Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Treasures in Heaven

Treasures in Heaven
            Initially, before coach Jim Tressel was outed for essentially lying to his bosses and the NCAA, it looked like Ohio State was getting off kind of easy. In exchange for OSU's cooperation, the NCAA was willing to play good cop. It could have suspended five ineligible players who allegedly sold and/or bartered memorabilia to a local tattoo shop for the Sugar Bowl, but it didn't. It could have declared all five players retroactively ineligible and stricken all eleven Buckeye wins in 2010 from the books, along with their share of the Big Ten title, but it didn't. It could have gone after Ohio State the way it went after USC, in search of bowl bans and significant scholarship losses, but it didn't. In the wake of the sledgehammer that fell on the Trojans last summer, the punishment for Ohio State — a straightforward five-game suspension for four of the offending players to start the 2011 season, games the Buckeyes are likely to win, anyway — seemed minimal, perfunctory. Which is one of the reasons it made so many people so angry, or confused, or both.
That, of course, was before Tressel's long-running, deliberate cover-up of the violations saw the light of day, and before it became clear that the NCAA — and possibly the higher-ups at Ohio State themselves — had been misled by one of the most respected men in the profession. What cooperation will buy you in leniency, deception will buy in retribution, and the NCAA began to extract its pound of flesh Friday with an official notice of allegations to the university.
It makes three allegations of "potential major violations," specifically:
That, between November 2008 and May 2010, multiple student-athletes received preferential treatment and "sold institutionally issued athletics awards, apparel and equipment to Edward Rife, owner of a local tattoo parlor," adding up to more than $13,000 in cash, free tattoos, a loan and a discount on a used car one of the players bought from Rife.
Under the same heading, that Tressel "knew or should have known" that at least two players had made inappropriate transactions with Rife, per a credible email tipster, but "he failed to report information to athletics administration and, as a result, permitted football student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics competition while ineligible."
That, as reported by the university, Tressel "failed to deport himself in accordance with the honest and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics as required by NCAA legislation and violated ethical-conduct legislation" by failing to report emails alerting him to violations, withholding the information for months, allowing possibly ineligible players to play for the entire season and "falsely attest[ing] that he reported to the institution any knowledge of NCAA violations" when he signed a compliance form last September.
So the other shoe falls, and the shoe is a bomb. Collateral damage TBA. (Quoted directly from “NCAA Formally Charges Jim Tressel With Lies, Coverup of OSU Viloations” By Matt Hinton  April 25, 2011)

Right now, the victims of Madoff's alleged crime are in a very strange place. They still have their big homes. At least for now, the furniture is still polished, the Lexuses are quietly garaged, and the people still stand — except for poor M. Villehuchet, who last week in New York slit his wrists. But underneath these material reminders of a former life there is nothing — or very little.
The financial piers supporting lifetimes of accumulated wealth have simply vanished. This week, people everywhere are preparing to celebrate the New Year, while Madoff's victims are looking over their bank statements and credit card bills, asking themselves one question: How long can we hang on?
As one of the taken, I get calls daily from those who have lost their financial lifeline due to this mess. This wasn't a slow-fade-to-ruin crime, but a flip-the-switch-to-poverty crime, and many are now in an adrenal-driven shock stage of having no money — at all — in the bank. The ruin is especially tragic among retirees hit by this pre-holiday bomb. (Quoted directly from “Madoff’s Victims: Finding Meaning in the Devastation” by Robert Chew December 30, 2008)

FOLEY, Ala. — Allen Kruse tenderly kissed his wife goodbye just after sunrise Wednesday and headed to the docks in Gulf Shores, Ala., where his boat, The Rookie, was moored.
A charter boat captain for 25 years, Kruse had signed on as a BP contractor to spot oil, deploy boom and eventually learn how to skim oil. His business had come to a screeching halt after the April 20 oil spill.
About an hour later, Kruse was dead. He was 55, the father of 11- and 12-year-old boys, Cory and Ryan, and daughter Kelli, 26.
About 7 a.m., after a BP training meeting, he climbed into the wheelhouse of his 46-foot charter boat and ended his worry, his frustration and his anger with a single bullet to the head.
"Nothing was easy working with BP. Everything was hard, and it consumed him. He wasn't crazy," said his wife, Tracy, 41, sitting outside the couple's home in Foley on Thursday.
"He'd been a charter boat captain for 25 years, and all of the sudden he had people barking orders at him who didn't know how to tie up a boat to a pier. I think he thought, 'I've got to get out of this. I can't take it.' "
The spill also left Kruse emotionally devastated. It robbed him of his passion for taking customers out to the Gulf to fish for red snapper and grouper, his wife said.
"Our whole lives surround this, this oil, everything is oil," he told her a few days ago.
(Quoted directly from “Boat Captain Commits Suicide After BP Training Meeting” by Brian Kelly June 26, 2010)
            What do these three stories have in common? Each one of these three stories has an opportunity for someone to put their trust, hope, and future into something short-term and earthly—sports, finances, and work.
            My impressionable childhood occurred during the early to mid 1980’s. I grew up in Ohio watching and listening to all things Ohio State, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Reds. I loved baseball. I remember going to the games and getting their early enough to watch batting practice and trying to get autographs and foul balls. One time it was free poster day for the first so many thousand people. Of course we got there early enough to get one. There was a 6x12” metal sign above the dugout that said “No autographs during the game.” I pushed my poster out at anyone who walked close enough for me to beg an autograph from. Unfortunately, I accidentally hit the sign with my poster and knocked the sign off and cut should-be Hall of Famer Davey Concepcion’s face, to which he said, “Watch it, kid.” I did get an autograph, but it was Ted Powers and then owner Marge Schott.
            But the poster was a poster commemorating one of my heroes breaking the all-time hit record. Pete Rose was one of the greatest baseball players who ever played the game. When I was a kid he was the last player/manager, which meant he took on all of the responsibilities of a manager but could still put himself in the game whenever he felt like it. He ended his career with 4,256 hits. I remember walking to the playground with my dad one time. I don’t remember the topic but the lesson was nobody is perfect. That perplexed me, and I looked up to him all confused and asked, “Even Pete Rose?”  Dad chuckled and said, “Even Pete Rose.” I also remember asking dad if he would sign Pete Rose’s name on my softball. He said “No.”
            Many of you already know what happened in Pete Rose’s life, but for those of you who don’t, he is one of the few players who have been banned for life from the game of baseball. The news that Pete Rose bet on baseball confused me as a little kid. All I knew was that my childhood hero was now being disgraced in every newspaper, and radio and television sports program. Over the years, in an effort to get admitted into the Hall of Fame, Rose admitted to more and more, revealing the depth of his gambling depravity. To me an icon was fallen and my childhood innocence was lost forever.
            It doesn’t matter who you are looking up to, or who or what you are putting your trust in. If that trust or admiration is not on God, you will eventually be disappointed. Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, white or black, your mom, your dad, your brother and sister, they all, whether they intend to or not will disappoint you. I can tell you story after story of missionaries and pastors having moral failures. It is frustrating, disheartening, and sickening, but there is one man who has never let me down.       
            Tonight, we’re going to continue our journey into the Sermon on the Mount, and dare to ask ourselves the question, “Can anyone live out the Sermon on the Mount in today’s world?”  Open up your Bibles to Matthew 6:19. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
            Of course this passage speaks of material possessions. If you own stock in Ford, you drive Fords. You study their quarterly reports. You hope their stock prices go up, and are upset when their prices go down. The more money you have invested in Ford, the more your life revolves around that company. What if a person invested that same money into a mission organization that brought the gospel to people? Wouldn’t that person be interested in how the missionaries were doing, what they were doing with their gifts, and how successful they were at winning people to Christ? Wouldn’t that person be even more excited knowing that God would never let them down or disappoint them? 
            But the passage deals with more than just finances, it also deals with our emotional treasures. We have absolutely no control over what another human being does, no matter how much we love them, admire them, or how committed we are to them. A child has no control over whether or not his father walks out on them. A husband cannot stop a wife who is determined to leave. A little boy cannot keep his favorite athlete from doing drugs. People will disappoint you. Businesses will act immorally and cause you financial loss.
            So what is the solution? Never trust anyone or anything again? No, I’d rather be dead than to live like that. The only thing that will never disappoint you is God. So when we put someone or some company in a position where we will be overcome with grief when they disappoint us, we have intentionally or unintentionally put them in a position of a god—someplace I’m sure they would not have chosen for themselves. It’s ok to look up to people. It is not ok to idolize them. If Rebekah left me would I be crushed? Absolutely. The other day we were at the mall and she took Caleb to the bathroom while I bought lunch and secured a table for us. A long time later, Rebekah came out, grabbed her purse and said she had to buy Caleb new shorts because he had an accident. So I sat there for an even longer time. My mind began to wander and I thought, “What if she left me and this is how she planned her escape? How long do I wait before I go and look for her?” I would be crushed if she left, but I do not worship her, and she doesn’t worship me.
            My encouragement for you is to put people in their proper place. Love them, and look up to them, but don’t worship them. Keep your treasures in heaven—both emotional and financial. Disappointments will happen but you will be able to overcome them.
            The first step to keeping your treasure in heaven is accepting Christ. What most people search for in this world is security. This is the main reason people save and invest their money—so they can be secure if something bad happens. Christ is the ultimate insurance plan. Come what may on earth, He has you secure in heaven. As a believer in Christ, the absolute worst thing that could happen to me is that I die, and spend eternity in heaven with my savior. What about you? Do you have that assurance?   

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Review of "For Men Only"


            For Men Only, the sequel to the best selling book For Women Only, was a fun, quick, simple, but not an easy read. The material that Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn laid out for us men was similar to most of the other material I have read concerning relationships and manhood, but it is the first that I recall reading written specifically for men with insights into the inner psyche of women.
There are two things that make this book not an easy read. The first is that, as men, deep down we know that we are called to be more than how we are living. Society tells us how what a man looks and acts like, which is a far cry from what God’s opinion is. This book presents to us what our wives are craving, and perhaps dying inside for, and how we can meet that need. If we are a real man, than that should make us do the hard things that are required of us. This will force us to do things that go against our nature, our habits, and our upbringing.
Secondly, the Feldhahns laid out how the female brain works in contrast to how the male brain works. Chapter three literally made my brain hurt as they described that a woman’s brain is like a computer with at least 6-7 windows open that she is constantly flipping back and forth through. To top that all off she is being bombarded with pop-ups. A man on the other hand functions with one window open until he is finished with it. If he needs to work from a different window, he has the ability to shut the other window down, and focus on the task at hand. For me it was eye-opening to understand that my wife can’t not think about something, and I learned some tips about how to assist her in closing a window or two.
The book was very well written, with only a few typographical errors. It was encouraging, informative, and stepped on my toes, which is something I always appreciate. I would recommend this book to any husband. The recommended price is $14.99, but includes a pull-out “Quick Start Guide” which is worth the price of the book. The Quick Start Guide has six topics which include three sections: 1) Why does she…?; 2) Here’s why; 3) What to do. It is invaluable to clueless men who truly are trying to love their wives better.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.       

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Do You Believe What You Believe, pt. 2 "The Bible"

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong. Yes Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
            Ok, so this book, or more accurately, this collection of books, which is very thick and hard to read, hard to understand, and even harder to apply the principles taught in it… this book, described as two cows hugging a tree, one of the most polarizing books in all of history, tells me that Jesus loves me. Why should we believe that? What makes the Bible an accurate source of information? I heard of a magazine article the other day that said if you want to have fulfilling sex you should wait. I agree that you should wait. I disagreed on how long you should wait. They suggested waiting a whole month. The Bible doesn’t just suggest, it commands us to wait until we’re married. Again, what makes this article false and the Bible true? When two sources are saying opposite things, one necessarily has to be wrong. So how do we know the Bible is the one telling us the truth?
There used to be a day and age where the Bible’s authority was unquestioned. If you had a problem with the Bible you had a problem with yourself. It’s not that way anymore. It’s popular to question authority, and the ultimate authority is God, and His Word. I remember one time I was substitute teaching for a P.E. teacher in Ohio. He had a list of all of the mistakes and contradictions in the Bible in his desk. I saw it and wanted so bad to refute them, but I didn’t know if he was doubting the accuracy of the Bible or if a friend was and he was refuting them for him. But one of the listed problems of scripture concerned the ark. Name for me where the ark comes into play in the Bible: 1) Noah’s Ark; 2) The Ark of the Covenant. One was a boat that carried at least two of every kind of animal in the world. The other was a large box, able to be carried by two people, which stored a piece of manna, the Ten Commandments, and the very presence of God. This person wondered how such a small box could contain every type of animal known to man. They were either too dumb, or not intellectually honest enough to consider the fact that the word “ark” may have allowed for two different meanings.
Reading 1: Mark 5:1 (Gadarenes) Reading 2: Luke 8:26 (Gadarenes) Reading 3: Matthew 8:28 (Gergesenes) There are three different people telling the same story, but one of them takes place near the town of Gergesenes where the other two take place in Gadarenes. They both can’t be right. So which is it? Mark is considered to be the oldest of the four Gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke, John). It is believed that the other gospel writers relied on Mark’s narration for some of the details. Luke was not native to the area, and would not be familiar with the geography to notice a discrepancy. It is believed that one of the people in charge of the copying of scriptures noticed the error and fixed it in the Gospel of Matthew. How do we know that Matthew’s version is the correct version? The town of Gadara was anywhere from 50 to 150 miles away from the Sea of Galilee, whereas Gergesa was right on the shore. If those pigs ran 50 to 150 miles before going swimming it is no wonder they drowned.
Does that mean there are errors in scripture? Theological errors—no. Typographical errors—yes, but extremely minor and of no importance to anything significant. Does this cause me concern? No, because I don’t worship the Bible. I worship the God who wrote the Bible. Is the Bible wrong then? No. We don’t have an original copy of the Holy Word. What we have are copies, but today I will prove to you that our copies are extremely reliable, and worthy of our trust.
Josh McDowell was a very intelligent atheist in college. He was challenged, and therefore, set out to be the one to prove Christianity wrong. In his studies he found overwhelming proof that Christianity was not wrong and turned his life over to Christ. He is now one of the greatest minds Christianity has produced. In his body of work he wrote a two volume encyclopedic style book called Evidence that Demands a Verdict. For the most part, all of my references will be coming from that source.
Here are some interesting facts about the Bible.
-It was written over a span of about 1,500 years.
-It was written by more than forty authors from every walk of life including: kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fisherman, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, and shepherds.
            -Moses was a political leader and a judge, trained at universities in Egypt.
            -David was a king, poet, musician, shepherd, and warrior.
            -Joshua was a military leader.
            -Daniel was a prime minister
            -Solomon was a king and a philosopher
            -Luke was a doctor and a historian
            -Peter was a fisherman.
            -Matthew was a tax collector
            -Paul was studying to be a rabbi.
            -Mark was Peter’s secretary.
-It was written in different places:
            -Moses was in the wilderness.
            -Jeremiah was in a dungeon
            -Paul was in prison.
            -Daniel was on a hillside and in a palace.
            -Luke was travelling.
            -John was exiled on the island of Patmos.
-It was written in different time:
            -David in times of war and sacrifice
            -Solomon in times of peace and prosperity.
-It was written during different moods.
            -Heights of joy.
            -Depths of despair.
            -Certainty and conviction.
            -Confusion and doubt.
-It was written on three different continents:
-It was written in three languages:
-It was written in many different writing styles:
            -History, poetry, song, romance, personal letters, memoirs, satire, biography and autobiography, law, prophecy, parable, allegory
            In spite of this great time span and diversity of authors, settings and writing styles, there is one common theme throughout the 66 books of the Bible—God’s redemption plan for man. From cover to cover, the Bible focuses its attention on Jesus Christ.
            The Bible stands alone in its ability to survive through the generations. The original writing of a book of the Bible is called an autograph. There are no autographs that we have discovered yet. A copy of the original is called a manuscript. The older, or closest to the original version is generally considered to be the most accurate (The oldest fragment dates back to 2400 BC). The more manuscripts that are found, the easier it is to check for errors and mistakes. How do we know that the people copying the text were good at their jobs? Because they took it very seriously. They wrote one word at a time and then counted every letter per line to make sure that there was an accurate accounting for each letter and word. 
            How does the Bible compare to other ancient works? In my 33 years I have never heard anyone argue that Homer did not write The Odyssey or The Iliad, but I have heard people say some pretty disrespectful things about the Bible. How many manuscripts do we have of The Iliad? 643. How many do we have of the New Testament alone? 24,970. Homer wrote The Iliad around 800 BC and we found our oldest mss of that work around 400 BC, a difference of 400 years. The New Testament was written between 50 and 100 AD and we have mss from 114 AD, anywhere from 4-50 years old.
            Another way we can tell the reliability of scripture and how it was kept pure through copying is by reading secondary sources who quoted the Bible in their works. It is argued that even if we didn’t have all of the mss that we do have, we could put one together just using the writings of the church fathers and their quotations of the Bible. A church father is two steps away from Jesus. The apostles were disciples of Jesus. The church fathers were disciples of the apostles. Just looking at the writing of seven of these church fathers (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Eusebius) there have been 36,289 quotations from scripture.
            What does all of this mean and why should you care? If the Bible is true and accurate, and even though I just scratched the surface here tonight, I believe I gave enough convincing evidence to prove that it is, then we must believe and do what it tells us to do. From the very first book of the Bible to the very last it screams to us about Jesus. We have to take that truth and accept it. After what I’ve shared here tonight, there will forever be a thought in your brain that you can’t run from, “The Bible is the most accurate and documented to be correct book the world has ever known.” You can’t get away from that fact, and that means you can’t get away from Jesus. Jesus is not hidden in this book. He wants to be found by you. Please if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, I challenge you to read the book of John, and then pray this simple prayer, “God, if this is for real, then show me.” That’s it. For you believers, it’s time you start acting like this is God’s word for you. Stand up for it. Defend it. Believe it. Read it. If Jesus personally sent you a letter in the mail, would you read it? I believe you would, but are your actions proving you wrong?        

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Do You Believe What You Believe?

Why Do You Believe What You Believe?

We’re going to take a side trip from our Sermon on the Mount series to cover something that coincides with what you’ve been learning in Sunday school. And that is “Why Do You Believe What You Believe?”
            That is a difficult question to ask yourselves. It is a question that demands complete honesty, because if you are not going to be honest with yourself, who are you going to be honest with, and what’s the point of asking if you’re going to lie? The second reason why it’s hard to answer is because we almost never think about it. We only think about it when we’re asked and we’re almost never asked. I’ve been asked one time why I believed what I believed. It was a Catholic friend of mine trying to convert me to Catholicism. I asked him the same question because I was trying to convert him to Protestantism. We had a lot of interesting discussions, but neither one of us swayed the other. Why? Because not only did we both know what we believed, we knew why we believed it. It’s not enough to know what you believe in (although that is a good place to start), you also have to know why you believe in it.
I personally believe The Ohio State University is a superior school for many reasons--awesome campus, best sports teams, great research, great cancer center. Is all of that true? Yes. Could other schools argue the same thing? Yes. So why do I think OSU is better than the rest? Because I was born in Ohio and raised a fan of everything Ohio State.
            When we get right down to it, most of us believe what we believe because our parents, or another influential person, trained us to think that way, which is why the ACLU case against the Santa Rosa School Board was so important. Schools are becoming increasingly open to other religions, homosexuality, and a whole host of alternate lifestyles, while Christianity and conservative values are becoming more and more closed. Why is that? Because they know if they can control the way you think, they can control what you believe. If they control what you believe they can control the way you behave. The ultimate goal is for a liberal, godless society tolerant of everyone. Unfortunately, that would be a disaster.
            So the question remains: Why do you believe what you believe? Why are you a Christian? Why are you Catholic or why are you protestant? If you’re protestant, why are you Baptist? Why are you here at Ferris Hill Baptist Church and not at another church? For many of you it is because your parents are Baptists or whatever denomination you consider yourself to be a part of. But what about Islam, Mormonism, or Buddhism? Are they not false religions teaching false doctrines? Are there not people born and raised into that faith? What would you say to them? Will they get to go to heaven if their excuse is they believed what their parents believed?
            Let’s create a scenario. You meet someone either at a place you hang out like a paint ball field, school cafeteria, or on a sports team. The two of you really hit it off and become best friends. You’re a Baptist and they are Mormons. What would you say to that person to sway them to your beliefs? Or would you say nothing to them, and be cool with them going to hell when they die? They may have a very superficial belief in their religion based only on the fact that that is the only religion they are familiar with and been raised on. Unfortunately, you probably have a very superficial belief in your religion, too, based only on the fact that that is the only religion you are familiar with and been raised on.
            This is why it is important to know what you believe in and why. First Peter 3:15 says, “And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”
            I believe Jesus Christ was the very Son of God as well as being an integral part of three part Godhead. I believe He died on the cross as a perfect, once for all, sin offering forever taking away the guilt and punishment of sin from those who believe in Him. I believe Jesus was telling the truth when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father bur through me.” (John 14:6) In other words, a right relationship with Jesus Christ is our only hope of going to heaven. All other claims are false, born in the pit of hell to distract people from obtaining fellowship with the true God.
            The question remains: Why do I believe that? I have several reasons. 1) Fact- The historical documented evidence is overwhelming; 2) Scripture—The inerrant Word of God has withstood every test of man while other books believed to be true aren’t scrutinized nearly as hard; 3) Faith—Jesus said to Thomas, the disciple who doubted Jesus’ resurrection saying, “I won’t believe until I’ve touched His nail pierced hands.” Later on he did and believed to which Jesus said, “You believe because you see? Blessed are those who believe and yet do not see.”; 4) Revelation—Through general and specific revelations God still speaks to His creation.   
            Today we are going to look at the two types of revelation. The first is general revelation. Do you ever wonder what happens to the people who never have an opportunity to hear the gospel? I used to think about that a lot. Some people believe that they get a free pass into heaven no matter what god they served. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If this was true then I would not send another dime to a missionary for fear that he might share the gospel with someone who has never heard it before, because they might reject it, die and go to hell. According to that belief it would have been infinitely better if they had never heard the gospel at all. Secondly, we all can trace our lineage back to a man named Noah who built a large boat. Noah was a faithful believer in the one true God. We can blame our ancestors along the way for not passing on their faith more diligently as the reason we have so many false religions. Thirdly, scripture says that we are all without excuse. Romans 1:19-20, “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” In other words, God placed a knowledge of Him deep inside each one of us, and even if we choose to ignore that all of creation speaks of Him.
            The philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God shaped void in each one of us.” There is a God shaped hole that can only be filled by God. It’s like that toy toddlers play with—there is a square, a round, and a triangle shaped block with corresponding holes. As hard as you push you can’t force the square block through the triangle hole. Only the triangle block will fit in there. This is where the term referring to someone as a square peg in a round hole came from—they just don’t fit. People have this God shaped hole in their heart and they try to fill it with girls, boys, pot, beer, pornography, fame, money, attention, and many other things. And when they get where they thought they would be happy, they aren’t and are left more hurting than when they begun because now they don’t know how to make themselves happy. Look at Charlie Sheen. Is he happy? He’s got fame, fortune, girls…. Yet he just got fired from his job for being strung out on cocaine all the time. Something is calling out from inside of him but he’s trying to drown it out with everything else.
            Nature is also a very big factor in letting us know there is a God. The sun rises and sets everyday at a precise time that can be calculated. The tide comes in the tide goes out. Fishermen make a living knowing precisely when that will happen. The earth sits at the exact right spot in its continual orbit around the sun. If it was any closer we’d all melt, if it was any further we’d all freeze. If the moon was any closer it would throw off the gravitational pull of the earth that would make life on earth impossible.
            Many of you will remember we watched a Louie Giglio video last year where he discussed how extremely large the galaxy was and how God made himself known through it. He showed a picture from the Hubble telescope of the center of a black hole with a cross clearly displayed in it. Then he shifted gears and went the exact opposite direction talking about laminin, which is a protein that is literally the glue that holds every cell in our body together. Guess what shape laminin was? A cross.
            But that’s general. Let’s talk about specific revelation. God still talks to people, and through those conversations reveals information about Himself. The information He reveals changes depending on the circumstances of who He’s talking to and why He’s talking to them, but the information never conflicts with scripture. If God is talking to you and is telling you to kill someone, come see me or Pastor Brian. Preferably Pastor Brian, he’s bigger than me. God has spoken to me on a couple of different occasions, usually confirming things I already knew but was hesitant on. Once He clearly guided me in a different direction than where I was planning on going.
            Let’s look really quick at two different examples of God specifically revealing Himself. Acts 9:1-6 “Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
 3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
 5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
   And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
            Saul was the great persecutor of the Christian church. He knew all about Jesus and His church, but God revealed to him the truth about Jesus in an instant.
            The second passage comes from Acts 10:1-6, “In Caesarea there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment. 2 He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. 3 One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said.
 4 Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.
   And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! 5 Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”
            In this passage a gentile soldier, who somehow became a devout believer in the Jewish God, received a message from God that someone would be coming to his house to tell him about Jesus. When Peter came to his house, Cornelius had invited all of his friends and family and a great number of them became believers that day and were baptized.
            Jesus is still being revealed today through visions and dreams. There is a phenomenon going on in the Muslim world today where they are receiving dreams and visions of Jesus. Here’s a quote from http://www.jesusvisions.org/, “Since the first edition of “The Jesus Visions,” the phenomena of dreams and visions outpoured in the Middle East have increased—I would almost dare to say--exponentially.
 We can hardly keep pace with reports of dreams and visions of our Lord Jesus! An article published in ‘Mission Frontiers’ magazine reported the following, based on questionnaires completed by over 600 Muslims who had placed their faith in Jesus:
 Though dreams may play an insignificant role in the conversion decisions of most Westerners, over one-fourth of those surveyed stated quite emphatically that dreams and visions were key in drawing them to Christ and sustained them through difficult times.
A typical ‘Jesus dream or vision’ with innumerable variations is usually described by Muslims as a peaceful face that they somehow recognize as Jesus. Often they encounter a compassionate figure in a white robe, calling them to come to Him. Sometimes His hands and arms are extended wide, or Jesus reaches toward them in love and invitation. Many dreams are preparatory experiences to encourage Muslims with the possibility of following Jesus. Other visions or dreams are “epic” experiences of such magnitude that the person knows unquestioningly that he or she is destined to walk the lonely path of faith, even martyrdom, with Jesus.”
            So the original question, why do you believe what you believe still must be answered. Do you think Paul after his conversion experience ever doubted that God was for real? Or how about Cornelius? He was  praying and an angel came and prophesied about a future event. You may not ever have an experience like these two, but God will speak to you like He spoke to me. And when He does, people will have a hard time telling you He didn’t.
            And then when we look at nature, we have to ask ourselves, why would God go to such great lengths to place a cross on a black hole, and a tiny protein and then give us the ability to find them if He didn’t want to tell us something. What He wants to say is, “I’m for real, and you can’t pretend I don’t exist anymore.”