Monthly Archives: February 2020

Didn’t See That Coming: Living with Uncertainty

In over a hundred years of Major League Baseball, only 16 men have homered four times in one game. Most of them were power hitters. Twelve of the 16 hit 200 or more career home runs. Nine of them hit … Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation III (His Incomparably Great Power for Us Who Believe)

Paul longs for Christians to know, to the full extent of their mind’s ability, the supreme greatness of God’s power. He knows that when the Spirit of wisdom and revelation opens people’s eyes to God’s surpassing power, it changes them. It gives rise to reverence in them, what the ancients called “the fear of the Lord,” and makes them passionate worshipers. As our knowledge and experience of God’s power grows, the fear of failure, fear of people, fear of the future, fear of privation is extinguished. Knowing the power of God sets people free to try, to give, to enjoy, to love. We need to know, to the very limits of our ability, the power that God possesses.

This power, Paul says, is “for us who believe” or “for us the believing.” Do you think that is an accurate description of you? John the believing. Dawn the believing. Ethan the believing. Emily the believing. Not everyone is in position to take advantage of the power Paul is talking about. It is for the believing.

That begs the question, doesn’t it? What are “the believing” believing? In my experience, many people who confess belief in God have little more than a blur or smear of religious thoughts – some quite pagan – about a God who is generally nice and will look after us, and take us to heaven when we die. Would Paul recognize those folks as “the believing”? Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation III (Incomparable Power)

Imagine you are at your high schooler’s track and field regional finals. She has already run the 100-meter relay and won’t run the 200 for at least a half-hour, so you mosey over to watch some of the field events. The shot putters are competing right now and they are well-matched and they are remarkably good. A couple of them are throwing around the 60-foot line.

Imagine you are at your high schooler’s track and field regional finals. She has already run the 100-meter relay and won’t run the 200 for at least a half-hour, so you mosey over to watch some of the field events. The shot putters are competing right now and they are well-matched and they are remarkably good. A couple of them are throwing around the 60-foot line.

What word would you use to describe the difference between this shot putter’s throw and all the rest? Greek has the perfect word for it: huperballon, which means literally “throw beyond,” and figuratively to outdo something by a long shot. That is the word St. Paul uses to describe the power of God. It is not even in the same ballpark with any other power we can name or conceive. It is beyond our grasp. Continue reading

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Has the Generation Gap Become an Abyss?

The term “generation gap” came into use in the 1960s, as both young and old people recognized basic generational differences in outlook, aspirations, and values. Acknowledging that there were differences did little to improve strained relationships. It may even have exacerbated them.

The troublemakers in those days, at least in the eyes of the “Traditionalists” (as they are sometimes called), were the Baby Boomers. Those young whippersnappers went off to college and suddenly thought they knew everything. They called the older generation names: “square,” “uptight,” and “plastic” (that is, hypocritical). They faulted them for not thinking for themselves; for just doing whatever “the Man” told them to do.

How ironic it is that today’s Millennials and Gen Z’s, while using different terminology, accuse the formerly freethinking Boomers of the same things. The gap may not be as wide as it was in the sixties, but it has deepened. When a Gen Z says, “OK, Boomer,” they’re not just telling Boomers they are wrong, they’re telling them they don’t matter. Continue reading

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The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance in the Saints

To date, NASA is pretty sure it has found around 4,000 planets outside our solar system and has compiled a list of 4,000 more promising sites. Since it is utterly impossible to see planets in another solar system, even with the most powerful telescopes, how does NASA look for them? Astronomers look for the temporary dimming of a star’s light, which they believe happens when a planet’s orbit takes it between us and its own sun.

Doing astronomy is a little like solving a detective mystery: one must search for clues. In a mystery novel, the brilliant detective walks into the room and knows almost immediately that the duke slumped over in his chair did not die of natural causes. He’s certain someone else was in the room when his lordship met his untimely death. The police, of course, noted the wine glass on the tray but only he understood its significance: the dead man was a teetotaler.

Those are clues for finding murderers and exoplanets but what clues would a detective (say, an apostolic detective) look for to determine whether God was in a church? St. Paul knew the signs and referred to them again and again. When you find (v. 15) the presence of faith in Jesus, along with a love for all the saints, you can be sure God has been there. No one else leaves precisely those clues. They are as good as a fingerprint. They are God’s fingerprint. Continue reading

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The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Part II)

You’re reading a novel in which the main character has a fantastical experience which changes him. From that time on, whenever he shakes hands with someone, he can see what that person will be in twenty, thirty, even forty years.

He meets a handsome young man who is brilliantly successful – straight A’s in college, captain of the basketball team, with acceptance letters from Harvard Business and other top graduate schools. But when he shakes his hand, he can see that alcoholism will destroy his life, his wife will leave him at 35, take the kids, and he’ll be dead by 50.

He is amazed to see how people’s lives turn out, some beautifully and some tragically. Then he meets and shakes hands with … you. Continue reading

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Where is Heaven? (Clue: It’s Closer Than You Think)

In 1869, The Scientific American ran a short (and sardonic) piece on Dr. D. Mortimer, a medical doctor who believed he had found the location of heaven. His suggestion, if I understand it correctly, was a fascinating one. According to Dr. Mortimer, heaven lay within the sun as a vast globe, “at least 500,000 miles in diameter.”
Apparently, Dr. Mortimer believed that the blessed occupants of heaven were either shielded from its heat or transformed physiologically (an idea based on the Apostle Paul’s writings) so they might flourish there. This location also offers the added convenience of close proximity to a large “lake of fire” for those who are not blessed. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Ephesians 1:15-21)

I once read about a young Irish woman who emigrated to the U.S. in the first decades of the twentieth century. She had family in New York, who told her she could find work there, so she saved and scraped … Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation

We’ll discover another way to pray for the people and the church we love.

After Josh Ferrin of Bountiful, Utah, bought his first home, he went poking around and found a little access panel in the ceiling of the garage. He thought it might be a place his kids would like to play. When he investigated, he found eight boxes, each with rolls of cash wrapped in twine – $45,000 worth.

He called the previous occupant, whose family had owned the house for years, and told him to come and get the cash. The owner, a Mr. Bangerter, never realized what treasure he had in his own home.

St. Paul knows that Jesus’s people might not realize what treasure they have in their relationship with Christ, so he prays that they might discover it. Continue reading

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A Different Kind of Climate Change

Though many Americans first became aware of climate science in the last few decades, it has a long history. By the 1850s, scientists investigating large-scale climate differences in past geological ages began to suspect that atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane might have an impact on global temperatures.

Their theories generated debate but not consensus. Nevertheless, interest in vacillating global temperatures (in ages past) grew. By the late 1950s, some scientists were not just thinking about the history of climate change but its future and they saw trouble ahead.

I feel like one of those 1950s climate scientists (minus the math proficiency). Like them, I am warning about climate change, although it is a different climate – the social climate – that concerns me. I too see trouble ahead.

In the earth sciences, climate change is measured by temperature fluctuations in earth’s oceans, on its surface, and in its lower troposphere. In the social climate, change is measured by fluctuations in respect and contempt levels. Currently, respect levels are falling and contempt levels are rising.

Social climate change threatens human flourishing. It puts human institutions like marriage and government at risk. Long-term consequences could include poverty, governmental instability, and the unraveling of the social fabric.

What signs are there of social climate change? Continue reading

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