July 11, 2015
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
In the early and mid-1800s, Peter Cartwright was a circuit rider in Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.
Once, on one of his forays into the frontier, he stayed overnight at the home of a spiritually skeptical physician. As they talked, the doctor was more than willing to put forth his opinion that the only reality was that which our senses could discern.
The doctor asked Cartwright, "Did you ever see religion?"
Cartwright replied he hadn't.
"Did you ever hear religion, smell religion, taste religion?"
"Did you ever feel religion?"
After four no answers, to that last question Cartwright answered, "Yes."
"Now then," said the doctor showing a smile that signaled his supposed success, "By four respectable witnesses I have proven that religion is neither seen, heard, smelled or tasted. The weight of evidence is overpowering, sir, and you must give religion up."
Cartwright offered his rebuttal.
He began, "Doctor, in pretending to relieve pain in the human system, you have been playing the hypocrite and a fraud." Now such talk did not please the physician, and he voiced his objection. Not to be put off, Cartwright continued, "Sir, did you ever see pain?" The doctor had to confess he had not. "Did you ever hear a pain, smell a pain, taste a pain?"
The doctor finally got in his yes answer when Cartwright asked if he had ever felt a pain.
Cartwright concluded: "There you have it. The same witnesses have proven there is no such thing as pain."
Cartwright dropped to his knees and began to pray for the physician. I am pleased to tell you the man was converted and eventually became a preacher himself.
Of course, the ending isn't always happy when people make a mockery of God, His love, His Son, His plan of salvation, and the forgiveness Jesus won through His life, suffering and death upon Calvary's cross. There wasn't a happy ending for the world's inhabitants during the time of Noah. There wasn't a happy ending for the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah. There wasn't a happy ending for Dathan and his friends when they mocked Moses, undermined God's authority and, in general, provoked the One who had set them free from slavery. When God had heard enough, He opened the earth and eliminated Dathan, along with his followers.
In our age, God has kept in check some of His more stunning and spectacular punishments - punishments He once directed against serious sinners and skeptics. As a result, in our age, philosophers and politicians, comics and critics have all declared open season upon God, His work, His church, His people.
Now I'm not going to defend everything we Christians have done over the centuries. We can be silly, spiteful and stupid. We have our flaws, our fallacies, our falsehoods, and a full set of foibles. We're not perfect; we're not even pretty close to being perfect. We probably deserve much of what is said about us.
But it is a very big mistake to assume because God's people mess up, God has done the same.
He hasn't. In His perfect love He sent His perfect Son to live a perfect life so all who believe on Him might enjoy His perfect forgiveness. There are no slip ups or stumbles in the creation and execution of the Lord's plan, which saves. And we, like brother Cartwright, need to be bold in sharing that truth with the world's doubters.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks You are beyond our measurement or understanding. Your thoughts are above ours, and we need to remember You are the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. For all You have done, most hearty thanks. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries