Truth, Foundation Stones, and a Fixed Point of Reference-Part 3

December 18, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

(Note: If you haven’t read part 1 &2 of this, you need to go back and do so. These messages all build on one another so it’s important to read them in order)

Remember that we are looking at Acts 17. The apostle Paul is in Athens and he is addressing the intelligentsia of the times. Here are a few of the verses that we are focusing on…

Acts 17:23-24- For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. [24] “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.

We’ve seen that Paul has provided some pretty major foundational principles of the Christian faith. Here’s what we’ve seen so far: Foundation Stones…

#1— God EXISTS and is a PERSON

#2— God is the ORIGIN of all things

#3— God is the LORD of all things—MORAL AUTHORITY

#4—God is SELF-EXISTENT and SELF-DEFINING

Let’s go on… this is where we really get into the heavy stuff in terms of your personal view of yourself 

Acts 17:25-26- 25… he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

What Paul is saying here is that this God— who EXISTS and is a PERSON, who is the ORIGIN of all things, who is the LORD or MORAL AUTHORITY over all things, who exists in and of himself—he SELF-EXISTENT—and is SELF-DEFINING…

This God created you FOR A PURPOSE. He knew when you’d be born, where you’d be born, why you’d be born. He knew everything about you; he created you for a purpose; he gave you a destiny; he has a plan for your life!

What does that mean for you?… That means a lot. We said before he is the origin of all things—but this adds to that. It wasn’t like you came off an assembly line. You were hand-made by a skilled craftsman It is that basic foundation stone that gives Christians the weird idea that human life is sacred. That every life is sacred. That every life is important. That every person has dignity.

That sounds all well and good. But think about what we are teaching our kids these days. Picture a young student entering his biology class in middle-school. Here is what they might hear from their teacher… 

“Kids… Welcome to biology 101… We’re gonna learn lots of fun things in this class. We’re gonna cut up frogs and we’re gonna pick flowers and we’re gonna learn about pistals and stamins and all kinds of fun things… But the first thing you need to know… above all else… is that you are an accident!… You have absolutely no reason for being here. There is no meaning, no purpose to your life. You are nothing but a meaningless conglomeration of molecules that came together, purely by chance, billions and billions of years ago… All the dust and the gas in the galaxy floated around for who knows how long. And they bumped into each other and they said, “I know! Let’s be organic.”… So they became organic. And they became little gooey, slimy things, swimming around in the primordial soup. And they little grew little feet and they climbed up onto the land. And they grew fur and feathers and they became higher forms of life. And they finally became monkeys and the monkey developed into an ape and the ape decided to shave— so he shaved. And became what you are today… From goo to you, by way of the zoo… As such, you don’t really have any reason for being here. Your existence is pointless. The universe won’t mind a bit when you die. And when you die, you just become so much composte… (bell sfx) Oh okay, class dismissed. Head on down the hall now, kids, to that new class that’s just started this week on self-esteem.”

So then the educational system tries to come up with ways to build up a kid’s self esteem… 

“Kids… Kids listen… Yeah, you’re an accident; but you’re a good accident. You have so much wonderful potential for causing more accidents. Just do it safely— you’ll be fine… Just look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m important because I can do things.’”

What about the kids who can’t “do things”?

“Oh, but, look in that mirror and say, ‘I’m important because people appreciate me!’”

How many of you feel “appreciated” all the time?

“Well,say, ‘I have value because I BELONG!’”

Where do you think peer pressure comes from in junior and senior high school? Kids want to belong and if they don’t belong, they don’t feel any good. Do you see the challenge that is created when we take God out of the picture? When we don’t believe these foundation stones?

I want to tell you something, we teach our kids that principle every Christmas. I call it the “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” syndrome…

Now those of you who aren’t familiar with that— let me tell you the story… Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you’d even say it glowed. Now all of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names— Nah, nah Rudolph, can’t shut it off; nah nah. And they wouldn’t let Rudolph play in any reindeer games— and he’s all by himself; and he doesn’t belong; and people don’t appreciate him; and he can’t do things… and besides that he’s ugly, he’s got a weird nose; and he feels all by him self; and he has terrible self esteem. He says, “I’m just a meaningless conglomeration of molecules that came together purely by chance; I never had a reason for being here; and now I don’t even feel good about myself!” What changed it? (dramatically) Then one foggy Christmas Eve. Santa came to say (ho, ho, ho). Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight. So Rudolph guides the sleigh through the sleet and the snow and the dark and he saves Christmas. And then— then— then— and only then— all the reindeer loved him, and they shouted out with glee, Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history!

And I can just hear Rudolph saying, “Well, thanks a lot!… Where were you guys when I was all by myself and I was lonely and I had no self-esteem and I thought I was a meaningless conglomeration of molecules that came together purely by chance with a big shiny nose— you wouldn’t let me play in your reindeer games, you made fun of me, you called me names you ostracized me… NOW suddenly— when I DO something that benefits the collective— I’m a good guy!… Friends like you, I don’t need!”

Let me tell you something. You got a friend. And he loves you— even though you did have a very shiny nose. There is a God who made you— and maybe he gave you that very shiny nose. God made each of us just the way he wanted—FOR A PURPOSE. When God designed each one of us, he didn’t set up his drawing board and say, “How can I hurt them?” (wicked laugh) The foundation of a Christian’s self-esteem— oh, listen to me because so many of us have heard the lie and we’ve believed the lie… The foundation of a Christian’s self-esteem is not in what you can DO… or how good you LOOK… or how ATHLETIC you are… or anything else… It has nothing to do with that… It has to do with the fact that you are here for a reason; that God created you for a purpose; he has a plan for your life; YOU HAVE WORTH and VALUE because he says so!

Question:           How do you know what something is worth?

Answer:            Only determined by what someone is willing to pay.

How much are you worth?… What did God pay?… YOU ARE WORTH THE LIFE OF HIS SON.

God loves you.

This is what builds the Christian worldview. This is what makes a human life from becoming a mere product— a mere machine part in a Christian’s thinking.

The last part of this, verse 27-28- Acts 17:27-28- God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. [28] ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

This God… Who EXISTS and is a PERSON; who is the ORIGIN of all things; who is the LORD or MORAL STANDARD and AUTHORITY over all things; this God who is SELF-EXISTENT and SELF-DEFINING; this God who created each and every one of us FOR A PURPOSE; this God is not just a God who created us and, you know, wound up the world and set it spinning and went out for coffee or something.—like he left his answering machine on… You try to call him: “Hi, this God… I hope you like yourself today… I’ll be back in a millennium… You got problems? Hey, the answers are within you— go for it baby.”

No… This is a God who desires a RELATIONSHIP with you—day by day, moment by moment, total intimacy.

Which brings us to our 6th foundation stone…

#6—God desires a RELATIONSHIP with you

How far does God go to have a RELATIONSHIP with us?

He’ll leave heaven and come to earth as a baby (Christmas); He’ll suffer the pain of the cross (Good Friday); He’ll rise again from the dead! (Easter). He is close to us—whether we know it or not; whether we acknowledge him or not.

Wow… what kind of God is that?

He is different from the other gods people talk about. The God of Islam— Allah— is capricious… He’d just assume to wipe you off the face of the earth… You have the New Age God who isn’t a person at all— it’s an impersonal force, and an impersonal force doesn’t give rip about you… You have the Deist view that— oh yeah, there’s a God but who knows, he’s not in touch with us in any way… There’s the agnostic idea of God— well, he might be out there somewhere, but I don’t know; he’s never talked to me or anything.

Those are not the true God—the God Paul is talking about. We have a God who cares for each one of us… knows each one of us by name and he wants us to know him. And I want to tell you something… If you want to talk to him, he’s all ears.

That’s the kind of God I’m glad to know; that’s the kind of God I’m glad to serve. And I’m glad that that God is unchanging… Yesterday, today, and forever, Jesus Christ is the same. (Hebrews 13:8— 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.)

God is a fix-point of reference in our lives. All these things are ture about the One True God—the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings.

#1— God EXISTS and is PERSONAL

#2— God is the ORIGIN of all things

#3— God is the LORD of all things

#4—God is SELF-EXISTENT and SELF-DEFINING

#5—God created you FOR A PURPOSE

#6—God wants a RELATIONSHIP with you

In part 4, we will look at a very interesting topic: WHAT WENT WRONG?!?!?!? 

Truth, Foundation Stones, and a Fixed Point of Reference- Part 2

December 17, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re looking at Acts 17… Paul is in Athens and he is describing God to a bunch on people who love ideas, debate, thought, and philosophy. To fully appreciate some of the things Paul says, we need to review a couple of thoughts from part 1…

We’re really thinking about the Christian’s fixed point of reference. And for something to be a fixed point of reference, these two things must be true about it:

#1) It has to be separate from you

#2) It can’t move

With a fixed point of reference we can begin to establish a Christian worldview. This is what Paul is doing in Athens. He is presenting foundational principles of the Christian faith—principles that are true for us today.

So far we’ve seen the first two:

1)    God EXISTS and is a PERSON

2)    God is the ORIGIN of all things—he made everything which means he made… us 

But now it gets sticky… Even if you want to agree that God EXISTS and is the source or ORIGEN of all things, here’s where it gets sticky…

Verse 24… 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it…”— here it comes— “is the…”— Ooo—  “is the…”— Whoa— “is the Lord”— LORD— “of heaven and earth…”

That’s one thing that rubs people the wrong way. Whenever you present an authority higher than he is. Paul comes along and says this God who EXISTS and is the ORIGIN of all things is the LORD over all things…

What does that mean?”… It means that God is in charge; it means that what he says, goes; it means that what he says is right—is right; and what he says is wrong—is wrong; it means that he determines what is good and what is bad; it means that we have an ultimate moral standard by which we can measure right and wrong, true and false, good and evil. And we get it from God.

Everybody has an idea about right and wrong—but where does it come from? Paul says it comes from God who CREATED all things and is LORD of all things. He says that God is the MORAL AUTHORITY.

Think about it this way: Without God’s standard how do we understand “good”— how do you measure that? Even someone who doesn’t believe in God— he’ll say, “I’ve always tried to be a good person.” But how do you measure good if there’s no standard by which you can measure “good”? Paul presents this idea that there is a MORAL STANDARD in our universe transcendent and above all of us. And by that fixed moral standard we can determine the right way to live.

Now, again, these are like foundation stones:

#1— God EXISTS and is PERSONAL

#2— God is the ORIGIN of all things

#3— God is the LORD of all things

Now, it’s easy at this point to say, “Yeah, I agree with that— I believe all that!” But I’m trying to point out to you that it is that basic foundational assumption about reality that guides the way you think. It guides the way you work at your job. It definitely guides the way you raise your children.

There’s a lot of kids out there and the question’s going to come up whenever some kind of rule or authority or constraint or moral standard is presented to them— the question is always going to come up: “Oh yeah, who says?!?” You better have an answer… And through the generations we’ve kinda missed that a little. Used to be that a family was raised on godly principles and the kids would see that even mom and dad were subject to a higher authority. Course after a while the kid grows up and he has kids of his own and after a while he says, “You should do whatever I tell ya and you should be good because that’s how I was raised.” So now he’s kinda appealing to some moral value system that’s been torn loose from its moorings… Then those kids grow up and they say to their kids, “Son/daughter, you should do what I tell ya.”… And the kid says, “Oh yeah, who says?”… And they say, “I say… And you have to do what I tell ya.”… And they say, “Well, that’s your truth, I have my own reality.”

It’s real nice if you can say, “Son/daughter, God has placed me in authority over you to raise you according to his standards of moral behavior. And I want to tell you something. The authority chain doesn’t stop here. I have to answer to him as well for how I raise you. So the ultimate authority in the universe has passed that authority down to me— he’s passed his laws and his precepts and his principles down to me— and I have to pass them down to you because you and I are both accountable to him… Now, take out the garbage.”

Let’s move on… We’ve got 3 foundation stones. Let’s move onto the next one… 

Okay… God EXISTS and he’s PERSONAL. God is the ORIGIN of all things—He made the world and everything in it. God is the LORD of heaven and earth—He’s our MORAL AUTHORITY.

And now look at this… Acts 17:24-25 [He] does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

This God who EXISTS… who is the ORIGIN of all things… who is the LORD or MORAL AUTHORITY over all things… This God is SELF-EXISTENT and SELF-DEFINING. And that’s our fourth foundation stone:

#4—God is SELF-EXISTENT and SELF-DEFINING

In other words, he’s up there, because of himself. He is the great “I AM THAT I AM.” Paul is trying to point this out to these Greeks. See, these Greeks—like a lot of people today—have a way of working from the ground up. “We’re going to create our own God today…” So, they go out and get a big old hunk of rock. They bring it in with a forklift or something. They set it there. And then they decide, “Well, what kind of God do we want?” And someone says, “I want a god that’s real fierce”… so they put big muscles on him. And someone else says, “I want a god who can know all things”… so they put eye balls all over him. Then someone says, “I want a god who is virile and fertile and all that”… so they put sexual organs all over him. Then they stand it up and bow down and worship it and everything.

I got a question for ya… Between the two of them, who created whom?

They created their god.

What does that mean?— Well, who’s really god between the two of them?— They are. So what are they really worshipping?— They are worshipping themselves or a projection of their own personality.

Paul is pointing out that this God— who I serve— doesn’t need you to form him. He doesn’t need you to carve him out and stand him up and wipe the bird poop off every once in a while and take care of him. This God exists in and of himself and he is self-defining and if he wasn’t he wouldn’t be God.

Frank Peretti was asked this question by a lady…“Tell me… What is your definition of God?”

Here’s how Peretti responded:“I’m thinking, oh man… I gotta get all biblical here; I gotta give her the truth; I gotta get all theological… I gotta give her the Word of Life… Let’s see… God is a spirit who fills heaven and earth… He’s a lawgiver, he’s a judge, he’s a savior, he’s the creator… I’m trying to get all these definitions… But I missed the whole point. Sometimes you do that. You kinda respond just to the question, but there’s an issue behind it that you need to address first. And this is how I should have answered her. This is the Bigger answer: Lady, listen to me: You don’t define God, and I don’t define God… it is not up to man to define God… God is not a matter of opinion. He is the great ‘I AM THAT I AM’ he’s not, ‘I AM… what do you want me to be?’”

Here’s the point: God doesn’t ask you for your opinion about him and then change himself all around to match what you believe. He’s not here to please you. He is here to be pleased and worshipped by you because he is worthy of it. And if you want to know God, you have to know him as he is. Your opinion of him don’t amount to diddle squat!

But that’s so important because if that were no so… he wouldn’t be God. And I want to tell you something else very important… If God were not SELF-EXISTENT and SELF-DEFINING he would not serve as a fixed point of reference. Remember, a fixed point of reference has to be separate from you and it can’t move. If God were not SELF-EXISTENT and SELF-DEFINING he would be changing as often as you do… It’s kinda like somebody said: “If you’re looking for truth, don’t search within yourself; you’re the one who’s confused.”

God is SELF-EXISTENT and he is SELF-DEFINING and he doesn’t need you to define him to figure out what he is…  

What is “Advent” all about?

December 9, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

In church this morning, we lit candles on an Advent wreath. I thought it might be helpful to talk a little bit about this tradition in these ramblings. So, here you go. May you experience Jesus in a whole new way this Christmas!…

What is Advent, anyway? 

If you were expecting a visit from a very important person, what would you do? Your answers may vary, but I imagine that you would prepare in one way or another.

In our house, when we are expecting guests, we clean things up. The vacuum comes out, things are picked up, and sometimes we even light a candle that smells good (apparently to cover up the normal Haupt scent). When it’s a big occasion, we even break out our china (those dishes I had to help pick out before I got married). In other words, if I see our china gravy boat, I know that I need to put on nice pants.

When we anticipate the arrival of someone special, we prepare in some way or another.

That’s a lot like what Advent is like… The season of Advent is all about looking forward to celebrating the day when our Almighty God stepped into history as a human being. Advent means “to come” and, traditionally, Christians use the Advent season to prepare their hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus.

The Advent Wreath

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful.

Typically, the wreath is made of various evergreens– signifying continuous life. The holly in the wreath also has special Christian symbolism: the prickly leaves of the holly remind us of the the crown of thorns Jesus wore when he went to the cross. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, the everlasting life found in Jesus Christ, and the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man who was victorious over sin and death through his own passion, death, and resurrection.

The Advent Candles

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three candles are purple and on is rose or pink.  The progressive lighting of the candles (one each week) symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world (the birth of Jesus) and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The first candle (first week, purple candle)– Prophecy or Hope candle…

This candle invites us to thank God for the hope we have in Jesus– the promised Messiah. Some scripture that corresponds with the Hope candle is Isaiah 9:2;6:

 The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit and and a prayer is said:

“O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon us as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen. 

The second candle (second week; purple candle)– Bethlehem or Peace candle…

In Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace was born so that we sinners could be at peace with our Holy God. Just as King David– born in Bethlehem– brought peace to Israel as a great king, King Jesus– also born in Bethlehem– brought peace to mankind. a scripture that can be rea during the lighting of the Peace candle is Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

A prayer for the lighting of the second candle…

O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through his coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

The third candle (third week, pink candle)– Shepherd’s or Joy candle…

The Joy candle celebrates to good tidings of great joy that is for all people– Christ is born! The story of the shepherds found in Luke 2:8-20 is often read… highlighted by the words:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord… Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

A prayer for the lighting of the Joy candle is:

O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

The forth candle (forth week, last purple candle)– Angel or Love candle

This candle represents God’s incredible love for Man with the gift of his son. Scripture for this candle is John 3:16 and 1John 4:9-10:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

A prayer during the Love candle is:

O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.

Finally, the last candle– a larger white candle in the center of the wreath– is lit on Christmas Eve. This candle represents the birth of Jesus… The light entering the world!

Some scripture to consider (and I’ll make you look these up yourself) is John 1:4, John 8:12, John 12:46, Ephesians 5:8-9.

May the traditions of the Advent season focus your heart and mind on Jesus Christ– the one wo livest and reignest forver

Truth, Foundation Stones, and a Fixed Point of Reference– Part 1

December 5, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Over the last few weeks the folks of Grace Family Fellowship have been looking at Acts 17:22-31. This is a very cool passage where Paul addresses the philosophers and thinkers of Greece.

He is in Athens, a place that has a bunch of different religious shrines to all kinds of gods spread throughout the city. He sees that one of these shrines is dedicated to “An Unknown God” (it seems the Athenians wanted to make sure all there bases were covered). Paul takes this opportunity to share about his God.

In his words, we can discover several foundation stones of the Christian faith— foundation stones that are often overlooked or forgotten in our shrine-laden culture (even by Christians). It is important to ponder these stones because they are the source of Truth in our lives— Truth in a world where Truth is often lacking.

I was challenged by these ideas when I heard a message by Frank Peretti (author/speaker) on Focus on the Family about 10 years ago. I always thought that I would like to share these thoughts with others some day. Well, our church has been going through the Book of Acts for the last year and we have finally arrived at chapter 17.

So, here we are. I get to share Frank Peretti’s message with you!

The purpose of putting these messages into this blog is simply this: we need to think deeply about Paul’s words in Acts 17 and Peretti’s statements— we need to wrestle with these truths to discover the Truth. As you read, try to picture someone speaking this message. I’ve tried to include stage directions or visual descriptions of what was happening to help you understand what is going on.

So consider the following…

(there is a chair in front of the speaker)

What in the world is this chair all about?

I decided I would use this chair because it’s a nice illustration… What I am trying to explain to you is what I call “The Fixed Point of Reference…

All of us have encountered this particular issue.  I want to underline it because Christians have a particular, peculiar way of thinking. They have a particular, peculiar view of reality— that usually comes head to head with the way the world thinks.  And the more the world changes— the more the world buys into atheism, and relativism, and humanism, and all those other “isms” out there— the more conflict we have.

What I would like to do is equip us to understand why Christians think the way they do…  And where your worldview comes from— because everybody has a worldview.  They just don’t know it.  The “fixed point of reference”… Well what in the world is it?

Let’s imagine… imagine that I’m in a big, humongous, dark room.  It’s a featureless room— it doesn’t even have corners in it.  It has rounded walls.  And the whole point of that is I don’t know where I am.  And I’m feeling my way around in this room.  And I’m groping around trying to find my way around and then (bumps into chair)— oh, ah… what is this?  It’s a chair.  Yes!  It has legs and it has a seat and it has a back.  It’s a chair!  Ah, good…  Now I can sit here and, at least, I know where I am.  I’m in the chair.  It’s a good feeling.

Now I got this chair— (idea) it’s a home base.  Yeah.  I can navigate from this chair (navigation noises, as he carries chair with him).  I can kinda send out some feelers now…

Why are you people laughing?…  I’ll tell you why you’re laughing…  It doesn’t really have a lot to do with being a Christian, but it helps…  You realize— just naturally, automatically— you realize that no fixed point of reference is going to do you any good unless it has two factors:

#1) It has to be separate from you

#2) It can’t move

Soon as I pick it up and make it a part of my life, make it a part of my consciousness, make it a part of my mobility— it ain’t a fixed point of reference anymore!   I’ll never know where I am because the stupid thing moves!  Now as long as it stays right there by itself ahhh, now that’s security.

That’s one of the prime factors of navigation.  When you’re out on a sailboat, right, you’re out on the vast featureless, expansive ocean out there— and you have no idea where you are.  Well, one way to find out is you get your sextant out there and you shoot to the stars— you measure from the stars.  And the reason you can measure from the stars to figure out where you are is because the stars don’t move…  They’re fixed in space…  Now the earth moves and it makes it look like the stars move but we know all that stuff…  That’s a fixed point of reference…  Let’s go to Acts 17…

This is that passage in the Book of Acts when Paul the Apostle goes to Greece…  And he’s gonna talk to all these philosophers, and all these thinkers, and all these discussers, and debators there on a place called Mars Hill.  Now I gotta kinda set the stage for ya…

In Greece, that was kinda one of the ancient fountainheads of modern humanism and modern rationalism.  The idea that, “Man by himself with his own reason can discover truth.”  The Bible says that these guys spent there time in nothing other than learning a new thing. (Acts 17:21)  They were after knowledge; they were after truth.  They figured they could do it all with their heads.

And so they’re getting together…  and you’ve got Diabetes here, and Laryngitis here, and you’ve got all these other Greeks standing around— and there’s Coka bottle— and they’re all talking and they’re saying…  “Well what do you think?  What have you heard?  Well, I believe…  Well it’s my opinion…  I’ve always felt that…  Well I don’t know— I used to think that…”  It’s kinda like one long, continuous Larry King show.  And it kinda ends up the same way— because they spend all of their time talking, but they never really arrive at anything.

So, in the middle of all this, in comes this Jew— Paul the apostle— and he says,  “I have an idea.”…  And they say, “HEY!  Let’s hear what he has to say.”  So they stand him up there and they say “speak!”

Now this is where we come into the story and here’s the challenge— here’s the challenge for Paul…It’s easy when you’re an apostle and you’re traveling around and you want to share the gospel and prove that Jesus is the Messiah— Paul would always first go into a Jewish synagogue.  And he’d begin to argue from the scriptures that the Jews already had that Jesus was the Messiah— is the Messiah.  And he had a place to start because all the Jews sitting in the synagogue— basically they had all been to Sunday school.  They knew the language— they could kinda relate.  But the thing I want to underline for you— and this is something we all need to be thinking about…  There’s a whole world out there that hasn’t been to Sunday school. 

We, as Christians, have a kind of unique culture among ourselves.  We have a unique language…  We say things like—”Praise the Lord;   He is good;  Hallelujah;  The body of Christ”.

All these phrases we just throw around so easily…  If you just go up to someone on the street and say, “Pardon me”.

“Yes?”

“Are you born again?”

“Ah yes… I have lived many lives…”

“No… What I meant is ‘are you washed in the blood’.”

“Man, I hope not! What are you talking about?!?”

Well Paul comes up against that very thing.  He can’t speak Christianese to them.  He can’t even speak good old fashioned Jewish.  Now there’s a whole lot in there (the passage from Acts 17)…

But I’m gonna skip right down to verse 24 of chapter 17 because I want to give you what I would like to define as:

“The Christian’s fixed-point of reference.”  

These are the foundation stones of the Christian worldview.  It’s the one that’s in the Bible, okay.  As a matter of fact, it’s the one upon which western society is founded.   It’s the one that contains all the basic assumptions by which we order our lives.  And you’ll find out what I mean…Let’s go down to verse 24— we got a lot of stuff here, but we’re gonna focus on this part. 

Here’s Paul, he’s addressing them… He wants to get down to the basics.  The REAL basics.

Verse 24, he says, “The God who made the world and everything in it…”

(Buzzer sound) Okay, we’ll stop right there…

The very first thing that Paul addresses is the big question of ORIGIN.

ORIGIN… We did we come from; how did get we here; why are we here?

Isn’t it funny that people wonder about those things?  The Greeks didn’t believe in the God of Israel, but they still wondered about those things.  They were still looking for answers and meaning…

I’ve got a dog.  His name is Sparky.  I don’t expect a lot of deep thoughts from Sparky.  He never wonders, “Where did I come from” or “Why am I here?”  All he wonders is, “are you going to pet me…am I gonna get a treat… I see a dog—I must bark now!”  The point I’m making is that those creatures out there— be they dogs or chickens or apes or porpoises— I don’t care how intelligent they are…  They are not— are you ready for the word— SELF-AWARE.

There is something unique about the human species…  He asks all these tough questions…  “Where did I come from?  Why are we here?”  Dogs never worry about “Why are we here?”

Man is SELF-AWARE…  He is a unique creature…  He is a person…  He is a person and because he is a person he asks the big questions.  Now of course you know I’m saying “he” generically— mankind.

Here’s these Greeks.  They’re asking these big questions.  This is one of those neat ways— logically— that you can figure out that God EXISTS and is a PERSON.

If God was an impersonal cosmic force— like New Agers try to make him out to be without a personality, just an energy— then it is impossible for the source of all things to somehow create people who have personalities and wonder where they came from.  The best he would be able to do— or “it” would be able to do— is create little sub-pockets of energy and we wouldn’t be here thinking about anything, we’d just be sitting here (sound) vibrating or something.

It’s kind of a betrayal of the atheist when he begins asking these big questions  because he’s proving he’s a person which means his source had to be a person too.  Which means the ultimate reality of the universe is personal not impersonal…

Paul answers that first big question… of ORIGEN…

And gives us our first two foundational principles for the Christian worldview:

1) God EXISTS and is a PERSON

2) God is the ORIGIN of all things—he made everything…  which means he made…  us