What Others Say

Just a note to thank you for your wonderful weekly columns in the Galveston Paper.
To open a newspaper and see references to God, Scriptures, Kindness, Peace, Loving one another is what our whole world needs now more than ever. -John D. Galveston, Texas

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jerusalem Prayer

This week I gathered with a group of pastors on the Mount of Olives.  We stood gazing across the Kidron Valley to the eastern wall of old Jerusalem, staring at the sealed up gate where Jesus entered as the Messiah.  While we scanned the horizon overlooking the historic hill where Jesus was crucified, one of our number read John 17, the prayer Jesus prayed on this spot hours before His death:

"“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.  I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.   “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17).

I left the olive groves desiring that His prayer would be answered.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What We Don't Know

The total of human knowledge is increasing at an astonishing rate. It is estimated that it took 300 years for knowledge to double after 1450, but only 150 years for it to double again. From 1900 to 1950 it doubled once more. It is now believed to double every 900 days and, after 2020 is expected to double every 72.

Only 200 years ago physicians thought that illness was caused by bad blood. George Washington was virtually bled to death in 1799 as the favored treatment for an obvious infection. One hundred years ago Henry Ford introduced the assembly line and the Model T. Fifty years ago personal computers were unknown. Twenty-five years ago the Internet was introduced to the public. Our access to knowledge and the world has dramatically changed. What is there that we do not know today that will be common knowledge tomorrow? What is it that we think we know that will be proved wrong?

Each of us is able to comprehend only a small segment of the vast ocean of human knowledge. And, when all our knowledge is compiled and computed it only scratches the surface of the limitless universe. We are still confined to this tiny spec of a planet. We have not been able to travel any further than the moon. The vastness of the universe remains far beyond our reach. The closest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.33 light years away. Traveling at the fastest speed imaginable with current technology, scientists estimate it would take 19,000 years to reach it. At our very best we can only observe the vast reaches of the universe through our telescopes as though looking through a glass darkly.

Regarding God, we debate our axioms and truths as if we have complete and comprehensive knowledge about God. We must always be reminded by the words of the prophet when God says, “My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts. As the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts.”

This is one of the reasons God sent his Son, simply because God is incomprehensible. Knowledge of his universe is too vast. Knowledge of his nature and character is too far beyond our mortal minds. As with his creation, we can only observe and stand in awe.

We are like newborn babes first opening their eyes to a new world they have never seen. We are like children giggling over new found discoveries on the play ground: a stick, a flower, a worm, a caterpillar. I think God takes joy in this. He takes pleasure in our discoveries of his intricate, complex and mysterious creation. At the same time, he is grieved by our blindness. The violence, cruelty, abuse and conflict that exists in the earth bears witness that for all our advance in scientific and technological knowledge, we are still unable to focus on the truths that matter most. Jesus, as God in human flesh, was the only one who has ever known and seen all things clearly. For all of our advances we have yet to learn the Sermon on the Mount and put it into practice.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ebola and Answered Prayer

In a surprising turn of events, President Obama is recalling the troops who were deployed to Liberia four months ago to fight Ebola.  According to USA Today, “President Obama is all but ending the U.S. military mission to Liberia to fight Ebola next month, as infection rates there fell to near zero.”  Time Magazine published an article this week entitled: “After Ebola: See Life Returning to Normal in Liberia.”

Just six months ago the world was virtually paralyzed with fear that the Ebola virus would become a global epidemic infecting and killing victims by the hundreds of thousands. Headlines dominated the news media warning of the deadly implications of Ebola. Many were near panic when a Liberian man died of the disease in Dallas and a nurse attending him was diagnosed with Ebola after flying to Chicago.

When Dr. Kent Brantly and his nurse were flown to the U. S. for treatment after contracting Ebola in their efforts to treat victims in Liberia, many cringed.  Some questioned the wisdom of transporting known carriers of the disease to American hospitals. But Dr. Brantly and Nurse Nancy Writebol survived.

When asked about his treatment and recovery, Dr. Brantly was clearly convinced that the real secret to his recovery was prayer.  Brantly said, “The people in the room taking care of me, they began praying over me. What I didn’t know at the time is that there were also people outside my house praying for me.” He thoughtfully added, “There were thousands of people, including my teammates there in Liberia who were begging the Lord to save my life.”

Many more hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, prayed.  Web sites like praytoendebola.org were set up.  People were urged to pray for the people of West Africa that they would be receptive to preventive practices, to pray for the medical teams fighting the disease, for the medical research and for the victims.  Thousands risked their lives and traveled to West Africa to fight the disease, including doctors, nurses, medical staff and U.S. troops.

We should continue our prayers.  There is still no proven treatments for Ebola or immunizations to prevent its spread.

But now that the Ebola outbreak has been reduced to near zero, and our troops are being called home, it is time to give thanks.  We should thank the men and women who risked their lives to fight the disease. And we should give thanks to God who has abundantly answered our prayers. 

For some reason, when we are desperate, we are anxious and ready to pray.  But when we are rescued, we are slow to give thanks.  Jesus once healed ten lepers and sent them to show themselves to the priest according to the Jewish custom for healing.  Afterward, of the ten, only one returned to thank Him.  “Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:11-17).

Monday, February 2, 2015

Secrets

You would think that we would have learned our lesson about secrets.  President Nixon and “all the President’s men” thought that they could get away with it.  But every word uttered in the oval office found its way into print and into the public.  The Watergate tapes ripped the mask off the public image of politics and left an entire generation disillusioned.

Twenty years later, Bill Clinton assumed that what he did in private would remain secret. But what happened with Monica Lewinsky behind closed doors became public record resulting in the second Presidential impeachment in history.  In his autobiography Clinton confessed, “The question of secrets is one I have thought a lot about over the years.  … Secrets can be an awful burden to bear, especially if some sense of shame is attached to them … Of course, I didn’t begin to understand all this back when I became a secret-keeper.  …I was always reluctant to discuss with anyone the most difficult parts of my personal life.”

The Wikileaks secrets were first released in 2010. Most of the documents appeared to be trivial and petty.  Some of them serious.  All of it stemmed from words written and spoken in secret places that the participants never dreamed would be read or heard by anyone else.  But what was said in private is now public.

Edward Snowden released classified National Security Documents to the mainstream media in 2013. Facing possible prosecution in the United States, he continues to hide somewhere in Russia.

Jesus warned us that our secrets would become public.  He said, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.” And again, He said, “For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”

Our conduct in secret is the most important part of our life.  What we do and say when we are alone, when we think no one else is looking, that is the part of our life that will ultimately determine our success or failure.  Jesus constantly encouraged his followers to focus on what they did in secret.  “When you pray,” He said, “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” And, “when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Jesus taught that those who say and do things privately that they do not want others to know about are like cups that are only washed on the outside.  A slimy green scum continues to grow on the inside.  He compared people who keep up a public image that is not consistent with their secret conduct to marble tombs in graveyards. They appear whitewashed and clean on the outside, but inside they are filled with rotting flesh and decayed bones.

When we do what is right in private, what is seen in public will take care of itself. The most important part of our lives is the secret part.