The Only Complete Realist

Jesus is fully God and fully man. He’s the God-Man. Without the divinity of Jesus, he lacks the ability to save us. Without the humanity of Jesus, he lacks the experience to comfort us. With both, he is perfectly qualified to save us from our sins.

Jesus was sinless in his life. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

There’s a debate about whether or not Jesus could have sinned. The theological terms are peccability vs. impeccability. Jesus was able to sin, or he was not able to sin. That is the question. I have my view, but that’s not my purpose in writing this. Whatever side you come down on, the Bible is clear: Jesus did not sin.

And that’s a comfort to us. But that’s also troubling to some. I struggled with this issue in my life. I’m so thankful (and always have been thankful) that Jesus never sinned. But what I thought that meant was that he must have never really felt tempted – at least not in the way I do.

If Jesus never sinned, is it possible that he can sympathize with us? Doesn’t it take someone who has “been there” to sympathize with those who are there? How does a sinless Christ help us?

In other words, what does it mean that Jesus “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” and how does that help us in our temptation? Let’s start with the temptation of Jesus in the desert

Matthew gives an account of this in chapter 4 of his gospel.

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

What we see in this passage is no weak Savior. He’s not merely facing some temptation, he’s facing intense, serious, life-defining temptation.

Satan comes to him after forty days and forty nights of fasting. He was hungry. “Have some bread, Jesus. You don’t deserve to starve. You fed those poor saps in the desert, why would you not feed yourself now?” But Jesus didn’t take the bait. He would not grumble like his ancestors. He would not complain to God and curse him in his heart because his belly was empty.

“Fine, you don’t want bread? Ok, how about you jump from the temple and prove your worthiness to be followed?” No, Jesus wouldn’t bite here either, despite his rightful claim of worthiness. He gave that up when he came down to us. He was not going to take it up again before the time.

“Ok, whatever, Jesus. You’re not hungry and don’t want to be worshipped. Then worship me! Don’t go through with this ridiculous plan of yours. Just worship me and I will give you the whole world. We could shortcut this whole endeavor, right here, right now.”

“Be gone, Satan!” Jesus was finished, temptation was crushed. Righteousness reigned.

Does that sound easy? Is that the fight of a weak man? Or is that the fight of the Savior of the world. Jesus faced temptation, and he stood the test. He never, not once, not for a second, gave in.

C.S. Lewis said,

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

The question now is why. Why did Jesus not give in? Whether or not he could or couldn’t, we know he didn’t. He wouldn’t. He stood firmly planted in the love of the Father so that we could be firmly planted in the city of God to come. Jesus endured it all so that when we need him most, we have him – the one who knows what it’s like.

Jesus used the same resources we have available to us: the scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and prayer. But we have something Jesus didn’t have: his finished work. Jesus was in the middle of his work. Really, he was at the beginning of his work. He had three years of teaching, healing, arguing, suffering, and dying to endure. But we’re on the other side. We’ve seen the outcome. We have his finished work to rely upon. It doesn’t depend on us. We can stand firm, because he stood firm for us.

Jesus faced temptation of every kind so that ever kind of temptation we face, we have a sympathizer, a priest, who knows what it’s like. He’s not aloof. He’s not ignorant. He’s wise and caring. He’s there when the hard times come. And though we won’t always win in this life, the worst that can happen to us is that we fall into the throne room of God, where mercy and grace await. Because Jesus has won the war, even if we lose the battle, we are victorious still.


When Bible Reading Feels Guilty

Every Christian wants to read the Bible. That desire is something God places in your heart upon conversion. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and inside that new kingdom the Lord speaks to us, and we long to listen in. But our flesh hates the word of God. How many times have you made a resolution to read the Bible in a year, or a little each day, or a personal Bible study for a season? And how many times have you failed to accomplish the task? There must be something going on.

We know we should read the Bible, and we even want to read the Bible, but we don’t read the Bible – at least not like we wish we did.

Just reading that can cause guilt to creep into your heart. That may actually be conviction from the Holy Spirit, and we should listen to that. But if it’s just a general feeling of guilt that leads to the thought, “I’m a lousy Christian. God can’t love me. How could he? I don’t even read his word. He might love me because he has to, but he doesn’t like me. He just can’t.” That feeling is not guilt. It’s accusation. But it can drive us to God anyway.

We think that until we feel wooed by the grace of God in an irresistible way we can’t read the Bible honestly. We think we’re just going to it under guilt, and because of that nothing good came come from it. I’m not sure that’s true.

Sometimes I do things for my wife that I do only because I feel guilty about something. Let’s pretend I was short with her because I was under stress at work. I snapped off a snarky answer to a real question she had about one of our children. She didn’t deserve to bear the brunt of my stress. And so hours later, after my head has cleared and the stress has melted a little, I notice that the laundry hasn’t been folded. She’s in with the baby, putting him gently back to sleep, and I pick up the laundry and fold it and put it away. The entire time I’m doing this, I’m thinking about what a miserable husband I am, and how it’s amazing she even loves me at all. I am under such a sense of guilt that I’m only folding and putting away the laundry because I see this as one way I can keep my stay in the house.

Then my wife walks back into the room and sees the bed clear of laundry. She looks in the basket and see it empty and realizes that I put the laundry away. She walks over with a smile on her face and gives me a hug followed by a kiss and whispers, “I love you.”

I went to laundry under guilt and came out under grace.

We can approach the Bible with such a wonderful sense of God’s love for us that we can’t imagine a time we wouldn’t read his word. But those moments aren’t constant. We can also approach the Bible under such guilt that we can’t believe he could ever love us.

What we need in times of guilt before our lack of Bible reading is not a better plan, or a better drive, or a better accountability system. What we need most is to just pick up and read. Because even if we approach the Bible under guilt, we are met with a God full of grace. Like my wife coming in with a hug and words of love, the God of the Bible is there to meet with you and speak of his love to you when you open the Bible, and the message doesn’t change depending on how you feel. It’s the same all the times because the word of God does not change.

We need to realize that on the other side of the pages of the Bible is a person. A person who loves us so much that he died for us. He’s paid for our sins, and he’s not holding them against us anymore.

So next time you open your Bible wondering how God could love such a lackluster Christian, hear the words you read and receive the hug of your Father.

One Thing That Will Change the World

Hospitality can change the world. An open home, filled with open hearts, welcoming others as Christ has welcomed us, can influence the world around us in deep and abiding ways.

The Bible calls us to be hospitable, but we find it hard to do so. Peter’s words, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9) may as well be telling a child to eat their broccoli without making a face. We grumble because the house isn’t perfect, we’re not a good cook, we’re too tired from work, our favorite TV shows are on, we just need to relax, this is our family time. We have more reasons for not showing hospitality than for showing it. And that’s a problem, especially for Christians.

How many people have been in your home this year? Family doesn’t count. I’m not sure close friend should even count in this assessment. How many people you just met, or barely know, or are mere acquaintances with, have stepped over the threshold of your door to sit at your dining room table and eat with you?

But you’re not a good cook? Name your favorite place. I bet they do carry out, maybe even delivery. But my house isn’t big enough? When’s the last time you crammed into a crowded coffee shop and thought to yourself, “this is so cozy.” We think we need perfection before we do anything, and given the choice between perfect or nothing, with no other alternative, we will get nothing every time. If you have a room in your house with more than one space to sit, your house is ready for practicing hospitality.

My guess is that most people are invited over to someone’s house for dinner maybe once or twice a year. We are lonely people-no matter how many kids are crammed into the upstairs bedrooms. We are people longing for deeper connections, lasting friendships, meaningful conversation.

My wife and I believe that part of our calling as Christians is to practice hospitality with gospel intentionality. We call it gospel hospitality.

God has called us to help create and develop flourishing community among the church. Jesus did not come down to our world, walk up to Zacchaeus and say, “I must go to your house today” so that we would look at that and think, “You know, that’s just so wonderful of Jesus. I guess that’s just what God does, invites himself over.” Jesus shows us the way to hospitality by stooping down low to come and live among us. Jesus invites us not only into the throne room of heaven but into the heart of God himself. His definition of hospitality is not limited to dinner once a year, but communion at every moment.

I’m guessing we all need to be more radical with our hospitality. We need to open up our home. All the time, we should be thinking about who could we invite over, how could we serve, who needs encouragement and help, who is hurting that needs a listening ear, who is happy and needs someone to rejoice with, who is lonely and needs a friend, who is angry and needs justice or calming, who is confused and needs help, who needs a friend and how can we befriend them, how can we push the gospel community deeper and broader than it’s ever been?

This won’t be easy, which means we will be pushed into dependence on God. There have been many times that we’ve had a family coming for dinner and I didn’t want them to come. I was tired from work, or had something on my mind, and I had to pray that God would make me a good host. I didn’t want them coming, but they were coming anyway. Those nights always seem to be the most memorable. I need community more when I don’t want it than at any other time. And scheduling people to come over regularly ensures that I can’t hide in my own house whenever I want to.

Gospel hospitality means we live our lives in open repentance and open joy before the Lord, as he gives us grace. We push out towards people, not in towards ourselves. We read our Bible and love God with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind. We pray for others and with others. We never miss an opportunity to pray. We write letters with insight and wisdom because we’ve actually talked to the people who have come into our home. You’ll be amazed at what is shared over the dinner table: hopes, dreams, heartbreaks, setbacks, roadblocks, joys, jokes, and sorrows.

All this sounds too high but God is with us and he’s given us this ministry. We can suppress it or we can embrace it. If we suppress it, we will be miserable and wonder why we’re lonely in a world with all these people. If we embrace it, we will be in awe of God all our life as we live together in the power of the Spirit. Our lives will be messier, but they’ll be happier. Remember Jesus Christ, “for the joy set before him he endured the cross.

Here are the questions to start asking: Who do we invite over? How many nights a week can we have an open home? Who can we befriend? How can we work hard to build gospel hospitality into our lives as far as the Lord will allow?

That means the books we buy should be bought with the intention of giving to others to help in their time of need. The food we buy should be bought with the intention of feeding lots of others – so we always have something in bulk we can make on a whim. The way we lay out our home creates as much comfortable space as possible for people to linger.  We always have good coffee and good tea and good snacks. The fire is always ready in winter and the AC in summer. The yard is always cut and ready for a backyard hangout. The play room has toys for all ages-not just for kids.

We have a nice TV for football games and Olympics and March madness parties, not just to watch our movies and our shows. Our front door is unlocked and open. Our backdoor is how our kids’ friends get in the house. Our garage and attic houses the extra stuff we need for others, not just storage space for our old memories. Our floors are clean for babies and the bathroom is clean for guests. Our personal time and space are held lightly because we are selfish people by nature who only think we know what we want. Our hearts are wide open to people we don’t even like. We buy cokes, and beer, and water bottles, and half and half, and milk, and juice, and paper plates, and cups, and plastic forks because we are always ready for company. We use all 8 chairs at the dining room table regularly. We don’t stress over perfect meals or a perfect house or a perfect schedule but welcome all as Christ has welcomed us.

The nicest things we have will be broken. The cheapest things we have will become treasures because of the memories of all the people who used our old plates and mismatched cups and dearly held coffee mugs.

We cannot do any of this without it being a call from God and without the Spirit’s help. We have both.

Let’s always think, are we ready for company if they showed up tonight?

May God turn our home, and your home, into a refuge from the world for more than just you and your children, but for your neighborhood, your church family, your kids’ schoolmates, your coworkers, your city.

What Joy Is

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Matthew 13:44


I remember my grandfather owning a metal detector. As a kid, I’d go out in the yard with him and walk slowly, waving the detector back and forth with each step as if I was vacuuming the grass. I never found anything, but who’s going to find any treasures in the back yard of a suburban neighborhood? They found all the good stuff when they developed the land, I’m sure.

But I kept at it, not because I thought I’d find a pot of treasure just beneath the oak tree out back, but because the mere thought of the possibility was worth the time and effort. The anticipation kept me going.

From time to time we’d take that old thing out to the country where my grandfather grew up. I think his goal was to find some old Indian artifacts – arrowheads, maybe, or some old Civil War musket balls. But I never saw him find anything out there either. Even if he had, he would have hardly moved out of his house and bought the field where he found an arrowhead. It’s just not worth that much.

No one sells everything they have unless they’ve found something better than everything they have. And even then we weigh the cost heavily. Sometimes the life we know, as dull and joyless as it may be, is better than the life we don’t know, with all the risks involved, even if that new life gives hope of greater joy. As much as we are joy-seekers, we are also risk-avoiders, deeply held by the life we’ve come to accept.

Jesus’s parable in Matthew 13:44 is one of his shortest, but its length is not a measure of its insight.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. We know this is true, don’t we -that the treasure is hidden? Because all of us have been searching for the joy that never fades since we were able to breathe. Babies cry out when they need the smallest amount of comfort. Then we grow up and buy things, or cling to people, or attach ourselves to substances to give us the high our everyday lives can’t provide. Joy is hidden. It’s hard to find.

But when this man finds it he knows what he’s found. He goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.

He’s crazy. Unless he’s right.

The parable is about the gospel. It’s about Jesus. If Jesus is who he says he is, and the gospel is the news of his coming, and dying, and rising, and living, then that treasure is worth more than the entire world. It’s worthy of another world – the true world, hidden from view, but as real as the chair you’re sitting on.

If Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and death, and he’s offering freedom to come to God through his finished work, we would be crazy to shrug our shoulders and walk away to find another arrowhead in the soil. We should react the way this man does. Jesus is worth everything.

Christians know this. It’s one of the amazing things about the Bible: verses like this become reality for the reader. We understand this. Jesus has become our treasure, and we’re not giving him up. Or, more appropriately, he’s not giving us up.

The real joy of this parable is not that we find Jesus in a field and leave all to follow him, but that he came down to the field and found us, and somehow, considered us joy worthy of having. He entered our world, and lived our life, and died our death, and rose for our justification. He found us, laying in the field, in our own blood, and rose up, followed the Father to the cross, and gave himself up.

Jesus sold all he had and bought the field. Aren’t you glad you live in it?


The Central Problem of Our Age


“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”

― Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People

Those words, written over 40 years ago, were prophetic then, and sadly, still so today. Communism has proven to be senseless, and the new Roman Catholicism of Schaeffer’s time is approaching middle age now. But the truth of these words are not in the examples surrounding, or opposing, the church, but within the church itself, just as Schaeffer points out.

You might, after a thorough reading of Schaeffer’s works, conclude that he was overly critical of the evangelical church. He wrote about it a lot, and with a broad-brush. He himself gave much of his life, especially his middle and later years, to a parachurch ministry out in Switzerland, L’Abri. But to think that Schaffer was anti-church is a mistake. He understood the church and its problems. He had person after person live with him in his home who were turned out by the church. He was critical, yes, but not unnecessarily so. His words, I believe, can help us see ourselves as we really are, and seek the Lord for necessary change.

Reformed churches can be cold places, where theology is high but personal relationships are low. That’s not all Reformed churches, but it is surely some. And that’s a problem because the higher our view of God and the Scriptures goes, the higher an emphasis on the beauty of personal relationships we should have. As our view of the sufficiency of the Scriptures goes, so go the radiance of our relationships. But it is not always so. Often you find people living together in beautiful openness and harmony in liberal churches, but they lack the theology to sustain it long-term. In a place where everything goes, nothing will suffice in the end. There will never be enough truth to buttress the relationships.

A church that takes the Bible straight should expect to see, over time, real, deep, beautiful relationships flourish because the foundation of the entire ministry is built upon the solid rock of commandments such as “love your neighbor as yourself.” The problem in many churches is not the wrong doctrine, but the wrong consequences of that doctrine on the life of the church. Schaffer calls this doing “the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.” In other words, doing the Lord’s work in our way, rather than doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.

If we are to see an explosion of conversions, a revival in both doctrinal faithfulness and true conversion, and a vibrant ministry of reconciliation, we are going to have to take the Bible straight. We cannot put the Bible aside as a book of good advice for hard times and expect to experience the good times we hope for. If we want real beauty in real churches, we need to have a real truth as soft as a pillow when we fall face down during the hard days of life together.

If we don’t have the Bible’s promises of relational beauty, we won’t have the courage to continue on. At some point, we will fracture because at some point we will contradict even our own moral standards. We can never fully live up to one another’s standards, and we can never fully live up to God’s either, but God offers grace to failures who admit their sins. We just kill each other for them – repentant or not. And that isn’t biblical. The “one-anothers” of Scripture call us to much more than mere coexistence. They call us to sacrificial love and bold community.

We can do ministry in one of two ways: in our power of in the Lord’s power. One way leads to death in the church, the other leads to life. The first is, by far, easier day in and day out, but the second is more glorious, by far, moment by moment.

We might wage war against the culture, against the President, against liberalism, or socialism, or any other “ism”, but “the central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”


What Are You Chasing?

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

As Solomon concludes his teaching, he sums up everything he’s been trying to say with these words from verse 13 of chapter 12, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” That’s a stunning statement. Everything we are living for, if it isn’t consciously submitted to God, is a vapor. This is the entire point of the book of Ecclesiastes.

We are prone to give our lives to almost everything but God. In fact, we are so sinful that unless God breaks into our lives and recreates our heart, we will pursue everything the world offers without ever finding lasting satisfaction. Solomon knew this. He lived it. Ecclesiastes is his witness to the reality of how easily we can waste our lives. So, he ends with these words to put us on the right path for fruitful living. After chronicling all of the ways the richest person in the world can chase happiness and satisfaction, he tells us plainly the only way to gain all that we really want.

Life in this world goes fast. It is a vapor. So much of what we do won’t last. We will build things to hand off to others, who may or may not steward it well. We will accumulate things only to see them given away. We will pay for things that rot over time. Everything of this world stays of this world. The only thing we carry around with us that will go with us after death is us. So, what are you living for? That’s the question Solomon raises in this book. What you are living for will tell everything you need to know about who you are. Are you living for God or for the world?

Since life in this world doesn’t last forever, there must be something eternal to live for or you will waste your life. And since few things in existence are eternal, we better be sure that we focus on those few things that are eternal above everything else. Here’s how we do that: “Fear God and keep his commandments.”

This focuses on two eternal realities, the only two eternal realities. God has always been eternally present. We, his creation whom he loves, are eternal from our conception. So we, the creation, must respect God, the Creator. We must fear God and keep his commandments.

To fear God means to worship God as God. Fearing God is giving him the respect, honor, and glory that the Lord of all creation is due. God is God; there is no other (Isa. 45:5). We fear God when we read the Bible and receive it whole, without filtering it down to fit our current construct of him. We don’t want to define God for him. We let him define himself. He sets the rules in our life.

Sinclair Ferguson explains the fear of God this way:

“The fear of God is not terror. Terror of God is the reaction of guilt in the face of his holy power. It desires only to run from him in despair. Through every aspect of his character God means to show us his glory. This he loves to do more than anything else. Moreover, he loves his people so much that he will let nothing stand in the way of them coming to share in this glory. The person who sees this learns what it means to fear God. It means to be filled with a sense of breathtaking awe at his character. It means to realize with shame that although we have been made to live as his image, we have forfeited by our sin our privileges and our destiny. It means also that we have begun to realize the costly way in which he restores that glory to us. The fear of God in some ways defies our attempts at definition, because it is really another way of saying ‘knowing God’. It is a heart-felt love for him because of who he is and what he has done; a sense of being in his majestic presence. It is a thrilling awareness that we have this greatest of all privileges, mingled with a realization that now the only thing that really matters is his opinion. To fear God is to be sensitive to both his greatness and his graciousness. It is to know him and to love him wholeheartedly and unreservedly. To fear God, to trust God, to love God, and to know God – these are really one and the same thing.”

Since God is God, the all-powerful sustainer of life, and since he has given us commandments to follow, we should be very careful to follow them. If God were to show up and tell us this morning how our life would work at its very best, we would pay attention. We would write down every single word he said. We would be on the edge of our seat. We would set our alarm and get up early and be ready for him when he arrives. We wouldn’t waste that time. Well, through his word God has given us that gift. He has told us how life works. More than that, he has told us in every way imaginable. He has given us narratives. He has expressed it in poetry. He has given us songs and proverbs and examples. In Ecclesiastes, he gives us the wisdom that he gave to Solomon. It turns out that Solomon’s wisdom wasn’t for his own use only. It was also God’s amazing gift to us. And the sum of his wisdom, after a life spent chasing everything else, is that we should fear God and keep his commandments.

We can try to live another way. We can pursue everything we think will satisfy us. Or we can listen to a man who went after it all, got it all, and was disappointed in the end. What that man says is that the end of the matter is this, that we should fear God and keep his commandments, because that is the whole duty of man. Loving Jesus for who he really is means we want to keep his commandments without any shortcuts. And that, according to Ecclesiastes 12:13, is the whole of life. We love God and obey him.

The question for us, then, is this: what are you chasing today and how can the grace of God in the gospel of Christ speak to the longing behind that chase?

When Prayer Flys a Plane

Over the course of three months, in the summer of 1947, as Europe picked up the rubble of World War II, Francis Schaeffer took a trip. His goal was to gather facts about the Church in Europe as the American Secretary of the American Council of Christian Churches. He visited thirteen countries, interviewed countless pastors and Christian leaders, listened to reports and lectures and sermons, and visited Europe’s art museums. After a grueling three months, he began his long flight home to St. Louis. In his book, Death in the City, he tells us what happened.

As we started across the ocean, the Northern Lights stretched like a grew bow on our right. Halfway, almost to the minute, between Shannon and Gander, both motors on my side of the plane stopped at once. We fell about 3,000 feet in a very few minutes….

I had already flown a lot, and so I could feel the engines going wrong. I remember thinking, if I’m going to go down into the ocean, I’d better get my coat. When I did, I said to the hostess, “There’s something wrong with the engines.” She was a bit snappy and said, “You people always thing there’s something wrong with the engines.” So I shrugged my shoulder, but I took my coat. I had no sooner sat down that the lights came on and a very agitated copilot came out. “We’re in trouble,” he said. “Hurry and put on your life jackets.”

I fully expected to spend the night on the wing of the plane! My chief concern was my notebook, which had grown thick and heavy during the ninety days, and I was glad I had lost so much weight so that I could stuff it under my belt into my pants. I assured a woman with two children that I would take one of them.

So down we went, and we fell and fell, until in the middle of the night with no moon we could actually see the water breaking under us in the darkness. And as we were coming down, I prayed. Interestingly enough, a radio message had gone out, an SOS that was picked up and broadcast immediately all over the United States in a flash news announcement: “There is a plane falling in the middle of the Atlantic.” My wife heard about this immediately, and she gathered our three little girls together and they knelt down and began to pray. They were praying in St, Louis, Missouri, and I was praying on the plane. And we were going down and down….We could see the waves breaking beneath us and everybody was ready for the crash.

But the plane didn’t crash. Miraculously, the motors kicked on again and the plane rose back into the air. Schaeffer asked the pilot about this after landing.

“Well,” he said, “it’s a strange thing, something we can’t explain. Only rarely do two motors stop on one wing, but you can make a rule that when they do, they don’t start again. we don’t understand it.” So I turned to him and I said, “I can explain it.” He looked at me. “How?” And I said, “My Father in Heaven started it because I was praying.” That man got the strangest look on his face and he turned away. I’m sure he was the man sitting in the materialist’s chair.

Schaeffer taught us that we may sit in one of two chairs. The first is the chair of the consistent materialist, where the world is comprised of nothing but mass, energy, and motion. There is nothing else to it. The other is the chair of the Christian, who lives in light of the Bible’s teaching about the world.

The one in the Materialist’s chair can search the world over to try and understand what is really going on but never comes to full knowledge. He learns a lot, and all of it very true and accurate, but never complete. He cannot know anything of the origin of life, or of the true working of things, or why these things work as they do because he has totally left God out.

On the other hand, the Christian, sitting under the Bible sees the whole of the world – both the seen and unseen. He is, in short, enlightened to the fullness of all that exists, and why it exists as it does. There is the physical world that can be seen and explored, as well as the spiritual world that can only be learned from God’s revelation in the Scriptures.

So the Materialist, though he may spend his life looking at the world as it is, can never actually see what is really there. He sees only one part and has no patience, nor time, nor stomach for the rest. So though he may be able to explain the what, he can never explain the why. Only the Bible gives us the why.

Here Schaeffer is, on a plane with the Materialist. Sitting in a different chair, looking at the same world through a different lens. They both see the engines stop. They both see the waves of the ocean breaking beneath them. But only one knows that there are everlasting arms underneath it all.

The Materialist has no answer for the miracle of the engines, but Schaeffer is not bothered by it in the least. It is no surprise that God would work in this way. He’s been doing it all along, and he’ll continue to do it for eternity. The chair of the Christian factors God into all things at all times, and that makes all the difference.

The Materialist can never pray because he does not believe anyone will listen. The Christian can always pray because he believes God is there to always listen.