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

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Conscious Universe?

Recently NBC News published an article asking the question, “Is the Universe Conscious?” The article referred to a paper by Gregory Matloff, a physicist at the New York City College of Technology. Matloff is not alone.  Others who support the idea that the universe is conscious of itself include David Chalmers, a New York University philosopher and cognitive scientist, neuroscientist Chistof Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose.

According to the article,  three decades ago Penrose theorized that “consciousness is rooted in the statistical rules of quantum physics as they apply in the microscopic spaces between neurons in the brain.”  Bernard Haisch, a German physicist, took this further in 2006, proposing that “quantum fields that permeate all of empty space produce and transmit consciousness.”  According to Koch, “ubiquitous consciousness is strongly tied to scientists’ current understanding of the neurological origins of the mind.”

If all of this confuses you, we are in the same boat.  I am not a scientist and doubt that I comprehend the ideas behind scientific debate regarding “consciousness of the universe.”

But I know that I am conscious. I know that family and friends are conscious of me and that we shape each other’s thoughts and actions.  I know that animals are conscious.  This must be the reason so many people love their dogs, cats and horses.  My dog knows me, recognizes me, and interacts with me. He expresses happiness, sadness, loneliness and love.  All of which, I assume, scientists could reduce to a Pavlovian theory.  But it seems real to me.

The Bible is clear that there is a greater consciousness in the universe that gives rise to our own.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,’ declares the Lord, ‘as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 58:8-9).

God is conscious of our every thought.  He knows every word before it is formed by our tongue. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

God’s greater consciousness is expressed not in logic but in love. “But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8). “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10). It is this love that binds the entire universe together:  (Colossians 1:15-20).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Disciples in Disguise

A number of years ago I attended a conference at the Harley Davidson factory in Kansas City.  A number of pastors and church leaders assembled at the factory to spend a few days touring the facilities and visiting with the administrators.  Some of us were there because we had a lifelong love of motorcycles.  Most of us were there because we wanted to learn how the Harley Davidson leaders had transformed a nearly extinct motorcycle company into a model of success at the turn of the century.

The thing I remember most about the conference was a statement made by a young executive who spoke to the group.  He had just returned from Europe where he helped introduce the Buell sport bike.  He stepped to the microphone and introduced himself.  He said, “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ disguised as a Harley Davidson Executive.” 

Since that time I have discovered disciples disguised in many walks of life:  teachers, doctors, mechanics, students, professors, engineers, nurses, administrators, athletes, grocery clerks, farmers, businessmen, soldiers, homemakers, … the list is almost endless. 

Many people consider themselves to be Christians.  Far fewer think of themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ.  To be a Christian usually means we give assent to the Christian religion, that we are comfortable with occasionally attending church, and we know we are not Muslim, Buddhist or some other religion.  To be a disciple, however, raises the expectations to a whole new level.

Interestingly, Jesus never used the term Christian.  In fact the term is only found three times in the Bible, and twice it is used by non-believers.  Jesus chose to speak about disciples. He said, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27). “If you continue in my word then you are truly disciples of mine. (John 8:31). “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).  “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8).  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).


So, what does a twenty-first century disciple look like?  They look a lot like those we find in the first century.  Those who followed Jesus then were fishermen, tax collectors, business men and business women, mothers and fathers. Today, they look like you and me.  They come from every nation and every race.  They can be found among the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, the famous and obscure. Wherever you find fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ who have received God’s grace and love others as God has love them, you will find disciples in disguise. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

There's Nothing Like Being A Father

On Father’s Day 1999, Phil Mickelson and Payne Stewart stood on the final hole of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.   Mickelson had a 25 foot birdie putt to tie for the lead. Stewart’s ball was 15 feet from the cup for par.

Mickelson’s birdie putt came to rest 6 inches from the hole.  Payne Stewart stood over his 15 foot putt with a w.w.j.d. (“What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet on his wrist, a gift from his son a few months earlier.  The putt broke to the right and dropped into the center of the cup making Stewart the 1999 US Open champion.

Mickelson had left his wife, Amy, at home expecting the birth of their daughter at any moment in order to compete.  He carried a pager in case she went into labor. Winner of 13 PGA tour events, he had never won a major. 

Payne Stewart joined the PGA tour a decade before, a charismatic playboy wearing knickers and a tam-o-shanter  hat. He burst on the scene with a swagger, chewing bubble gum, caustic and arrogant.  In 1989 he refused to shake hands with Tom Kite when he lost in a playoff for the Tour Championship.  But something happened to Payne Stewart in the mid-90s.  His golf game suffered. His best friend, Paul Azinger, struggled with cancer. When Stewart  came to faith in Jesus Christ through the influence of his children, his conduct and values changed.

One of the most memorable photos in sports history is the image of Payne Stewart taking Phil Mickelson’s face in his hands and looking intently into his eyes trying to encourage his competitor in defeat.  Knowing what Mickelson was going through at home, Stewart said. “Phil, there’s nothing like being a father!”  Amanda Mickelson was born the following day.

Four months later Payne Stewart was killed when his private jet crashed in a field near Mina, SD.  More than 3,000 people attended his funeral at First Baptist Church, Orlando, FL.  His wife, Tracey, spoke. ''When I met Payne, I thought he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen in my life,'' she said. ''After 18 years of marriage, he was still the most beautiful man I had ever seen, not because of the way he looked on the outside anymore, but because of what he was on the inside.'' Everyone at the funeral received a w.w.j.d. bracelet.

Phil Mickelson went on to win 42 events on the PGA tour including 5 majors: 3 Masters, the PGA and the British Open.  He has never won the US Open.  This week, with age cutting short his chances of winning the one event that has eluded him, Mickelson chose to miss the US Open in order to attend his daughter’s graduation at Pacific Ridge High School in Carlsbad, CA.  Amanda, now 18 and the school president, will deliver the valedictorian address.  Mickelson said it was not a hard decision. 

"It's a tournament that I want to win the most," Mickelson said. "The only way to win is if you play and have a chance. But this is one of those moments where you look back on life and you just don't want to miss it. I'll be really glad that I was there and present."

In the words of Payne Stewart, “There is nothing like being a father!”  w.w.j.d.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Replenish the Earth

Twenty-five years ago we took our children on one of those vacations-of-a-lifetime to Disneyland in Los Angeles.  We bought a used van for the summer and coaxed it across the desert to the west coast.  When we took the kids to the beach we were unable to see the surf on the horizon because of the greenish-yellow haze trapped against the shore.

For years I commuted to work in Dallas listening to reporters declaring orange and red alerts for air quality. At some point TV weather forecasters added reports on the day’s pollution index to the routine reports on temperature, rain and humidity. In the last two decades we have seen improvements.

The first photos of earth sent back by the Apollo crews in the 1970s dramatically impressed us that our tiny blue planet rotating in space is precious and fragile. The thin layer of air that surrounds us not only contains the oxygen essential to life, but protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, regulates earth’s temperature and distributes moisture on dry land. Three-fourths of the atmosphere lies within 6.5 miles of the earth’s surface.  Sixty-two miles up we leave earth’s atmosphere and enter outer space. We are dependent on an amazingly thin film of atmospheric gases to sustain life on our planet.

The Bible clearly predicts that the earth will “wax old like a garment.”  Our finite earth will wear out.  Of course, I also know that one day I will wear out. We are all mortal. None of us lives forever. But my own mortality doesn’t mean I should start smoking, drinking, indulging in high fat foods and refusing to exercise.  Instead, I am motivated to discipline my body so that I can experience greater health and longevity.  In the same way, we must learn to discipline ourselves regarding the creation that God has entrusted to our care.  In the very first chapter of the Bible, with His very first words to mankind, God instructs us to “be fruitful and multiple and replenish the earth.” (Genesis 1:22).

The reaction to President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement has been swift. While some celebrated and others demonstrated, many responded with their own resolves to protect our environment. Thirty states resolved to stay the course to pursue lower greenhouse gases. Individuals, businesses and local governments are making commitments to make a difference. Renewable energy has taken root and is growing

In their groundbreaking book, Abundance, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler dare us “to imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top tier medical care, and non-polluting, ubiquitous energy.”


I doubt that pollution will become intolerable in my life time, though it seems to already be so in Beijing, at least until the wind kicks up and blows it our way.  But I wonder about the world we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren.  Will they continue to enjoy a pristine world with all its life-giving beauty and majesty? When God commanded us to “replenish the earth,” he placed the responsibility in our hands.