Precious in His Sight

The Bible states in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

In late March of 2017, I saw this verse in a new light. My family and friends had gathered in the church of my childhood for my mother’s funeral. One of the pastors spoke from this passage.

Frankly, this verse had never sat well with me. The grief that we go through being separated from our loved ones by a force as unpredictable, unstoppable, and sinister as death—how could that be precious to God?

By all human accounts, my mother was taken unexpectedly. Her passing hurt in a way I had never felt. My father lost his wife. My brother and I lost our mother. My children lost their grandmother.

Again, I ask—how could that be precious?

But, here’s the thing…

It’s precious because it’s merciful.

Viewed from God’s perspective the whole scene changes. He sees us born into a sin-filled world with sin-filled hearts, living sin-filled lives. The Holy Spirit moves with the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we become God’s own, turning to him in repentance and faith. We become his saints.

But the battle is far from over. We spend the rest of our lives fighting the good fight of faith, failing often. We press toward the mark of a higher calling, but we stumble along the way. We live our lives afflicted at every turn, fights on the outside and fears on the inside. We see our fair share of evil, much of which is our own doing. Meanwhile, God looks on, comforting through his Spirit and guiding through his Word, but the struggle continues. God watches. He sees every moment, every tear. He sees every regret and all the sorrow. What is more, he knows how bad it all feels, because his Son went through worse.

Until one day, our Father calls us home—to himself. After all the suffering, all the trials, all the pain, he is finally able to rescue us from it all. This is not just healing; it’s merciful deliverance.

As Tim Keller wrote, “All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.”[1]

There are few words more appropriate for a father’s opportunity to deliver his children from suffering. It is precious.

It’s precious because it’s meaningful.

Death means something to everyone. Philosophers have spent thousands of years pondering how to live well but also how to die well. The two go hand in hand. To quote Epicurus, “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”

This is particularly true for the Christian. When we say with Paul that for us to live is Christ and to die is gain, we mean it. Spurgeon once said, “The best moment of a Christian’s life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven.”

The Christian possesses real hope in the face of death. Other worldviews offer little by comparison. Naturalistic worldviews at their best offer us usefulness as fertilizer. Pantheistic worldviews at their best offer us oblivion. Other theistic worldviews at their best offer a checklist of ordinances, sacraments, and rituals by which we can try our best. However, Christ offers infinitely more. He offers us, not just healing, but resurrection. He offers not just enlightenment, but glorification. He offers not just merit, but redemption.

My mother is absent from the body and therefore present with the Lord. Meanwhile, our memories of her live on with us, pointing to he who is the resurrection and the life. At my mother’s funeral my family and I experienced a peace that passes understanding. It is a peace that is precious.

It’s precious because it’s motivational.

No matter your worldview, no matter your perspective, no matter your opinions or background, biases or intuitions—one thing we all have in common is that we ultimately have no clue what tomorrow holds. Oh, we have good guesses. We are often almost certain. Almost.

Naturalistic worldviews at their best motivate us with the urgency to not waste our few moments of consciousness between bookends of nonexistence, but they never fully explain what that life should look like or why we should fear such a waste. Pantheistic worldviews at their best hasten us on to oblivion past the illusion of this life, death being “like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, [as the] soul reveals what lies beyond.”[2] In the Christian worldview, however, there is a Father to love because we are loved by him. There is king to be served because he served us. There is a “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

A year before my mother passed away, she did not know she had a year. Forgive me if this seems morose, but neither do we. We are charged by Jesus to not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s anxiety will come soon enough. We are to first seek the eternal kingdom. The death of loved ones reminds of that truth. And a precious reminder at that.


Viewed from God’s perspective, the whole scene changes. My mom was a lady that had a wonderful life, but not an easy one. For over two decades she worked a demanding job. She raised two ornery boys who gave her grief every step of the way. She had bad knees and diabetes. She felt her share of pain and suffering as does every child of God. And God watched. He saw every moment, every tear. He saw every regret and all the sorrow. And he knew how bad all of it felt, because his son went through worse.

Then he brought her home. He delivered her from all the difficulty, pain, and sorrow of this world by bringing her to the next. God rescued her from a sin-cursed death-bound world and brought her into his eternal kingdom, never to hurt again. How precious that must have been. Precious indeed.

[1] Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, p. 166

[2] Deepak Chopra, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, p. 25.

Apologist March Madness!

Last month, I was notified by Twitter that Here’s the thing… had been pitted against another Christian apologetics blogger in a poll. It was just a straight forward “pick one.” Not much more explanation than that.

Apparently, my hat had been thrown into a ring without my knowledge. So, I voted for myself (of course) and investigated.

I discovered that Zac from Adherent Apologetics is hosting a Christian Apologist March Madness Tournament. What a cool idea! I really appreciate the spirit with which the whole things is being done. Zac writes:

Why does this tournament exist? This is NOT a tournament with the goal to find the best Apologist. This tournament exists to glorify God through the promotion of Apologetics. Throughout the month of the tournament, I hope that many people find Apologists that they have never heard of before.

Through January and February, he has held qualifying rounds, resulting in a bracket of 256 Christian apologists, ranging the greats like Ravi Zacharias and William Lane Craig all the way down to, well, me.

That’s right! I made the Big Dance…of Apologetics!

At first, I was flattered that I was even considered. The apologists I have been up against in qualifying have larger platforms and more credentials than I do. I’m surprised that Here’s the thing… even came up on the radar.

However, with the tournament set to begin this weekend, the reticence is giving way to another demeanor.

I am not normally that competitive. I have been both complemented and ridiculed for my passivity (let’s call it apathy) in sports, board games, etc. However, in debates–formal or otherwise, or arguments–rational or otherwise, I become a very different person.  

Yeah so, this I can get into!

Here’s the thing…

I want to see how far we can go. I say we, because I need your help.

If you haven’t already, follow Here’s the thing… on Twitter. I will post the polls when the time comes so that you can vote. If you aren’t on Twitter, this would be a great excuse to jump on.

In all seriousness, one of the main objectives of this blog is to help people. The more people it reaches, the more people are helped. This tournament is simply a fun opportunity to extend the blog’s reach and to do exactly what its creators want—glorify God through the promotion of Christian apologetics.

Oh, and there’s a trophy, so…


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A Devotional Thought from Richard Dawkins

Last fall, acclaimed atheist Richard Dawkins released his newest book, Out Growing God. For those familiar with Dr. Dawkins’ previous books, the book offers nothing new. However, this book has a more targeted audience: teenagers.

Dawkins dedicates the book to “all young people when they’re old enough to decide for themselves.” In the book he recounts that he “gave up” Christianity when he was fifteen years old. Dawkins offers this book as a guide for those headed in the same direction.  

As I read, I stumbled on a thought that I believe has some value for Christian believers—yes, a devotional thought courtesy of Richard Dawkins!

His Accusation

A few times through the book thinking about Old Testament Israel. He brings into question their monotheism. Basically, he talks as though they weren’t:

“…although the Israelites worshipped their own tribal god Yahweh, they didn’t necessarily disbelieve in the gods of rival tribes, such as Baal, the fertility god of the Canaanites; they just thought Yahweh was more powerful – and also extremely jealous…” [1]

Dawkins is following an argument from as late as the 19th century. German theologians, namely Julius Wellhausen, reinterpreted the Jewish religion through a Darwinian lens. Wellhausen popularized the idea that the Jewish religion evolved over time from animism (the belief that a spirit lived in everything), to polytheism (the belief in many gods), to totemism (the belief one’s tribe descended from a group of plants or animals), to ancestor worship, and eventually to monotheism—well, sort of.

This idea is not new, but it is also not current and for good reason. Jewish scholar Rich Robinson explains:

“Unfortunately, [Wellhausen’s] influence was based on assumptions and philosophies which had little to do with historical evidence. The recent upsurge in modern archaeology has shown Wellhausen’s viewpoint to be arbitrary and outdated.”[2]

(Note: I highly recommend Dr. Robinson’s article on the topic. It was concise but helpful on the issue.)

So why does Dawkins portray the Israelites this way? My guess is that he is attempting to relegate the Jewish religion to the ash heap of ancient paganism. After all, conflating the Biblical narrative with the mythologies of the past and dismissing it accordingly is one of Dr. Dawkins’ favorite thing to do. The strategy is clear: if he can disregard the Jewish religion, he can disregard the fulfillment of it, Christianity.

However, as with so much of Richard Dawkins critique of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, he acts as though his assertions are a given. When he offers evidence for his claim, which is rare, it is feeble at best.

But, here’s the thing…

On this issue, I think he kind of has a point. It’s just not the one he intended.

Our Reflection

Think about how many times the Children of Israel turned to idols. Think of how often  idolatry was in the pervasive land. There were many points in Hebrew history that worshiping the gods of their enemies was the norm. Moses and the prophets told them that there was only one God and that they were to worship and obey him alone. They were supposed to be monotheistic. But they often failed to act like it.

I am not sure what value that fact has for Dr. Dawkins other than criticizing believers for not being as consistent as their beliefs should make them. (A line of reasoning that has gotten him in trouble before.)

However, his comments prompt me to ask myself: Years from now, what evidence will a skeptic have on me to accuse me of not being truly monotheistic?

In other words, how much am I capitulating to my culture and bringing idols into my heart and mind when Christ has claimed them for himself?

Like the Hebrews, we live in a world with an abundance of phony gods. Our culture worships the pantheon of modern deities like money, power, and comfort. We are called on to show obeisance to the postmodern deities of moral relativity and individual autonomy.

The real difficulty is that our culture has an ally on the inside. The Bible tells us that our hearts work in tandem with the world in the idol making process. In Ezekiel 14, three times within four sentences, God indicts his people for setting up “idols in their hearts.” (Ezekiel 14:3-7) We do not make idols with our hands; we make them with our hearts.

Hand-crafted images made of wood or precious metals are not much of a temptation these days. Furthermore, most of us Christians avoid the worship of blatantly sinful idols that come by way of temptation and addiction. But our hearts are more menacing than that. You see, we tend to make idols out of the good things in life. 

Timothy Keller explains how this happens:

“The human heart takes good things…and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.”[3]

That is to say, an idol is not defined by its inherent goodness or badness. An idol is “anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”[4]

So I ask myself, what am I seeking to give me what only God can give? (…and probably already has given!)

May God help us to detect and destroy the idols our hearts create. That way, years from now, no one can look back and accuse us of not being truly monotheistic.


[1] Richard Dawkins, Outgrowing God, p. 7. 

[2] Rich Robinson, “Monotheism of the Ancient Hebrews: Evolved, Invented, Stolen or Revealed?” (https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-0505-letters-to-the-editor/monotheism-of-the-ancient-hebrews-evolved-invented-stolen-or-revealed/)

[3] Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p. xiv.

[4] Keller, p. xvii.


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Four Things Christianity Allows Us to See 20/20

(I know, I know. We’re all already tired of the “2020 Vision” themes. But this opportunity only comes twice in the timeline of human history–and the first time we weren’t even counting years the same way, nor were we measuring vision the same way. So humor me.)

Few ideas have made an impact on me more than this quote by C.S. Lewis:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

It is a profound thought with many implications. But it mainly points to the simultaneous testimonies of the evidential weight and explanatory power of the Christian worldview. In other words, Christianity is not only a worldview for which there is much evidence. It is a worldview that offers an explanation for everything we see and experience in life.

Here are four things Biblical Christianity allows us to see:

A More Satisfying Vision of Our God

People have all sorts of ideas about God, but these ideas tend to leave us dissatisfied with God.

I find that misconceptions about God are often due to a shortsighted obsession with one of God’s attributes to the neglect of all the rest. For many, God is too loving to be wrathful. For others, God is too wrathful to be loving. For some, God is too elusive to be knowable. For others, God is too confounding to be real.

Each of the world’s religions present their own imbalanced view of God. He is too transcendent to be personal, and too holy to love. Or He is too erratic to be exalted and too complacent to be decisive.

With all the poor explanations of who and what God is, it is no wonder so many people have a hard time believing in God at all.

As Christian apologist Greg Koukl puts it:

If that’s the kind of God they don’t believe in, then I agree with them. I don’t believe in that kind of God either.[1]

The Bible stands apart from all these dissatisfying presentations of God. The Biblical picture of God displays the cumulative force of every attribute of God. As such, Christianity has an understanding of God that is maximally dynamic in every attribute— and because of every attribute.

In the Bible all God’s attributes stand in balance with one another. God’s righteousness is balanced by his love. Wrath is balanced by mercy. Condemnation is balanced by grace.

All man-made visions of God will forever be too small. In Christianity, we find that God is bigger than any caricature with which skeptics portray Him. God is more complex than any misrepresentation by which the religions of the world present Him.

This is because in the Bible we are not given a manmade vision of God. The Biblical vision of God is one given by God Himself. The Christian understanding of God is more satisfying because God is more satisfying.

A More Lofty Vision of Our Humanity

Misconceptions about God almost immediately result in misconceptions about us. Whenever we recast God in our thinking, it will always be a demotion from who and what he has revealed himself to be. And because humans were made in his image, humanity will be demoted in our thinking as well.

Christian philosopher Nancy Pearcey stated it this way:

When a worldview exchanges the Creator for something in creation, it will also exchange a high view of humans made in God’s image for a lower view of humans made in the image of something in creation.[2]

Some worldviews describe humans as a feature of an exclusively physical universe. As such, we are the result of random mutations, highly intelligent animals, living on oasis of life-permitting good luck. Some worldviews describe humans as a manifestation of an exclusively spiritual universe. As such, we are the delusional manifestations of a universal over-soul, working our way toward oblivion.

As much as biology influences the human experience, we are so much more than an accidental pack of neurons. As much as people long for spirituality, we are meant for more than nirvanic nothingness.

The Bible stands apart from all these presentations of humanity. The Biblical explanation of humanity tells a story in which a personal God decisively creates us for the purpose of, and with the capacity for, a relationship with him. Unlike all other creatures in his creation, we were made like him to be with him.

Christianity has the greatest possible view of humanity because it holds that humans were made in the likeness of the greatest possible Being.

A More Accurate Vision of Our Problem

I think everyone can agree on at least one thing: the world is not as it should be.

Turning the pages of world history, it’s easy to see that humanity has a problem. On one page we are doing fantastic things—exploring frontiers, creating art, and splitting atoms. On the next page we are doing terrible things—exploiting people, producing filth, and dropping bombs.

What is our problem?

Over the years, important thinkers have devised explanations for why the world is out of whack. Buddha taught that physical desires were our problem. Karl Marx taught that economic oppression was our problem. Sigmund Freud taught that repression of our physical desires was our problem.   

Some believe we are simply uneducated. Our problem is that we do not know enough about the universe and each other. We are not lost. We are ignorant and confused.

Some believe we are simply unenlightened. Our problem is that we are off-center and out of touch with deeper reality. We are not lost. We are unconnected and distracted.

What do all these views have in common? They describe what is wrong with the world as something that has happened to us. Something ‘out there’ is our problem.

As the story goes, The Times in England once asked several prominent intellectuals, “What’s wrong with the world today?” Christian author G.K. Chesterton responded simply,

Dear Sir,
I am.
Yours, G.K. Chesterton

The Bible presents the most accurate diagnosis of our problem—sin. It is a problem that resides in each and every one of us. We do not do what we should because we are not what we were meant to be. The problem is very much ‘in here.’

A More Hopeful Vision of Our Salvation

When you survey the philosophies and religions of the world, you notice that each one has its prescribed list of things to do in order to attain salvation. Whether by education or meditation, sacraments or sacrifices, removal from the world or involvement in it–there are things we must do to fix the problems we have. Because the problem is something ‘out there,’ the solution must be as well. All we have to do is go out and get it.

Christianity on the other hand offers a unique hope. Philosopher of religion Albert C. Wolters tells us:

As far as I can tell, the Bible is unique in its rejection of all attempts to either demonize some part of creation as the root of our problems or to idolize some part of creation as the solution.[3]

In other words, because we are the problem, the solution is out of our grasp. We cannot attain salvation; it needs to be given to us. Like criminals in a court of law, or a terminally ill patient, if we could have saved ourselves then we would not be in this predicament in the first place. Our exoneration must come from a righteous judge. Our cure must come from a great physician.

In the Bible, there is only one solution presented: Jesus Christ. The entire Old Testament anticipates his sacrificial death. The New Testament celebrates his miraculous resurrection. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God unto salvation. He has done for us what we are desperately incapable of doing for ourselves.

Christianity offers infinitely more hope because Jesus is infinitely more capable of saving us than we are of saving ourselves.

Here’s the thing…

When it comes to the battle of ideas, there is no such thing as neutral ground. There is no “view from nowhere.” We all believe something, and we all believe what we believe based on assumptions we cannot prove.

As I see it, there are then two questions:

1. How well can you see the beliefs you have?

This is where most people begin and end. They find the evidence to support their belief, and that is that. They believe it because they “see it.” But, a second questions must be asked.

2. How well do your beliefs help you see everything else?

Do your beliefs involve a misconception of God? Do your beliefs diminish your vision of humanity? Do your beliefs confuse your vision of our problem? Do your beliefs present hope in your vision of salvation?

We Christians believe in Jesus Christ, because in him we see God of very God, the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In him we see humanity the way it was meant to be. In him we see our sin identified, paid for, and defeated. In him we see hope for the eternal life for which we were made.

We Christians believe in Christ, not only because we see him, but because by him, we see everything else.


(Footnote links are affiliate links for Amazon.com. If you click or purchase from these links I will receive a small commission. So, thanks in advance!)

[1] Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, p. 163.

[2] Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (p. 98).

[3] Albert C. Wolters, Creation Regained: A Transforming War of the World, p. 50.


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Say It with Me: Reductionism

This is the fourth installment of a series, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to most but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand.

Stephen Hawking died in March of 2018. He battled a disease for fifty-five years that should have taken his life in two. Dr. Hawking pushed the boundaries of human understanding while inspiring wonder in millions. Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees eulogized, “Few, if any, of Einstein’s successors have done more to deepen our insights into gravity, space and time.”

Rarely does such an intriguing combination of intellect, personality, and circumstances intersect. A mind of that caliber and a life of that character has much to tell us about ourselves and the universe we inhabit.

As Dr. Hawking drew close to death, he shared his thoughts on the prospects of dying. Hawking believed that science had eliminated the notion of a personal creator, and he was outspoken in his belief. He believed that the universe was only the result of quantum fluctuations. He believed that humans are no more than biological machines. So, when commenting on death his worldview came through.

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.[1]

Despite the monumental life he lived, in the end, he was reduced to a computer whose components had failed. This world-changing mind was reduced to a failing machine. The man who changed how we view the world was reduced by his own worldview.

Stephen Hawking was so much more than his worldview allowed him to be.

Here’s the thing…

People are more than their worldviews often allow them to be. This is because their worldviews contain a fatal flaw known as reductionism. Continue reading “Say It with Me: Reductionism”

Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)

As a Christian parent, are you concerned that your children have doubts about the faith you are passing on to them? As a youth pastor or minister, are you troubled by the apathy so many of the kids in your youth group show toward spiritual things? As a Christian educator, are you worried that you are out of your depth with the questions your students have about the Christian worldview?

Being all three, I can relate. The fact is that the generation currently coming of age, Generation Z as they are called, are living a profoundly different adolescence than even the most recent generation before them. So, how do we Christian parents, pastors, and teachers help them stay grounded in the faith and thrive in the culture?

Here’s the thing…

Thankfully, we have some help.

In their newest book, So the Next Generation Will Know (set to release May 1), renowned Christian apologists Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace offer a guide to engaging what is quickly becoming the largest and most secularized generation. Continue reading “Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)”

Say It with Me: Cognitive Dissonance

This is the third installment of a series, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to most but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand.

“But they’re organic!”

Because we don’t have a Trader Joe’s near our house, whenever my wife can make a trip out to the closest one, she stocks up. I grew up on a steady diet of Crisco and high fructose corn syrup. So, when she introduced me to the reasonably-priced organic food store, I had a lot to learn. Joe-Joe’s, organic equivalent to Oreos, made the learning curve much easier.

They are not all that bad—as long as you haven’t had an Oreo in a while for comparison. And, did I mention they’re organic? Nutritious and delicious, right?

After polishing off the first box within a couple of days, my wife warned me to ease up. “But they’re organic!” My naivete must have been pitiful. “Organic doesn’t mean they are any less fattening,” she explained.

I compared the nutritional values of Joe-Joe’s with Oreos. Across the board, Joe-Joe’s had more sugar, more carbs, and more fat. As it turns out, self-control is just as important with organic products as it is with “the fake stuff.” What I thought would be a more waist-friendly option betrayed me.

I was crushed—crushed by cognitive dissonance.

Read more…