The dead can still teach us.

“Tradition,” writes G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy, “means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead” (from chapter 4, “The Ethics of Elfland”).

Every year in October, some branches of the Christian faith celebrate the dawning of the Reformation (even as some other branches ignore or vilify it), marked by the date that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses for academic debate. He chose October 31, 1517, to do so, a date that he believed had already become encrusted with extra-Biblical and even pagan practices. He never dreamed that his little invitation to academic debate would be lifted from its context at the university, published far and wide, and set off a movement that still rocks the world, Christian and otherwise.

We can learn from those Reformers still and from many others who lived before and after them. What is so refreshing about reading (almost invariably in translation for me) great souls of the past is that they usually address questions that we, too, ask, but they answer them in a different manner and from a different cultural milieu. Even Christian writers from the past who may share our essential convictions often draw attention to ideas and practices that we neglect. Now and then, they hold to viewpoints that we can’t share completely, but they just as often challenge us to think more Christianly about matters we take for granted.

In 1944, C. S. Lewis wrote the preface to a new edition of a classic by Athanasius called On the Incarnation of the Word of God. That little pamphlet was first sent out into the world in the mid-4th century, when professing Christians were hotly debating the very nature of Jesus Christ. Lewis obviously thought reading such books would really be good for us at present. “Every age has its own outlook,” he writes. “It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.” He goes on: “The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.” What is so great about this now is that many of these “classics” can be read for free online or with a digital reader. For example, I became interested in G. K. Chesterton a few years ago, and so I checked my Kindle to see what might be available. I found 34 different Chesterton titles for free. So, for the next two hours I felt like Christmas had come as I downloaded all of them.

Learning from great souls from the past is just an extension of what the Apostle Paul observes about the Old Covenant Scriptures: “For as many things as were written beforehand were written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might keep on having this hope” (Romans 15:4, my translation). Every time we open our Bibles, we are learning from those long dead who have had profound and eternity shaping experience with God. Their viewpoint is foundational for ours if we are followers of Jesus today. Then, as we read the books of those who have lived since that time, we learn that people continued to have profound and eternity shaping experience with God based on the teaching of Scripture and their own personal walk with God. And that encourages us to persevere, indeed.

Smiley Mudd

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“That time of year thou may’st in me behold …”

While recovering from some work at our Upper County Project (moving gravel up a hill and into a new drain field around the foundation), a Christian brother and I were leaning on our vehicles and sharing about our lives. My brother lost his wife to cancer just about 6 months ago. We were considering the impact of her death, not just on him, but on all who knew and loved her.

One of our clearest conclusions was just how quickly life can take a drastic turn that changes everything. I can’t pretend to fully understand the depths of his grief. We certainly share our confident hope in the Resurrection, when all who belong to our Lord Jesus Christ in this life are called into the fullness of eternal life. That is a Reunion worthy of great anticipation. But it lies in the future, at a time set by our Lord.

In the meantime, we can all look into the mirror and see enough mortality to give us pause. I am about to have yet another birthday in a few days (on Labor Day this year, to be exact). What I see in the mirror is all of those accumulated years looking back at me. I have wondered many times about the mystery of God’s providence regarding the duration of our lives.

Not long ago, we were shocked to hear that Christine Grimmie, a 22-year-old Christian singer, was fatally shot at a concert by a crazed person. Blaise Pascal—brilliant mathematician, philosopher, and defender of the Christian faith—lived only to age 39. David Brainerd, early American missionary to native Americans, died at 29. C. S. Lewis died just short of his 65th birthday, on the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. JFK was only 46. Some of our good Christian friends lost a daughter at age 10. Others lost a child in arms. John Wesley lived to age 86. Nine of his 18 siblings died in infancy.

What does all this mean? I am at a loss to understand or to explain the mystery of any one lifespan. To pretend to understand it well would be great hubris. I must simply bow my mind before the One Who sees with a much wider angle that we can, and say, “The will of the Lord be done.”

In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet #73, the Bard muses on the uncertainty of the future and the likelihood of checking out of the world in the not-too-distant future. The speaker in the poem sees himself as the fall of the year about to pass into winter, the twilight of the day soon to yield to the night, and a barely glowing fire nearly to burn out. He closes with these lines,

“This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long.

As I see it, this is Christian wisdom. “It is appointed to a person to die once, and after that to face the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). So, we should live fully right now. Do right. Seek truth. Love fully. Trust Jesus. How much time do we really have to do so?

Smiley Mudd

What Faithfulness Looks Like

Just this past Monday, I spent a couple of hours with a pastor friend at the golf course. It is always nice to play golf with other pastors on my day off, because we usually swear in Hebrew, and it provides a good review of important vocabulary. For example, “Ruach!” with that guttural “ch,” just sounds like swearing, but really, it is the Hebrew word for breath, wind, or spirit. It is used in Genesis 2:2 for “the Spirit of God” who was “hovering over the” primeval “waters.” Perhaps uttering this aloud could be considered a kind of praying: “O Spirit of God, why did I just hover my last drive over the waters of the Yakima River! Help me!” Or maybe, “I wish my shot had hovered over the water and not simply splashed right into it. Please help me, Holy Spirit, to maintain my composure and remember this is just a game!” Or simply, “Ruach!”

Aside from important review of Hebrew vocabulary, visiting with my pastor friend this week turned to important conversation regarding health and God’s healing (he is now in remission from prostate cancer), ministry to a changing demographic over the decades, and what it means to be “successful” in ministry. That seems like a lot to talk about on a Monday, now that I mention it.

I rejoiced with him in his “all clear” report from his last PSA. We discussed what it means to minister to and with the adult children of those with whom we have partnered in service to Jesus for over two decades. And, we talked about how success is really a matter of faithfulness to our calling to speak God’s truth to whomever God brings into our realm of influence. In fact, I think we would both agree that faithfulness is success, as far as serving our Lord Jesus is concerned.

At that point in our conversation, we both realized that we had “promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep,” as the poem by Robert Frost goes, and that we couldn’t tarry outside the clubhouse or next to our vehicles any longer. We prayed together—actually on the course (it was a slow day, so we had some time between holes), and after our 9-hole experiment in humility was over, we said, “Say ‘Hi’ to your family!” to each other and went about our lives.

As I see it, faithfulness looks like this: we are becoming more and more like Jesus in the essence of our character and in the practice of our priorities (See Galatians 5:22-23 on “the fruit of the Spirit”). John tells us that Jesus came “full of grace and truth” (See John 1:14, 17). What if our lives became more and more full of grace and truth? We would then be found faithful.

Smiley Mudd

Christians Claim Dual Citizenship

We have just celebrated the birthday of our nation, and citizenship is big news as a result of the debates surrounding immigration. There is an interesting double meaning of the idea of “citizenship” in Christian thinking. First, we are citizens of the particular human country in which we hold political affiliation. And so, the Apostle Paul can urge us in this way, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1), and further, “Give to all their dues; to the one who is owed tax pay tax, to the one owed customs duty pay customs duty, to the one owed reverence give reverence, to the one owed honor give honor” (Romans 13:7). In the letter to the Philippians, he says, “keep living as citizens in a manner worthy of the Good News of the Christ” (Philippians 1:27). What I have translated “keep living as citizens” is a Greek verb from which our word “politics” comes.

But then, to add that second meaning, he writes in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship exists in heaven ….” The same Greek word family is used there for “citizenship.” So, Christians affirm that we must “live as citizens” in the earthly country of our citizenship, but we also have a permanent citizenship “in heaven.” Every Christian holds dual citizenship. The earthly country is temporary; the heavenly one is eternal.

During his teaching ministry, Jesus was presented with a hostile question from a Judean group that resented the control exerted by the Roman Empire of the first century: “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  They really thought they had him in a bind. Say, “No,” and he runs afoul of the Romans. Say, “Yes,” and he stirs up the Jewish audience against his teaching. He asked to see a Roman coin, a denarius, noting that it had the image of Caesar on it. Then he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The question all thoughtful readers of that statement ask is, what are the things that belong to Caesar and what are the things that belong to God? And that isn’t the easiest question to answer.

There are many instances in which these dual allegiances correspond. Most human countries require some limits on the behavior of their citizens that are similar to what Heaven requires. For instance, honesty in business dealings are usually reinforced by law; murder is generally forbidden; stealing what belongs to someone else is most likely a punishable offense.

Sometimes, the country in which we live commands or forbids what is contrary to the rule of heaven: “Don’t speak any longer in the name of Jesus” (Religious authorities to the first Christians; see Acts 4:18), or, “Report anyone you know who is Jewish to the authorities” (cf. laws in Nazi Germany under Hitler), or, “If you are a Christian, you must convert, flee, or die” (ultimatum from ISIS in Iraq). Clearly, when the temporary contradicts the eternal, the eternal must win. Principles such as the sanctity of human life, the universal value of every person as a bearer of God’s image, and the imperative from Jesus Christ to spread the Good News to everyone everywhere trump such fleeting human statutes for all those who profess faith in him.

The real trick of living with such dual but unequal citizenship is to always concentrate on the eternal when evaluating the temporary. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (cf. Matthew 6:33) fits here. As the debates go on about the very real and important issues of American citizenship, as they must, we Jesus-people will not forget that the first allegiance of every Christian is higher and lasts much longer. This might just change the way we hold those debates.

Smiley Mudd

On Finding Real Wisdom

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” This question is found in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 1:20. The Apostle Paul had just written, “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” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV). It does sound at first hearing a bit foolish: to think that anything good could come from a man being tortured to death in such a gruesome fashion really doesn’t seem wise. Crucifixion in the Roman Empire was reserved for slaves and political enemies as the ultimate humiliation.

For Christians, however, the theology behind that story changes everything. We believe that the Creator Himself was at work in the event, taking himself the rightful place of human punishment, paying a moral and spiritual debt that human beings could never pay. If Jesus was the naïve victim of political intrigue, his story is one of pathos. If Jesus was the willing victim of a cosmic plan that would make it possible to set things right between human beings and their Creator, that is something else! God’s wisdom and human wisdom: there can seem quite a contrast.

The wisdom of the world alleges that self-preservation is of first importance, and yet, there is Jesus dying innocently, and as Christians believe, sacrificing himself so that others might have a shot at eternal life.

The wisdom of the world argues that concern for one’s own tribe is enough. Such tribalism was enough for the Nazis to justify the Holocaust. It fuels the ongoing strife in the Middle East and beyond. It divides Americans by ethnic background. And then there is Jesus, saying that God loves the entire world and sent his Son so that people from “every nation, tribe, people, and language” might stand side-by-side with one heart and voice, united in love and in the worship of God (see Revelation 7:9f.).

The wisdom of the world assumes that challenging the cultural norms of other societies is disrespectful or at least unnecessary: “live and let live,” after all. And yet, there is Jesus, challenging those within his own ancient Jewish culture to allow God to adjust their values and norms to those of heaven, and then extending that challenge to every other human society.

All temporary human values seem to be turned upside down by the Christian gospel—or as Christians would argue, are turned right-side up. The gospel urges Jesus’ followers to “take up the cross” for the sake of God’s purposes and for others, which is surely contrary to a fierce spirit of self-preservation. The gospel urges people to remember that “God … loved the world” when He sent His Son (cf. John 3:16), and that all of us must learn to show His kind of love to all the people groups of the world through the message of salvation and through other positive acts of caring. In the gospel, all people have the same original value as those who uniquely bear the image of God, and they all now need what only Jesus can offer: the power to restore that image in the human soul. The gospel challenges all cultural norms that are contrary to the grace and truth found in Jesus Christ, often raising obscure values to primacy and toppling idols that contradict God’s highest revelation of Himself in Christ.

So, the Apostle Paul could really have been onto something. God has made foolish the wisdom of the world, because it has often been the wisdom of fools to begin with. Opting to live on a foundation of eternal values, even when it costs us something in this temporary world, is true wisdom. As Paul argued and Christians believe, “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21, NIV).

Smiley Mudd

“Fools for Christ”: Christian faith seems … weirder now.

Christians have always had the audacity to believe in Jesus, even when others sneer at such faith. Luke records how Governor Portius Festus explained to the Roman King Agrippa why he still had Paul in custody. He couldn’t really come up with a good reason for Paul to be in a Roman jail, because the Jewish leaders accused him of no real violation of Roman law. “Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive” (Acts 25:19 NIV84).

There it is: “… a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” That is what this Roman ruler thought of the controversy over the Apostle Paul. In other words, the Christian faith seemed … weird.

To give Paul a little credit, it seemed weird to him at first, too. In point of historical fact, he thought it was not only weird but positively blasphemous. These followers of “a dead man named Jesus” thought that that crazy Nazarene was the Christ, the Messiah—and that He was no longer dead at all, but had been raised to life again by God! We are told in the book of Acts that Paul was so agitated about this that he just kept on “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” and “went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2, NIV84).

Paul was on his way to do that very thing when he encountered the resurrected Jesus and was dramatically converted from persecutor to preacher of the Way. He knew what that meant: now he would be considered even weirder. And sure enough, he was right.

So now in the front quarter of the 21st century, jihadi terrorists are launching deadly attacks all over the glode, the president of North Korea is threatening the world, and the Supreme Court of the United States has given legal support to a revisionist view of marriage that supports the legal union of same-sex couples. Add to this, the religious tenor of the country is less than wonderful, as Ross Douthat argues in a provocative book I am reading called Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

So how does “the faith entrusted once for all to the saints” (Jude 3) appear these days? Weird. How does a faith that argues that their Founder is “the way and the truth and the life,” and that “no one comes to the [one true God and] Father, except through [Him]” (see John 14:6)? Weird. How does a faith that affirms the creation of all human beings as “male and female” that are designed to unite in marriage to reproduce and nurture their offspring for the good of God’s world look in this generation? Weird. “We are fools for Christ,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 4:10), but Peter was right: Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). And so, I’m good with weird. How about you? See you in church, my fellow “fools.”

Smiley Mudd

Love God; love the people: the heart of it all.

I have been thinking lately about one of the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. I wasn’t thinking prophetically but rather practically. These letters are given in chapters two and three. The very first letter was addressed “to the “angel of the church in Ephesus” (“angel”  probably should be taken in its root meaning of “messenger”). In it, Jesus commends the church for its good “works,” its “patient endurance” (ESV) and its proper intolerance for those who practiced evil, either in false teaching or immoral living. They had “not grown weary.”

If it were a contemporary church, the church in Ephesus would be a leading light in evangelicalism: doctrinally right, wary of false teachers, working hard, well-organized, and standing against cultural accommodation. But they had one little problem. Jesus threatened to “remove [their] lampstand from its place” (2:5, ESV), because they had “abandoned the love [they] had at first” (2:4, ESV). That would mean ceasing to exist as a church.

Apparently, they had decided, as that word translated “abandoned” suggests, that love was not going to be a central part of their Values Statement as a church. They were preaching the gospel of Jesus, standing against cultural compromise, calling out false teachers, and working hard. That was enough for them—but it wasn’t enough for Jesus.

As March rolls around, I also start thinking about the story of Patrick of Ireland. His day comes on March 17 each year. There is a bit of legend that has grown up around Patrick, but what we can actually know about him comes through a document that he purportedly wrote later in his life to defend his ministry in Ireland and to appeal to church leaders to keep him there.

Remember his story? He was an English youth of 16 when he was captured by Irish Pirates and hauled away to Ireland. He was sold to a local “king” and set to work tending his herds. He often spent months alone wandering around in the hills following those animals. But something happened during his exile. God restored his (formerly nominal) Christian faith, and Patrick became impassioned about the life of prayer. After 6 years, following a vision, he set out to escape and met a ship 200 miles away sailing for England. He made his way back home, and he became a pastor and then a bishop. Some 30-40 years later, he had another vision which compelled him to return to Ireland, the land of his captivity, now as a missionary. He obeyed that calling, and the rest, as they say, is the stuff of history—and legend.

What brings these two themes together is this: if we are nurturing a “first love” Christian life, then the powerful motive force for our lives will be the same as that of Patrick: he loved our common Lord Jesus Christ, and he loved the people.

As I see it, that sums up our calling, also. Love God; love the people. Every truly Christian action ties into these.

Smiley Mudd

Jesus’ Sayings from the Cross, #1: The Unexpected Word of Forgiveness

A few years ago, a television miniseries recounted the tale of the most notorious feud in American history. It was called Hatfields and McCoys. A Life magazine cover story in 1944 recounted the story with large photos (accessed at http://userwww.service.emory.edu/~dmcco01/McCoy/LIFE/.

Here is how it allegedly began: “The Hatfields were, and still are, mountain farmers on the West Virginia side of Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River …. The McCoys were large landowners on the Kentucky side of the same stream. During the Civil War young Anderson (‘Devil Anse’) Hatfield, fighting with the Confederates, killed Harmon McCoy, a Union man, in battle. He came home a Confederate captain and quarreled again with Randall McCoy, Harmon’s kin, over a stolen pig.”

Open war broke out after Devil Anse’s oldest son, Jonse, fell in love with and moved in with Randall McCoy’s daughter Rosanna. The McCoys caught Ellison Hatfield, Anse’s brother and stabbed him fatally. Anse retaliated by tying three young McCoys to bushes beside the river and murdering them. Anse “and his clan rode boldly up to Randall McCoy’s house in Kentucky, killed his 15-year-old daughter Allifair McCoy, and burned the house down. There were ambushes in the woods in which many men were killed, but Devil Anse lived safely behind a drawbridge in his mountain valley home. Only one feudist (‘Cotton Top’ Mounts, a Hatfield cousin) was ever hanged. The last killing was in 1896, but by that time Devil Anse had been converted, baptized and was living respectably on money from his coal lands ….”

This story is as old as the spirit of revenge that lurks in every human heart. Someone speaks ill of me, and I want to point up their (obvious) faults to others. My neighbor encroaches onto my property with his tree trimmings, and I am tempted to “bump” his fence with my tractor. Behold the bumper-sticker philosophy: “I DON’T GET MAD; I GET EVEN.”

In sharp contrast is what may be the most unexpected statement in all of history. In a dramatic turn of extreme injustice, the religious leaders of Jesus’ time and place seized him by stealth and turned him over to the Roman government for death by crucifixion, a most diabolical form of execution. While under that extreme torture, those standing by reported for posterity what he said. There were seven “sayings” uttered by Jesus on that fateful day. Followers of Jesus have pondered them over and over through the centuries since.

The first of those sayings goes against most of human history: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). We might ask, “How can an innocent victim of power-hungry jealousy and of government cruelty and indifference ask God to “forgive them”? At the very least because they needed forgiveness. They could not make up for such cosmic injustice. Forgiveness was and is the only remedy for their guilt. Christians believe that Jesus’ death makes that forgiveness possible—and that every human being needs to and can be forgiven by God the Father as a result.

It seems interesting that the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys ends with a central player confessing Christian faith. In more recent years, Nelson Mandela emerged from over two decades in prison in South Africa with a truly startling message. Instead of a message of rights or power, he spoke repeatedly about reconciliation—with the very people who had so systematically mistreated his people. He, too, was attempting to apply his Christian faith to the debasing history of apartheid in his country. This is greatly needed right now in modern America, as more and more people are seeking “tit for tat” over racial and other social offenses. A glance to the cross of Jesus and an open heart could make real reconciliation possible: “Forgive them, because they don’t really understand what they are doing.”

Smiley Mudd

Do we need another “Year of the Bible”? I say yes.

It is demoralizing how ignorant people are about the contents of the Bible nowadays. I wish that were only true about our culture at large, but I am afraid that it is also true about some church-going folks.

Several years ago now, a young family moved away from Ellensburg to another city in Washington State. They came back to visit our church a couple of months later. As might be expected of a pastor-type, I asked them how their search for a new church was going. “Well, not so good,” they replied. Then they recounted attending one particular church in their new city. They had decided not to keep attending within the first two Sundays, but they kept going with one goal in mind. They decided they would attend until someone stood before the congregation and read aloud from the Bible, not just quoting a line or two in a message. How long did it take? Six weeks. Yes, this self-avowed evangelical church went six Sundays until someone read a passage aloud from the Bible, either in the sermon or separately.

Even as I recall this conversation, my heart sinks a little. Evangelical churches often chide mainline churches for having abandoned particular teachings from the Bible. Yet, often those same mainline churches have regular Bible readings every Sunday, perhaps drawn from their collection of readings called a Lectionary. Yet, this particular “evangelical” church (quotation marks intended) did not even have a Bible reading in a service for six straight weeks. I truly hope they have changed their habit since that time. Alas.

Just this week, on the day I wrote this column, I read a Breakpoint Commentary from the Colson Center for Christian Worldview entitled “The Book of Acts Gets a CT Scan.” In it Eric Metaxas tells about an ancient manuscript in Coptic language (e.g. from Egypt) that has been dated to between AD 400-600. It is housed in the Morgan Library in New York City. It is a manuscript of the Book of Acts and some other yet-unidentified writing. The manuscript is so fragile from fire damage at some point that no one has dared to try to open it, lest it crumble into fragments. One journalist said it “looks as delicate as a long dead flower.”

But W. Brent Seales, a computer science professor at the University of Kentucky, has developed a way using a CT scanner and his own special software to “read” the pages of this book without ever opening them. It is an amazing process of discovery.

Now, Eric and I both ponder the obvious. If trying to read this ancient copy of the Book of Acts is such a labor-worthy effort, what is keeping us from taking in the teaching of Scripture regularly from all the translations available to us in print and on our computers and mobile devices? Seales said, his technique “can turn things thought to be of no value into precious objects.” As I see it, we already know the value of the Book of life. Let’s treat it as such!

Smiley Mudd

Epiphany, the End of a Long Search

C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel share something in common with some ancient characters in the story of the Bible. They all came to believe that they were led to Jesus. Lewis, McDowell, and Strobel all came to Jesus quite reluctantly. The ancient characters described in the Bible story made a great and unusual effort to find Him.

Lewis told his story of conversion to faith in Christ in a book entitled Surprised by Joy: the Shape of My Early Life. He had become a hard-boiled unbeliever and skeptic in his late twenties. His mother died when he was a child, and neither he, his brother nor their father handled it very well. He graduated with a “First” in two different fields of study from Oxford University. This means that he was the top of his class in these areas of study from one of the top universities in the world. He was getting a good start in his teaching assignment at Oxford, becoming more and more entrenched in his unbelief, when something upsetting and unusual happened.

Here is how Lewis described that moment of crisis: “Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. ‘Rum thing,’ he went on. ‘All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.’ To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not—as I would still have put it—‘safe,’ where could I turn? Was there no escape?”

He reports in Surprised by Joy that there was no escape. Once he explored the evidence for himself, his atheism began to wilt and ultimately it crumbled to the ground. A new perspective had taken root and was going to grow into a large tree of faith. Or, in a timelier way of putting this, a flicker of light had penetrated the darkness and had begun to burn more and more brightly.

It was just such a light that some ancient men discovered in the sky, which in some amazing manner led them right to the child Jesus and his mother and step-father. The Gospel of Matthew (chapter 2) tells about this caste of stargazers the Greeks called magoi that somehow inferred from astronomical observations that a new “king of the Jews” would be born. They traveled a very long way, created quite a stir upon their arrival in Jerusalem, and finally found the place where Jesus lived. When they saw the child, they bowed before him in worship and presented him gifts fit for a king: gold, incense, and myrrh. That is what Christians celebrate on January 6 each year, what is called “Epiphany,” meaning “a revelation.”

People like Lewis, Strobel and McDowell argue that just such a revelation could be waiting for us. Of course, we could try to play it safe, too. But if this story is true, there is nothing in the world with which to compare it. As Blaise Pascal wrote, “Let them at least be honest men, if they cannot be Christians. Finally, let them recognize that there are two kinds of people one can call reasonable; those who serve God with all their heart because they know Him, and those who seek Him with all their heart because they do not know Him (Pensees, #194). Perhaps a personal Epiphany awaits.

Smiley Mudd