Your Reality – My Reality

Critical Thinking 2“Your reality may be good for you, but I have my own reality.” Have you ever heard that? Have you ever said that?

Statements like that have made the rounds for decades, if not centuries; but the question is: Do we have our own realities? I think the answer is a qualified “yes.” Hold on now, and let me explain. My reasoning is simple: we all perceive, feel, and think differently. I experience things and situations differently than you do.

What is real to me (what is understandable, comprehensible, vivid, important, beautiful, unpleasant, detestable, etc.) may not be real to you. You may not have seen someone die, I have. Your favorite color may be yellow, mine is blue. You may enjoy the mountains while I enjoy the oceans. You might be moved by country-western and rock music while I listen to church hymns and John Philip Sousa marches. You may study art, music, and eating habits, while I study the Bible, science and history. What strongly impacts your emotions or mind may not appeal to me. And, of course, you and I have different family backgrounds, personal histories, and possibly different religious beliefs. Even my siblings (I am one of ten children) and I view life differently.

However, although you and I may have different realities in a temporal or philosophical sense, we must not confuse these differences with absolute reality or absolute truth. I remember when a philosophy instructor exclaimed, “There are no absolutes!” One student asked, “Is that absolutely correct?” How should the professor respond? Either “yes” or “no” would invalidate his primary statement. So rather than try to unsuccessfully pry himself out of that predicament, the professor merely changed the subject. The Prof didn’t realize that absolutes, or absolute laws, govern the universe, and that his statement was self-contradictory.

Normally when a person states, “I have my own reality,” the statement is based on relativismIMG_1797. That is the concept that all truth is relative to the individual, time, or place. However, relativism is a faulty philosophy that attempts to negate absolutism. Absolute means: complete; not limited by restrictions; unconditional; unrelated to and independent of anything else. Interestingly, after a short investigation we find absolute truth in math, history, the Bible, and in every-day life. Often, the denial of absolutism is not about life, but is aimed at the reality of God and the deity of Jesus Christ. And the one who claims his own reality actually claims to be the supreme ruler in his own life; but living for just twenty-four hours will prove that is false.

An example of the difference between a temporal reality and absolute reality is: A blind and deaf person may not know you exist. Therefore, you are not real to him, and you are not part of his reality. However, you do exist. But when you are brought into his presence where he is allowed to touch you and is “introduced” to you through a Braille or hand-manual message, you are incorporated into his reality. Absolute truth hasn’t changed; but his understanding, or his temporal reality, has changed.

In the same way, many folk do not know that God exists because they are “blind” to His existence. But they can be introduced to God and Jesus Christ through the “Braille” of Holy Scripture and Holy Spirit-directed lives. Many of us need a guide, such as a blind person needs a guide dog or as wagon trains on the Oregon Trail needed guides to get them across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The guides we need today to help us understand absolute reality are pastors, teachers, and primarily the Holy Spirit. Temporal realities change all through our lives; but absolute reality never changes.

pict0377Another example of absolute reality: God knew you would be born and that you will live forever – somewhere; but it is your choice as to your eternal destination. Whether or not you believe in heaven or hell does not change the reality of either place: our personal belief neither establishes fact nor eradicates truth. Absolute truth stands on its own foundation.

Your reality? My reality? We need to align our temporal realities with the time-tested truths of absolute reality as found in the Bible, and prepare ourselves to meet the author of absolute truth: Almighty God.

Guided by GPS

navigation-system-147970I’ll never forget the first time I asked to be guided by a GPS gizmo. Ron, our oldest son, and his family were with Carol and me as we were traveling. It was night time, and we were looking for the motel. Ron said, “I’ll look it up on my cell phone.” That was a bother for my wife who had been my navigator all of our married life.

Carol said, “I can find it on the map like I’ve always done.” But I wanted to try out a new scientific gadget for the first time.

“Okay, Ron-ole-boy; find the motel.” So he programmed in the address, and we drove up to the side gate of an army base. As I turned the car around, Carol said, “I can find the right street by using the map.” But I wanted to try the GPS.

Ron reprogrammed and we drove around town, only to find a different gate to that army base. By this time Carol was a little irritated.

Ron reprogrammed once more, and we found the main gate … to that same army base. So I drove up to the soldier and asked him for assistance. He directed us to a 7-11 store. There, the clerk informed us that there were four (yes: 4) streets in town with that name, and the primary street was on the army base.

Have you ever been stabbed with a visual “I Told You So!”? Carol found that motel for us, but the “weather” remained cool for a while. (She forgave me the next day.)

GPS programming improved dramatically in the ensuing decade, and it seems that a great many folk have a GPS unit of some sort. I heard on the news that presently, there may be 10 billion cell phones with GPS apps installed. But what is GPS?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system consisting ofearth a network of at least 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. GPS was originally intended for military applications, but in the 1980s, the government made the system available for civilian use.

These satellites circle the earth twice a day transmitting signals to earth. Receivers triangulate this information to calculate our precise location. The more satellites that are involved, the more accurate the results, and GPS units today are very accurate. Carol even likes using them now.

It’s fun watching the little blue dot (we call it the Blue Bug) moving across the screen of the cell phone as we drive across country. Carol often says, “The Blue Bug is staying with us.” But at times she will say, “The Bug is getting lost.” That’s when I make a correction and get back on the right street.

However, since the GPS units know our location, they also know our altitude. They enable precise operation for our interactive maps and our compass apps. The little gizmo can tell us where the restaurants, motels, and gas stations are, and can even tell us the temperature outside – all within seconds.

When we take pictures with our cell phones, the built-in GPS units record when and where they were taken. And when we cross a time zone, Carol and I always have a contest: whose phone changes time first?

Some folk worry that these technological advancements are a way for the government to keep track of us. That is correct. But they are also a great help to us. Many vehicles are equipped with OnStar which has helped a great many folk. OnStar located my car several years ago after it had been stolen.

But another GPS is available to those of us who honor Almighty God. I call this GPS “God’s Protective Service”.

Bible.docxAs I live by Godly principles that are found in the Bible, as I live for the Lord, as I as I honor God in every way that I know how, the Holy Spirit guides me. He knows where I am every second of the day, and knows what kind of difficulties I am facing. He sees what lies ahead of me, and gives me precise directions. If I am about to make a wrong decision, God sends a signal to get me back on track – if I’m listening.

Have fun with the GPS gizmos; but tune in to Almighty God for both temporal and eternal directions.

Is The Bible Historical or Merely Mythical? (pt.1)

I would like to address this question directly, but because there are so many side-issues involved, I must start somewhere else.

IMG_1799BThis question the historical reality of the Bible is often asked by adherents of an evolutionary hypothesis, some of whom are agnostics and atheists. Let me begin with the concept of evolution because that is normally the direction of the question. Let’s look at three words.

HYPOTHESIS: an assumption; an unverified idea; something assumed to be true for the sake of argument or investigation. Hypotheses are starting points.

THEORY: a speculative or conjectural viewpoint; a plausible but unproven concept; a potentially reasonable hypothesis with some substantiation.

FACT: a proven theory; knowledge based on reality; proven or demonstrated to exist or have existed; an actual, verified event.

The basic concept of evolution – the universe originating from a bang, and organic life evolving from rocks – is an hypothesis, which is called a theory, and taught as fact; andIMG_1797 that is not science. In every other scientific endeavor, a concept must be proven to be called a fact. But if you study the evolutionary hypothesis critically, it falls light-years short of explaining how humanity and the cosmos originated.

Remember: matter (atoms, energy, mountains, water, air, whatever) can be neither created nor destroyed. That is a well-established scientific principle, and that negates a big-bang hypothesis. Matter can change form, shape, or nature (ice to water, water to vapor, etc.), but it cannot be destroyed or annihilated.

I am aware of the anti-matter concept, but it is merely hypothetical.

Now: since matter can be neither created nor destroyed, yet the universe does exist, we add the phrase “except by a force outside time and space.” That supports both the science aspect and Biblical creation; therefore, it introduces the supernatural.

Treating hypotheses as facts and arguing over them is waste of time. Without proof, call it what it is: an hypothesis. Then teach and debate it as such. Don’t mock true science and don’t deny the reality of a Creator. Since it is impossible for stuff to magically appear out of nowhere, let’s admit that someone had to create it.

Actually, it takes faith to believe either way: Biblical creation, or in the evolutionary origin of the cosmos. But it takes an unsubstantiated faith – almost blind faith – to believe in a spontaneous, self-materialized cosmos where rocks morph into organic life. Why? Listen carefully now.

In the spontaneous, self-materialized cosmos, nothing or no one created everything out of nothing. (Read that again.) However, Biblical faith rests on the acceptance of a self-existing Creator. He is the first cause outside of time and space who designed and created the invisible stuff out of which everything was created. (Read THAT again.)

You’ve probably heard that there are over 6,000,000 parts to a Boeing 747-100, with over Boeing 747-4003,000,000 of them being rivets, screws, bolts, etc. Each rivet, window, cable, seat, etc. has a position to fill in order to complete the 747. Can there be variations in placement of parts? Yes. Seats are interchangeable. Rivets can exchange places with like rivets. And so on. Every part has a place it must fill; but when like parts are shuffled, the plane does not change.

There are also four complete computer systems in the plane. The primary computer system runs the plane, with three complete in-line backup systems. We have proof that every individual part of the plane was intelligently designed and purposely placed in their strategic locations. I know because I helped build them.

But you probably know that the Boeing 747 cannot self-assemble no matter how many billions of years the pre-fabricated plastic, aluminum, steel, wiring, etc. parts are tumbled together.

Now, let’s get really simple: DNA is needed in order to create RNA, and RNA is needed in order to create DNA; therefore, neither one can self-generate or evolve. Not only that, I read that there are over eighty-one billion trillion possible combinations in the human genetic code, and each sub-microscopic piece of the strand has its own individual place it must fill. Chance? More like a miracle.

This introduces God into the equation, but that invalidates modern evolutionary synthesis, natural selection, cosmic evolution, population genetics, and all the rest.

DSCN7715If you read this article critically, you find that spontaneous self-materialization is impossible. Rocks cannot become organic. An intelligent designer-creator is mandatory. There must be a first cause and that first cause, by nature, will not be bound by time and space. This first cause will be intelligent because design and order do not result from time plus chance.  Chaos is the product of time plus chance. Ask any farmer or botanist.

Now, since inanimate material cannot think (that sounds silly, but follow the thought), stuff cannot modify itself. It takes a person – one who can rationalize, understand consequences, set goals. It takes One who is outside time and space; One Who is not affected by any process or lack of process. And One Who is not affected by whether or not someone believes in Him. Since God, Jehovah, our Creator, fills that status, we revert to the Bible because that is where we learn about God.

And let’s get real: since creation – in any way you want to consider it – requires a creator, stop making up fantastic hypotheses to rationalize God out of the picture. Our Creator has already made Himself known to us. He is what the Bible is all about.

Next time we’ll look at the other side of this story: history.

Life After Death

Joe asked, “Stephen Hawking made the statement that there is no life after death. Wouldn’t that mean that Jesus is still dead? How might Scripture respond to his comment?”

The following is a quote from No Heaven? Why Stephen Hawking’s Comment Doesn’t Matter by Stephanie Pappas on May 16, 2011. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” Hawking said in The Guardian. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

I appreciated Joe’s question, but here is an eye-opener: Hawking’s statement is nothingIMG_1085B less than a statement of faith. Why? Because believing that there is no God is a religious conviction. Hawking was a dedicated scientist with a background in mathematics, physics, and cosmology; not religion or theology. Also Hawking had Lou Gehrig’s disease, was a quadriplegic, was confined to a wheelchair, and had no use for a god who wouldn’t heal him. His humanistic faith was based on the fact that he could not see God and couldn’t prove that there is a God.

Going one step further, Mr. Hawking placed his faith in science. In reality, that made science his god.

This is indeed a shaky foundation, because many scientists throughout history were and are devout followers of Jesus Christ and Jehovah God. Their scientific endeavors have verified to them that there IS a God.

I am continually surprised by the number of people who put faith in famous actors, theologians, scientists, and philosophers who disavow faith in Almighty God. We need to wake up. Fame doesn’t grant access to sources of spiritual knowledge that are inaccessible to the rest of mankind.

Some say that we Christians and Jews cannot prove there is a God, and they are correct. By the help of the Holy Spirit and through Scripture we can know Jesus, but we cannot prove to others He is alive or that He is God. Believing in someone or something we Atheist Symbolcannot prove is, by definition, faith.

But hold on now: NOT believing in someone or something without proof is also, by definition, faith. Hawking did not believe in life after death because that includes heaven and hell; which, in turn, requires a belief in a Creator: God. Mr. Hawking had a very strong faith that declared there is no god.

Psalm 14:1-3 describes the condition of those who refuse to believe in God. Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 say that whoever does not believe in God is foolish. I didn’t say that; Scripture did. Also, Proverbs 18:2 informs us that whoever is not interested in gaining [spiritual] understanding is foolish, for they are interested only in expressing their own opinions.

There is no scientific proof for or against life after death; either way it is a matter of faith. And believing that God is either real or a myth are both matters of faith. But there is more to faith in God and Jesus Christ than mere believing.

In the Bible and throughout history many people have spoken of their interaction with God. People have experienced, in powerful, personal ways, strong affirmations of God’s healing, presence, and provision in this world as well as His promises concerning life in the next (Luke 23:43; John 14:1-6; Rev. 21-22). Untold millions of people have studied Biblical claims and extra-Biblical claims; some have returned after dying and have a dynamically different conclusion from Hawking’s. Scripture teaches us about life after death which is called eternal life. Scripture alone is proof for us, but we cannot, in turn, prove it to anyone else. It’s a matter of faith.

Billy Graham could not speak authoritatively on science or the universe, but he was aSatellite Dish giant in the kingdom of God. In like manner, Mr. Hawking has credibility in cosmology and physics because of his work in the field (although I don’t agree with him on several scientific issues); but he has no credibility in the realm of Scripture or spiritual matters.

We all have faith, but the Bible leaves it up to each individual regarding where we will place our faith. Nevertheless, the historical declaration in Scripture is: Jesus Is Alive! There is life after death.

The darkness to which Hawking refers is reserved only for those who reject God. And that statement refers to God as found in the Holy Bible – not some other god. Therefore, examine Scripture, seek the truth, and choose life.

Freedom to Express Our Faith

In 1994 while working at a scientific laboratory, I was told that I needed to remove my Bible from the top of my desk – it was in public view – and to refrain from praying on government property. I asked the question typical of a five-year-old: “Why?” The response was, “This is government property and we need to observe separation of church and state by becoming a religion-free work place.

Now, you may imagine many of the thoughts that raced through my mind. I didn’t want to argue the matter because I was on government time, my supervisor was giving the order, and I desired to honor my authorities. I did, however, realize that this was one side of a double-standard that was aimed against Jews and Christians. So remembering a recent Laboratory-sponsored event, I said:

DSCN0691B“Last week we observed Native American Heritage Week here in the laboratory’s main auditorium. Every day at 8:00 AM and again at 1:00 PM for a total of ten meetings, a different Native American group opened the meeting by reciting their tribal prayer. Now, if the Lab supports or allows the Native Americans to pray to their gods on government property, then I also claim that same privilege of praying to the Judeo-Christian God. And if there are any questions about that, you know my phone number.”

That settled the issue. I was never challenged at the lab again. Amazingly, I was asked to write weekly articles based on good integrity, ethics, and character for our division, and send them out by e-mail. Why? Simply because I lived what I believed; supported my beliefs with the Bible, fact, and recent history; did not condemn or look down on others, and loved people. Did I confront people? Yes. But was I “confrontational?” No. Non-Christians and I do not have to agree with each other, but we all work well together because we do not intimidate each other, and we respect each other. 

A number of years ago while visiting my mother-in-law in a nursing facility, I was speaking with her husband, Charles, about trusting the Lord while knowing that Mom could die soon. A social-worker walking by stopped and rather sternly askedDSCN4637B Charles, “Do you want to listen to this?!”

That took Charles off-guard and he looked at me with a blank face; so I said to the social-worker, “Charles is my step-dad, and he doesn’t have a choice.” It was her turn to be dumb-founded, and she walked away. (Charles and I love each other. He laughed, and we continued our discussion about life with Jesus Christ.)

Zig Ziglar said in an interview with Michael Ireland on March 11, 2006, “The biggest lie Satan has ever told is that ‘it is okay to talk about your faith in church or at home, but otherwise, it is a personal matter.’ The reality is, everyone else has come out of the closet, and Christians need to come out and make it clear where they are coming from. Now, the life that they live will be totally believed if they live as Christ taught us to live. However, if you do not follow the ten commandments, if you do not have the Fruit of the Spirit, if you do not go out in the Full Armor of God, if you do not go out believing that the Golden Rule is a wonderful, working rule in your relationships with all people, then all of the conversations that you will have will fall on deaf ears. What you are speaks louder than what you say.”

 And to that I say a hearty “Amen!

While we, as Christians, are to respect people and obey our authorities, we should stand up for truth and righteousness. No one else will. (Note: We are to obey those in authority over us UNLESS they demand that we disobey God and Holy Scripture.) We are not to be argumentative but freedom of speech applies to all sections of our society. So let’s exercise that freedom. As Edmond Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Therefore, the only time we will lose the right to pray or speak openly is when we vote into office ungodly – or fearful – people, then cooperate with them when they attempt to deny us our inalienable/Constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of worship.

If we want to retain our freedoms, we must vote into office people who also want us to have those freedoms.

But many in the world live under a different historical and cultural setting. They do not have the freedom of speech or freedom of religion built into their culture. What are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to live?

My answer ultimately applies to everyone living in the United States of IMG_2639America and everywhere else. We are to live according to the principles as found in Holy Scripture – the Bible. My reasoning is simple: if I live to please and honor Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, I will have a home in heaven forever even if I am killed here on earth for my faith. This life is so short anyway – why not prepare to live forever with God in heaven?

That way, I will always have the freedom to express my faith as long as I live. No one can ever take that freedom from me.