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Stephen Hawking’s Advice

Stephen Hawking died earlier today.

I grieved this morning, being reminded by the truth that intelligence isn’t enough to gain entrance to glory. My wife wrote the following to me in an email this morning:  “It really is tragic, isn’t it? It is an example of someone made in God’s image with a brilliant mind whom God left in blindness and didn’t choose as His own child. So sad for Stephen Hawking, but God is still glorified in his life and his death because His justice is satisfied. Sobering nonetheless.”  Her words echo those of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter one.

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

For those who have been called, these are wonderful words.  When we think upon those who die apart from Christ (individuals not “in Christ”), we do take heart that God is indeed glorified in His justice even as we mourn.  We do not pray for the dead, but we can pray for their children (Robert, Lucy and Timothy). Hawking had two ex-wives.

Having thought briefly about the sobering realities above,  let’s consider Hawking’s counsel to his three children.

During a 2010 interview on ABC’s “World News Tonight”, the respected physicist was asked if he had provided any advice to his children.  This was his reply:

“Here are the most important pieces of advice that I’ve passed on to my children,” he said. “One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember is it rare and don’t throw it away.” *

First, “remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”

I can share what I believe Dr. Hawking meant by that statement, but I won’t do so.  I will, though, put that exhortation within a Christian context.  We, too are to look to the stars.  And what do we find as we gaze heavenward?  The glory of God (Ps. 19:1).  In other words, we find the Creator and the end for which He created the universe.  These words are found at the conclusion of Hawking’s important text A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (Bantam Books, 1988):

“However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason–for then we would know the mind of God” (p.175).

Today finds me thankful that I actually do know “the mind of God.”  Because I possess the Word of God, I can honestly say that I know what God was thinking when He created the universe and when He created me–that He would receive the glory due to His name.  He was putting Himself on display that all of creation might worship.  Jonathan Edwards wrote, “what God intends, by what He actually does; because He does nothing inadvertently or without design…what God values ultimately, it must therefore, by the preceding position, be aimed at by God, as an ultimate end of creating the world (p.146)…As it is desirable in itself that God’s glory should be known, so when known is seems equally reasonable it should be esteemed and delighted in, answerably to its dignity” (p.149 in God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards with the complete text of The End for Which God Created the World, Crossway, 1998).

Believer–raise your head!  Meditate upon your glorious God and His glorious works!

Second, “never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.”

I am currently teaching a course for Belhaven University entitled Kingdom Life.  It is the last worldview course in the curriculum that students are required to take before graduation.  In the class, we discuss the concept of vocations–callings.  One of the vocations we mention is that of work.  The students read a book by Timothy Keller entitled, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (written with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Penguin Books, 2012).  In the book, Keller and Alsdorf offer, “Work is a much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually” (p.23). Later they add, “In short, work–and lots of it–is an indespensible component in a meaningful human life. It is a supreme gift from God and one of the main things that gives our life purpose.  But it must play its proper role, subservient to God” (p.29).  Very true.  We are all made to work, to be productive.  Laziness is a sin because it is unlike God and because it contradicts the reality that we are all made in His image.  Hawking’s advice to his children was spot on, and all three of them are living productive lives.  As God’s people, we should do no less.

Third, “if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is rare and don’t throw it away.”

As a biblical Christian, I dismiss the concept of luck.  It was not a coincidence that I found Jodi, my wife of almost twenty-seven years.  God led me to her and, by His grace, we have remained together and strong.  I have not “thrown it away.”  Hawking’s words are not spoken apart from personal experience.  My guess is that he is sharing some remorse for his role in his divorce from his first wife, Jane, after thirty years of marriage.  He remarried the same year and remained in that marriage for eleven years.  For most, marriage is difficult.  Sinners are selfish.  Conflicts often arise.  Resolution takes effort.  Good seasons are followed by droughts.  A healthy marriage is, perhaps, rare, but it is possible.  We should thank God if we find ourselves in one and cherish it rather than “throw it away.”

In A Brief History of Time, Hawking wrote,

“ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today, we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from” (p.13).

I find it interesting that he penned those words during a time in my life while I finally coming to grasp the reality of God’s presence and purpose for my life.  Admittedly, I cannot dialog with scientists at any length regarding the activity of black holes and the theory of relativity.  But I rejoice to know the One who controls them both.  More importantly, I am grateful that Jesus’ creative and sustaining activity continues to this very day (Col. 1:16,17).  The Scriptures clearly demonstrate that Jesus Christ is truly the “single theory that describes the whole universe” (Hawking, p.10). He provides the answers to the vital questions:  Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?

I do very much respect men like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson and I’ve read some of their works.  They believe(d) “the unexamined life isn’t worth living” (a quote attributed to Socrates from Plato).  They searche(d) for meaning, purpose, understanding.  But apart from a supernatural work of God, they could only see the shadows.

If you can see more than shadows, if you can see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), you are so very blessed.

I hope you were encouraged in your walk with Christ today.  Thanks for stopping by the blog!

*http://abcnews.go.com/International/stephen-hawking-author-history-time-dies-76/story?id=53729818&cid=clicksource_4380645_2_three_posts_card_image

 

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Billy Graham’s Funeral

“No, I don’t know the future, but I do know this: the best is yet to be! Heaven awaits us, and that will be far, far more glorious than anything we can ever imagine.
 
I know that soon my life will be over. I thank God for it, and for all He has given me in this life. But I look forward to Heaven. I look forward to the reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone on before. I look forward to Heaven’s freedom from sorrow and pain. I also look forward to serving God in ways we can’t begin to imagine, for the Bible makes it clear that Heaven is not a place of idleness.
 
And most of all, I look forward to seeing Christ and bowing before Him in praise and gratitude for all He has done for us, and for using me on this earth by His grace–just as I am.”
 
I found these words of Billy Graham on the Billy Graham.org website this morning. As he is buried later today, I praise God that he consistently lived what he preached. He readily admitted to being a sinner and he trusted in Christ for his salvation and tried to live a life to to glory of God. Fruit followed his faith (consider his use of his gifts or his marriage or his children or his refusal to live in a massive home or his faithful pointing people to Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life” [John 14:6] for most of his life).
 
Today he would want us to evaluate our own lives rather than to celebrate his. Do we truly believe? Are we trusting in Christ and in Him alone for our salvation? If so, do our lives prove that to be the case? Are we reading God’s Word? Are we praying? Are we regularly gathering with God’s people encourage others and worship with our gifts and finances and time and talents? Does our public life match our private confession? Billy was ready for death? He was not ashamed to face God even though he was far from perfect. What about us? Today is a great day to examine both our faith and practice and to begin to make any change necessary. It is a good day to pause and to pray and to open our Bibles.
 
Thank you, Jesus, for the work you did in and through Billy. Please work in each of us for your great glory and our great good. Amen.

Billy Graham’s Regrets

On the day that Billy Graham will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, I found the following on the ministry’s website (these are Billy’s words):

Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets. I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.

When I look back over the schedule I kept thirty or forty years ago, I am staggered by all the things we did and the engagements we kept. Sometimes we flitted from one part of the country to another, even from one continent to another, in the course of only a few days. Were all those engagements necessary? Was I as discerning as I might have been about which ones to take and which to turn down? I doubt it. Every day I was absent from my family is gone forever. Although much of that travel was necessary, some of it was not.

I would also spend more time in spiritual nurture, seeking to grow closer to God so I could become more like Christ. I would spend more time in prayer, not just for myself but for others. I would spend more time studying the Bible and meditating on its truth, not only for sermon preparation but to apply its message to my life. It is far too easy for someone in my position to read the Bible only with an eye on a future sermon, overlooking the message God has for me through its pages.

And I would give more attention to fellowship with other Christians, who could teach me and encourage me (and even rebuke me when necessary).

About one thing I have absolutely no regrets, however, and that is my commitment many years ago to accept God’s calling to serve Him as an evangelist of the Gospel of Christ.

Source:
https://billygraham.org/story/notable-quotes-from-billy-graham/

  • Speak less–Study more
  • Spend more time with family
  • Seek to grow closer to God
    Through prayer
    Through meditation
    Through examination
  • Pray more for others
  • Make fellowship a priority

Munch on Billy’s list even as you celebrate his life.

10 Observations of Jesus’ View of Salvation

From John 3:1-21

1. Jesus spoke the truth and nothing but the truth (v.3).

2. Regeneration is absolutely necessary for salvation (v.3).

3. The role of the Holy Spirit is indispensable in regeneration (v.5-8).

4. The details of salvation are heaven-talk, not earth-speak (v.10-12).

5. Belief in Christ is required for entrance into the presence of God (v.13-14, 17).

6. One of God’s motivations for sending Jesus was love (v.16).

7. Unbelief is the greatest (worst) sin (v.18).

8. Unbelievers love sin, not the Savior (v.19).

9. God will reveal all sin (v.20).

10. Truth is to be lived as well as believed (v.21).

For further study:

Crazy Busy & Sane Rest (Coming)

WOW!  It’s been months since I paused to put down some thoughts down on this blog.  Yes, we’ve been THAT busy.  Most of our busyness is good stuff–our family of seven and two mutts, a full-time job and part-time job for me and a new part-time job for Jodi and together we are serving in five ministry roles in our church (not to mention homeschooling!).  Yep, that’s busy.  This is definitely a productive time in our lives!  It also wears us out.  That’s why we are looking forward to the holiday season.  At least some of the stuff will be put on hold for a few days!  I will be thankful on Thanksgiving.

The other day I read Psalm 48 to start my day.  Verse nine read, “We have thought on Your lovingkindness, O God, In the midst of Your temple.”  The sons of Korah would meditate upon the blessings of God while serving in the temple.  Today we do that in our church services.  But we should also do this in the privacy of our homes.  That’s one of the reasons believers enjoy celebrating on Thanksgiving Day.  Our family enjoys it so much that we pause every day that week (beginning tomorrow) and write down something for which we are grateful and we tape it to a tree we painted on our hallway wall.  At the end of the week, we have over fifty leaves decorating the tree and causing us to worship.

Yes, it’s been a busy year.  I taught several classes for Belhaven University, joined the preaching team at our church, took Celena to Washington, D.C. for a week, and Jodi has recently begun to teach English to Chinese students online.  Our days, weeks and months fly.  And–through it all–God has granted us all the health, energy and strength we have required.  So, we’re thankful; a bit tired, but full of praise.

And–just in case I get too busy to stop by the blog before Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Finding Shelter in the Alpha Male

Our growing puppies were not impressed with a neighbor’s July 4th fireworks display.  After hearing two “BOOMS!” they wanted inside the house AND FAST.

Mocha, our timid and lanky mutt, recovered quiet nicely.  His older brother, however, not so much.  In fact, he was shaking like a leaf.  We did all we could to console him, but it wasn’t enough.  He specifically wanted to find shelter in the alpha male.  That’s me, by the way.  Here’s Lawrence:

As his funk continued, he gently laid down at my bedroom door (since I was in my bedroom taking a shower).  If he couldn’t be safe with me, he wanted to be as close as possible.  When I was finished, I opened the door and determined to let him know that all was well.

Eventually, he calmed down.  The world did not come to an end.  We are not actually being attacked by a pirate ship (or aliens or whatever a dog would envision…cats driving a tank?).  Life returned to normal.

As I reflected upon what transpired, I couldn’t help but wonder how I respond to the unexpected “BOOMS!” that come my way.  I know some of the foolish ways in which I have responded in the past.  I trust you can think of some of your less-than-godly reactions as well.

How should we respond?

Consider these words from Psalm 91:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

How should we respond?  Run to God!  And, if we can’t get to Him, we need to get as close as possible!  Yes, I hear your objection!  Running isn’t required.  God is inside of us!  Indeed, He is.  Our triune God resides within His people through the Person of the Holy Spirit.  As a result, any movement on our part comes in the form of prayer and trust.  Don’t you see both of those activities mentioned in Psalm 91?  “I will say to the Lord…” is a direct address to God.  Trust is communicated in our “abiding in His shadow” and seeking refuge “under His wings.”  So, we’re talking with the Lord and we’re trusting that He is BIG enough to protect us and/or assist us in our time of need.

“BOOM!”

What will you do now?

In or out determines our celebration. Which is true for you?

In 1 Corinthians 15:17, Paul wrote,

“…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

Dare I ask:  How important is the resurrection of Christ?

I declare:  How important is the resurrection of Christ!

Consider this words at the beginning of Ephesians, chapter two.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Due to the imputation of Adam’s sin, every human being is born sinful. Our choice to sin at a very young age, only confirms the constitution of our nature.  And that is why we all need resurrection.  And that is why Jesus rose from the dead.

If you are in your sins today, you are either not celebrating or you are not celebrating correctly.

If you are no longer in your sins, today is a great day celebrating the historical realities described in the Bible and the profound implications in our lives each and every day!

PS–If you have a second check this out:

Success! Jesus stayed on mission.

Earlier this week, I posted the following on Facebook:

Really comforted, encouraged, strengthened, etc. by our study in church on Sunday of the seven sayings of Christ on the cross. I was struck yet again of how Jesus, though in genuinely unspeakable pain, remained in complete control of the situation. No one was taking His life from Him. He was willingly laying it down for His sheep (disciples present as well as those to come). He had consciously lived an unblemished life of obedience to the will and word of His heavenly Father and that obedience was taken to and through the cross, resulting in the glory of God and the temporal and eternal good for His people representing every tribe, tongue and nation! In other words, Jesus was successful as the Savior. “It is finished” was the declaration of victory! I am grateful to be able to meditate this week on the facts and implications of the sufferings, death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

In a similar vein, I found the following on the web:

Was Jesus successful in what He did on the cross? Did He actually pay for sins? Did He actually redeem from death and hell those for whom He died? Isaiah is telling us here in these verses that He did, that He was successful.

And that is why particular redemption is so important. To say that Jesus died for all men, but that most of those people for whom He died will still go to hell, is to deny the success of the work of Jesus. What kind of sacrifice is it if God is not satisfied with it and people for whom Jesus died are still sent to hell by Him? No, there is victory in the death of Jesus on the cross. He paid there for sins. He cried out, “It is finished.” That was His success. He did pay for sins in His death.

Now let us go back and look at the reward that God gives Him. If you still have your Bibles open, you see that that starts again in verse 10. I said that this section is about the success and the reward of the mission of Jesus. And you see that in each verse here.

In verse 10, “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Here you have the success and the reward of Christ. The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. Under Christ’s charge, the Lord’s plan will prosper, it will succeed. “He shall see his seed.”

Who are His seed? Jesus was never married. He never had children. Who are they? The reference here is to the spiritual family that comes as a result of His death on the cross. His seed are those who believe on Him. John 1:12 reads, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” The seed of Christ are all those who are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, who are born not of the flesh but by the word of God. This is the success of the cross. The family of God is gathered by the message of the gospel. And Christ’s reward is that He gets to see His seed.

Do you not think that this would have been a marvelously encouraging promise for Christ as He went to the cross? When it seemed in His suffering that He was all alone? When even His closest friends and disciples had forsaken Him? He could look at this passage and this promise and think about the many thousands and millions who would hear the gospel through history and believe on Him. He could think of the coming Holy Spirit, who would regenerate men and women and bring them into the family of God. He could think of the multitude without number who would stand someday before His throne in heaven. This was the joy and the glory that was set before Him as He went to the cross.

For the whole transcript, see:  http://www.prca.org/resources/sermons/reading/item/3978-the-success-of-his-christ-s-mission

With another Easter rapidly approaching, I praise God that Jesus actually did what He said He would do.  From Bethlehem to Golgotha, Jesus never wavered from the Father’s plan. He stayed on mission.  Even on the cross He was fulfilling prophesy.  “It is finished!” meant “Mission Accomplished!”  He had glorified the Father, remained qualified through genuine temptation and great suffering and laid down His life for His sheep.

Isn’t He amazing?!

Truth in an unlikely place

After I taught Sunday School this past Lord’s Day, I visited the men’s room.  As I washed my hands, I decided to read a small piece of art that was hanging on the wall.  I’d probably seen it many times before, but I paused for the first time to actually read the words.  It looks like this:

Just in case you can’t read it, here are the words:

  1. Keep skid chains on your tongue. Say less than you think. Cultivate a smoothing voice. How you say it often means more than what you say.
  2. Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully, no matter what the cost.
  3. Never lose an opportunity to say a kind word to or about somebody. Praise work well done, regardless of
    who did it.
  4. Be interested in others, their pursuits, their homes and their families. Let everyone you meet, however humble, feel your regard him as important.
  5. Be cheerful. Keep the corners of your mouth turned up. Hide your worries and disappointments under a smile.
  6. Keep an open mind on all debatable questions. Discuss, but don’t argue. It is a mark of a superior mind to disagree and remain friendly.
  7. Let your virtues speak for themselves and refuse to discuss the shortcomings of others. Discourage gossip by changing the subject.
  8. Have respect for the feelings of others. Wit and humor at the expense of a friend is never worth it.
  9. Pay no attention to destructive remarks and personal attacks on you. Live so that no one will believe them. Remember, a common cause of backbiting is a dissatisfaction with oneself.
  10. Don’t be concerned about your “just due.” Do a good turn for the sake of being helpful.

The placard is entitled Getting Along With People (Springbrook Publications, Inc., 1993).

What do you think?  Will following the counsel above lead to healthy relationships?  I think so.  I wouldn’t say that I am convinced that smiling while suffering is laudable (#5), but the other points are well-made.  I can’t help but think about how much more of a blessing I could have been had I followed the advice above!

Which of the above points hits you between the eyes today?

For me, it is the #8.  Too many times in my life I have hurt others with my humor.  It’s only been in recent years that I can honestly say I am learning how to apply #1 (“Say less than you think”).  Believe me when I say that I was not reared in such a home where words were weighed before they were spoken!  Friends in my past also often did not help, laughing at some comments or jokes when a gentle reprimand would have proven more beneficial. But maturity is a beautiful thing! One of my hopes is that my children will mature much faster than I did!

And that’s why I write this blog!

But thanks for stopping by!  May this day and this week find us “getting along with people”!

Depp in Deep

The following are excerpts from an official court document submitted to the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Central District on January 31, 2017.  John C. Depp, II (you know him as the gifted actor Johnny Depp) 

is named as one of the plaintiffs.  The defendants include a company that Depp had employed to assist in managing his finances.

You may or may not be shocked by the following:

Depp lived an ultra-extravagant lifestyle that often knowingly cost Depp in excess of $2 million per month to maintain, which he simply could not afford. The following examples are just some of the ways that Depp chose to spend his money (p.3).

  • Depp spent in excess of $75 million to acquire improve and furnish 14 residences, including a 45-acre chateau in the South of France, a chain of islands in the Bahamas, multiple houses in Hollywood, several penthouse lofts in downtown Los Angeles, and a fully-functioning horse farm in Kentucky (p.3).
  • During this same time, Depp spent lavishly on various luxury items, including spending over $18 million to acquire and renovate a 150 foot luxury yacht (p.3).
  • Depp spent millions more acquiring and/or maintaining at least 45 luxury vehicles (p.3).
  • He spent $30,000 per month on expensive wines that he had flown to him around the world for his personal consumption (p.3).
  • 200 collectible pieces of art and works by world famous artists such as Warhol…(p.3).
  • 70 collectible guitars (p.3).
  • Depp also spent many millions more over the years on extremely rare and expensive Hollywood collectibles. Depp’s collection of Hollywood memorabilia involving such icons as Marilyn Monroe, John Dillinger and Marlon Brando is so extensive that it fills approximately 12 storage facilities…(p.3).

Try to take that in for a minute.  The management firm estimated that Depp required in excess of $2 million per month to live at his desired standard of living.  $2 million a month!  $24 million annually!  And it still wasn’t enough!

The document (linked below) also included the following remarks:

Depp’s voracious spending consistently outpaced his earnings (p.10).

Depp, and Depp alone, is fully responsible for any financial turmoil he finds himself in today. He has refused to live within his means (p.4).

*https://www.scribd.com/document/338054406/TMG-v-Depp-Cross-Complaint#download&from_embed

Have you any response to this?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What advice might you offer Mr. Depp?