Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Study: What does it mean to be created in God's image?

Week Nine: What does it mean to be created in God’s image?

Genesis 1:27 tells us: “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

God created many things—the earth, the sea, the sky. He made insects and fish and mammals that live in the sea and dwell on land. He made worms and he made the great apes—many of which sometimes look and act like people.

But only humans were created in the image of God. What does it mean to be a creature in God’s image? Jesus said, “God is Spirit,” (John 4:24), so how can we be in the image of God if he doesn’t even have a body?

Let’s look at what God the Father said to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

The other day I heard a radio host say that man was created “in God’s image” because we were like him because we have a mind, will, and emotions. I don’t agree, because animals have those same qualities, and so do angels, yet they are not said to be “created in the image of God.”

I believe the phrase is best translated with the understanding that we are to be God’s standard bearers; we are to be his representatives. You’ve probably seen movies about the Roman Army and seen them marching and carrying flags with the emperor’s image or symbol on them. They went forth to rule and conquer in the emperor’s name. That’s how we are “in God’s image.” We are his standard bearers, we are and were to rule the earth in God’s name, as his stewards.

God is not saying that he will make man to be identical to himself, but that man will represent God. He will be God’s representative on earth, the “man in charge” of all creation and the animals. Men and women were to rule the creation, including plants and animals. They, in turn, would serve him and live with him in peace.

For another example of this same language, we can look at Genesis 5:3: “When Adam was 130 years old, he became the father of a son who was just like him—in his very image. He named his son Seth.”

Do you look like your mother or father? Maybe one of your relatives has said you’re the “spitting image” of your mom or dad. Seth must have resembled his father, but were they identical? No. They were very different, but they still had qualities in common. Maybe Seth had his dad’s eye color, or maybe he had hair like Adam’s.

In the same way, we have some qualities that are like God—we can love, we can show mercy, we can choose to do good. Those are godly qualities, and when we exercise them, we are being like God. But we don’t always act like God. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they were no longer perfect as God is perfect. They were no longer sinless. They were no longer holy. But they were still the people God had chosen to be his representatives.

In Genesis 9:2-3, after the Flood in which God destroyed all mankind except for Noah and his family, God gave Noah a stern warning. First, God said mankind would no longer live in peace with the animals, for “all the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables.”

Mankind was still God’s representative over the animals, but now they would fear him. God told Noah something else: “If anyone takes a human life,” he said, “that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image” (Gen. 9:6).

Mankind has been stained by sin and we are no longer holy by nature. But we are still created in God’s image. We are still the highest beings on the planet. We still have dominion, or power, over plants and animals.

Can we ever hope to get mankind’s original goodness back? Yes, we can. Once a person accepts Christ, we begin to become more and more like Jesus, who is God. In Colossians 3:10, Paul wrote: “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

As we get to know Jesus, we will put away our anger, lying, stealing, dirty language, gossip, and bad habits. We will turn our backs on the things that displease God and we will try to do the things that please him. Paul said, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you” (Colossians 3:12-13).

The best news is that when Jesus returns to earth, we will be like Jesus in that we will become immune to death and sin. Paul wrote, “Just as we are not like the earthly man [Adam, who sinned], we will someday be like the heavenly man [Jesus, who never sinned].” (1 Corinthians 15:49).

When Jesus returns, whether we are dead or alive, our physical bodies will be transformed into supernatural bodies that will be like Jesus’! We will no longer get sick and we will not die. We will no longer be tempted to sin, so we will be able to live holy lives.

If God is Spirit, how can we live in his image? We can live in the image of his Son. We can smile like Jesus, act like Jesus, think like Jesus, love like Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is “the exact likeness of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So when we live like him, we are truly living in the image of God.

Memory verse: “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” (Col. 3:10).

Discussion questions

1. Read the following Scriptures. What do they tell us about what it means to be created in the image of God?

· Colossians 1:15: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.”

· Romans 8:29-30: “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.”

· 1 John 3:2: “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really us.”

2. Are all people, or only Christians created in the image of God? If all people—of all races--are created in the image of God, how should we treat other people?

3. Because God is a spirit and does not have a body, the Israelites were forbidden to make idols of any kind (see Exodus 20:4). But God gave us bodies that reflect his character—for instance, God sees, and we have eyes to see. God speaks, and we have mouths to speak. We can taste and touch and smell, and we can enjoy the same beautiful creation that God himself enjoys. When we are mature, our bodies are able to bear children, just as God is able to create human beings who are like himself.

In what other ways do our bodies reflect aspects of God’s nature? What else can we do that God does?

4. What are some things you can do this week to reflect God’s image? How can you demonstrate his kindness, gentleness, mercy, love, and forgiveness?

Next week we’ll talk about something that’s really hard to explain.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A new release from Jill Nelson


Secrets Buried Deep

Evidence from a decades-old murder is the last thing Nicole Keller-Mattson expected to find in her grandmother’s back yard, but the finger-pointing and accusations leveled at her family came as no surprise. Everyone in Ellington is eager to blame the Kellers—but after an attack leaves Nicole’s grandmother in a coma, only Nicole can clear the family name. With the assistance of police chief Rich Hendricks, she stands a chance of solving the mystery . . . if she’s willing to accept Rich’s help. Nicole lost her policeman husband in the line of duty—getting close to another cop is too painful. But keeping her distance could be deadly.


I’ve always been fascinated by social dynamics in a small town. Having lived in rural communities all my life, I’m intimately familiar with the unique politics involved. Crafting a story about the shadow cast over a town by its founding family came readily to me. I was particularly interested to explore the affect past sins and secrets can have on a tight-knit community and how the illusion of power is always trumped by the immutable laws of God. We do reap what we sow, no matter how grand and invincible we imagine ourselves to be.

The scripture I used at the front of the book was Psalm 37: 10 – 11 from the NIV version of the Bible: A little while and the wicked will be no more; Though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. I comfort myself with these words quite often when I see the injustices in the world.

Click here to buy the book.


Jill Elizabeth Nelson writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith, earning her the tagline: Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth. She was delightfully astonished this year to receive the prestigious Carol Award in the Short Contemporary Suspense category for her 2009 release, Evidence of Murder. Jill speaks regularly at conferences, writer’s groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. When teaching classes for writers, she thrills to bring the Ahah! moment to her students as they make a new skill their own. Jill and her husband live in rural Minnesota where they raised four children and are currently enjoying their first grandchild. Visit Jill on the web at for book giveaways, excerpts, and information.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Contest Winners!

Congratulations to our contest winners who successfully identified the books resulting from the photos on Monday's blog.

The photos are: 1) Christ Church on St. Simons Island, GA. The Fine Art of Insincerity.
2) Bunratty Castle, Ireland: Any of the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor books or Ingram of the Irish.
3). The Amazon rain forest: The Canopy.

The winners, as they came in with correct answers are: Kay Day and Mary Kay Moody.

They will be receiving an ARC (advance reader copy) of THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY.

Note: ARCs are not final proofs, and they do contain mistakes--I know, because I had to proof those pages, and I found several errors. But the story's still there, and I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for playing, everyone!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another Contest Hint

Another contest hint:

One of the books is tricky, but the image is clearly tied to the book on one of my published websites.

Happy sleuthing!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Contest HINTS

To help make it easier, I'll offer you one hint today, and one tomorrow.

Today's hint:

Don't trust everything everyone else has written in their comments.

And yes, if you want to revise your entry, you may enter again today.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Win an Advance Reader Copy of Angie's soon-coming book!

I have a few ARCs of THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY to give away, so I thought I'd devise a little contest. The first five people who guess these answers correctly will win a copy of the book.

Here's how it works:

These photos were taken by yours truly as I traveled to research my books. All you have to do is guess the name of the three book represented by each photo. One of the photos could represent a couple of books, so I'll take any answer that fits.

So I need three titles to match three photos, okay? Just leave your answers in the comments. I'll post the winners on FRIDAY and you can then email me your mailing address. Sorry--really sorry--but U.S. residents only, please.

Have fun!


P.S. Happy birthday to my Mom!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Study: Can We Really Know God?

Week Eight: Can we really know God?

Last week we discussed several ways to know that God exists—we see his handiwork in the sky, we see his fulfilled prophecies in the Bible, and we see evidence of his brilliance and intelligence when we do something as simple as lift our hands and twiddle our fingers. (Could you design the bones, tissues, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves of a human hand? I couldn’t.)

Isaiah 55:8 tells us, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Since God is so awesome and so far above us, can we know him? Yes, we can. We see his desire to know us in the fact that he has given us a wonderful world to live in (Romans 1:19). We see his desire to communicate with us in his word. We see his desire to fellowship with us in the simple fact that he chose to create us.

Jesus told us that he and his Father want to know us:

“No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:27-29).

When we surrender our lives to Jesus, He draws us close to him and begins to teach us. He speaks to us in three ways: 1) through his word, the Bible 2) through the voices of our parents and the spiritual authorities he has placed in our lives (Hebrews 13:17), and 3) through that still, small voice that sometimes speaks directly to our hearts. When we listen to Him speaking in these three ways, we grow to know many things about Him. We begin to know Him.

We learn that God is love, He is light, he is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is like a shepherd, like the bread of life, like the guardian of our soul. He is like a mother bird, like a strong protector, and as close as the shade on our right hands.

Though we can know God, we will never fully understand God, nor will we ever know everything. Some people think that we’ll know everything once we get to heaven, but only God is omniscient and all-knowing. We will never be God. We will be better able to use our brains in heaven, and we will learn a great deal more than we ever knew on earth, but we’ll never have the understanding of God.

God is infinite—without boundaries or limitation—and we are finite, with boundaries and limitations. Every finite thing has to have a creator, but a finite thing can never create an infinite thing.

Because we have limits and boundaries, God can know us perfectly—our every thought, our every need, our every desire. He can see into every inch of our finite brains and understand every desire in our finite hearts. We, on the other hand, cannot begin to grasp the fullness of his thoughts or feelings because God has no limits. We can know him, we can understand many things about him, but we will never understand everything about him.

Paul wrote to encourage some new Christians to live holy lives. “Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (Colossians 1:10).

So even though we cannot know everything about God, we are not to stop trying to know him. We are to study him, to spend time with him, to learn about him by reading his word and walking with him in faith. Then, as time passes, we will “learn to know God better and better.” And later, when we are in heaven, we will have an entire eternity to learn to know him more and more. We will never run out of things to learn about him!

Jeremiah the prophet wrote this: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

The greatest thing in the world is to know the infinite One who created you, who loves you, and who has an eternal plan for your life. So many people go through life without a clue as to what life is really all about. They think it’s about making money, gaining power, or becoming famous . . . but God says no.

The greatest thing in life is to know God. Jesus said, “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth” (John 17:3).

If you don’t know God, you can know him today. All you have to do is ask Him to reveal himself to you . . . and give him your life.

Memory verse: “And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.” (1 John 5:20).

Discussion questions

1. Read Psalm 139: 1-6. How does this passage describe how God knows us . . . and how we can know him?

2. What do the following verses tell us about our ability to know God?

· “Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.” (Psalm 145:3).

· “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!” (Psalm 147:5).

· “And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.” (1 John 5:20).

· “So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?” (Galatians 4:9).

2. Do you think it’s ever possible to completely know a person? Even husbands and wives who have been happily married for years don’t know everything about one another. If it’s so hard to completely know another person, how could we ever expect to know God?

3. Are you excited by the thought of learning more about God in heaven? What sort of questions would you like to ask him? What mysteries would you like him to explain? What would you like to ask him about your life? About creation? About the world?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

American Spirit

If this is Saturday, I'm in Indiana at Taylor U., teaching my writing class. But before I left, I ran across this video, which reminded me of afternoons when fathers and sons used to build go-carts in the garage. This father and son, however, sent an iPhone into space and recorded the curvature of the earth . . . pretty cool. You can check it out here.

Have a great weekend!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Can You Trust Your Eyes? not anymore . . .

Pretty cool technology . . . now, if they would only invent one of those for LIFE!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hand sanitizer in church . . .

I've certainly seen hand sanitizer stations on cruise ships and in restaurants, but I haven't actually seen them in church . . . yet. A hilarious look at what might be coming to a church near you . . .


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nothing Lasts Longer than a Happy Memory . . .

I'm not quite sure how to begin describing the Re'Gen reunion that took place this past weekend. In some ways it was similar to the Youth Aflame reunion my husband and I attended last year . . . but yet it was also different.

For starters, I didn't really know many of the Re'Gen people all that well. We traveled in different years, and of the 35 people who came together in Orlando, I only traveled with four of them.

But we had so much in common--the music, the philosophy, the experience, the pastor (Derric Johnson)--and most of all, we had Jesus. Plus, we worked HARD on Saturday and Sunday, rehearsing some very difficult music to perform a concert, and there's something that binds people together when they are working hard for a common goal--just ask any football player. :-)

So we met together and prayed and laughed and reminisced, and we sang (what a sound!), and then on Monday morning a few of us stragglers ate breakfast together and shared our hearts . . . and we discovered that all of us (who are now over 50), have other, even more personal things in common as well. And we promised to pray for one another, and we are all looking forward to the next time we come together.

Most of all, what we felt was love--for each other, for the memories of a time when we were younger and the world was different, for the music, for our pastor, and for an attitude that says you never give up, you never stop dreaming, you never stop working for the Kingdom. As Pastor Derric said to us, "What's your encore?"

What's the next idea in your mind? What will you do when this project is completed? My mind has been spinning ever since, and I've felt led to pray for something specific, if the Lord wills.

But as for now, I'm back at work, third-drafting "Passing Strangers," aka "the train story." Still story-forming and polishing, but I'm back in the zone.

Hugs to all!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sandra Byrd's latest book!

Wow--I'm back from vacation and from the Re'Gen reunion, and my heart is so full . . . it's going to take me a couple of days to decompress. So while I'm doing that and trying to get back to work, let me tell you about my friend Sandra's latest book:

London Confidential Series

Sandra Byrd's London Confidential is a new series for tweens and teens where British fashion, friendships, and guys collide as an all-American teen girl learns to love life and live out her faith.

Byrd's ability to provide a fun story that incorporates biblical truth will help teens relate to this new series. Readers will identify with the struggle to fit in while staying true to one's convictions.

Romantic Times, 4 star review

Book Three, Don't Kiss Him Goodbye, finds Savvy, now established in her quirky British village, working hard to get an article with her own byline published. When an attractive and mysterious boy asks her for help with his school work, Savvy is slowly pulled into his circle and soon finds out that the wrong set of friends—boys and girls—can influence her own behavior. Following her own advice to cut ties with a charming bad boy would mean abandoning her dearest wishes, and it just doesn't seem as wrong as it feels. Is it? Read on for surprise twists throughout the book!

In a shocking turn of events, all writers for the Wexburg Academy Times will cast their votes for next year's editor—and it looks like Savvy's vote will be the tie breaker! In Book Four, Flirting With Disaster, Savvy must choose between a nasty-girl-turned-nice, with a sudden interest in letting Savvy get what she wants, and the prickly Hazelle, who promises nothing at all. Savvy then finds herself wrapped up in a new, seemingly innocent but potentially dangerous activity. It's all at risk in this book: her position on the paper, the boy she likes, the ministry she wants to go well. At a critical moment, Savvy must figure out how to rely on God rather than luck and to overcome temptation before it is too late.

Please visit Sandra online at The books can be purchased at through her website or at other fine online or local bookstores near you. If they're not stocked, just ask!

London Confidential Books 1 and 2 were featured in Focus on the Family's Thriving Family Magazine ... click here:


Monday, October 18, 2010

The Proposal (con't)

Chapter Twelve

“Theo, is that you? How’d things go with the lawyer?”

Theo heard Ann’s cheery greeting through a vague sense of unreality. She leaned against the front door and let her purse fall to the floor. The purloined Post fluttered from beneath her arm and draped itself across her handbag.

Ann appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Good grief, girl, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.” she said, her eyes widening. “What happened? Were you in a wreck?”

“I’m a wanted woman,” Theo murmured, stiffly bending to pick up the newspaper and her purse. She walked toward the kitchen, her head still swimming.

Ann gave her a lopsided smile. “That’s not very funny.”

“I’m not joking.”

Ann stepped back to let her pass, and Stacy looked up from where she sat at the kitchen table with a flour-filled mixing bowl in front of her. She gave Theo a wide smile, then continued stirring the flour with a wooden spoon. “Look, Mama,” she said.

“That’s great, sweetheart.” Theo ran her hand through Stacy’s golden hair, then glanced at Ann. “Have you read today’s paper?”

Ann shook her head and gestured with floured hands toward the folded newspaper on the kitchen table. “Stacy and I were mixing up a batch of cookies. I was going to take a look at the paper while they were baking.”

Theo pulled the Metro section from beneath her arm and spread it on the table. “There,” she said, pointing to the article by Pamela Lansky.

A look of disbelief crossed Ann’s face as she looked at the police sketch. “That’s you, Theo.”

“Read the article.”

Ann yanked a chair from beneath the table and sat down, concentrating on the paper in her hands. Relief washed over Theo like an ocean wave as she pulled out a chair and sat next to Stacy. Ann would know how to handle things. Ann’s picture hadn’t appeared in four million newspapers that morning. She, at least, could think clearly.

“This article implies that you had something to do with this guy’s disappearance,” she finally said, looking up. “You’ve got to call the police and tell them what happened.”

“But I don’t know anything about what happened to him,” Theo protested, her eyes watering. Stacy looked up, startled at the sound of fear in her mother’s voice, and Theo forced herself to smile at her daughter. “It’s all right, sweetie. What kind of cookies are we baking?”

“Chips,” Stacy answered, her pudgy fingers wiping a trail of flour across her nose as she rubbed it.

“Chocolate chip,” Theo replied automatically. “My favorite.”

“Theo, you’ve got to do something,” Ann said, wiping her flour-encrusted hands on a dishtowel. “Just call the Washington police and tell them you don’t know anything. Then you’ll be done with it and out of it. No more sketches of your face on the front page.”

“But Janet Fischer’s saying I deliberately stole his proposal,” Theo protested. “What if the police ask about that? What can I say?”

“Tell them the truth,” Ann said firmly.

“What if they don’t believe me? It’s my word against Janet Fischer’s, and she’s a big-time editor. I’m nobody, just a wannabe writer.” She propped her elbow on the table and rested her head on her fist. “I’ve been thinking. I used my own name and address when I checked into that hotel. And I paid for everything with a credit card. The police could trace me in a minute if they wanted to, couldn’t they? I called home several times, too. They keep a record of things like that. If they really wanted to talk to me, they’d be on my doorstep right now.”

“OK, maybe. But if the police don’t want to talk to you, why is your picture in the paper?”

“Because I’m cute?” Theo tried to smile, then decided it was a bad idea. “I don’t know, Ann, maybe somebody’s chasing a rabbit trail. But this thing has rattled me. I’ve never even had a traffic ticket in my entire life, and when I opened the paper and saw that sketch . . . well, it threw me completely. I ran out of Adam Perry’s office like a scared rabbit. He’s met Theodore Russell, you see. If he read the paper and thinks that I’m trying to steal Theodore Russell’s work or something . . .”

“What about the doctor you saw yesterday?” Ann asked quietly. “Are you going to call him and explain everything? He’s probably read the paper, too.”

Theo paused while the image of Dr. Ken Holman flitted across her mind. He had been cautious and careful, but he had believed her. Why wouldn’t he? She hadn’t lied to him.

“I didn’t tell him anything but the truth,” she finally answered. “And if he sees the article and wants to call me, he can. But I can’t be worrying about all this stuff, Ann, I’ve got to get started on my book. If I can get an outline and a few sample chapters together within three months, I can get a contract. We can live on the Visa card until the book advance comes through . . .”

“You’re talking crazy, Theo. First, I wouldn’t even touch that guy’s proposal after all this. And second, if you’re still dead set on writing that book, you should clear the waters you’ve helped to muddy. If this guy is really in some kind of trouble, you could save the police some time by calling them. You don’t want them to get sidetracked from finding him because they’re trying to check you out, do you?”

Pressing her palm to her forehead, Theo stood stiffly to her feet. “Okay,” she said, making her way toward the extra bedroom that she used as an office. “I’ll call. Right now. So I can get out of this and get on with my life.”

The phone buzzed on Howard Datsko’s desk. “Datsko,” he said, picking it up. He stuffed a corner of his salami sandwich into his mouth while he waited for a response.

“Hello, I’d like to speak to someone about Theo Russell, the novelist who’s missing.” The woman spoke in the low voice reserved for dreaded things, and Datsko’s inner antennae centered on the sound.

“Speak.” Howard paused to swallow. “Go ahead, lady. I’m listening.”

“I read the article about the woman who met Janet Fischer. Well, I think I’m the woman.”

“You think you are?”

“I know I am. But I didn’t lie to Ms. Fischer. My name really is Theo Russell, and I thought she wanted to see me. I’m a writer, too, you see, and Howarth House has one of my proposals. But I don’t know anything about the guy who’s missing. I’ve never even met him.”

Datsko switched the receiver from his right ear to his left, then reached for a pencil on his desk. “So you were at the hotel under your own name?”

“Right. I wasn’t pretending to be the novelist. I really do have the same name. Except I’m Theodora, not Theodore.”

“Were you on the twenty-first floor?” He searched his notes. Theo Russell had been assigned room 2121; the novelist had been in 3018 under the name of Russ Burkett.

“I think so.”

“Why’d you take the guy’s outline?”

“His proposal.”

“Whatever. This Fischer woman thinks you were out to deliberately steal Russell’s work.”

“No, I wasn’t. By the time I realized she thought I was the famous Theo Russell, I’d seen the proposal. I kept trying to explain that I wasn’t who she thought I was, and I tried to give the proposal back. But someone beeped her, and she left in a hurry.”

“Are you trying to tell me,” Datsko drawled, “that you couldn’t say, ‘Hey, lady, you’ve got the wrong writer?”

The woman on the phone sighed. “Have you ever had a conversation with Ms. Fischer? It’s hard to get a word in edgewise.”

Datsko grinned. Yeah, this lady had talked to Ms. Fischer, all right. “Okay, so you got stuck with the writer’s proposal. So what’d you do with it?”

“I mailed it back to Ms. Fischer on Monday. She should have it by Thursday or Friday, whenever snail mail gets it there. I’ll admit that I read Russell’s paper—and I want to write about the same topic—but I could never steal his outline. If I had published a novel like his, he could have sued me for plagiarism or copyright infringement. I’m only interested in his facts, and you can’t copyright facts.”

“Hey, lady, I’m not trying to judge you.” Datsko wrote seems honest on his notepad. “So you never met the guy, and you don’t know where he is.”

“Right. Since my picture’s in the paper, I figured I should call you.”

The woman ended this last statement with a sigh of relief, and Datsko drew a question mark and thumped the page with his pencil. “Sorry about the picture, lady, that was the reporter’s idea, not mine. We’re just trying to beat the bushes, see what might crawl out. Okay. Will you give me your address and phone number in case we have other questions?”

“Is that necessary?” Her voice was hesitant. “I don’t know anything else.”

“It might be helpful.”

“OK. I live at 2035 Pineview Lane in the Adams Morgan area. The number here is 202-555-3947.”

“Thanks.” He heard the phone click before he had even finished saying the word.

Theo’s work went slowly that afternoon. A medical-research database she accessed on her computer yielded some information on abortion and breast cancer, but Theo had to read through summaries of fifty-eight articles to cull out the few that were pertinent to her work. She read for three hours, the printed articles under her left hand and a medical dictionary under her right.

A database comprised of newspaper articles brought her more usable material. One article featured the compassionate work of Dr. Griffith Dunlap, a gynecologist in Washington, D.C., who offered low or no-cost abortions for inner-city women who could not otherwise afford them.

“These women should not be denied the opportunities afforded wealthier women in this country,” the doctor was quoted in the Post. “Should a woman who struggles to feed three children be forced to feed four? No. I feel it’s my duty to do what I can to help these women better their lives. Society’s attitude seems to be, `You’ve had your pleasure, now pay the price.’ What is more immoral, granting an abortion or forcing young girls, some of whom are as young as twelve or thirteen, to assume the responsibility of a baby? In this pampered nation where Barbie dolls get more love and attention than human beings, it’s hard for me to take the antiabortion debate seriously.”

Dunlap went on to say that safe abortions were a medical necessity in this country and that it was ultimately healthier for a woman to have an abortion than to bear a child. But the doctor said absolutely nothing about breast cancer.

“Ann, I’m begging. Please do this for me.” Theo leaned against the kitchen counter while Ann rolled out an industrial-size pizza crust. Bethany was at the kitchen table, an open geometry book in front of her, and Stacy sat in her little rocking chair, a worn baby doll in her arms. Behind Ann, Theo heard the preheated oven began to beep on a perfect B-flat.

“No way.” Ann shook her head as she worked the dough with her fingers. “I’ll do anything I can to help you, Theo, but I’m not the private eye type. You want to play investigative reporter, you go right ahead.”

Theo tried to ignore the electronic beeping. “He knows my name, Ann. The secretary will recognize me. I can’t go back to Adam Perry’s office, but I’ve got to have these facts verified.”

“You should have thought of that before you shot out of that place.” Ann frowned and looked over her shoulder at Bethany. “Isn’t anybody going to shut off that oven? My hands are covered in flour.”

“I’ll do it if you’ll let me go to the lawyer’s office,” Bethany said, grinning. “It will get me out of school early tomorrow.”

Ann ignored her while Theo walked over to the oven and pressed the timer switch. “That pitch drives me nuts. Matt’s alarm clock was a B-flat. Woke me up every morning.”

“You know, there are lots of folks who’d give their eyeteeth to have your perfect pitch,” Ann remarked, jamming a can of pizza sauce under the electric can opener. “Just like there are lots of people who’d be happy to never again set foot in a lawyer’s office. I’m one of them.”

“Please, Ann.” Theo paused. “It’s only this one time, I promise. And you don’t have to lie. Just ask the questions I’ll give you and say you’re gathering the information for a friend. Adam Perry’s answers will be simple, and you can just drive home and tell me what he said.”

“Why can’t you do this on the phone?” Ann asked, her irritation evident in the way she slapped sauce on the pizza crust.

“He’ll ask too many questions if I tell him my name, and I don’t want to get into the Theo Russell thing. I’ll stay home with Stacy while you swing by his office. You’ll be home before you know it. Please, Ann, will you do just this one thing for me?”

Ann lifted her eyebrows. “Is this guy single? Good looking?”

Theo grinned. “Could be.”

“If you get me an appointment, I’ll go,” Ann answered, reaching for the can of Parmesan cheese on the counter. “But after this, I’m not visiting any more lawyers. The last one I saw took me to the cleaners.”

“This one won’t cost you a cent, I promise,” Theo said, giving her friend a quick hug. “I’ll take care of everything.”

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Study: How Can Anyone Know for Certain God Exists?

Week Seven: How can anyone know for certain God exists?

We’ve spent six weeks talking about the Word of God, but how can we accept that the Bible is God’s word unless we first accept that God exists? Can we know for sure that God exists, or does belief in God require that we have faith in what cannot be known or proven beyond the shadow of a doubt?

Many well-meaning people will tell you that God is something (or someone) you simply have to take “on faith” because his existence can’t be proven. “I know there is a God because I feel him in my heart,” they may say. Or “I know there’s a God because he changed my life.”

Those are wonderful comments, and God can certainly change lives and make his presence felt. But people who don’t believe in God aren’t going to accept those proofs of God’s existence because they’re subjective. After all, sincerity of belief doesn’t prove anything. I could sincerely believe in the Easter Bunny, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to hop up to my door and leave me a chocolate egg this year. I could sincerely believe in Buddha or Confucius or reincarnation, but the sincerity of my faith isn’t going to make those things true.

Remember this: your faith is only as strong as the thing you believe in.

Have you ever sat in a chair that broke under your weight? You may have had an automatic trust in the chair . . . but it wasn’t worthy of your faith.

Two men always cross a frozen lake when they go hunting in January. The ice under their feet is always strong in the middle of winter. Let’s suppose they wanted to cross that lake, however, in April, during the spring thaw . . . how strong would their faith in the ice be then?

Be careful what you believe in.

So . . . how do we know God is worthy of our trust? First, as we’ve already learned, the Bible says God created the world and everything in it. The heavens, the skies, the stars, everything that was created had to have a creator. Science has proven that our universe could not spring into existence by itself. Someone had to create it, and that someone is God.

Not only did the universe have to have a cause, but it had to have an intelligent cause—a super brainiac cause—who created the world in such a way that it was exactly right for human life. If the sun had been closer, the earth would be too hot. If the sun had been farther away, the earth would be too cold. If the atmosphere did not have exactly the right blend of oxygen and carbon dioxide, neither humans nor plants would be able to survive.

Look at the incredible, intricate design of a human cell—our bodies are amazing wonders of creation, and doctors are still unable to understand exactly how some of our biological processes work. But God knew how to put all the pieces together in such a way that our bodies grow and develop and fight disease and take in nourishment and learn and communicate. Amazing, isn’t it? Could the smartest man alive ever have designed a single human body? No!

God created the universe, our planet, and he placed people on it. Using several different men over several generations, he gave us a book of His words. And from that book mankind has been able to learn things before scientists did.

Before scientists figured out the order of creation, God’s word gave it to us: first came the universe, then the earth, then the land and the sea. After this came life in the sea, then land animals, and finally, human beings.[1] Though Bible-believers and scientists often disagree about how long this creation process took, they agree upon the order in which creation occurred—but the Bible gave us the order thousands of years before humans figured it out!

The Bible also tells us that every living thing produces “after its kind”—in other words, a pregnant cat cannot have puppies. One species cannot give birth to another.

The Bible tells us that humans came from the earth—not from other animals, not from air, not from monkeys. Science confirms that the body is made of water and the very same elements found in . . . you guess it, earth.

The Bible tells us that water is involved in a continual cycle. Solomon, who had wisdom given by God, wrote, “Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea” (Ecc. 1:7). Long before scientists figured it out, the Bible described the process of condensation and evaporation.

It’s true that some people used to believe the earth was flat, but the Bible has always said the earth is spherical, like a ball. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!” (40:22). Who better than the God who created the earth to give us this view from outer space long before astronauts existed?

As recently as 1840, Vienna, Austria, was a famous medical center. But one doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis, noticed that one out of every six of his female patients died after delivering their babies. Why should perfectly healthy women die after having a child?

He studied the situation and realized that many of his medical students were working with the women right after the students had performed autopsies of dead patients. Dr. Semmelweis instituted a new rule: every doctor and medical student had to wash his hands before examining a living patient.

After that, only one woman out of every eight-four died in the maternity ward. Unfortunately, doctors could not believe that the answer to infection lay in something as simple as the washing of hands. Dr. Semmelweis was fired. Yet in the book of Leviticus, God gave Moses explicit and detailed instructions about how people who come into contact with dead or sick people must wash their hands and their clothes before coming into contact with the living. God, you see, understood something Dr. Semmelweis’s co-workers did not: God knew about germs.

We can know that God exists and that the Bible is his word because the Bible is filled with prophecies that either have come true or will come true. The Bible contains over three hundred predictions about Jesus Christ, most of which were written hundreds of years before his birth. Every one of those prophecies has come to pass! Human “psychics” and “fortune-tellers” are often, if not usually, wrong, but God cannot lie, so his word is truth.

Finally, we can know God exists because his word has changed people’s lives. The people who followed Jesus after his death and resurrection often paid for their faith with their lives—would you die for a cause you doubted? Many of them had seen Jesus, they had watched him work miracles, and they knew he was more than a man. He was who He said He was—the Son of God.

Memory verse: “Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial. You yourself are from the everlasting past” (Psalm 93:3).

Discussion questions:

1. Look up the following verses and let’s see what the Bible says about some things science has confirmed:

· Leviticus 17:11: “for the life of the body is in its blood.” (Can you live without blood?)

· Proverbs 8:29: “I was there when he set the limits of the seas, so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.” (Do the seas have limits? Do we have to worry about the icebergs melting and the seas flooding our countries?)

· Deuteronomy 23:12-13: “You must have a designated area outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. Each of you must have a spade as part of your equipment. Whenever you relieve yourself, dig a hole with the spade and cover the excrement.” In this age of modern plumbing, we don’t realize how much healthier we are because we don’t have to deal with human waste. But in disaster areas, illness is always one of the first results. Why? Because when people are not sanitary in the way they dispose of human waste, germs multiply and people get sick. Yet God told Moses to teach the Israelites how to avoid this problem six thousand years ago!

2. Compare the two verses. What does the first predict about Jesus? What does the second verse tell us about the prediction and its author?

· Genesis 3:15 and Galatians 4:4

· Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:21

· Genesis 49:10 and Luke 3:23, 34

· Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-7

· Isaiah 35:5-6 and Matthew 9:35

· Psalm 118:22 and 1 Peter 2:7

· Isaiah 53:7 and Matthew 7:12-19

· Psalm 22:16 and Luke 23:33

· Zechariah 12:10 and John 19:34

· Isaiah 53:9 and Matthew 27:57-60

· Psalm 68:18 and Acts 1:9

Now that we know there are objective ways to know there is a God, how can we ever hope to know him? If he’s so powerful and so intelligent and so far above us, how can we puny humans know him? Is it even possible?

We’ll talk about that subject next week.

[1] Dr. Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: Volume One, p. 545.