Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Star to Steer By - Revised!

The beautiful Portland Head Lighthouse on the Maine coast.
It was the flash from this lighthouse I could see from the
balcony of my hotel in Ogunquit, far to the south.
No finite point has meaning without an infinite reference point.
                    Jean-Paul Sartre
I am the light of the world.
                    Jesus Christ  (Matthew 5:14)

I stood outside on the deck of my hotel listening to the surf quietly lap the beach. It was a beautiful Maine evening, with stars blazing overhead and a gentle breeze blowing warm for early October. Out in the darkness my eyes traced a dim line of lights running along the shore of the peninsula that jutted far out to sea. Where the lights ended, I assumed, was lands end and where the open sea began. I was curious then, when I saw a light flash much farther out to sea. It didn't take long to realize that the flash was from a lighthouse, which marked the true end of land. It was plain to me then how a lighthouse could make the difference between life and death to a ship sailing off the coast.

My friends and I had to laugh when
we saw this sign in Beijing, China,
north of the Forbidden City. It reminded
us all about the perilous journey of life.
A Point of Reference
As I thought about a ship sailing along the coast in rough waters without a reference point to warn it where it could run aground, it occurred to me how similar this is to navigating through life. Who could argue that life is not perilous? And how many lives have been shattered on the rocks of despair, meaninglessness, alcohol and drug addiction, bitterness, anxiety, etc.

How helpful it would be to have a point of reference to warn us of the dangers in life.

Even John-Paul Sartre (quoted above), a famous atheist existentialist, recognized that we finite human beings need an infinite reference point in order to have meaning. However, because Sartre didn't believe there was an infinite reference point (God), he concluded that life is meaningless. "Man is absurd", he said, "but he must grimly act as if he were not". Sartre had worked through the implications of life without God, and his conclusion perfectly illustrates the hopelessness of the atheistic and secularist worldview.

The flash of the lighthouse interrupted my thoughts. Each time I saw it, I was amazed at how far out the shore really ran.

All of us have worldviews that, consciously or unconsciously, guide us through life and affect our daily decisions...decisions that could move us closer to or farther away from dangers that could destroy our lives. Francis Schaeffer noted that our worldviews are based on "presuppositions" (1). For example, the presupposition that is championed at the secular university (and widely in our culture) today is the "uniformity of natural causes in a closed system". Because, it is believed, the system is closed, then there can be nothing outside the system (i.e., God) and therefore, intervention from the outside (miracles or revelation from God) is impossible. With this presupposition, as Oxford mathematician John Lennox so eloquently stated, "we can’t even answer the simple questions of a child: Why am I here? What’s the meaning of life? And so on" (2). This is why Sartre, who believed in the closed system model, concluded that man is absurd.

If, on the other hand, you believe in the "uniformity of natural causes in an open system", into which God can act, then revelation and miracles are entirely possible. We can receive answers to the simple questions of a child because there is a God who can speak into our system (such as through the Bible). He is our lighthouse.Then the statement by Jesus Christ that he is the light of the world (quoted above) makes sense.

View from my hotel balcony on the coast of Ogunquit, Maine.
At night I could see the Portland Head Lighthouse flashing in
the distance at the far right.
A North Star
Francis Schaeffer went on to say that the Bible gives us an adequate reference point, a North Star for our lives in the infinite-personal God. God is infinite (and thus, provides us a needed infinite reference point), and at the same time personal. How was he personal? The apostle John wrote that God came into the world as a human, a person, whose name was Jesus Christ (3). Jesus reached out and touched the lepers (4), which everyone else was afraid to do because they didn't want to catch leprosy! He restored the lame (5) and even brought the dead back to life (6). Its hard to imagine getting more personal than that. In fact, read the New Testament and you will learn of many broken lives that, when touched by him, were healed and restored. Truly his mission had profound implications for those whose lives had been shattered on the jagged rocks of life.

Amazingly, the good news for us is that Jesus is still at work, healing and restoring life to all who accept him!  (7)

The lighthouse flashed again. Its no accident that Jesus described himself as the light of the world, or that John called him "the true light that gives light to everyone" (8).

It was getting late and I was growing tired. But I went back into my hotel room with a supernatural assurance that God was with me. As John wrote about Jesus: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (9)


(1) He is There He is not Silent, by Francis Schaeffer
(2) An interview with John Lennox, Professor Lennox discusses Christianity, atheism, and science
(3) John 1:1,14,17.
(4) Matthew 8:1-3.
(5) Mark 3:1-6.
(6) Mark 5:21-43; John 11:1-44.
(7) Romans 8:10-11.
(8) John 1:9.
(9) John 1:5.

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