Seeing Faith

In “The Last Crusade” movie, Indiana Jones pursues the holy grail.  Near the end of the journey he faces a chasm with no way to cross. “It’s a leap of faith,” he mutters, as he steps into the abyss. To his surprise, his foot lands on a bridge he cannot see.

It takes no climactic leap of faith for you to board an airliner to Paris. People have been riding the winds above the Atlantic Ocean for nearly 100 years since Charles Lindbergh showed us the way.

The difference between these two is blind faith vs. seeing faith.  It matters because the Christian faith is not a blind faith. In its worst form, blind faith doesn’t care about what is true – it believes anyway. Those who reject a religion of blind faith are right to do so, but don’t accuse Christians of being taken captive by such “empty deception” (Col. 2:8). We see reasons to believe.

God has proven that He will reveal Himself in human history and reality. He showed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar saw a fourth person in the fiery furnace, and was overwhelmed by that reality of God Almighty. Thomas doubted no longer when he saw and touched the resurrected Jesus. Jesus even showed his authority to forgive sins by making the paralyzed man get up and walk (Matt. 9). All these encounters resulted in visible evidence – reasons to believe.

Do you see the evidence of the Bible? It had 40 human contributors spanning 1500 years writing in three languages, yet it is a coherent narrative of human history and experience. It has hundreds of prophecies, some very specific, all written centuries before Jesus fulfilled them. It explains what you see now: the universe exists, evil persists, and morality is universal. It explains why you yearn for beauty, admire innocence, and cling to life. It explains brokenness, justice, restoration, and hope. The Bible makes sense of the world as you experience it.

Do you see the evidence of creation? As you would expect, the more science discovers about the material world, the more it points to a prior intelligence. (I recommend Stephen Meyer’s new book, The Return of the God Hypothesis.) Creation is God’s other “book.” The Bible says, “His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Rom. 1:20).

Indiana Jones exercised blind faith in search of the cup that gives eternal life. That plot line appeals because eternity is set into the human heart (Ecc. 3:11). In the real world, to possess eternal life is to believe in a real Jesus who lived, died, and lives again. The evidence you can see is the foundation of your faith. Faith is not a blind leap into darkness, it’s a step into the light.

Web Weaving

Willard Scott was the Today Show weatherman until Al Roker succeeded him in 1995. His life calling was to bring joy to the world.

Scott started his career as a radio personality. His comedy show, Joy Boys, was popular in Washington. When he returned to the show from his Navy stint, his new boss scheduled the show during the worst time slot. He applied this Biblical wisdom: “When someone wrongs you, it is a great virtue to ignore it.” Joy Boys soon became the #1 show in that market.

Scott was the original Ronald McDonald and played Bozo the Clown. He brought his gimmicks with him to the Today Show in 1980. He dressed as Cupid for Valentine’s Day, wore a barrel on “tax day,” and was a furry rodent for Groundhog Day. “People said I was a buffoon,” Scott said. “Well, all my life I’ve been a buffoon. That’s my act.” His audience loved his act, especially his tradition of greeting centenarians on their birthdays.

But things weren’t always rosy. Today Show host, Bryant Gumbel complained about Scott’s “whims, wishes, birthdays, and bad taste.” On his next on-air opportunity, Scott planted a kiss on Gumbel’s cheek to show his forgiveness.

Scott was motivated by his Christian faith.  He often said that if he hadn’t become an entertainer, he would have been a preacher because he loved people. Early in his Today Show career he said, “I am trying to weave a web of love. I want to make the whole country feel as if we are one. I may be a cornball, but I am me.” He lived that out by forgiving people who hurt him, and by promoting joy.

What web are you weaving in your life? What is your unique purpose and style? Whatever your answer, let it be your expression of this highest calling: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).

In 2021, Scott flew away from the land of the dying to the land of the living. His web-weaving days are over.

Intellectual Honesty

In his 1977 album, Billy Joel crooned about a love interest who was “always a woman to me.” One of her endearing quirks was, “She never gives in, she just changes her mind!”

Politicians change their minds too. But lest you think poorly of them they say, “I misspoke,” or “My thinking has evolved.” Translation: his staff told him the electoral winds are blowing in a different direction. Or in today’s parlance, he didn’t want to get canceled.

Of course there are valid reasons to change your mind. When you think about thinking (metacognition) with an unbiased, honest attitude, you may well gain fresh perspective on truth. That’s intellectual honesty. Dishonesty says, “My mind’s made up. Don’t confuse me with facts.”

Allan Sandage shocked the scientific community with his intellectual honesty. In 1953, he earned a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in astronomy. As a prolific researcher and author, he won multiple science awards during his career. He was agnostic about God and embraced a materialistic philosophy.

In 1985, Sandage joined a panel of scientists at a conference in Dallas. The divided panel of theists and atheists were there to discuss the origins of the universe, complex life, and human consciousness. His colleagues were shocked when Sandage sat down with the theists. He had changed his mind. He explained that his research affirmed that the material universe had a definite beginning in time and space, and had been finely tuned since the beginning to support life. That suggests prior intelligence.

The Bible says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3). Cosmology and astronomy gave Sandage reasons to believe, to become a Christ-follower. He said, “It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

It is intellectual honesty to follow the evidence, and change your mind. Sandage did.

Who Are You?

His call surprised me, mainly because we were only somewhat acquainted. The pastor wanted me to speak at his church – Maranatha Baptist in Plains, Georgia.

Perhaps you associate it with peanut farming or the toothy grin of their famous Sunday School teacher. I accepted the invite, praying the Lord would speak truth, to me and to the church. Everyone wants to know truth, right?

On the appointed evening, I arrived early and took my place as the festivities began. A few minutes after the opening welcome, the farmer-teacher steps out of the evening darkness into the church, without wife or security shadow. He was one of four fellows the pastor called forward to take the evening collection.

Then I was up. The sermon text was Jesus’ eyebrow-raising encounter at Jacob’s well with a woman whose lengthy reputation followed her there (John 4). Yet He saw her.  He knew her. He shocked her, not just by talking to her but asking for a drink. “If you knew who is speaking to you, you would have asked for water,” He said. “He would give you living water.” His well is different, far beyond Jacob’s.

He wasn’t done with her. She wasn’t done with Him either. You can tell she wondered, “Who are you?” He said, “The water I give will become a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Then He revealed just how well he knew her, mentioning private details. That got her attention. She sought refuge in her religious heritage, then spoke of the promised Messiah. That was his moment. “I who speak to you am He,” Jesus said.

That’s who He is.  The promise fulfilled, the one who sees you, knows your name, and offers you the well of water springing up to eternal life. Jesus offers you a new identity in Him. By faith, that’s who you are.

After the service in Plains, he was the first to thank me for the message. He said his name and shook my hand.  “I know who you are, Mr. President,” I said.