: Lewis may have been a great Christian thinker, but he was also human, and writing in the face of heartbreak and loss. Our own faith shouldn’t rest on the strength of his faith or personal experience. I respect that he was not afraid to write hard and clear about what scares many of us.

  1. The Reason for God by Tim Keller

He’s called the modern day C.S. Lewis by some, and after reading this, I would actually choose The Reason for God over Mere Christianity as the book to give to my skeptical friends or seekers. Keller isn’t saying anything new, per se. Apologetics has been around for ages. But the way he addresses common objections—especially the most relevant ones of our times—and clearly presents the reasons for faith is top notch. He writes with sound logic, intellect, accessibility, and graciousness, all while standing firm on the Gospel truth.

FICTION

  1. Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

This might be cheating, because this is a series with seven full novels and a couple novellas. Chances are, you haven’t heard of it, because it’s not mainstream. I know, unknown Christian fantasy series… really? I actually can’t stand much of the Christian fiction genre—poor writing, heavy-handed, etc. And as a fantasy aficionado, I’ve progressively read less in the genre because it seems filled with copycats or gratuitous violence and sex. BUT this series was a delightful surprise. The world-building and characters are rich. There are definite Christian overtones, but it’s not preachy or forced, and Stengl isn’t afraid to get dark. There’s a fairy tale-like quality to the books, but its never shallow, and don’t expect the stories to wrap up with a bow and happily-ever-after.

Note: Personally, I think the first book is the weakest, but don’t let that turn you away. It gets better and better. Starflower (book 4) is probably my favorite. I would read them in order if you can, though!

  1. Winter by Marissa Meyer

For all the terrible finales to popular YA books we’ve seen (not naming any names), Marissa Meyer does her series a solid with this conclusion. Fairy tale retellings are not new; in fact, they’re kind of the rage now. The Lunar Chronicles takes it to the next level—fairy tales, space, dystopia, politics, etc. Meyer had quite a task tying up all the storylines she created, and she did not disappoint. It was epic and sweeping, with clever parallels to the original fairy tales. Imagine Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White (with upgraded IQs) falling in love with their respective men (who actually have some flaws) and fighting the evil queen of the moon. I mean, she did something right, cause I was sold.

  1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

You have spies and suspense, but the heart of this story is sisterhood. The plot was clever, the emotions raw and genuine, and Wein plumbs the depth of a spectacular friendship between two girls, put to the ultimate test. So many props to her for writing a beautiful, intelligent, and historical YA drama. I’m not a feminist, but there is some legit girl power going here—I’m tired of both the whimpering, helpless damsel in distress and the unrealistic assassin lady who can take out armies singlehandedly. Wein’s characters are brave but broken, fierce but flawed. She proves that friendship is just as, if not more, potent than romance in storytelling.

Eternity On Our Hearts, VI.

And we have reached the end of this mini-series. Some further conversations and thoughts have prompted other ideas since writing this, and I may revisit them in the future. But consider this the finale for now. Thanks for reading, and I welcome any thoughts or feedback!

Previously:

Part I: An Existential Crisis
Part II: What Pontius Pilate Asked
Part III: Assumptions, Axioms and Authority
Part IV: In the Beginning was the Word
Part V: The Word Made Flesh

Part VI: Beyond Wishful Thinking
What is faith?

Many modern, psychological views of faith see it as wishful thinking we commit to and internalize. Hence religion is also seen as a ‘crutch’ for the needy, people who want to believe in a God and greater power to get them through life. (The cheeky Christian response to faith being a crutch is, “Well, who says you aren’t limping?” Or even better: “Actually, it’s a life support system. Cause we’re basically dead.”) The wishful thinking explanation seems to make rational, human sense. But I think our society has a way of and proclivity to explaining everything psychologically, and just because they can overlay a framework on a phenomenon, doesn’t nullify that there is a greater spiritual reality they can’t explain.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Assurance and conviction extend beyond wishful thoughts—there is a solid sense of certainty there. Faith is not the same as feelings, and it is only as good as the object of that faith. We can be very sincerely wrong about things.

The Bible gives numerous examples of faithful men and women, parables of what faith is, and principles for a life of faith. It’s hard to summarize succinctly when we need all of them for a full picture of genuine faith in the genuine God of the Bible.

But it is also crucial to get faith right. The Bible teaches that we are saved and justified before God by his gift of righteousness in Christ, and we receive that righteousness through faith. During the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers identified three key aspects of saving, biblical faith, so I will defer to that and present them here:

Notitia: intellectual awareness 

There must be an object to our faith, whether content or a person. Our faith must be informed, and genuine faith must be informed by truth. Sincerity isn’t enough to make the cut – if I believed Satan is God, that’s not going to save me.

Assensus: intellectual assent

We need to know the truth first, but then we must believe it. There must be an intellectual assent to the truth claims of Scripture – that I am a sinner, that Jesus is God and came to die for my sins, and the He rose from the dead.

Fiducia: personal trust

The Bible says that even Satan and the demons intellectually assent to the fact that Jesus is God, and they know the Word of God is true. That assent doesn’t save them. A crucial element of true faith is personal trust in Christ, in who He says He is, and trust in Him alone for salvation. This encompasses the mental and intellectual, but extends to the heart and will also.

The Bible teaches faith is not just a posture of the mind and intellect, but of the heart before God. It is an exercise of intellectual belief, but it is also a posture of the heart before God that acknowledges our intellect is limited, our desires are selfish, and our works are futile before a holy God. It acknowledges our faith is easily shaken because we are weak, but we know deep in our hearts that we are made for more. Logic and reason will present a strong case for Christianity, but it will not give you everything because we are called to faith.

What about doubt?

“Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.” –John Drummond

I think one of the great stories of faith wrestling with doubt comes in a very simple cry a man makes to Jesus. He brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus and asks for healing, after Jesus’ disciples are unable to castle the spirit out.

“And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:21-24)

This man came to Jesus with faith. If he didn’t believe Jesus could do anything, he might as well not have shown up. But his initial request, if you can do anything, also reveals the weakness of his faith—of course Jesus can cast out the demon. Christ gently rebukes him, and the father very honestly, very humbly, with genuine but imperfect faith, says, “I believe; help my unbelief.”

No one has “perfect faith.” Nowhere does the Bible give a percentage, or bullet points, or ratios of head knowledge to heart acceptance, to indicate how much faith is enough faith. Faith does not believe perfectly, but it does believe humbly. We do not pick and choose what we like from God’s Word, but we accept it wholly. And the Word teaches that there is no other name under heaven by which we are saved except through Jesus Christ.

The life of faith 

Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.” –Tim Keller

The life of faith is not a life of cheap grace, which says because I am forgiven in Christ, I can now live however I want. Nor does it say, I will try harder to obey God so He will be pleased with me. These mentalities reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel. They reflect a mentality that is still conforming to one of those two paradigms—of moral conformity or self-discovery. Ultimately, it reflects a heart that has not grasped the depth of the love of God, or an understanding that while forgiveness is offered to us freely, it came at a costly price.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4)

Jesus Christ, God Himself, left heaven’s glory to walk this Earth and suffer for our sins. When we really acknowledge the depth of our sin, and the cost of our salvation, we begin to understand the boundless love of God. How can we live for ourselves, or anything else for that matter, in light of that truth? Living by a paradigm of fear or control manipulates externalities, but only love transforms the inner heart.

John Newton, who wrote “Amazing Grace,” also penned these words:

Our pleasure and our duty,
though opposite before,
since we have seen his beauty
are joined to part no more.

S.D.G.

 

Eternity On Our Hearts, V.

Previously:

Part I: An Existential Crisis
Part II: What Pontius Pilate Asked
Part III: Assumptions, Axioms and Authority
Part IV: In the Beginning was the Word

Part V: The Word Made Flesh
What is the Gospel? 

We can talk about objectivity and reality all day, but those are just philosophical underpinnings. In the last few essays, my hope was to provide sound reason and evidence for the integrity of truth, and the truth of the Bible. The ultimate point of it all, though, is the resounding message of the Scripture: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In The Prodigal God, Tim Keller takes a piercing and beautiful look at the Gospel through one of Jesus’ most famous parables—commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son, Keller refers to it as the parable of the two lost sons, and the prodigal, lavish grace of God the Father. (You can read it in Luke 15).

“Jesus uses the younger and elder brothers to portray the two basic ways people try to find happiness and fulfillment: the way of moral conformity and the way of self-discovery. Each acts as a lens coloring how you see all of life, or as a paradigm shaping your understanding of everything. Each is a way of finding personal significance and worth, of addressing the ills of the world, and of determining right from wrong.” –Tim Keller

In antiquity and modernity, we see people divided into these two basic frameworks of living. Of course, many people are a mixture in some ways, but we tend to either adopt the worldview of living by good, upright moral standards (and condemning those who turn from them), or we adopt the worldview that we should pursue our own goals and fulfillment according to what pleases us, regardless of culture and convention.

The former can be crushing, because we are never up to par. The latter can be destructive, as our hearts lead us into spirals of greed, addiction and selfishness.

The Gospel of Jesus enters with a denunciation of both these inadequate, hopeless paths, and offers a radical alternative.

The problem of sin

Sin traces its roots back to the Garden of Eden. God created all things and saw that it was good, including Adam and Eve. But when they actively disobeyed God, sin entered the world and affected all of mankind and creation. Because of sin, there is death, disease and decay. Above all, there is separation from God because He cannot tolerate sin. That’s why there were so many rituals and sacrificial laws in the Old Testament about how men had to approach God, because by nature, all were unclean and sinful.

Most of us think sin is breaking God’s rules. But when Jesus came and condemned some of the most religious, moral people of his day, he revealed that sin is more profound than that: it is displacing God in our hearts, and putting something else on the throne. (Adam and Eve’s ultimate sin wasn’t just eating fruit, it was a heart that desired to be like God). We are all worshipers by nature—don’t think you are ‘free’ if you don’t worship God. You can worship self, money, success, relationships, and a host of other things.

That is why Paul says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The character of God

I’ve been asked before: so why is that so bad? Why does God care so much anyway if we worship Him or if we sin?

The Bible begins with the declaration of God as creator. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) As creator, God has the right and authority to tell us how we must live. One analogy used in Scripture is that of a potter and clay. In discussing God’s sovereignty in the New Testament, Paul writes:

“You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:19-21)

So why is God’s law and standard so high and impossible? In short, God’s law is reflection of His character. In it, we see his perfect and pure moral standard. God is holy, and He cannot tolerate sin. That sounds harsh, especially to our culture today. But if you even think about human courts of law, we see that they are designed to execute justice, even if it’s done imperfectly. We are rightly outraged if criminals are let off the hook. God cannot be a God of justice if He lets sin slide. That would compromise His righteousness. And because He is God, He has the authority to declare what is right and wrong and execute judgment.

No one can give you a ‘reason’ why God has this or that particular standard – we tend to ask that when we encounter parts of God’s law that are especially hard to swallow or naturally distasteful to us. But in knowing God’s character, we must understand His love and His law are not set in opposition to each other. Like a child dislikes his parents’ command to not eat all the cookies, we often chafe against God’s law because we fail to see how they are for our good. A child just knows sugar tastes delicious; he doesn’t think about calories or diabetes. In the face of God’s infinite wisdom, we are more limited than a child before his parents. Our asking ‘why’ must stop somewhere, and in short, the end of questioning must be because God has spoken. He does not owe us any explanations.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

The Gospel

This all sounds horribly bleak. But the bad news must come before the Gospel, which literally means ‘good news.’ We can’t fully appreciate how good the Gospel is unless we understand how desperate our situation is: as sinful and helpless before a holy God, rightfully deserving condemnation. If the way of salvation were only by keeping the law, no one would make it. This is where the Gospel comes in – that Christ, who is God, came as a man to live the perfect life that we could not, and die as a substitute in our place, taking the punishment for our sin and satisfying the justice of God.

Probably one of the most famous verses in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The law will only condemn us, not save; salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.

Future glory

The Gospel does not end at the cross. Christ’s death bore the punishment for our sins, but His resurrection gives the hope of eternal life. The Apostle Paul vigorously defends the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ as the cornerstone of Christian faith and doctrine:

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

He goes on to joyfully proclaim the future resurrection believers can look forward to because of Christ’s victory:

“For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:52-55)

This, then, is the radical alternative of the Gospel. It does not begin with a call to live better or obey more. It does not begin with meditation or philosophy or trying to reach some higher spiritual plane. We are helpless to reach God, and foolish to try by our own definitions or self-made formulas. The Gospel begins with the lavish grace of God, who sought out sinners that never sought Him.

“Jesus does not divide the world into the moral “good guys” and the immoral “bad guys.” He shows us that everyone is dedicated to a project of self-salvation, to using God and others in order to get power and control for themselves. We are just going about it in different ways. Even though both sons are wrong, however, the father cares for them and invites them both back into his love and feast.” –Tim Keller

Note (but an important one): I’ve tried to summarize and capture the heart of the Gospel as best I can. A lot of people have condensed it into key bullet points, tracts to hand out, etc. These are all good and helpful, but I think it’s very important to remember that God did not give us the Gospel in bullet points or blog posts. He gave us the whole of the Bible, filled with stories and laws and poetry and prophecy. That is how God chose to reveal Himself, and there’s really no adequate summary for the fullness and depth of Scripture. Otherwise, I think God would’ve delivered that to us.

Next time: What is faith?

Eternity On Our Hearts, IV.

Previously:

Part I: An Existential Crisis
Part II: What Pontius Pilate Asked
Part III: Assumptions, Axioms and Authority

Part IV: In the Beginning was the Word
Can we trust the Bible?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

Undeniably, the Bible makes sweeping declarations about realities we could never reach through human reasoning or deduction—declarations about the beginning of all things, the eternality and pre-existence of God, and prophetic visions of glory to come. Spoken with authority and finality, the claims of the Bible can never be relegated to merely “good, moral teachings.” The content of the Scriptures can only lead to two conclusions: it is either an insane book that propagates falsehoods, or it is the Word of God.

I’m going to work directly off the second point from the previous essay: why faith in the Bible is not blind. There are massive tomes of apologetics dedicated to these topics, but I will just briefly touch on a few major points.

Falsifiability: the Bible is grounded in history and reality 

Falsifiability is simply the ability to be proven false. Most the world religions are not falsifiable—you have eastern religions that consist entirely of abstract spiritual philosophies, which you either adopt or don’t. They make no historic claims that could definitively render them untrue. You have other major world religions that begin with one leader’s private, unverifiable encounter with God (Muhammad or Joseph Smith).

Christianity, on the other hand, began in a public forum. Christ’s earthly ministry drew thousands of eyewitnesses. The Old Testament itself is also rooted in historical narratives, with genealogies, locations and famous figures. With the advance of science and archaeology, the text leaves itself easily exposed, easily disproved if it proclaims falsehoods.

Christianity stands or falls with the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you think about it, that’s an absurdly difficult lie to perpetrate for centuries. I would not have wanted the job of keeping that façade up. All critics had to do was produce a dead body.

But instead, they never do, and rather you see eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ boldly preach the Gospel in the face of persecution and personal ruin. That’s a foolish, unlikely price to pay for a lie.

Consistency: the Bible was written over 1500 years, made up of 66 books, and resounds with 1 consistent message 

The 66 books of the Bible were written by 40 different authors—prophets, kings, fishermen, physicians, and more—over 1500 years in 3 different languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic) on 3 different continents (Africa, Asia and Europe).

For the Bible to be the Word of God, we believe God worked uniquely through these authors so that the books of the Bible were divinely inspired and entirely true. This wasn’t some massive, ancient-day social network collaboration—most of these authors didn’t know each other, and didn’t work together to maintain consistency or avoid contradiction.

Yet the message of the Bible, throughout all of its books, resounds with one consistent message: God’s creation of all things, the fall of man, God’s holiness and wrath towards sin, God’s love and provision of redemption, and a way of salvation through Christ.

Fulfilled prophecy

About 2,500 prophecies foretelling events of the future appear in the Bible, and about 2,000 have been fulfilled (with remaining ones reaching into the future). In the Old Testament, God sets the standard for identifying a true prophet: they must be 100 percent accurate in their predictions (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

If you like math, the probability of 2,000 independent, accurately fulfilled prophesies about very specific events and people is—I don’t know, but extremely, insanely small. If you consider this to all be random and by chance.

Here are just a few examples:

  • In about 700 BC, Micah said Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2). This is fulfilled at the birth of Christ.
  • Before 500 BC, Daniel prophesied that the Messiah would begin his ministry 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25-26). He prophesied the Messiah would be “cut off” prior to Jerusalem’s second destruction. King Artaxerxes of Persia issued the decree in 458 BC, and 483 years later, Jesus began ministering in Galilee. The rest of the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus’ death and later destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70.
  • Daniel also interpreted two dreams (Daniel 2 and 7), accurately predicting the course of major empires in the next five centuries: he describes the rise and fall of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. He predicts the rise of Alexander the Great, and the division of his empire by 4 of his generals.
  • The famous prophecy of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, fulfilled fully in Christ: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities… He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:5-7)

Correspondence to reality

We are unable to see the spiritual realm with our physical senses, and we are unable to discover things of eternity past on our own. But we can look at the world around us, and we can look at our own hearts, and see how the Bible explains reality to us.

For instance, what’s wrong with the world? How do we understand why there is so much suffering, evil and brokenness? Apart from God, people are desperately searching for answers and solutions in political systems, economic reform, psychology, social reform, you name it. But do we believe any of these can really save us? Turning to these systems or philosophies for hope implies that we believe they address our deepest need: that our deepest need is political, or economic, or psychological.

The Bible says our fundamental problem is sin, that we are separated from God by it, and that is the cause of all our trouble. No man-made solution will fix this.

A newspaper once posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?” Renowned Christian thinker G.K. Chesterton apparently wrote a brief response to them: “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.”

And what about our conscience? Why do we have an innate sense of right and wrong? The Bible says it is because there is a real moral law, and that is written on our hearts. Philosophers can explain relative morality theoretically, but I challenge you to find someone practicing it. Imagine parents letting their kids do whatever they want. That doesn’t happen, does it? But if morality is relative, why enforce some arbitrary standard on your children?

I could go on. But I’ll leave it at that, and leave you with this thought. As I mentioned in the last essay, no one can ultimately prove the Bible to you. No one can prove who the authority on truth is but the truth itself. I believe the Bible because as I read it, the text manifests God’s glory and its divine origin. I read it and cannot believe it was man-made, or resulted out of human speculation and philosophy.

Ultimately, it takes faith. But remember, it also takes faith to hear the message of the Bible, understand the evidence for it, and reject it as untrue.

The beauty of the Bible is that it takes faith to believe, but with faith, you see the truth with deeper and greater clarity. Augustine said: nisi credideritis, non intelligetis. “Unless you will have believed, you will not understand.”

Consider the analogy of getting married: When you marry someone, no one, including you, can prove he/she will be a good spouse. You take a (huge) step of faith in marriage, but its not blind—you’ve seen evidence for his/her good character, kindness, reliability, etc. But it is only when and after you take that step of faith, you accumulate greater evidence, even proof, that he/she is a good spouse. Similarly, the manifestation and reality of God’s promises become more evident and personal as you place faith in and walk with Christ.

And another Lewis quote:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” –C.S. Lewis

That’s all for now, friends. Next time: What is the Gospel?