In the United States, the third Sunday in June is Father’s Day. Catholic countries of Europe have long celebrated fathers on March 19, Saint Joseph’s Day. President Woodrow Wilson officially recognized Mother’s Day in 1914, but it wasn’t until 58 years later that President Richard Nixon set aside Father’s Day in 1972. Today, and from the beginning of the Church, Christian teaching honors fathers.
In the Christian concept, fathers are leaders, educators, and providers. Both Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 define the father’s role as a loving mentor to his children. In 1 Timothy 5:8, Paul emphasized that it is essential for fathers to provide for their families: “If any will not provide for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” Ephesians 5:25-33 tells husbands to love their wives as their own bodies and partner with them, so they act as one. Husbands are told to address the sexual needs of their wives in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 and to be islands of love beyond sexual relationships in Titus 2:2 and 1 John 3:11-24.
Being a father is challenging because it takes a special man to begin to live up to what God has called men to be. Unfortunately, our secular world has blurred the role of fathers to the point that even in the Church, it is difficult to find men for leadership who meet the description of 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
Jesus Christ warned that false religious teachers could be identified by the results of following them. “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). The June 17, 2022 issue of The Week magazine contained several articles about problems in the world that are the fruit of false teachings.
One article addresses the application of the atheist “survival of the fittest” mentality to hospitality in Sweden. We have found that Christianity is not accepted very well in Sweden. That society prefers secular explanations of creation and a secular code of ethics. The article by Meryem Yebio on page 14 of The Week is titled, “Yes, Swedes Really Are So Unhospitable.” Yebio explains that by Swedish custom, when a family sits down for a meal, they will refuse to feed their guests. The defense of this behavior is that including guests would threaten their food supply.
Another article on page 15 has to do with a three-way conflict in India between secularists, Muslims, and Hindus relying on the teachings of their faiths. The dispute involves insults to Islam’s Prophet, the religious position of the Hindu ruling party Bharatiya Janata, and the Indian constitution. Finally, an article on the same page tells about water problems in Mexico, where the local wine production facility, with the backing of the area’s dominant religion, controls the water supply, leaving the poor without water.
Know them by their fruits as we see similar fruit problems in American denominations where materialism and racism have oppressed the poor and enhanced the rich. Some wealthy television preachers have flaunted a lifestyle few others can afford, including their contributors. No human-made religion has ever produced positive fruit, even though some claim to be “Christian.”
The fruit of Christ’s teaching includes sharing. Acts 2:41-47 describes the Church of the first century sharing what they had and even selling things their possessions to meet the needs of the less fortunate. Read chapters 5-7 of Matthew and see the difference between the teachings of Christ and what is happening in every other belief system on Earth. You can know them by their fruits.
Humans don’t have all the answers to a fruitful life. However, God does, and He has revealed those answers in His Word. So follow the teachings of Christ, and the fruit will be positive. But, on the other hand, following any human religion will only lead to negative results. You can see this in the current world situation and the struggles within America.
A Japanese man has decided he no longer wants to be a human and has chosen to be a dog named Toko. He had a professional dog costume designed for 2-million Japanese yen (more than $15,000). You can see him walking on four legs and rolling on the floor in YouTube videos. When inquirers asked why he wanted to be a dog, he said the question was difficult to answer. His case is an extreme example of people wanting to change who they are that has caused a transgender explosion and confusion of gender definitions.
The transgender explosion in the United States has now become a target for Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, and other comedians who refer to it as “trans extremism.” Gervais says, “The worst thing you can say today is ‘Women don’t have penises.’” The comedians point out that the root of the issue is the belief that gender is purely an internal feeling often stimulated by peer pressure. The point of no return occurs when doctors perform surgery and prescribe hormones. Making irreversible decisions at age 14 opens the door to terrible problems when you become an adult.
However, the transgender explosion is just another symptom of what happens when a culture discards God and His Word. Every past culture on this planet has gone through a similar path. After a period of growth and strength, humans start to rely on immorality, materialism, naturalism, and racism, and the culture eventually collapses. Will America learn from history or repeat it? Only Christianity offers any hope that we will not follow the civilizations that have lived and died in the past.
Yesterday, we said that we should not be afraid of evidence. We point out in our daily postings that solid evidence supports our faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible. We pointed out that Jesus used evidence. Today, we want to look at some examples of how the apostles of Jesus used evidence.
The Church began on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached to the crowd in the Temple. To convince the people of the fact that Jesus was God in the flesh and convict them of their sin of rejecting Him, Peter began by showing that the miracle of the apostles speaking in languages that they had not learned was evidence that their message was from God. Then he pointed out that Jesus of Nazareth had proven that He was from God by “miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22). Then in verses 23 and 32, we find Paul using the miracle of the resurrection as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, God in the flesh.
On Pentecost, Paul spoke to the Jews who believed in the prophecies. He took a slightly different approach when he addressed the Greeks in Lystra. They did not have the Old Testament prophecies. Instead, they believed in many gods, even mistaking Paul and Barnabas for gods. Paul appealed to them on behalf of “the living God,” whose existence was evidenced by the fact that He “made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them” (Acts 14:15). Paul used a similar approach in speaking to the pagan philosophers in Athens. He spoke to them of the true God “who made the world and everything in it.” The evidence for God was in the things He had made, and Paul quoted Greek poets who had said, “For we are also his offspring.” (See Acts 17:22-29.) Paul also wrote similar words to the Romans, saying that all people can know there is a God by the things He has made (Romans 1;20).
Thus, we see that the apostles of Jesus used evidence to convince people of God’s existence and that Jesus is God. Likewise, Paul used eyewitness evidence when he wrote to the Corinthian church. First, he quoted an oral tradition of the Church that most likely originated within five years of Christ’s resurrection, telling about various people who witnessed Christ alive after the resurrection, including over 500 individuals at one time. Then Paul said that most of those people were still alive and could confirm what they had seen. Paul then testified that he also was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 15;1-11.)
As we can see from these examples of Peter and Paul, the apostles of Jesus used evidence to testify to the existence of God, the deity of Jesus, and the truth of the resurrection. Evidence does not destroy faith. It reinforces faith. We can know that Jesus was God with us by His miracles. His greatest miracle, and the only one He predicted in advance, was the resurrection, and we have eyewitness testimony evidence for that. We can know there is a God by the things He has made, and science testifies to the fact that creation was fine-tuned for us to be here.
You can look at atheist websites and see that they insist there is no evidence for the existence of God. In contrast to the atheist viewpoint, some Christian groups insist that faith is all you need, and evidence can even be harmful because it destroys the need for faith. We believe that there is extensive evidence for God’s existence, and we daily point that out to anyone willing to open their mind to it. To the Christians who have a negative attitude toward evidence, we want to point out that Jesus used evidence. Let’s examine how Jesus used evidence.
As Jesus spoke with his disciples for the last time, Philip asked Him to “show us the Father,” meaning God. Jesus responded by saying that anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father because He was in God, and God was in Him. He said that the words He spoke were the words of God, and His “works,” that is miracles, were the works of God. Then He said, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.” In other words, the miracles Jesus performed were evidence of God and proof that Jesus was God with them in the flesh. Therefore, they needed to examine the evidence shown by His actions. (See John 14:8-11.)
After His resurrection, Jesus spoke with two followers on the road to Emmaus, but they did not recognize who He was. They were sad and discouraged because the one they had admired as “a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and the people” had been crucified. Before they realized that He was Jesus, He told them that the fulfilled prophecies were evidence that the one they were talking about was the Messiah, the promised one of God. His point was that they needed to examine the evidence in prophecy. (See Luke 24:25-27.)
When Thomas doubted the testimony of the other disciples that Jesus was alive, what did Jesus do? He showed Thomas the wounds in His hands and side, and He challenged Thomas to examine the physical evidence. (See John 20:24-29.)
Jesus never said that you have to believe without evidence or in spite of the evidence. On the contrary, Jesus used evidence for God and for the fact that He was God with us. He was not afraid of evidence, and we should not be either. Tomorrow, we will look at some examples of how the apostles used evidence for God and Jesus.
Critical Race Theory has become a hot issue today because one of the significant failings of America has been the way racial issues have been handled. My father had his first college teaching job at Talladega State Teacher’s College, an all-black college in Talladega, Alabama. I was the only white kid in the neighborhood and also in my first and second-grade classes at school. I never had a problem in Talladega, but when we moved to McComb, Illinois and people found out where I had gone to school, I experienced persecution because I was “a nigger lover.” I didn’t know what that word meant, but it began my education about race issues in America.
Today, we are being told about the “Tulsa Massacre,” something I had never heard of until recently. “Black lives matter” has made it impossible to avoid exposure to the entrenched problems facing all Americans, especially those of dark brown skin. Unfortunately, politicians have waded into this struggle and have made “race” the lens through which we view everything. They seem to think they have the power to legislate a solution to this issue. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is an ideology that says people are either “oppressors” or the “oppressed,” “good” or “bad,” based entirely on their race. The conflict over CRT has resulted from its inclusion in the school curriculum at a very early age. That has produced a strong reaction, both pro, and con, in every corner of our country.
Atheists and skeptics have jumped into the promotion of CRT, pointing to the poor history of race relations in religious groups. I remember the Klan burning a cross in our front yard in Talladega because of where my father was teaching. I remember a terrible experience when I had a tonsillectomy. The surgeon pushed me, a blood-soaked kid, on a gurney out to my mother and told her, “Here, nigger lover, you clean him up.” My family’s closest friends have been people of color, and I have seen what they endure. However, teaching Critical Race Theory to first graders is not a solution to racial prejudice in America.
The Bible makes it clear that Christians must treat all people as equals and that we are all one. Therefore, the Church must take the lead in educating its members about race while reaching out to the oppressed. Galatians 3:27-28 says: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Changing the hearts of non-Christians is an uphill battle that can be won, but Critical Race Theory won’t do it.
When I was a seminary student in a gospels class taught by scholar R. C. Foster, the students received the challenge of assembling “a harmony of the gospels.” It turned out to be more of a chore than I expected. It was in the 1960s before the time of computers and word processors, which today allow you to rearrange text by electronically “cutting” and “pasting.” We had to literally cut and paste with scissors and glue. We had to take inexpensive paperback Bibles and snip passages from each of the gospels, assembling them into columns in a notebook, creating a timeline of Christ’s ministry. It was my first and only experience with cutting up Bibles.
When only one of the gospels told of a parable, miracle, or teaching of Jesus, the job was relatively easy. When more than one gospel writer told about the same incident, it required juxtaposing the two or more accounts. It was an excellent way to realize that witnesses often describe scenes differently. For example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell of an incident that happened after Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee and arrived at a Gentile area known as the Decapolis. Matthew tells of two wild, demon-possessed men who lived in the tombs near the shore. These men, who terrorized the locals, came out of the tombs to challenge Jesus. Christ cast the demons out of the men and into a herd of swine. (See Matthew 8:28-34.)
Critics point out that when Mark and Luke tell the story, they speak of only one man. They claim this is an error in the gospels, and the descriptions can’t both be accurate. However, the critics miss the point. Matthew gives us the detail that there were two men, but Mark and Luke concentrate on the one who was the dominating personality, and they give more information on his actions. They tell us that chains couldn’t bind him, and nobody could tame him. He was naked and crying and cutting himself night and day. When he saw Jesus, he took a worshipful pose and called him “the Son of the most high God.” After Jesus cast the demons out of the man, people were amazed that he was sitting and clothed and in his right mind.
The people were then terrified not of the man but of Jesus, and they asked Him to leave their area. As Jesus prepared to get back on the boat, the formerly possessed man begged to go with Him. Jesus didn’t allow the man to go with Him but told him to go back and tell his friends, “what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had compassion on you.” The man became a witness for Jesus in the pagan area of Decapolis. (See Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.)
When you read this account from all three gospel writers, you will find details the others omitted. A testimony to the Bible’s divine nature is not only the harmony of the gospels but also their brevity. Only the essentials are there. Matthew chose to reveal that there were two men, but he left out other details. Mark and Luke give more information about the one man Jesus appointed to be a witness for God in a pagan area.
The formerly pagan and demon-possessed man apparently was an effective witness to his neighbors. Months later, Jesus returned to the Decapolis and was met by “great multitudes” eager to see the one who had healed and restored sanity to the man of the tombs. Now the “Son of the most high God” was able to show compassion for multitudes of people. He healed “the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others.” (See Matthew 15:29-31.)
As a result of Jesus’ compassion and a restored man willing to share his story with others, many people in a pagan region “glorified the God of Israel.” And as a result of having to prepare a harmony of the gospels to pass R. C. Foster’s class, I came to understand and appreciate why the Bible contains four accounts of Jesus’ ministry.
When I was a promoter of atheism, one thing I envied the most was the unique bond between Christians. As an atheist embracing “survival of the fittest” as a way of life, I was always looking over my shoulder to see what might threaten my security. I watched my father, an atheist college professor, go to extreme ends to protect his standing at the university and promote his reputation and standing in the academic community. I remember him telling me, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” and encouraging me to assert superiority over my peers to achieve success.
Coming from that perspective, I was amazed to see Christians making themselves vulnerable. I envied the unique bond between Christians who were not related and had nothing to gain from those bonds. When Christians were together, they really enjoyed being together. There was sincere kidding and laughter that did not insult, demonstrate prejudice, or serve an ulterior motive. The terms “brother” and “sister” were alien to me as an atheist. When there was laughter between my atheist friends, it was derisive and usually spurred by alcohol or other drugs, and it was hollow and insincere.
I remember riding with my father several miles from our home when a tire blew out. After my father called several work associates with no success, he called a family friend who was a Christian. That man came with a replacement and a jack to change the tire. My father was amazed that anyone would do that, and the Christian friend told my father, “That’s how Christians do things.” I’m not sure my father ever comprehended the importance of that statement and the testimony that it presented.
If I believe in “survival of the fittest” and “he who finishes first wins,” why would I do anything that doesn’t give me an advantage? Who can put a price tag on what it means to have someone care about you just because you share a connection to the teachings of Jesus Christ? The warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “bad company corrupts good character” is borne out in the struggles of life.
In the real world, few people have the strength and resolve to care about others sacrificially. Jesus demonstrated that in the extreme on the cross. Following His example, the unique bond between Christians can show love and care, reaching out to those who don’t share their faith. The “bond of peace” and the love of brethren is not just a nice cliché but a vivid apologetic for the validity of the Christian life.
Galatians 3:19-26 tells us that God gave the old law as a “schoolmaster” to show His people their transgressions until the promised “Seed,” meaning Jesus Christ, would come. Therefore, we should learn from the past and not make the same mistakes that were a part of the history recorded in the Old Testament. The value of knowing history is to avoid repeating the cycle of history, but humans have been slow learners in that regard.
The cycle of the human relationship to God keeps repeating and can only be broken when we allow the message of Christ to break it. That is a lesson we can learn from Old Testament history. The cycle begins with Adam and Eve and is repeated over and over until the present time. When God creates, His creation is perfect. God gives His promises and commands to humans, and for a while, they obey. They experience God’s blessings, but then they turn away from God.
In Deuteronomy 28:1-14, God told Israel, “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” God then lists all the good things Israel would receive if they would do as God said and take advantage of His promises. Then beginning in verse 15 for the following 54 verses, God tells Israel what will happen if they do not obey the provisions expressed in His covenant.
We all know the history of Israel from that point on. From the golden calf to corrupt king after corrupt king, Israel repeatedly turns away from God, worships pagan gods, and embraces sinful and destructive practices. They neglect to worship God and follow the false gods of their neighbors, even to the point of human sacrifice. Over and over, God responds by removing His protection of Israel and allowing foreign nations to overtake and destroy them. The whole message of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles tells of this destruction. Jeremiah and Hosea devote their entire lives and message to warning Israel.
When Israel returns to God, the covenant is restored until they again turn away, repeating the cycle of history. Finally, Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed, and history repeats with a new covenant. Christ, the Anointed One predicted by the prophets, comes on the scene and establishes His Church. Through the Church, people can become new. (See Romans 6.)
So here we are in America today, repeating the cycle of history. Jesus shed His blood to make us one body free of all divisions and human fallacies. As in the past, God promises blessings when we obey His commands. We have seen those promises fulfilled as America has prospered and been blessed in many ways. However, today Americans are rebelling against God and His covenant.
In today’s society, we not only see people rejecting God but embracing the practices that will destroy our country. How long will God tolerate immorality? We see our nation restricting the worship of God, endorsing the dissolution of marriage, killing babies before they are born, and murdering children in school. The Church is all that stands against the complete rejection of God’s commands and His covenant. We can break the cycle of history by relying on God’s word and following His instructions, individually and as a nation. We can choose to follow God or repeat the cycle of history by following the path of the nations that rose and fell in the past.
In 1913 poet and journalist Joyce Kilmer wrote his best-known poem simply titled “Trees.” It begins with, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree.” In fact, poems and trees have one thing in common. They are hard to define. What one person considers poetry could be something very different to another. The same is true of a tree. How can we define a tree?
There is no universally accepted common or scientific definition of a tree. Scientists classify all plants and animals into categories such as family, genus, and species. But trees, in general, don’t fit into any of those categories. You can assign any of those labels to a specific tree, but you can’t fit all trees into one specific classification. The best you can do is say that all trees are in the plant kingdom.
Even the common concept of a tree is a bit vague. You could say that a tree is a tall, woody plant with branches, leaves, bark, and a trunk that shows rings when you cut it down. That means what we call “palm trees” are not trees. Neither are banana trees, papaya trees, or Joshua trees. Also, bamboo is a plant that can grow to heights that exceed many trees, but we classify bamboo as grass. Many woody plants that we call shrubs or bushes can grow as tall as a height. How tall does a bush have to grow before we call it a tree?
No matter how you define trees, consider the benefits they give us. From trees, we get wood for furniture, homes, and buildings. We get fuel for campfires and even heating homes. Without the wood from trees, our ancestors could not have built boats and wagons that allowed them to travel, explore, and spread around the world. Trees provide shade, protection from wind, and in many cases, fruit. They can live for decades, centuries, or even thousands of years, releasing oxygen and taking in carbon dioxide to reduce Earth’s greenhouse effect. We will never find a poem lovely as a tree in spring, summer, or fall.
In Genesis, we read about the progressive steps of creation as God placed on Earth first grasses, then plants bearing seeds, and then trees bearing fruit that was good to eat (Genesis 1:11-12). God told the first couple to enjoy the fruit of all the trees except one. The beauty of the paradise where God placed Adam and Eve must have been beyond description. However, the tragedy that came because of the sin of pride and disobedience did not completely destroy that beauty. A glimpse of it has remained for us to enjoy, and it inspired Joyce Kilmer to write those words, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree.”
No matter how you define trees, we could not live without them. Kilmer’s poem ends with, “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.” God made the trees, and it was on a tree that He made the ultimate sacrifice for the sin that began with Adam and Eve. (See I Peter 2:21-24.) Sin has marred the beauty of the world and our lives as well. However, God has provided the solution–if we are willing to accept it.