“Prayer Behind Enemy Lines” – Revelations – Day 20

The problem with prayer is getting the answers you want.

After all, when we pray, we are asking God for something.  It’s called Petitionary Prayer.  Even C.S. Lewis wrote a treatise on the subject.  Other types of prayer are much easier to deal with.  If your prayer is worship, then you aren’t expecting necessarily an answer.  If your prayer is intercessory, you may be looking for God’s intervention but we all know that he works “in mysterious ways.” 

Petitionary prayer is where the problem is found.  It is specific and usually detailed and there is not much room for misunderstanding.  The problem is that God often simply doesn’t give us what we want.  Perhaps we fall into the trap of trying to appease God in order to get what we want by going to church, making promises, tithing or the like.  That isn’t going to work.  God hates it when people try to manipulate him (my wife feels the same way). 

“The Providence and Protection of God” – Day 19 Revelations

I have been watching a series on TV called FBI, which is all about the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.  Of course, it isn’t entirely accurate, but it is fun to watch how they deal with crime and evil.  I don’t normally just watch for entertainment but rather to get a handle on the way the writers are dealing with topics such as justice, revenge, discrimination, and the overall existence of evil with all of its many faces. 

And, of course, they make it personal to each of the agents and that’s where it really gets interesting.  How do you react to evil and suffering and death when it touches your own personal life?  I remember one recent episode where one of the female agents is in the hospital fighting for her life.  Her partner is sitting in the interfaith chapel with his head bowed and his friend finds him there, praying. 

“The Relational Nature of Hell” – Revelations – Day 18

One of my favorite types of movies is about time travel.  I just love the whole concept of temporal paradoxes, corrupted timelines, and the butterfly effect (one change in the past can have a devastating effect in the future). 

In fact, one of my all-time favorite movies is called Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise.  He is in a battle against alien bugs and at one point is sprayed with a blue gel from the body of one of the bugs he has just killed.  It takes him a while to figure it out but that blue gel gives him the ability to repeat a particular time segment so that each time he is killed, he wakes up in the past and can try again.  He teams up with another woman who had the same thing happen to her (and then it stopped) and together they keep fighting until they find a way to defeat the aliens and win the day.

That’s why I don’t believe that God will ever allow us to figure out time travel. 

“The Wrath of God and the Lamb” – Revelations – Day 17

One of the greatest American theologians was Jonathan Edwards, famous for his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.  He was a pastor in New England and led, together with George Whitefield, the Great Awakening of the early 1700s.  He attended Yale at 13 years of age, graduated by age 17, and ended his career as the President of Princeton University.

He combined religious intensity with intellectual rigor and moral earnestness.  He contributed intellectually and theologically to the budding American evangelicalism that was then being defined.  Even today, he is still considered one of the greatest American theologians of all time. 

And yet…

“The Dangers of the Divine Ethic” – Revelations – Day 16

No one can deny that one of the greatest blockbuster film trilogies of all time is The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves (as Neo), Carrie-Anne Moss (as Trinity), and Laurence Fishburn (as Morpheus).  I didn’t say it was a “Christian” movie but that isn’t the point.  There is still something important to learn.

Like Neo in the movie, when confronted by Morpheus who offers him a choice between the red pill or the blue pill, we also have to make a decision.  For Neo, one pill would allow him to remain in stasis and experience life like everyone else in a “fantasy” of sorts.  The other pill would wake him up to the reality of life in a world dominated by machines in which there is a war going on and he would have to play a significant part. 

The parallels are interesting for us as well. 

“The Religious Problem of Evil” – Revelations – Day 15

It´s midnight in the garden of good and evil.

You are here to meet with God.  You have questions that you want answered.  Adam and Eve have just been thrown out of the garden and evil has taken hold of the world.  

How could he let this happen?

He’s over there by those two trees.  Go and talk to him.  You can just see his form there in the shadows.

He’s weeping….

You stop in your tracks, your questions dying on your lips.  What’s going on here?  You need time to think before you just barge into the presence of the Holy God, your Father, who created you.

Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye.

“The Secular Problem of Evil” – Revelations – Day 14

You are born, you live and then die in the context of this world.  It isn’t long before you encounter the problem of Evil.  Let’s not call it “evil” for now but we still need to give it a name.  We can start with “the reality gap” if you like.  That seems innocuous enough.  At least for now.

What is this “reality gap” and why don’t we like it very much? 

It is the “gap” between what we want or value and what we are able to get.  It may be something optional such as a new car or a pair of boots.  But it also may be something necessary for survival such as food and water and, of course, everything in between.

“The Reality of Sin” – Revelations – Day 13

“If God exists and he’s supposed to be so good, why did my baby die?”

You can imagine the pain in the question, and you have to agree on an existential level that it is a very good question.  My daughter just lost her baby after three months of pregnancy and it wasn’t a very pleasant experience, to say the least.  She didn’t actually ask me this question, but I can imagine that she, and a lot of other mothers, were thinking these very thoughts in their innermost hearts. 

Forget about the fact that scraping the dead baby out of the womb without causing undue collateral damage can already be an ordeal, the thought of your baby just dying within your womb when you were supposed to protect it and keep it safe can devastate anyone.  Apparently, the baby’s heart just stopped, and nobody really knows why.  Turning your thoughts to God and his promises of protection and providence is natural. And it is easy to get angry at Him and wonder what in the world he is up to. 

“The Weeping Prophet” – Revelations – Day 12

“Life is hard, but God is good.”

That’s what a young woman told me in church one Sunday.  We had just been talking about the difficult economic situation in Argentina and how it was creating more poverty.  People were finding it difficult to pay their rent.  Retired and out-of-work people were both finding it necessary to restrict what they ate, how much they spent on medications, and look for any kind of extra work to make ends meet.  The poorest of the poor were living on the streets.  Violent theft was on the rise.  People were getting desperate. 

I looked at this young woman who was still living with her parents and wasn’t really experiencing the problem herself.  She was worried about the future of the country, like all of us, but she wasn’t engaged in the day-to-day reality on a personal level.  Her words may have been true, but they seemed rather “flat” and unconvincing.  If I heard those same words from one of my friends who was in danger of living on the streets, I would be more impressed with their faith.

“The Throne Room of God” – Revelations – Day 11

Last week my wife and I saw an interview about a man who had died and gone to heaven and came back to tell us about it.  It was an interesting interview which I found intriguing.  By his own admission, the man was a nominal Christian at best but mostly an agnostic who called himself a Catholic.  Not someone you would expect to go to heaven in the first place.  He had heart problems among other things but was still active in his business. 

He found himself at one point in a large field in the middle of nowhere in his truck checking on survey pins.  His out-of-body experience started when he slumped over the steering wheel of his truck and his heart stopped pumping.  It would be many hours later before he was found, brought to the hospital, and declared dead upon arrival.  Or so they thought.