Dear Howdy, Indeed I am a faithful Tarheel*, having both MA and Ph.D. from their fine chemistry department. But that doesn't keep me from getting a great kick out of the humor propagated by what appears to me to be a pack of wolves!!**
SERIOUSLY, THE HUMOR IS GREAT FUN BUT MY MAIN ATTRACTION WAS TO THE CONSERVATIVE MORAL AND POLITICAL STANCE THAT SEEMED TO CHARACTERIZE THE FIRST ISSUE I SAW. INCIDENTALLY (HE SAYS ACCIDENTALLY!), it was sent to me by a friend, so I really didn't "hear about you" at all, and still haven't. All I know is what has come in the two issues of the Newsletter I have seen. The best to you. S. P.
I vividly remember what it was like as a child to have overwhelming questions running through my head about existence. Sometimes I would sit and think and try to get my head around why I existed at all, until my mind simply quit and went blank. Who am I? What is life? How did it begin? If life goes on after death, what is eternity? Surely even that must end? The one thing we cannot accept as children or rationalize as adults is that things just happen by themselves. In my family, like most others, lots of things happened inexplicably. Food went missing from the cupboards, rooms messed themselves up, fights were started by phantoms, dirty footprints appeared across the carpet on their own, and all sorts of things were broken by the invisible man! All of us when questioned by mom or dad usually denied responsibility. "I don't know! It wasn't me!"
Why did this reasoning never get us off the hook? Because people cannot accept that things happen by themselves--something causes them to happen. That room did not get messy by itself; something or someone messed it up. This is a rule of common sense and common knowledge; all events must have a cause. No reasonable person would dispute that. This is the source of the persistent questioning of a child who asks why. If one asks why enough times, eventually you either get back to God or you simply have to assert something like, "It just is; that's all" or "Because I said so." The latter response is rather unsatisfactory, and even reference back to God will often prompt the question, "But who made God?"
This fact is telling. What it shows is that our minds demand a principle philosophers call "efficient causality" or cause and effect. We all notice that some things cause other things to begin to be, to continue to be, or both. Every event must have a cause. We can say for example: I have just knocked over my cup of tea because my arm knocked it over, because my brain told my arm to move, because electrical impulses moved the muscles as I willed to move my arm, because that's how the body works. If we go on like that, we either get back to God or we resort to something irrational.
As we have said, our senses tell us that the universe is real and that our world is a system of events and changes. These events, like the spilling of a cup of tea, cannot cause themselves--this would be absurd. Everything at this moment is caused to be by something other than itself. But what is causing them if everything at any given moment needs a cause? The only reasonable solution is that there must be a first cause that is uncaused, self-existent, independent, and eternal. A cause that is not dependent on anything else to be its cause. This must be God. He is not an effect of something else; instead, he is the ultimate cause of all other effects. God is not an event that occurs at a given time like everything else; he has always been and always will be.
The Bible begins with that very assertion: "In the beginning God." It does not argue about it or seek to persuade the reader by clever argument that it is true. It is simply stated. And human consciousness nods its head to this fact--God is! This is the very answer to the child's question, "Who made God?" For even a child knows that the gift of life came from someone and was passed to all from somewhere. This is a constant theme in the Bible. It tells us that people intuitively know they have been given the gift of life from the giver of life who is eternal.
The Lord of the dance, the one who gives life to and sustains everything, has placed in the human heart a sense of our own created-ness, of our own immortality. Despite the fact that we cannot understand or explain an infinite, self-existent God, a persistent awareness that He is the source of all life remains embedded in the very essence of what it means to be a human being. He is the great assertion, the only one who can truly say, "Because I said so."
Joe Boot is executive director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Canada.
----------------------- Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) "A Slice of Infinity" is aimed at reaching into the culture with words of challenge, words of truth, and words of hope. If you know of others who would enjoy receiving "A Slice of Infinity" in their email box each day, tell them they can sign up on our website at http://www.rzim.org/publications/slice.php. If they do not have access to the World Wide Web, please call 1-877-88SLICE (1-877-887-5423).
It is amazing the power that a hollyhock had on me this morning. As I went out to get the news-paper, I already had the weight of the world pressing down on me. I was walking, I was breath-ing, I was thinking, but because of my preoccupation with rescuing the earth from eternal de-struction and other similar issues, I was not really living. Or really praying, for that matter. Then came one brilliant moment, when God disclosed Himself to me. It happened as I bent down to get the paper. As I stretched and grunted to pick up the paper on the curb of my driveway, my eye caught sight of a single hollyhock that I had planted by our mailbox. The hollyhock had bloomed. I had previously noticed one or two yellow flowers coming out, but I had somehow missed the full, glorious blooming that had occurred. There were now yellows and reds and pinks and whites all arranged by God on huge “fig-like” leaves, sitting prettily on a couple of tall, skinny, gr! een stalks. Now if you know anything about hollyhocks, you know they are one of those perennials that are advertised in garden magazines as, “Old Timey Plants Just Like Grand-mother’s” or something like that. And it is true. Hollyhocks have a cherished place in the English cottage garden. As our forefathers and mothers came to America, they brought the seeds of those beautiful, spiked, multi-colored staple of the flowerbed with them. It truly is “an old timey” beauty. I have noticed that there are more of them in Midwestern gardens than Southern ones, but here in Tennessee, I have taken notice of quite a few. The hollyhock is one of those flowers that can evoke memories of childhood at grandma’s house, or Sunday afternoon strolls through a park, or for me Vacation Bible School. The reason is there were hollyhocks growing near the outhouse of New Bethlehem Baptist Church, way out in the country near where I grew up. (If you have not had th! e joy of using an outhouse, particularly an outhouse at a coun! try chur ch with VBS going on, I would love to talk with you about it sometime.) I remember that going to the outhouse was a real pleasure. Yes, that’s right it was a real pleasure. First of all, as a child, I was amazed by a plant that was taller than I was. (Hollyhocks can grow to be eight feet tall in the right conditions.) Second, they were pretty and reminded me of Miss Dot, our teacher who was, I thought, going to be my wife one day. I was seven years old and she was married to a banker, but somehow none of that mattered. Third, bees love hollyhocks and there was an element of danger in going to the outhouse. It made VBS even more adventuresome. But put it all together, and for that one moment, as I bent down to get the paper and was mesmerized by the hollyhock in full bloom, I remembered the experience of the Holy Spirit moving on my heart at Vacation Bible School. I remember how I got to carry the American flag in the daily processional before we said the Pledge of Alle! giance and then the Christian Pledge of Allegiance before the Chris-tian flag. I remember cold Kool-Aid on hot, humid days. I remember the crunchy sweetness and floury smoothness of those cookies that came like a million to a pack for 99 cents. I remember waiting for a ride home after it was over at noontime. I would slip inside and stand in the pulpit at New Bethlehem Baptist Church and imagine being the preacher. I remember how I felt God was there in that place and that He probably wanted me to do something with His presence. I didn’t quite know what He wanted at that time, but I remember His tug at my little heart.
I am thankful for that hollyhock this morning. The Lord used it to remind me that something very important is happening at our church next week. “Summer Stomp Camp” is our VBS and Music Camp that will reach in to our families’ children and reach out to children living right down the street from us. Kelly and Helen and their wonderful volunteer teams were able to place about 300 door-hangers on homes. Many of you are hard at work now preparing for that time next week. The Gospel of Jesus Christ will be presented. I am praying that our covenant chil-dren, who have been reared in the Gospel, will be strengthened and challenged to follow the Lord. I am praying that children who don’t understand God’s love in Jesus Christ will understand for the first time and receive Him. And I am praying for the Lord, who often does His wonderful sovereign work of preparing young, tender hearts for future ministry, to do that here in our church.
Will you join me in praying for our summer ministry to children next week? Pray for their musical presentation to the congregation, and to the parents who will be visiting with us on the following Sunday night? Pray for Christ to touch the hearts of children with His grace and love. For behind the cookies and the singing and the crafts there is the image of Christ welcoming children and saying, “Let the little ones come unto Me.”
And if you drop by next week, and you see some little child hanging around the sanctuary, maybe “trying out” the pulpit, let him alone. God may be up to something.
We don’t have hollyhocks growing next to an outhouse; we don’t even have an outhouse at First Presbyterian. But I think God will still be here anyway. Because I think God loves VBS. Because Jesus loves little children.