Thursday, December 02, 2021

She (by Lora Sue Hauser)

 


                                                     (Del, Donna, Linda, Martha, Lora, Vicki)


She

(By Lora Sue Hauser, Linda's sister)

She was a single parent, not by choice. She delivered her very sick baby alone, except for the nuns. Her husband was serving in the war. It was 1943. Her husband came home on leave, found out that he had a “less than perfect” baby, abused his wife and chose never to come home from the war. They were divorced.

She was very alone. The doctor said that this baby girl would not live past age 12. She moved up to northern Illinois with her baby.

She first saw her second husband in uniform. He was an angry Marine that just finished serving. He hated the military but beneath that rough exterior was a tender heart. He fell in love with the women and her disabled little girl. He taught the child to walk – at age five. He never looked back.

They had a second baby – a normal little girl. Then another pregnancy. This time, the third baby had very serious problems. She would remain an infant all her life. Two out of three girls with great needs. Two out of two adults with even greater needs. The pressure was immense. There was no money, no support, rising medical bills. The care of these three babies became overwhelming. Almost no one could handle the seizures, the feedings, the therapy, the sadness. The doctors said, “No more children.”

The young family needed to start over. They chose Florida with the hopes of starting a small restaurant with a friend. They packed all that they owned inside, and on top of, an old station wagon and headed south.

After a few unsuccessful weeks, and hope was replaced by despair, an old Presbyterian woman walked next door and shared the gospel of Jesus with the man. The man responded with full abandon to the love of God, and his wife, and this suffering young family would never be the same.

Then the unthinkable . . . another pregnancy. How could this be they thought? How could God? How could we? Fear and questions shadowed their new-found faith. They moved back to Illinois again; to the familiar, to the failure. What should we do? How could we possibly cope with another special child? Who is there to help us? They prayed, they cried, they sought the very heart of God. They asked the hardest question of all – should they abort?

They had only been Jesus Followers such a short time. Surely abortion sounded like the most merciful thing but as they looked at their three precious girls, the truth of God’s Word penetrated their thinking, conforming their minds to His. Didn’t this new baby have a right to life? Is this life worth less? Isn’t it true that God causes ALL THINGS to work for the good for those that love Him and are called to his purpose? They did love God. They were called to His purposes. They decided not to abort.

It was July of 1952. The young couple are my parents. I am that baby.





Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Praying for Change


(Downtown Detroit)

I regularly address God for the sake of me. I need constant help and perpetual change. I have not yet made Christlikeness my own. One way I press on towards this upward calling is by petitioning God.

“’Pressing on’ mode” starts with praying. The act of praying announces “game on.”

I pray through this list.

Transform me into greater Christlikeness.

Assist me in the doing of your will.

Change my heart, O God.

Reduce the “me” in me.

Have your way in me.

Be gracious unto me.

Do not forsake me.

Be glorified, in me.

Orchestrate me.

Increase in me.

Decrease me.

Empower me.

Create in me.

Sanctify me.

Move in me.

Restore me.

Sustain me.

Deliver me.

Renew me.

Guide me.

Direct me.

Fill me.

Surrender Your Children to God

 


(Frost, on our car window)

Even though our boys are adults, Linda and I never stop thinking of them and praying for them. We are so thankful for who they are becoming! And, we have to discern when to let go, and what to let go of. Even Dallas Willard struggled with doing this.

Willard writes:

"The surest way to know what you haven’t surrendered to Jesus is to consider what you’re worrying about. It took me a long time to surrender our first child to Jesus. It took me a long time. At last, I’ve been able to do it. Thank God, I’ve been able to do it. It was a problem from the very beginning when he was born and I held him in my arms as a little boy. I thought he was so beautiful, so wonderful. And I couldn’t accept the fact that this little creature was going out into a world over which I had no control. . . . You know you never get over being a parent. You can’t divorce your kids. But you can surrender them to God. You can give them to God. And it is one of the greatest challenges of parents to do that. You have to surrender your children to God. You have to surrender your future, your mate, your job, yes, your own righteousness and everything about you."

Moon, Gary W.. Becoming Dallas Willard (p. 140). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Why I Am Still A Christian

Self portrait

At the end of one of my Philosophy of Religion classes a student asked me why I am a Christian. Why, among the world religions, would I choose Christianity? My answer went like this (I'm expanding on it here). 


My Christian faith is based on the following.

1. My Conversion Experience
2. My Subsequent Studies
3. My Ongoing Experience.
I came to believe because of a powerful experience that changed my life and worldview. The result of this experience included subsequent study and increasing experience. Credo (I believed); Intelligam (I grew in understanding).

Credo: My Conversion Experience

From age 18-21 I was heavily into alcohol and drugs. I flunked out of college. A lot of things were getting ruined in my life as a result of my addictions. I was in a deep hole dug by myself. I was afflicted, and didn’t know where to turn. Actually, I didn't think I needed help.

One day I hit a low. I thought, "I am screwed up." I prayed and said, “God if you are real and if Jesus is real, then help me. If you help me I’ll follow you.” That was the last day I did drugs. 

This happened. My worldview was rocked. I attribute it to Jesus.

I see similarities between my conversion to Christianity and C.S. Lewis's conversion from atheism to Christianity. Lewis wrote:

"As the dry bones shook and came together in that dreadful valley of Ezekiel's, so now a philosophical theorem, cerebrally entertained, began to stir and heave and throw off its grave cloths, and stood upright and became a living presence. I was to be allowed to play at philosophy no longer. It might, as I say, still be true that my "Spirit" differed in some way from "the God of popular religion." My Adversary waived the point. It sank into utter unimportance. He would not argue about it. He only said, "I am the Lord"; "I am that I am"; "I am." People who are naturally religious find difficulty in understanding the horror of such a revelation. Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about "man's search for God." To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat." (From Surprised By Joy)

The cat found the mouse. God found me. I was receptive. God exists. God loves me. 


Intelligam: Understanding What Happened to Me 

This didn't happen in a vacuum. The soil of my heart had been softening for some time. I was looking for Help. Help came. My life forever changed. What shall I make of this?
  • If this event had not happened I would not have become a Jesus-follower. I needed something experiential that could change me. It happened. 
  • I agree with William James who, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, writes: "A mystical experience is authoritative for the one who experiences it. But a mystical experience that happens to one person need not be authoritative for other people." I'm good with that. (With the exception that the mystical-religious experiences of certain other persons have carried authority with me because of, to me, their credibility.)
  • My initial religious experience ripped me out of non-reflective deism into full-blown Christian theism. I now believed in God, and in Jesus. This experiential belief had an evidential quality for me, and propelled me to go after an understanding of what had happened. 47 years later, this has not stopped. Today I am a deeper believer in God and Jesus than ever.
  • True religion (not the jeans - they are too expensive) includes experience. Theory without experience is empty. Hebrew-Christianity is essentially about a relationship with God, a mutual indwelling experiential reality. This includes prayer-as-dialogue with God, the sense of God's presence, being-led by God, and so on. And worship. 
  • Worship is experiential and logical in the sense that: If God is love, and God is real, and love is about relationship (love has an "other"), then it follows that one will know and be known by God. ("Know," in Hebrew, means experiential intimacy, and not Cartesian subject-object distance. For more see, e.g., the current writings of James K.A. Smith. See also Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga's chapter of faith as knowledge, in Knowledge and Christian Belief.)
  • I realize certain atheists claim to have no religious experience at all. John Allen Paulos, for example, in his Irreligion, claims not to have a religious bone in his body. I don't doubt this. This fact does not rationally deter me, just as I am certain C.S. Lewis's religious experiences don't budge Paulos from his atheism. (I'm now thinking of Antony Flew's recent conversion from atheism to deism. Flew was moved by the logic of the fine-tuning argument for God's existence. And the case of the famous and brilliant British atheist A.J. Ayer who had a vision and began to be interested in God.)
  • I keep returning to my initial God-encounter. It functions, for me, as a raison d-etre. Philosophically, it's one of a number of "properly basic" experiences I've had, still have, and will have. (See, e.g., philosophers like William P. Alston.)
I began to study about Christianity. I wanted to know: is Christianity true? Is there any epistemic warrant for my God-encounter experience? I changed my major in college from music theory to philosophy.

My studies confirmed my initial act of faith. Here are some things I believe to be academically sound.

  • Good reasons can be given to believe in God.  I have, since 1970, studied and taught the arguments for and against the existence of God. I believe it is more rational to believe in God than to disbelieve.
  • The New Testament documents are reliable in their witness to the historical person Jesus. (The recent minority Facebook claim that Jesus never existed is sheer unstudied goofiness.) (See, e.g., something like Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, or Craig Keener's The Historical Jesus of the Gospels.)
  • A strong inductive argument can be made for the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. (I shared briefly about this in my response to the student's question.)
  • Miracles - I have seen many, by means of inference to the best explanation. That is, I have seen and written of events that are best explained supernaturally, not naturally.
  • Christianity is qualitatively distinct from the other major world religions. Only Christianity tells us that God loves us not for what we do or where we live but for who we are. The Christian word for this is “grace” and, to me, this is huge. The other major world religions are rule-based; Christianity is grace-based. And, in distinction from other religious alternatives, Christianity's claim is that God has come to us. These kind of things make Christianity more plausible than the other alternatives.
My initial life-changing encounter with God led to a lifetime of Jesus-following, God-knowing, and God-seeking. God did and continues to reveal himself to me. My faith is experiential, relational, and rational/reasonable. (Note: it's not without questions. Anyone who studies their own worldview will have intra-worldview puzzles. This includes me.)

For these reasons I became a follower of Jesus and remain one.


***
I describe my ongoing experience with God in two books:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Preaching on the Kenosis This Coming Sunday

 

                                                                           (Redeemer)

I'm preaching on the Kenosis this coming Sunday at Redeemer.

My prep for this message includes:

Reading the text, over and over. Carrying it with me. Pulling it out when I have breaks, and meditating on it.

Using Gordon Fee's brilliant book Pauline Christology to go deep.

Praying the text. When God speaks to me, I take notes. Some of these will make it into this Sunday's sermon.

Expecting God to make this sermon more than human thoughts and words.

Sensing that God will take it all and activate our people with a fresh anointing of His Spirit for discipleship.


Philippians 2:5-11

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing (Greek kenosis; ἐκένωσεν ]
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! 


Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Faith and Grace

 


The person stood in my office, looked at all the books on my shelf, and said, "I live by faith, not by knowledge."

I responded, "The opposite of faith is not knowledge. It's "living by sight.""

Another person, in another time and place, said, "I live by grace, not by effort."

I responded, "The opposite of grace is not effort. It's "earning.""

Dallas Willard writes,

"To put these ideas together, then, we make an effort to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling,” but in grace “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). It’s right that we are to make the effort to “get understanding” (Proverbs 4:5, 7), yet it is by grace that “the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (2:6)."

(In Willard, Hearing God Through the Year, p. 297)

Monday, November 29, 2021

Honor in the Real Church

 


(Weko Beach, Michigan)

Someone in my church FAMILY asked me to say some things about "honor." Here are a few ideas.

Honor is respect for other people. This does not mean you agree with everything other people say. Honor is a way of treating other people. Remember that Jesus said "Honor your father and mother." (Matthew 15:4) He does not add, "only if you agree with them about everything." 1 Peter 2:7 says, "Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor." (Even the emperor? Think about it. Do not get your ethics from the media.)

Honor thinks of other people before it thinks of oneself. Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves."

Honor dignifies others. Honor does not talk negatively about people behind their back. That's called slander. Or gossip. Slander is saying something about a person behind their back that you would never say to their face.

Honor is different from flattery or sucking up to people, which are forms of dishonor. Flattery is saying something to someone's face that you would never say about them behind their back.

Honor does not gripe or complain about other people behind their back. To do that is to take what John Bevere called "the bait of Satan," and dangle Satan's bait before the ears of others.

Honor listens. Honor has "ears to hear."

Honor is a subcategory of love. Love is the great umbrella, beneath which honor is one of love's expressions. Honor is one way of expressing love.

Honor does not enable the transgressions of others. Enabling people in their failure, or in their sin, is dishonoring. 

Dishonor is disrespect. Dishonor disses others; honor elevates others.

Dishonor judges before understanding. Honor works to understand before evaluating or judging. Judging before understanding is the game of fools; understanding before judging is wisdom.

A culture of honor extends to isolated people. Dishonor plays favorites.

Honor-able people are people capable of treating others according to their true identities, as sons and daughters of God.

Real Church cultivates an honor culture. We may not agree with everything and everyone, but we never dishonor one another.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Acquiring a God-perspective on Our Government Leaders


If you are a follower of Jesus, you should view this week's political events through the lens of the Christian narrative. 

You won't get this from the media. 

Do not frame political events through the secular media. 

Do not allow this world's mold to shape you.

Acquire a God-perspective, and live and pray from there.

Pray, "God, let me see earth, through heaven."

Meditate on these Scriptures.
















When Does a Human Life Begin?

 


(Frost on car window)

"An amicus curiae (literally, "friend of the court"; plural: amici curiae) often referred to as amicus brief is defined as the legal brief where someone who is not a party to a case assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case. The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies within the discretion of the court. The phrase amicus curiae is legal Latin and its origin of the term has been dated back to 1605-1615. The scope of amicus curiae is generally found in the cases where broad public interests are involved and concerns regarding civil rights are in question." (From Wikipedia)

One of the legal briefs accepted by the Supreme Court in the coming Dobbs case regarding abortion rights concerns the following.

(From the brief.) 

"Amici curiae are biologists who work at colleges, universities, and other institutions in 15 countries around the world.

The fertilization view is widely recognized—in the literature and by biologists—as the leading biological view on when a human’s life begins... An international survey of academic biologists’ views on when a human’s life begins reported 96% of 5,577 participants affirmed the fertilization view. 

Fertilization, generally, marks the beginning of a sexually reproducing organism’s life and, specifically, marks the beginning of a human’s life, as it is the point at which a human first comes into physical existence as an organism that is biologically classified as a member of the Homo sapiens species."

When someone asks me why I am against abortion, my response is: Because I am against killing an innocent, defenseless human being.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

An Atheist Tries to be Thankful to Something

(Flowers in my front yard)

I often have a feeling, a sense, of gratitude that leads me to say, "thank you." I experience existential thankfulness for life, for being alive. My very existence is a gift. 

As a Christian theist my words of thanksgiving are addressed to God. God, thank You... so very much! 


For an atheist things are different.

Ronald Aronson, Professor of the History of Ideas at Wayne State University, wrote an essay called "Thank Who Very Much?" The reason for the question mark is that, as an atheist, Aronson feels "thankful," but because God does not exist he wonders just who or what he should thank.


Aronson believes a person can be legitimately thankful without either: a) belief in a God; or b) falling into existentialist absurdity. What's his alternative?


He writes: "Think of the sun's warmth. After all, the sun is one of those forces that make possible the natural world, plant life, even our very existence. It may not mean anything to us personally, but the warmth on our face means, tells us, a great deal. All of life on earth has evolved in relation to this source of heat and light, we human beings included. We are because of, and in our own millennial adaptation to, the sun and other fundamental forces."


So? For Aronson, one can feel gratitude by "acknowledging one of our most intimate if impersonal relationships, with the cosmic and natural forces that make us possible." An atheist can show gratitude "to larger and impersonal forces." Because "we derive our existence from, and belong to, both natural forces and generations that preceded us, ... it is just possible that we will often feel connected [to such forces and generations], and often grateful."


Aronson says that when we gather together with friends on one of those snuggly holiday nights, we may be overcome by "a warm, joyous, comfortable feeling, even a moment of well-being - but to whom or to what?" The answer is: "Obviously, to natural forces and processes that have made our own life, and this reunion, possible."


So, thank you strong force, thank you weak force, thank you electromagnetic force, than you gravity, thank you evolution. Thank you particles, protons, neutrons, electron, quarks, and dark matter. 


Good night, moon.

For me, this attempt to find some object of gratitude sans God doesn't work. I'll take the following dichotomy: either God, or Camus-ian absurdity. Aronson's idea sounds like a spiritless animism (which is, of course, a contradiction). 


Thankfulness, if it is to have any meaning at all, requires inter-personality. I experience innumerable moments of gratitude, but have never felt like thanking the wall of my house for holding up the roof. Thanking "impersonal forces," no matter how "large" they are, is no different than walking outside and thanking your lawn for being green. See again Camus, Sartre, and a host of atheistic existentialists who write on the absurdity of moral feelings, purposive feelings, and so on.


To say "Thank you" only makes sense if there is someone who can or could have responded, "You are welcome."


Aronson the atheist feels thankful. I do not doubt this. As an atheist, he doesn't want his thankful feelings to be absurd. But thanking impersonal forces is absurd, like thanking your stuffed teddy bear for loving you. 


The raw truth remains: No God = no ultimate meaning. Such is the logic of atheism, on which there is nothing, no one, to thank.