There are several “Christian” stories this week that are frankly a little hard to stay away from. Runner-up award goes to Gary Faulkner, a 50-year-old Colorado man who was arrested in Pakistan recently for having been “hunting” Osama bin Laden ever since 9/11. Faulkner was discovered at the Pakistani border carrying a pistol, a sword, night-vision equipment and Christian religious books. Upon undergoing medical examination, Faulkner was discovered by Pakistani psychologists to have “psychological problems”. Faulkner’s brother, however, a doctor in the U.S. said that Gary meets none of the psychological criteria (as categorized by the DSM) for psychosis. Who’s right? Let me point out one detail: he was carrying a SWORD! Not a hunting knife, not a carving knife, a sword. Hmmm. The prosecution rests.
Unbelievably, Gary Faulkner’s personal crusade, at least to me, was only the 2nd most bizarre Christian story this week. And the winner is……….6-story Jesus statue in Ohio struck by lightning. Tuesday night a 62 ft, nearly 1/2 million dollar statue labeled the “King of Kings” statue just outside of Solid Rock Church in southwest Ohio burned down after lightning struck it in a severe storm. The statue, also affectionately nicknamed “Touchdown Jesus” (because it pictured the upper half of Jesus’ body with arms raised to heaven, looking as though he was signaling for a touchdown) had become a well-known landmark driving along I-75. (Personally, I only saw it once from the highway, but have to say, thought it was a pretty cool piece of artwork.)
This story is crazy to me for a number of different reasons, but I’d like to call attention to one thing – notice the number of comments left on the YAHOO Associated Press link to this story. As of less than 24 hours after its release, over 15,000 comments were posted. Granted, I obviously didn’t read all 15,000+ comments, but interestingly there are many different assessments as to what people think the cause of the incident was. Some take an iconoclastic approach (overly rigid interpretation of Exodus 20:4 where God forbids “graven images”) and suggest God is punishing this church for building such a structure. Some commentators suggest that they heard there was corruption in this 4,000 member non-denominational church in Ohio, that God was clearly reigning his judgment down upon its leadership. Numerous self-professed atheists weighed-in and suggested that this was not God, but a natural and ironic stroke of fate that to them just confirms their anti-God stance (Don’t get me started on the inconsistency of someone denying the existence of “god” and yet acknowledging “fate” as some higher power). Some suggested this was a work of Satan, a visible, physical attack of God’s people. And, of course, those who have an unhealthy proclivity towards shouting “The end is near!” certainly made their voices heard as well.
If you’d like to see an example of such statements, check out related links like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQKrvuMvfgM.
My favorite comment of all, however, was one that was fielded as a an email write-in to a local news team covering the event. Unfortunately, the video has since been removed from YouTube for copyright reasons. The local observer said, “I don’t mean to sound pompous or insensitive, but couldn’t the reason for the fire be that they put flammable materials on a giant steel frame on a hill?” 🙂 I can’t tell you how much I loved that comment and how it was treated as a novel thought.
People have always liked the idea of signs. People have always looked for signs. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:22-23, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” Now the Jews wanted signs for a variety of reasons. However, in general, do you know why people want signs from God so badly? It’s because you don’t have to exercise your faith if every time you need to make a big decision or are looking for direction in life, a “sign” is given to you. If you were making a big decision about your career path, you prayed to God asking for a sign, and then the heavens opened and God say, “Eric, you really should become an accountant”, would that require faith? I suppose you could say that you might believe it was a hallucination or something. But no, if you believed you weren’t crazy and this happened, that kind of “sign” from God wouldn’t require you to exercise faith. It would require obedience, but not faith.
God doesn’t typically work that way though, does he? He presents you with options for deliberation. He gives you and I the opportunity to study his Word, pray about things, gather input, make a wise decision (that as far as we can tell is wise) and trust that God is going to bless this decision – an exercise in faith.
Across religions, people like to look for signs in the stars, in their personal lives, and in societal events (as in the case of the burning of the “Touchdown Jesus”). Here’s the thing: God doesn’t say in Scripture that there won’t be any signs. However, he does tell us what kinds of signs in life to look for. If you read through Matthew 24 for instance, Jesus teaches his disciples that things like wars, earthquakes, famines, and false teaching around the world are “signs” that the world is drawing to a close. Notice though, that you could turn on the news on almost any given day and recognize these signs. The intention is that when we see these relatively regular events, they are reminders of a sense of persistent urgency in watching for Jesus’ return.
God really doesn’t promise us any further “signs” in life. It isn’t as though he couldn’t give us signs. God can do whatever he wants. But he doesn’t promise us any. And he doesn’t say he’s going to be any less involved in our lives, but he simply suggests that the communication he’s going to offer to us is through the recorded Word. That is where he promises we can find his input on our lives.
As for those who demand signs from God or truly look in unhealthy ways for God signs from God, check out Jesus words from Matthew 12: “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40). The “Sign of Jonah” as Jesus calls it (i.e. his own death and resurrection from the grave) is really the only sign we need in life because it covers our most base need, the need that, when all is said and done, really matters – forgiveness and salvation. There were over 500 witnesses to Jesus resurrected from the grave. It happened. We have all the signs, all the facts we need that we’re saved. Needing a sign in life for anything else would indicate that A) we’re grossly misunderstanding life’s priorities, or B) we’re afraid/unwilling to exercise the faith that the Holy Spirit has given us. Obviously neither is a good thing spiritually speaking.
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that God may be “leading” you in a certain direction in life. But getting into looking for “signs” is dangerous and completely unnecessary. We have all the sign we need that we have a God who loves us and will bless us – a Risen Savior. Diligently search the Scriptures. Fiercely pray to your Father. Boldly make decisions. Enjoy exercising the faith of knowing God will bless you.