1805) Scientism vs. Revelation

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Stephen Hawking  (1942-2018)


By John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris, in March 16, 2018 post at:  http://www.breakpoint.org


     Typically speaking, theoretical physicists do not become cultural icons, much less pop-culture icons.  But Stephen Hawking, who passed away last Wednesday, was both.

     His book A Brief History of Time became a surprise global hit, selling more than 10 million copies.  He made regular appearances on television, including hit shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and (in animated form) “The Simpsons.”  The film about his life, “The Theory of Everything,” did more than $100-million at the box office and produced five Academy Award nominations and one win.

     Certainly, Stephen Hawking was a brilliant scientist who made significant contributions to his field.  But many other scientists who’ve accomplished just as much remain unknown outside the scientific community.  So what explains Hawking’s celebrity status?

     Yes, he was brilliant.  And who could not be inspired by his rising above such a debilitating physical condition that left him wheelchair-bound for decades?  But there are other factors to consider.

     Many underestimate the place that science holds in today’s cultural backdrop.  In pre-modern Christendom, the ultimate statement of authority was “thus saith the Lord.”  Today, the closest statement with that sort of gravitas is “the science is settled,” despite how often that claim is misused to stifle debate and advance ideologies.

     And also, Stephen Hawking didn’t stay in his lane.  He was a scientist, but in each of his books and nearly all of his media appearances, he ventured into philosophy, masking metaphysical observations and proclamations in language of scientific certainty.

     Hawking regularly opined on what are known as the “ultimate questions,” such as “Where did everything come from?” “Why are we here?” “What’s the meaning of life?” “Who are we as human beings?” and “What is our ultimate destiny?”

     Here’s a sampling of the philosophy from this man who once proclaimed philosophy dead:

     “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.  Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

     And this: We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.  But we can understand the universe.  That makes us something very special.”

     Or this one:  “There is no heaven or afterlife… that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

    Or my favorite:  “The scientific account is complete.  Theology is unnecessary.”

     Stephen Hawking spoke with certainty, but he did not apply the same rigorous thinking to the big worldview questions that he did in his science.   Or perhaps more accurately, he tried to answer questions that do not have mathematical answers with the mathematical vocabulary in which he was brilliantly fluent.

     In doing so, he looked for answers to ultimate questions where they could not be found.  The result were incomplete and often misleading answers to vitally important questions presented with the Good Housekeeping Seal of scientific authority.  At the end of the day Stephen Hawking, the scientist, peddled a worldview:   ‘scientism, ‘ the idea that all questions are, and therefore all answers are, scientific in nature.

     Still, in a strange way, Stephen Hawking inadvertently taught us that worldview matters.  Namely, that there are big questions that haunt humans; that we have much to learn from the natural world, as the psalmist said centuries ago; and that at the end of all our scientific knowledge there is still more to know.

     In fact, Hawking once admitted that to know the ultimate why of the universe would be to know the “mind of God.”  How tragic that He never acknowledged the God who went to such lengths to make Himself known.


“Science is a process that progresses only by showing itself to be wrong.”

–Allan Sandage


Psalm 19:1  —  The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

I Corinthians 1:25  —  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

I Corinthians 3:18-20  —  Do not deceive yourselves.  If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”



Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens.  Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them”

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.  You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

1804) The End

     Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”  How does that work?  How does God deliver us from all our fears?  Have you been delivered from all your fears? 

     Fear is an inevitable part of being human.  We fear the loss of what is good.  We fear the loss of what we love.  We are afraid of losing our money, our health, our happiness, our home, and our youth.  We are afraid of losing our loved ones and we are afraid of losing our own lives.  And we fear all of that for a very good and logical reason.  We fear such loss because there is a 100% chance that we will lose everything someday.  We could lose it all today, or we could gradually lose everything over the next forty years.  But eventually we will indeed lose it all.  The percentages are the same for everyone.  Everyone loses everything they have.  We don’t want that and so we fear such loss.  We may not be conscious of this fear every minute, but an awareness of our insecure place in this world is always with us.  We keep busy and we keep our minds on other things.  We have to.  That is how we cope with such fear and insecurity.  But that ‘busy-ness’ does not keep us any safer.

      I once knew a lady who was not able to cope in that way and her fears dominated her life.  She thought only about the dangers all around her and all the things that could happen to her at any time, and her fears paralyzed her.  Sometimes she even had to be hospitalized.  She was afraid of everything; illness, car accidents, bad weather, burglars, murderers, her children’s future, and her parent’s approaching death.  She feared everything, all the time.  It was all she ever thought about.  And she was right, of course, about all those fears.  I could not logically talk her out of any of them, because she knew and I knew that everything she feared could happen.  It was all possible.  And even though on most days nothing bad happened to her, she was also right about the fact that she was one day going to be losing everything to one or more of the things that she was afraid of.  And her fears made her so ill that she often pondered committing suicide, an act which would mean the immediate loss of everything she was so afraid of losing.  Such is the thinking of one who cannot cope with fear.

     Most of us cope with our fears far more effectively than that.  But how is it that we cope?  None of us can deal with our fears by eliminating all the things that threaten us.  We can’t do that, but we can keep busy and keep our minds on other things.  Yet, in the back of our minds we do know that one day, one of those things that we fear will indeed get us; cancer, a car accident, heart failure, old age and gradual decline, Alzheimer’s disease, or whatever; and then we will lose everything.  Being a Christian does not eliminate this danger or even decrease the chances.  Those who believe in Jesus and those who do not believe in anything are alike in that all will end up losing everything.

     But from Jesus we receive a promise that tells us that even after we must let go of everything, God will still have a hold of us and will one day restore us to life in his home.  There we will receive an abundance of blessings unimaginable here.  Nothing worth having will be lost forever.  All will be restored.  God promises that our story will go on even after the loss of everything in death.

      I enjoy reading novels.  I have read several of my favorite novels more than once.  Even though I know how the book will end, I can enjoy reading again and again a good story that is well told.  But knowing how the story ends does affect my reading of it.  From the beginning I know all of the characters and I know how it will go for them throughout the story.  I know the tragedy and joy that awaits each one.  If I know that the story ends happily for the main characters, I remain hopeful, even when terrible things are happening to them.  I can be happy for them even as they struggle, because I know they will be all right in the end.  But if I know the story ends in tragedy, then even the happy parts of the story are tainted and saddened by the knowledge of what is to come.  I will be sad for the people I am reading about even as they are enjoying themselves and are full of hope, knowing that tragedy or death is just around the corner.

       In the Bible we are able to read the end of our story, and we find out there that we can look forward to a good ending.  The unfolding of our story will bring resurrection and healing and restoration.  It will usher in a time and a place of peace and comfort and harmony.  All pain, sadness, death, and loss will be gone forever.  We cannot know the details of what joys or tragedies are ahead for us in our earthly lives.  We don’t know when or how we will die.  But God does promise us a resurrection from the dead.  He has assured us of that turning point in our story.  And knowing ahead of time that there will be such a resurrection gives us the perspective we need to face all of our problems without fear.  Just like when I read a novel for the second time, I can, in my own life, be hopeful and happy, knowing that all will turn out well for me in the end.  I can live my life fully aware that in the future I will lose everything, but still I need not have any anxiety about that future.  Any losses that I face are only temporary losses, and in the end I will be safe and secure.


Psalm 34:4 — I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Matthew 24:13-14 — (Jesus said), “…He who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Romans 8:18, 24-25 — I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.


O most loving Father, you want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing you, and to lay all our cares on you, knowing that you care for us. Protect us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds in this mortal life may hide from us the light of your 
immortal love shown to us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen  —Book of Common Prayer

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1803) No Virtue, No Freedom

Americans have always had constitutional rights that allow them to exercise certain freedoms.  But do we still have the moral ability to maintain those rights?

By John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris, posted March 12, 2018, at:  http://www.breakpoint.org


     Mass shootings are now, tragically, a regular feature of our news cycle.  Each new attack on innocent children, students, church members, or concertgoers hits us it seems before we’ve recovered from the last one.  I hope and pray we never become numb to the horror of these crimes.

     In fact, after the recent shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a shooting that left 17 dead, the fury and passion to do something seems to have reached a critical point.  Certainly, those who wish to restrict guns in America are louder than ever.

     Now, in full disclosure, I’m a Second Amendment guy.  I own guns: I support the right to bear arms.  But I’m also a student of history and worldview.  Rights always come with responsibility.  And people who are incapable of enjoying freedoms inevitably lose them.

     I know I’m going to get angry emails about this, so let me be as clear as possible.  I’m not saying here what should happen.  I’m not saying that America should ban guns.  What I’m saying is what always happens when a culture morally breaks down.  Chuck Colson used to say that if a people will not be governed by the conscience, they will be governed by the constable.  The loss of conscience always leads to the loss of freedom.

     John Adams, our second president, said that our Constitution is meant only for a “moral and religious people,” and “is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  That would include the Second Amendment.

     Increasingly, Americans display a shocking lack of conscience.  I’m not just talking about mass-shootings by lonely, isolated, disturbed young men.  I’m talking about historic levels of suicide, the epidemic of opioid overdoses that have more than doubled since 2010, and the poison we pump into the minds and hearts of our children in the name of entertainment.  If we’re not killing each other in this country, we’re killing ourselves!  Folks, something is deeply wrong.  America is deeply sick.

     Liberals who want to ban guns often say we’ve evolved beyond our Constitution.  Evolved?  No, we’ve devolved below it.  We’re no longer a people moral or religious enough to sustain the freedoms of self-government.

    Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote on his visit to America that religion and local voluntary associations serve as glue to hold our democracy together.  Almost 200 years later, that’s simply not true about us anymore.  We’re now a society of isolated individualists— where drug addicts, the suicidal, and yes, the lonely, disturbed young men— easily slip through the cracks.

     Political conservatives, hear me on this:  It seems obvious at this point that government and police officials failed the students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  And they should be held accountable.

     But the deeper sickness eating this country alive will lead to more and more demands for gun control.  Freedom is unsustainable without virtue.

     Political liberals, hear me on this: The problem isn’t guns.  Ban them, without addressing the real problems of our society, and we’ll find the next high school killer using a car or some other weapon of mass destruction.  And the rest of us will be unarmed and unable to defend ourselves.

     America is in a dark, deeply divided place— a place Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn accurately described in a 1978 speech at Harvard as a place with “little defense against the abyss of human decadence…such as the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror.”  Even strict laws, Solzhenitsyn said, are powerless to defend a people against such moral corrosion.

     If the devolution of our collective conscience continues, the replacement of constitutional rights with constables might be inevitable.  But even constables won’t be able to govern, or protect, a people without a conscience.


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“A country cannot exist without freedom, just like freedom cannot exist without virtue.”

–Jean-Jacques Rousseau  (1712-1778)

And virtue will not survive without faith.


I Peter 2:16  —  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

I Corinthians 6:12  —   “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.  “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Psalm 119:45  —  I will walk around freely because I sought out your guiding principles.

Galatians 5:13-17  —  You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.  So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.


Lord, protect me from what I want.

–Pablo Picasso

1802) A Changed Heart

Indonesian militants

Indonesian Islamic militants

Posted March 12-13, 2018 by http://www.opendoorsusa.org.

This is the testimony of a terrorist persecutor named Maulana who ultimately gave his life to Christ and became a Christian missionary:


     I was born in a Muslim family in a small town of Demak, central Java, Indonesia.  My family was very strict in following Islamic Sharia laws.  As a Muslim, I read a lot of the Koran, Hadits, the sayings of the prophet Mohammed, and all the other books that help me be a devoted Muslim.

     I started to learn about a famous international Muslim named Ayatollah Khomeini from Iran.  I welcomed Ayatollah Khomeini’s ideas and his call to revolution to all Muslims because it would be very nice to have Islamic Sharia law applied in our society.  That would arrange all ways of life in my country according to the truth of the Koran.  I didn’t like the West because their lifestyle has affected the Eastern lifestyle, young people dress like those in the West, which is so far from Islamic propriety.  I hated that.

     This had also caused me to hate tourists who come to Indonesia.  They’d bring Western lifestyle and can’t be a role model for us in Islam.  I see Christians as hindering Sharia teaching in Indonesia.  “Indonesia must be cleansed from the cross,” I believed, “Sharia must happen in civil society.”  The Christians worshiped Jesus, who is merely a man.  For Muslims this is sin, and I believed we had to stop this movement in the churches.

     The Indonesian government is committed to freedom of religion, as stated in our national constitution.  But for Muslims this is not good.  It will not bring any good to the country’s future.  Because we do not get support from the government, we take law into our own hands.  We attack churches; we shoot pastors while they are preaching to cause fear.  We do it because the government does not back us up, so we do it by ourselves.  We do not fear death because we were encouraged by Ayatollah Khomeini to spill our blood to the last drop to make this happen.

     Remember the bombing in Bali?  That was a combined expression of our frustration and our goal.  I did  not believe we were terrorists.  I believed we were just Muslim God-lovers.

     The government supports Eastern Indonesia and the islands to be Christian, and is actually hindering us from teaching or implementing Sharia law there.  So we devised secret plans to bring about Sharia law in Eastern Indonesia.  I was one of the first 5,000 soldiers sent from east Java on a ship to the island of Ambon.  En route from Surabaya to Ambon, we hijacked the ship in Solo.  We searched the ship and checked each passenger’s identity.  Anyone with a Christian ID was either killed or thrown into the ocean.  And together our group took over the ship and headed for Ambon Island to eliminate the church of Jesus Christ.

The first brigade of jihad conquered all of Ambon Island.  Our focused activity was how to close churches.  The Christian people did not fight back against the persecution.   When I saw children with no parents running around the church, I felt guilty.

     As time passed, my heart became softer; then love entered my heart.  There was a change in my heart, and I became sensitive and started to love them slowly.  The love became deeper.  One night, I was fasting and praying, I said, “God, you’re the one who created my heart, show me your righteousness.”  In the middle of my heart-crying, I saw a man appear to me.  There was fresh blood spattered on the bottom of his white robe.  He greeted me with “Salaam Al I Kum,” (Peace be with you!).  I tried to figure out who I had seen in my vision.  It could be the angel of Gabriel, or Mohammed, or could be Nabi Isa–  maybe He is Jesus.

     To earn income, I became a distributor of an Islamic magazine in Solo, and then went to a small town called Desa Mangu.  One day I was distributing magazines, and an old man called to me.  He said, “Maulana, come here.  I was waiting for you.”  It was Friday at lunch time.  He asked me to eat rice and noodle sarimi together with him.  Then he prayed in the name of Jesus before eating.  I was shocked!

After lunch, he brought me to a room.  He picked up a large Bible and opened it to John 14:27.  He read:  “I am leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  Then I knew that the voice I heard in my vision was Isa (Jesus).   I confessed that Jesus is God!   Jesus is great!  I cried, and I received Jesus as my Lord; Jesus, whom I have persecuted.

     Now that I believed Jesus is Savior, there was a miracle that happened in my life.  What I received from God was an assignment, instead of regrets.  My assignment was to tell others about Jesus.  My first Christmas morning as a Christian, I was walking with courage and joy on my way to church.  But all of a sudden there was a group of young people standing in front of me.  One of them knew me and asked, “Where are you going?”

     I said, “To church.”  They said, “Stop! You’re not going there!”  Then punches from all directions come to my body.  When I was in the hospital, I prayed like Stephen prayed:  “God, forgive them for they know not what they were doing.”  God gave me that spiritual strength. 

     God’s authority works in every believer so that we have the freedom to speak.  We don’t need to be afraid.


John 16:2b  —  (Jesus said), “The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.”

Acts 22:7  —  “I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul!  Saul!  Why do you persecute me?’”

John 14:27  —  (Jesus said), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”


Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

–Psalm 51:10

1801) Led By the Spirit

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From:  Let Me Tell You a Story, pages 60-2, © 2000 by Tony Campolo

     When it comes to being led by the Spirit, sometimes there’s a lot of fun to be had.
     Several years ago I was invited to speak at a small Pentecostal college located near Eastern College, where I teach.  I love going to this little school because the people there seem to be so in touch with the power of the Holy Spirit.
     Before the chapel service, several of the faculty members took me into a side room to pray with me.  I got down on my knees and the six of them put their hands on my head and prayed for me, asking the Holy Spirit to fill me up and use me effectively as I spoke to the students.  Pentecostals seem to pray longer and with more dynamism than we Baptists do.  These men prayed long, and the longer they prayed the more they leaned on my head.  They prayed on and on and leaned harder and harder. One of them kept whispering, “Do you feel the Spirit? Do you feel the Spirit?”  To tell the truth, I felt something right at the base of my neck, but I wasn’t sure it was the Spirit.
    One of the faculty members prayed at length about a particular man named Charlie Stoltzfus.  That kind of ticked me off, and I thought to myself, If you’re going to lean on my head, the least you can do is pray for me.  He prayed on and on for this guy who was about to abandon his wife and three children.  I can still hear him calling out, “Lord!  Lord!  Don’t let that man leave his wife and children!  Send an angel to bring that man back to his family.  Don’t let that family be destroyed!  You know who I’m talking about, Lord…  You know who I’m talking about…  Charlie Stoltzfus.  He lives down the road about a mile on the right-hand side in a silver trailer house!”
    I thought to myself, with some degree of exasperation, God knows where he lives…  What do you think God’s doing, sitting up there in heaven saying, “Give me that address again”?
    Following the chapel talk, I got in my car and headed home.  I was getting on to the Pennsylvania turnpike when I saw a young man hitchhiking on the side of the road.  I picked him up.  (I know you’re not supposed to, but I’m a Baptist preacher and whenever I can get someone locked in to where I can preach to him, I do it.)  As we pulled back onto the highway I introduced myself.  I said, “Hi, my name’s Tony Campolo.   What’s your name?”
     He said, “My name’s Charlie Stoltzfus. . . “!
    I didn’t say a word.  I drove down the turnpike, got off at the next exit, turned around, and headed back.  When I did that, he looked at me and said, “Hey, mister!  Where are you taking me?!”
    I said, “I’m taking you HOME!”
    He said, “Why?”
    And I said, “Because you just left your wife and three children!  RIGHT?”
    He said, “RIGHT!  RIGHT!”
    He leaned against the passenger door the rest of the way, staring at me.  I drove off the turnpike and onto a side road– straight to his silver trailer house.  When I pulled into the drive, he looked at me with astonishment and said, “How did you know I lived here?”
    I said, “God told me!”
    Well, I believe that God did tell me.  I think God may set up things like that, just for fun.  I mean, if you’re God, you’re probably having a pretty sad time of it looking down on all the things that are going on in the world.  I can just imagine God nudging Peter and saying, “Hey, Pete.  Watch this!”
    I told Charlie, “You get in that trailer house because I want to talk to you and I want to talk to your wife.”
    He ran into that mobile home ahead of me.  I don’t know what he said to his wife, but when I got in the house trailer her eyes were a wide as saucers.  I sat them down and said, “I’m going to talk and you’re going to listen.”
    Man, did they listen!  And during the next hour I led both of them into a personal relationship with Jesus.  Today that guy is a Pentecostal preacher down South.
    When the Spirit leads, there are all kinds of surprises in store for us.


Matthew 4:1  —  Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  

Romans 8:14  —  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  

I Corinthians 12:4-6  —  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.  


        Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts, to direct and rule us according to our will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   —Book of Common Prayer

1800) Billy and Louie (part three of three)

          (…continued)  Louie did eventually go back to Japan, but not to kill ‘the Bird.’  He took very seriously the words of Jesus about forgiveness, and in his heart he forgave all of his guards and tormentors.  This did not happen all at once, but by looking to Jesus and spending time in God’s word and in prayer, Louie began to take hold of this new life, and in time, he became a new person.

            Louie had heard about a prison where many convicted war criminals were being held, including some he knew.  ‘The Bird’ was not there.  Word was that he had committed suicide.  ‘The Bird’ was the worst, but there were many others who had been very cruel.  Louie went into that prison, talked to all of them about the love and forgiveness of Jesus, and then told them he too had forgiven them.  There were several Japanese there that Louie knew and remembered, and they remembered him.  It was a powerful time.

            In 1998 Louie again returned to Japan, this time to carry the torch for the Olympics.  Long after the war, it was revealed that ‘The Bird’ had not committed suicide and was never captured.  He kept himself hidden until amnesty was granted, and then came out, got married and had a family, became very wealthy, and was still alive.  Louie offered to meet him, but ‘The Bird’ said no.  So Louie wrote him this letter:

To Mutsuhiro Watanabe:  As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare. It was not so much due to the pain and suffering, as it was the tension of stress and humiliation that caused me to hate you with a vengeance.  Under you, my rights, not only as a prisoner of war but also as a human being, were stripped from me. It was a struggle to maintain enough dignity and hope to live until the war’s end.

The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love has replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, ‘Forgive your enemies and pray for them.’  I returned to Japan in 1952 and was graciously allowed to address all the Japanese war criminals at Sugamo Prison.  I asked then about you, and was told that you were probably dead, which I was sad to hear. At that moment, like the others, I also forgave you, and now would hope that you would also become a Christian.  –Louis Zamperini

            Only by reading in the book about the relentless suffering Louie endured at this man’s hands can one fully appreciate the miracle of such forgiveness. 

            Louie went on to keep the promise he made on that life raft about serving God.  He appeared many times with Billy Graham to tell the incredible story of his life and conversion.  And as I said, this is just one of millions of lives who were touched by Billy Graham, who himself was touched and gifted by God in a special way.

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Louie Zamperini speaking at a 1958 Billy Graham Crusade in San Francisco

          Listen again now to some verses on conversion from today’s Scripture readings.  From Psalm 107:  “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.  Let those he redeemed from trouble say so.  Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; and they drew near to the gates of death.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works; and let them tell of his deeds with joy.”

            From Ephesians chapter two:  “You were dead through the sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the spirit at work among those who are disobedient.  But God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

            And finally from the familiar and much loved words of Jesus in John chapter 3:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”


Just As I Am, 1835, by Charlotte Elliot  (1789-1871)

This hymn was played during the altar call at a revival meeting in 1934 during which Billy Graham went forward and gave  his life to Christ.  Graham then used it as the altar call hymn in all of his preaching crusades.

Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, 
and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, 
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt, 
fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind, 
yea, all I need in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; 
because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown hath broken every barrier down; 
now, to be thine, yea thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

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Billy and Louie a few years ago.

1799) Billy and Louie (part two of three)

     (…continued)  Louie joined the Air Force and was put on the crew of a B-24 bomber in the Pacific.  In a couple very dangerous, and very successful missions, he became a decorated war hero.  Then his plane went down in the ocean.  Of nine crew members, only Louie and two others survived.   Rescue flights did not find them, and they were adrift on the ocean for 47 days, surviving on rainwater, and the occasional seagull that might land on their head (if they were quick enough to grab it).  One of the three men died, and the other two were near death when they were finally found—by the Japanese.  That was when their real troubles began.

     Louie was a prisoner of war for over two years.  Japanese POW camps were well known for their harsh conditions and cruelty, and Louie was in the worst of the worst.  The most wicked guard, who they nicknamed ‘the Bird,’ had it in for Louie because of his Olympic fame.  ‘The Bird’s’ cruelty was beyond the beyond, even for those used to hearing about these things.  The hunger, disease, torture, forced labor, and beatings were relentless.  When the war was over, the many charges against ‘the Bird’ made him #7 on the list of wanted war criminals.  But even ‘the Bird’ was not able to break Louie’s spirit.  By the end of the war, he was again near death, but his spirit was, as the book and movie title says, ‘unbroken.’

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Mutsuhiro Watanabe, ‘The Bird’

     In September of 1945 Louie’s camp was liberated.  He and the other prisoners received food, clean water, and medical care.  After he was nursed back to health, Louie returned home a hero, was reunited with his family, and began an ongoing round of invitations, speaking engagements, parties, eating, and drinking— lots of drinking.  After three years away at war, he was now having the time of his life.  All that suffering was behind him, and his many experiences and outgoing personality made him the life of every party.  During this time, he met the love of his life and was married.  Everything was going great.

     Then Louie had one terrible flashback.  Everything came flooding back in upon him, and from then on, it would not let him go.  He was overwhelmed by sadness over the loss of so many friends, enraged at the unnecessary cruelty he had to endure, and filled with an all-consuming desire for revenge.  ‘The Bird’ had never been apprehended, and all Louie wanted to do was go to Japan, find him, and kill him.  His partying had turned into alcoholism; and once the initial attention wore off, he was unable to find adequate work; and, his marriage was falling apart.  All he and his wife had in their small apartment were two chairs and table and a crib.  They slept on the floor.  But still, all Louie could think about was making enough money to go to Japan to kill a man.

     However, the rage was killing Louie.  Every single night he had nightmares of his torture, and he dreamed of how he would kill ‘the Bird.’  One night, he dreamed he finally caught his old tormentor, and had him on the ground and was strangling him to death– only to awake and find himself choking his pregnant wife.  She left him, and he was a broken man.  His spirit had remained strong and unbroken by so much, but now his heart and spirit were breaking because of depression, anger, hatred, and the desire for revenge.

     Louie’s wife moved back home for a time, and while she was there some friends invited them to go hear this new preacher, Billy Graham, who was holding a revival rally in a tent.  Louie refused.  His wife went and came back thrilled with what she heard.  She said she even went down front after the sermon to give her life to Jesus.  Louie thought she was an idiot, and again refused her pleas to go that night.  She kept pleading and finally he agreed.  But he said emphatically that when the preacher was done and wanted people to come to the front like she did, he would be heading out the back.

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     That night Billy Graham talked about Jesus, as he always did, and about how Jesus forgives us our sins, freeing us from guilt, and from eternal death, which is the penalty for our sins.  Then, the sermon went on to describe how just as Jesus has forgiven us, we should forgive other people.  Not only is this a command of God, but it is what is best for us, said the preacher, freeing us from the burden of anger and hate and the unending cycle of revenge which will destroy us.  Louie knew he had much to forgive and much to be forgiven of, and he knew this was all for him, but he wasn’t liking it.  He sat there fuming, and as soon as it was over, he headed for the back door.  And then he stopped.  Just then, he remembered a promise he made to God one night when he was on that life raft, adrift in the middle of the ocean.  He had prayed, “Lord, if you save me, I will spend the rest of my life serving you.”  God had saved him, but Louie had forgotten all about God.  Louie turned around, and instead of storming out the back, he went to the front and committed his life to Christ.  Here is how Louie describes his conversion:

I dropped to my knees and for the first time in my life truly humbled myself before the Lord.  I asked him to forgive me for not having kept the promises I’d made during the war, and for my sinful life. I made no excuses. I did not rationalize. I did not blame.  God had said, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” so I took him at his word, begged for his pardon, and asked Jesus to come into my life.

     Right then and there a peace came over Louie Zamperini like he had never known before.  And that night was the first night in five years that he was not bothered by flashbacks and nightmares of the war.  (continued…)

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Louie and Billy, 1950


Romans 10:13  —  Every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

John 14:27  —  (Jesus said), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  —  (Jesus said), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

1798) Billy and Louie (part one of three)

March 11, 2018 sermon.


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            I had been thinking about taking some time to say something about Billy Graham who died last month at the age of 99.  Billy Graham’s seven decades of ministry were all about calling sinners to repentance and conversion to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  All four Scripture readings this morning have to do with conversion, so this morning would be a good time to talk about that.  I will get to those Scripture readings later.

            If you are under 35 years old, you may not even have heard of Billy Graham until all the publicity about his death.   His age and declining health ended his ministry work several years ago, so a whole generation hardly knew who he was.  But for the four generations before that, Billy Graham was looked up to as American’s preacher and admired as a true man of God.  He was internationally known already when our oldest members were still in school, and he was spiritual adviser to every U. S. president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.  Without a doubt, he proclaimed the Gospel live to more people than anyone who has ever lived or ever will live.  His open-air stadium preaching, which reached tens of millions in person, is not how it is done anymore, and so there will never again be another ministry like his.  He began his city-wide crusade ministry before television, but then he got into the early days of that also, reaching billions that way.  He was involved in the starting of churches, relief organizations, colleges, college ministries, magazines, and radio stations, including our own KTIS here in the Twin Cities.  More than any other single individual, Billy Graham influenced the entire course of Christianity in American in the last half of the 20th century.  He made his mistakes, especially when he got into politics (and who doesn’t get muddied in that arena?).  But in his personal life, he was above reproach.  Billy Graham made the Gallup Poll top ten list of “Most Admired Men in the World” for 61 years in a row, twice as many times as any other man.

            Theologically, Billy Graham was not a Lutheran, but so what?  Diversity is a big word these days, and God certainly has a diverse family, doesn’t he?  There are so many different denominations, so much diversity within the denominations, so many different views on everything, even within each congregation.  I think God likes it that way.  This diversity can be maddening sometimes, but it can also be enlightening and enriching and enjoyable and wonderful.  We can learn so much from others, even from those with which we do not agree on everything.  I learned much and was much inspired by the life and preaching of Billy Graham.

            But if we are Christians, we have to live by our name, and at the center of everything we do has to be Jesus Christ.  We can be diverse, but we must be united in our faith and trust in Jesus.  And I am not here to talk about Billy Graham, but about Jesus.  And nobody has done more to proclaim Jesus, and keep Jesus at the center, than this son of a North Carolina dairy farmer, Billy Graham.  I have heard that on his tomb is printed these words:  “Billy Graham, preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ;” along with the words of Jesus in John 14:6:  “I am the way and the truth and the life.  Nobody comes to the Father, but by me.”  That was Billy’s simple message for over 70 years of ministry.

            To tell the story of Billy Graham is to tell the story of how millions of people came to faith in Jesus through his ministry.  I have listed only a few of Graham’s many accomplishments and influences.  I could spend the rest of our time together listing more.  I could have also looked up the statistics of how many millions of people came forward at his services to give their life to the Lord, with the choir singing “Just as I Am, Without One Plea.”  But instead, I will tell just one story of one man, as an example of the many lives that were touched by Billy Graham; and, as an example of the power Jesus can have on one’s life.

            Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Louie Zamperini (1917-2014) .  It is told in the best-selling book Unbroken, and, in the 2014 movie by that same name, produced and directed by Angelina Jolie. 

          Louie started out as the worst kid in Torrance, California.  Even before he was a teenager, he was smoking, drinking, skipping school, running away from home, fighting, and most of all, stealing.  The whole town was on the look-out for him, but still he would steal constantly, and was always running away from somebody.  His older brother Pete, already a high school track star, noticed how fast the little criminal could run, and encouraged him to go out for track.  Louie loved it, stopped stealing, and trained constantly.  In just a few years, he went from being public enemy #1 in Torrance, to being the local sports hero, even qualifying for the 1936 Olympics while still a teenager.  He got so good, that it was thought that he would soon be the first man ever to run a four-minute mile.  Then came World War II.    (continued…)


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Louie Zamperini


John 14:1-6  —  (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

1797) More on Scientists and God

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Compiled by Rich Deem at: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/quotes.html (references for quotes are available at that web-page).


     Does science lead us down a road that ends in the ‘naturalistic’ explanation of everything we see with God unnecessary?  In the nineteenth century, it certainly looked as though science was going in that direction.  The “God of the gaps” was finding himself in a narrower and narrower niche.  However, 20th century and now 21st century science is leading us back down the road of design – not from a lack of scientific explanation, but from scientific explanation that requires an appeal to a Designer of the universe – something that science does not deal well with.  As a result of the recent evidence in support of design, many scientists now believe in God.  According to a recent article:

I was reminded of this a few months ago when I saw a survey in the journal Nature.  It revealed that 40% of American physicists, biologists and mathematicians believe in God–and not just some metaphysical abstraction, but a deity who takes an active interest in our affairs and hears our prayers: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

     The degree to which the constants of physics must match a precise criteria is such that a number of agnostic scientists have concluded that there is some sort of “supernatural plan” or “Designer” (God!) behind it. Here is what they say:


Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist): “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.  The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

George Ellis (British astrophysicist): “Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible.  Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word ‘miraculous.’ “

Paul Davies (British astrophysicist): “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all….  It seems as though Somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming.”

Paul Davies: “The laws [of physics] … seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design…  The universe must have a purpose.”

John O’Keefe (astronomer at NASA): “We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures…  If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence.  It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.”

George Greenstein (astronomer): “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or, rather, Agency – must be involved.  Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being?  Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”

Arthur Eddington (astrophysicist): “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.”

Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”

Roger Penrose (mathematician and author): “I would say the universe has a purpose.  It’s not there just somehow by chance.”

Tony Rothman (physicist): “When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion.  I am sure many physicists want to.  I only wish they would admit it.”

Vera Kistiakowsky (MIT physicist): “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”

Robert Jastrow (self-proclaimed agnostic): “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream.  He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist.  I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them.  I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.”

Alexander Polyakov (Soviet mathematician): “We know that nature is described by the best of all possible mathematics because God created it.”

Ed Harrison (cosmologist): “Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God – the design argument of Paley – updated and refurbished.  The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design.  Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one….  Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument for the existence of God.”

Edward Milne (British cosmologist): “As to the cause of the Universe, our picture is incomplete without Him [God].”

Barry Parker (cosmologist): “Who created these laws?  There is no question but that a God will always be needed.”

Arthur L. Schawlow (Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1981 Nobel Prize in physics): “It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. . . . I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.”

Henry “Fritz” Schaefer (Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia): “The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it.’  My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan.”

Wernher von Braun (Pioneer rocket engineer) “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.”

Antony Flew (Professor of Philosophy, former atheist, author, and debater) “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”

Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “From the perspective of the latest physical theories, Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science.”


Genesis 1:1  —  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Psalm 19:1  —  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth His handiwork.


From Psalm 8:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens…

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?…

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

1796) Switching Sides

By Lee Strobel 


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     Allan Rex Sandage (1926-2010), the greatest observational cosmologist in the world (see Wikipedia for list of accomplishments!)—who deciphered the secrets of the stars, plumbed the mysteries of quasars, revealed the age of globular clusters, pinpointed the distances of remote galaxies, and quantified the universe’s expansion through his work at the Mount Wilson and Palomar observatories—prepared to step onto the conference platform.

     Few scientists were as widely respected as this one-time protégé of legendary astronomer Edwin Hubble.  Sandage had been showered with prestigious honors from the American Astronomical Society, the Swiss Physical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Swedish Academy of Sciences, receiving astronomy’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.  The New York Times dubbed him the “grand old man of cosmology.”

     As he approached the stage at this conference on science and religion, there was little doubt where he would sit.  The discussion would be about the origin of the universe, and the panel would be divided among those scientists who believed in God and those who didn’t, with each faction sitting on its own side of the stage.

     Many of the attenders probably knew the ethnically Jewish Sandage had been a virtual atheist even as a child.  Others undoubtedly believed that a scientist of his stature must surely be skeptical about God. As Newsweek put it, “The more deeply scientists see into the secrets of the universe, you’d expect, the more God would fade away from their hearts and minds.”  So Sandage’s seat among the doubters seemed a given.

     Then the unexpected happened. Sandage set the room abuzz by turning and taking a chair among the theists.  Even more dazzling, in the context of a talk about the big bang and its philosophical implications, he disclosed publicly that he had become a Christian at age fifty.

     The big bang, he told the rapt audience, was a supernatural event that cannot be explained within the realm of physics as we know it.  Science has taken us to the first event, but it can’t take us back to the first cause.  The sudden emergence of matter, space, time, and energy pointed to the need for some kind of transcendence.

     “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science,” he later told a reporter.  “It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

     For me, the road to atheism was paved by science, but, ironically, so was my later journey to God.  Good information, I am convinced, points us to a good God.


Quotes by Rex Allan Sandage:

The world is too complicated in all parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone.  I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together.  Each part of a living thing depends on all its other parts to function.  How does each part know?  How is each part specified at conception?  The more one learns of biochemistry the more unbelievable it becomes unless there is some type of organizing principle- an architect.

I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos.  There has to be some organizing principle.  God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.

Science… is a process that progresses only by showing itself to be wrong.


Luke 1:1-4  —  Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

Romans 1:19-21  (a favorite passage of Sandage)  —  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.  So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.

Genesis 1:1  —  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Psalm 19:1  —  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth His handiwork.


From Psalm 8:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens…

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?…

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!