Which Road? Part 4 of 4

Eventually, I learned which was the right road to follow. It was the road where the cross of Jesus Christ is always before you. I don’t mean the church, I’m not talking about a particular denomination. I’m talking about what it says in Hebrews 12:2―

2…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 New International Version (NIV)

Over the years, I learned the lesson that in order to find and walked the Jesus road, I needed to do just that, to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. So how do we do that? Usually early in the morning or late at night, and wonder what am I supposed to be doing. I don’t mean whether I should be taking out the trash or where I should be going to eat. I mean I wonder what I should be doing to be on the Jesus road. It seems to me that too many of us think that staying on the Jesus road doesn’t require our attention.
This concept reminds me of drivers who are technically on the road they’re driving, but texting while they are doing so. Although they might claim otherwise, it just seems to me that there really not on the road. Their car is, but their mind isn’t. As a result of this, they can miss turns. They can drive through stop lights without meaning to do so. They can even, hit another car. They are an accident waiting to happen.
In order to make sure we stay on the Jesus road, we need to pay attention to that road. In the Gospel of John we read:

18Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him. “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
John 21:18-22 New International Version (NIV)

The only thing we need to follow Jesus down the road named after him is to keep our eyes fixed on him. We do that, of course, by reading God’s word. In the real world, we can’t see Jesus. Physically see him, that is. But we know what the cross he was crucified looked like. We don’t have a photo of it, but we know what a cross looks like.

So, we have to stay awake, we have to keep our eyes open and remember the cross. If we do that, it’s a lot easier to stay on Jesus road.

Which Road? Part 3 of 4

philosophical machinery

Which road?  The road where men and women are mere organic thinking machines collaborating in a mechanical life, or the road where we are valued children of God.  At that time, I didn’t know there was such a choice.  I had grown up thinking that God was only a construct for social control.  I had a lot to learn.

You might be wondering why I ran away from home at sixteen years of age to meet the most effective atheist of our age—Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged.  You’d think I made the journey because I wanted to meet the woman who I also considered to be the most brilliant writer alive.  Or because I wanted to become a card-carrying member of the Objectivist Institute.

At the time, I probably did think something like that.  At the time, if you’d told me I was traveling a different road than what I thought I was, I would have been shocked.

I thought I was running to something.  Toward a logical explanation of who I was and what to do with my life.  It seemed that the philosophy of the Objectivists could explain all of that to my satisfaction.  To my amazement, my discussions with the Objectivist Institute produced the opposite result.  In their advocacy and defense of atheism and “pure” logic, they still could not provide a basis for living.  The weaknesses at the core of Objectivist thinking I’ll leave for another time, but for now I’ll just say that one night, after making the point that without God there was no basis for human rights, that instead there could only negotiated social contracts—I realized how far apart people could become without God to hold us together.

It was a peculiar discussion in that the Objectivists I was speaking to were floundering so badly in their defense of Rand’s basic postulate regarding rights.  It was that shortfall that convinced me that if I wanted real answers, I needed to look elsewhere.

That’s when I began looking for the Jesus Road in earnest.  I just didn’t know it yet.

Which Road? Part 2 of 4

I did general labor around the Objective Institute—I don’t even know if I was paid on the record.  Probably not, since I didn’t have a checking account and ATM cards were unheard of back in the mid ’60s.  So I was most likely paid in cash.  With it, I paid for a cheap room at the YMCA, bought a pocket knife, and worked at the Objectivist Institute.  As a bonus for working part time there, I got to attend the lectures free.  Well, not exactly free—I had to arrange seating, usher people to the chairs and help sweep the lecture room clean afterwards.

It was heady stuff.  The first lecture I heard was on Objectivist Epistemology.  I was where I thought I should be.  A sixteen year old runaway in search for truth.  I hadn’t told my parents I was leaving because, I didn’t think they would let me go.  Later, I heard their side of it.  I heard how they contacted the police.  How they thought I was dead or worse.

I thought a lot about that on day two and even more on day three.  But then I met Ayn Rand, the atheist of the age.

Which Road?- Part 1 of 4

One September morning, when the other kids in my neighborhood were on their way to high school, I took a bus to downtown Detroit, went to the train station, and took the first train I could get to New York City. No, it wasn’t a field trip, I’d made up my mind over the last few weeks to go meet I Ayn Rand. I had $99 in my pocket, and no plan other than to meet the great writer, the great author of the Fountainhead and Atlas shrugged. It wasn’t really an in-depth plan. That was as deep as it got. Go to bus stop, take bus to Detroit, get ticket at the train station for New York City, try to find I Ayn Rand. Although I did not have many clues in my head, I at least knew where to find her. No, it wasn’t her home address. It was the address of the objectivist Institute, which I found in the back of my copy of Atlas Shrugged.

As I look back on this years later, one thing that strikes me is the number of times I should have died during the trip. Even in the late 60s, the world was not exactly a safe place. I wasn’t carrying a cell phone. I didn’t even have a map. My plan was, at least I think it was that when I got to New York I would simply ask someone where the address was. Being that the objectivist Institute was in the basement- or perhaps the subbasement- of the Empire State building it seemed like an easy enough task. However, I did not have money for a cab.  So, I had to walk.

Most of my memories of the trip from the New York train station are vague. I have no images to recall that I seem to be able to get my mental hands on, but I do remember a sense of separation. I remember the lack of noise. I assumed that all big cities would be filled with cacophonous noise. But I don’t remember a lot of noise in the area I walk through to get to the center of New York. In fact, many of the streets seemed vacant. Of course, that may have just been benchmarked against my expectations. I may have been expecting thousands of people jam packed together in the streets, so when I didn’t see what I expected by the time I was a few blocks into the city, it probably made the city seem pretty well empty.

Unknown to me, my perception of the city was fairly well true in a way that would have surprised me had I considered it.   I really was alone in New York City; I really did not know anyone. If I was attacked, or in any way assaulted who would I turn to for help? Total strangers? It wouldn’t take me long in the Big Apple to realize that most people just did not want to get involved in anything dicey. Or risky.

I learned this the day I saw a lion walking down the sidewalk. No, I’m not kidding. I actually saw it happen. The lion was walking down the sidewalk and New York pedestrians were walking around him as though it was just another person. Occasionally someone would look at the lion, but then they kept walking.  I’m fairly certain this sort of thing did not happen on a daily basis.  I’m not sure how close the area I was in was to the New York zoo. But I did find it fairly disturbing. But it may help you to understand why it is that the city seemed vacant to me. Most of the people seem to feel more interested in looking at their own reflection in window glass as they passed, then they did looking at their neighbors.

If this sounds to be a harsh assessment, so be it.

The time I was taking this journey, it never occurred to me that I might be in danger. Logically, this was complete idiocy. New York City is not exactly Disneyland. I remember concrete- more than anything else concrete everywhere.

I can’t imagine it is healthy to live in the city such as New York. It is the most unnatural place on earth, except for places such as Toronto Atlanta Los Angeles, etc. Never mind the violent people equipped with firearms knives and you name it. Never mind the drugs and the alcohol. Never mind the perverts and maniacs and grifters. It was the confluence of all of these elements combined with the sordid history of a city with too many buildings, too many people, too much pollution and too much human suffering and violence. Perhaps because of my youth and naiveté, I was unafraid because I was, in a word, stupid. I was on a mission. I admired Ayn Rand’s hero John Gault in her novel Atlas Shrugged. He seemed more logical to me than my friends in high school, to my parents, than my full family, than the neighborhood, and even more sane than the town I had grown up in. Ayn Rand’s characters were the first light of sanity in my young life or so I thought at the time.

My father worked as a postman and our local post office, and when he got off work he also had a washer and dryer repair business. In a word, he seemed terribly uninteresting to me. Hard-working, long-suffering and family-oriented, but boring. I did not want to grow up to be boring—anything but that. My mother, and a bank and took care of us kids. Both of my parents were loving and affectionate. It was no fault of theirs that I became possessed with the idea of taking the train to New York City and walking from the train station to the Empire State building to meet the famous author Ayn Rand. I did not think of it at the time as being a coming of age adventure, but looking back to more mature eyes, that seems to be what it was. But, it really was much more than that.

It was the beginning of my search for the Jesus Road.

Blind Guy on the Road

Careful. There’s a blind guy on the road and he doesn’t know the rules.

He’s not wearing dark glasses and he doesn’t have a cane. He’s being led down the side of the road by a group of guys so he doesn’t wander off into the desert and die of thirst.

And, well, he’s been acting nuts. Hearing voices and even answering them! He says Jesus was speaking to him- Jesus had already been crucified by the way. Crazy days. The Bible doesn’t say whether the guys leading him to Damascus thought he was crazy or not, but there’s a real chance they did.

The guy, of course, is the Apostle Paul.

Most Christians have heard the story, of course, but there’s something I’ve always wondered about. At what point did Paul become a Christian. Was it when he was baptized by Ananias in Damascus? Or was it when he heard the voice of Jesus on the Damascus Road and obeyed the Lord by going to Damascus and following the Lord’s commands?

I’m still thinking about it, but what do you think?

Time Out for Glorious Music

I’m working hard on the next book, titled “The Jesus Road” because after reading my collection of science fiction stories titled “Tales from the Jesus Road” exactly what the Jesus Road was. And so, since it’s good to follow up on requests from serious readers, I’m not only writing it, but being inspired by glorious music like the song from the Newsboys titled “Born Again” while I do.

Not the Heaven or Hell Thing Again! Part 5 of 5

So here’s how it happened to me, I told him.

I read the Bible.  Not the whole thing cover to cover in one sitting of course.  Here’s why I read it.  When I was sixteen years old, my parents gave me my first Bible, which had the inscription from them, “Use it as your guide.  Love, Mom and Dad.”

It was a King James Bible, which seemed to me as useless as a dry well in the desert.  The language just didn’t cut it with me, so I ignored it.  Eventually, over the years, I lost it.

Sometime after my father died and before my mother passed away, the unaccountable need to see what they were talking about came over me.  So I got a bible, this time the NIV translation.  While glancing through it, I came across this verse:

 45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46  “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
(John 7:45-46, New International Version)

“No one ever spoke the way this man does…”  As a writer, I found that oddly compelling.  I wanted to know what Jesus said that had such a profound effect on them.

I did the only logical thing at that point, I actually read through the things that Jesus said.  And I read them again.  And again.  Something inside me began to change.

As I was relaying this story to my new friend from work, I saw that he was actually listening.  I wasn’t trying to convert him, I was just sharing my story.

So I continued by telling him that I hit another verse in the writings of the Apostle Paul that struck a nerve with me, and he asked me what it was.  He was asking, not just playing along.

It was this, I said:

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[d]
2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[e] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
(I Corinthians 1:18-3:5, New International Version)

Don’t get me wrong, my lunch companion- the engineer from work- wasn’t hanging on my every word.  He was genuinely interested.  The resistance he’d showed to the “Jesus kids” at the far table was gone.  I think in part that was because I wasn’t “pushing” at him, I was just talking.

So I thought I saw, I said, that logic wasn’t involved til later.  You to have a heart open to God first, then when he calls you, you have an easier time seeing the truth.  Otherwise, Jesus doesn’t make sense.  When you read what he said, you can hear and know that this man is different from anyone who has ever lived.  I told my friend that reading and meditating on what Jesus said kind of opens our ears and our hearts.  If that doesn’t happen, I said, a person will never believe in God or Jesus or Heaven or Hell.  How are they supposed to believe in Heaven or Hell unless God opens their hearts and minds?  So first seek God through prayer and his words, then God will show us the truth.

Finally, my last thoughts to him were that when I found this verse, I really could feel the presence of God in my life through his words:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
(Matthew 6:33, New International Version)

That was what I told him and I hope it helped, because after reading what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, it was clear that logic and reason weren’t first in line.  Also that there was no sense trying to find heaven using GPS coordinates.

I never saw my lunch companion again, but I hope some day I’ll hear back from him and he’ll say that he started out first seeking the Kingdom God and ending up with meeting him in person through the words and person of his son Jesus Christ.

Not the Heaven or Hell Thing Again! Part 4 of 5

Empty Tomb

So I told him what happened to me.  He didn’t like it.

I told him I’d started out like him, too.  Same arguments.  It was a shame, I said.  So many of us technical people start out with exactly the same points that he’d raised.  We can’t help it.  It’s in our DNA.

“I was afraid, just like you,”  I said.

It was was worse for me in a way, I thought.  When I gave my life to Jesus, I’d already decided that there was more to life and reality than data acquisition and logic.

I already knew that no one could prove the existence of God.  It’s only when he reveals himself to us that we understand the proper place of logic in this world.  When I both felt the presence of God and knew without doubt that he was real.  Later in my life, a Christian friend echoed the same experience as relayed that God was indeed real.  He knew it in his heart first and then his head.

People afraid of the Gospel message immediately reject this positioning.  My new friend sitting at the table with me would think that way.  Logic and data first, faith second and most assuredly last.  He would reject what I believed out of hand.

But he surprised me.

Not the Heaven or Hell Thing Again! Part 3 of 5

“Faith,” he said.  “They can’t see heaven, they can’t measure it, and they can’t even locate it, but they want to sell it to me.”

“Like God,” I said.

“You got it,” he said.  “I say if you can’t see something, you can’t measure it or locate it, chances are it’s not there in the first place.  And don’t tell me about X-rays or black holes.  We can measure x-rays and we’ve seen black holes.  That’s what I call reality.  God… well no one can really say where he is, they can’t measure him or see him, so he’s not there either and that means heaven’t isn’t either.”

“It sounds so simple when you put it that way,” I said.  “If God and Heaven can’t be detected, measured or located then they don’t exist.”

“Exactly,” he said.

So we sat there for a while without talking.  Bookstore cafes are good like that.  They’re quiet, contemplative environments.  Kind of intellectually reinforcing.  All those books just waiting to fill us with the knowledge of things located, seen and measured.   My new work acquaintance, however, did not seem very comfortable.  It was the presence, he’d said, of the Jesus Kids parked at the far end of the eating area that disturbed him.

They wanted to ask him if he was going to Heaven or hell.  It was a question he really didn’t want to answer.  It wasn’t a measurement question.  It wasn’t fair, he thought, to ask a technical person a non measurement question.

He wanted me to agree with him.  He wanted the Jesus Kids to agree with him.  Only logic counts.  All the discussions about any other aspect of Jesus or God have to wait because no one can see or measure God.  Why?  Because he says so.

But what if—my apologies to Christian apologeticists—the two weren’t related?  I mean, what if faith comes first and apologetics comes second? And what if that is the proper order? That logic and language are inadequate to the reality of God and Heaven and Hell. Heaven and Hell only exist because of God. We can only recognize their existence through our Creator.

So I ran that by him and next time I’ll tell you how he responded.