WHERE IS EVERYBODY?

The Fermi Paradox is just a problem from Logic 101. If A implies B, then NOT B implies NOT A. That is absolutely, always true.

For instance, if the position of the moon [A] predictably controls the tide [B] (It does.), then an unpredictable ebb and flow of the tide [NOT B], would necessarily mean that it is not governed by the position of the moon [NOT A]. (Fortunately for every fisherman on the high seas, the tides are accurately forecast on a published daily schedule [B], precisely because they are controlled by the position of the moon [A].)

The problem that Enrico Fermi posed was that there are numerous stars which are very much like our sun. And there is a high degree of probability that there are also planets like our Earth, capable of supporting intelligent life. Some of these planets are measurably millions of years older than our own. They have had a huge head start on sending explorers across the universe.

If that’s true, it should have happened “a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” But Star Wars is all fantasy. Visitors from outer space should be an everyday occurrence, but they are not.

Fermi, then, asked the hard question. If our Earth produced intelligent life [A], why is there NO EVIDENCE of alien space travel [B] from planets equally capable of sustaining astronauts? So Fermi put the question simply. He asked, “Where is everybody?” Because the TRUTH is that NOT B conclusively implies NOT A. In other words, the whole premise has to be wrong. The Laws of Probability and Logic demand the conclusion: If they are not here, it is because they are not there!

The right answer is that neither the Earth, nor any other planet is capable of PRODUCING life, intelligent or otherwise.

“Poems are made by fools like me,
but only God can make a tree.”

The Earth didn’t produce life, God produced life ON earth. “No evidence” of alien space travel just demonstrates that he sent his ONLY Son to the ONLY planet where he had planted the ONLY race of beings worth the sacrifice.

Jesus did not die for little green men, he gave himself for YOU.

The G.I.’s Mite

Biloxi, MS, c.1974. My wife and I were brand new Christians, just beginning to learn of the faithfulness of God.

Early in his own ministerial career, Jerry Savelle had come to speak in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. At a morning service, he previewed the approaching evening event, announcing that he would be preaching from Matthew 10, on the hundredfold blessing.

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Bro. Savelle then caught our attention by stating that anyone with a financial need should be sure to bring an offering. “Even if you only have a quarter,” he said, “bring that.”

We smiled knowingly at each other. We were so broke, we actually didn’t know if we had a quarter!

I was in the military at the time. Through an administrative glitch, Uncle Sam had neglected to send my paycheck. (The government still paid by check back then.) It had been several weeks since we had had any income at all, so we knew the coffers were empty.

But we still had an abundance of faith, and God had given us direction by the mouth of his servant. So we set about searching the house for anything we could bring for an offering. We managed to find just two dimes in the kitchen. Then we tore the couch apart, and gathered joyfully five more pennies. That was all the money in the whole house!

We had to ride to service with our pastor, Kirby C. Hunter, since we had no gas money for our own car. It was really that tight!

We said nothing to anyone about our “G.I.’s mite” contribution [Luke 21:1-4]. But we had our eyes firmly fixed on the loving kindness of our God.

At the appropriate time, I was assigned to take up the offering. (We used a five gallon ice cream bucket–it was an outdoor meeting.) As I completed the task by throwing in my own meager offering, a man approached me with an envelope in his hand. He said, “The Lord told me to give this to you.”

I took the envelope and threw it in the bucket with the rest. But He immediately became agitated, saying, “No, no! That’s for you personally.” I was puzzled, but I retrieved the envelope and found that it contained forty-six dollars in cash, and a check for fifty dollars. I’m no mathematician, but I knew that was more than a hundredfold return on twenty-five cents! [In 1974, ninety-six dollars was a great deal of money for our young family. It would easily buy groceries for a month.]

Jesus had showed Himself faithful, not only to know our plight, and to perceive our faith in taking Him at His Word. He was also able to speak explicitly to someone who had no knowledge of our situation, and to direct the release of funds in the hour of need. The check demonstrated that God had the power and foreknowledge to specifically send help to us, BY NAME, before we obeyed His command to give our last quarter! We also understood that the Lord was committed to taking care of His own, even when we couldn’t count on the U.S. Government.

Over forty years later, we can still say, He has never let us down.

Eph.3:20-21 “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 71:17-18

“O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.
“Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” (Psalm 71:17-18)

Nehemiah’s Concern

 

Nehemiah’s story opens with his inquiry into conditions in the distant city of Jerusalem. His brother’s reply elicits a response from him that highlights critical principles of intercession.

Before we can comprehend these powerful essentials, we need to come to a New Testament perspective on the process. Most people believe, in sincere ignorance, that they ought to “say a prayer,” or “say their prayers.” Today, Facebook is filled with comments like “sending prayers your way.”

The scriptures portray something entirely different. When King Herod kept Peter in prison, “prayer was made” for him by the church. (Acts 12:5) Likewise, Paul went to the riverside near Philippi because “prayer was wont to be made” there. (Acts 16:13)

One of my favorite “Finnisms” (derived from the preaching of my mentor) states, “If you want to have Grandma’s cake, you have to use Grandma’s recipe.” New Testament prayer is a thing that is made, the way a master chef makes a good stew. We have to use all the right ingredients.

Nehemiah is drawn into prayer in a way that portrays for us some of “granny’s fixin’s”:

  1. Concern. KJV accurately uses a choice of words which is justified more by the spirit of the passage than by literal translation. “I asked them concerning the Jews… and concerning Jerusalem.”

The most fundamental ingredient in offering an “effectual fervent prayer” is concern.

Too often, we Christians come up short in prayer simply because we don’t allow ourselves to be touched by our objective. We cannot offer the “prayer of faith” without bringing our affections to bear on the matter before us.

An indifferent heart will never move the hand of God.

Most of the time, the painful truth is that God doesn’t respond simply because we don’t care. A little “now I lay me down to sleep” ditty cannot draw upon the power of heaven.

Effective prayer always arises from an attitude of concern.

  1. Jerusalem. The king’s cupbearer lives in the luxurious splendor of the palace in Susa, but he seeks the welfare of impoverished Jerusalem. He has to reset his priorities to align with those of God Himself.

Jerusalem is an Old Testament type, depicting the New Testament anti-type, the Church of the Living God. (Heb.12:22-24, Gal.4:23-26). The prayer of Nehemiah, then, foreshadows the Church’s burden for revival praying. He interceded for the city of God, and for the people of God. We must do likewise.

Hanani gives a sobering report of the conditions in the province. Like the Church today, the people are exposed to trouble and disgrace. The same reasons are readily apparent in both cases:

  • The heir of King David is no longer honored upon his throne.
  • The walls of prayer are broken down.
  • The gates of safe passage into the city of grace are burned with the fiery darts of the wicked one.
  • Demonic powers have free access to the holy place.

We must never gloss over the truth of our condition. There is a desperate need for someone to stand in the gap between the righteous indignation of God and the sin of His people.

Where are the Nehemiahs of today? Does anyone even know how to prevail with God for mercy?

  1. Mourned. Nehemiah is shattered by the evil report. He surrenders himself to his grief in the manner of Babylon. (Ps. 137:1, Dan. 9:3) Weeping and lamenting, he sits down like Job among the ashes. (Job 2:8) Fasting and praying (just like the people of Nineveh–Jonah 3:5-7), he humbles himself in repentance before God.

Powerful intercession is rooted in hearts that break for those things that break God’s heart.

  1. Certain Days. Shock and grief weigh upon Nehemiah for many days. From the month Chisleu, when he hears the news (Neh. 1:1), till the king commissions the relief of the Holy City in the month Nisan (Neh. 2:1), his soul is burdened for over fifteen weeks.

This principle never changes. With memorable alliteration, Charles Finney expressed it like this:

“Most people come up to Prevailing Prayer by a Protracted Process.”

Intensity of prayer arises from a deliberate course of action. We need consciously and repeatedly to “set our affection on the things above.” (Col 3:2) We do this when we keep on focusing our attention back to the objectives of prayer.  [It is the way a man “falls in love,” roots for his favorite sports team, or commits to a political party.] Our affections will naturally rise for the object of our attention.

Our work, our bills, our families—even our churches—will all distract us from intercession. These are good things. Entertainment and relaxation are also necessary to our mental health. In fact, the whole world will conspire, so to speak, to distract us from the King’s business of prevailing prayer.

The honest truth is that human frailty and the cares of the world make it an impossible task.

Fortunately, we have help. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom. 8:26)

  1. Day and Night. Anguished yearnings of our souls are required for a move of God, as “deep calleth unto deep.” (Ps. 42:7) But we cannot continuously live our lives on that level and still maintain our sanity.

Right here we find the key to prevailing prayer. Revival praying begins and ends with the Spirit of Prayer, Himself.

There is a silly notion in our churches that 2 Chron. 7:14 means that “If my people will organize themselves and hold prayer meetings…,” that God will be impressed and send revival. We have it all backwards!

The moment we think that “we can do this,” we have already failed the humility test. This is the very “wicked way” from which we must first turn. Then, with protracted self-deprecation, we may seek God’s face, beseeching his Spirit to lead us into the place of prevailing prayer. To think, even for a moment, that we can somehow succeed without Him is the height of hubris!

We will never move God by the works of the flesh.

Nehemiah learned to yield to the Spirit of Prayer, who woos us gently, but inconveniently, to pray when He calls. Even in the night watches, every prayer warrior knows, he will call to us, “Rise and pray.”

All this is preparation, before the heart is even ready to start to reach out to God.

Tradition of Decorum

Religious Tradition requires “proper” decorum in church.

But the scripture says:

  • Lift up your hands in the sanctuary.” (Ps.134:2)
  • Shout unto God with a voice of triumph.” (Ps.47:1)
  • “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth:
  • “make a loud noise, and…
  • rejoice, and sing praise.” (Ps.98:4)

You say you’re not an emotional person? Well who was that driving your car on the freeway?

Really? Isn’t Jesus worth the emotional investment you’d give to a Superbowl game, or a Black Friday sale?

“Give unto the LORD the glory DUE unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.” (Ps.96:8)

Holy Ghost vs. Tradition

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30)

In the mid-1980’s, we attended a particularly anointed worship service.

Perceiving the drawing of God’s Spirit, Dr. Finn interrupted the music to give an altar call. Several people came forward to receive salvation.

(This was clearly a work of the Holy Ghost, since no one comes to Christ without being drawn by the Spirit. (John 6:44))

Still, some religious bully challenged the pastor after service. It was tradition to give the altar call after the preaching. To their religious mind, it was more important to stick to a familiar order-of-service, than to allow the working of God’s Spirit in drawing the souls of men to the foot of the cross!

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17 )

The “Perfect Gentleman” Tradition

Religious Tradition says, “The Holy Ghost is a ‘Perfect Gentleman’.”

  • He would never cause a commotion in church.
  • Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira! (Acts 5:1-10)

Make no mistake. The Spirit of God is never “out of order!” But He doesn’t conform to man’s rules.

  • He’ll knock a man off his horse to get his attention, if needed. (Acts 9:1-6)
  • Demons cry out at his presence. (Acts 8:7)
  • But it was He who brought order out of the chaos at creation. (Gen.1:2)
  • He holds the constellations in their paths. (Heb.1:3)
  • He is a God of ORDER–but He doesn’t TAKE orders!

Tradition of Communion

Tradition says don’t take communion if there’s sin in your life. But that’s not what the passage is about.

Obviously, we all have sin in our lives! But it’s not about sin; it’s about faith.

  • Paul reminds us to consider what we’re doing, and “discern” the Lord’s body. (1Cor.11:26-29)
  • Jesus said, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you…”(1Cor.11:24)
  • His broken body is the source of our healing  (Isa.53:5, Matt.8:16-17, 1Pet.2:24).
  • But all the benefits of His passion are procured by faith. The results of shortsighted participation in the “Lord’s Supper” are then only natural and predictable.
  • “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (1Cor.11:30)
  • Contempt for this healing virtue reduces us to the way of the world, without redemption from sickness and death.

Beware of Traditions

You can be superstitious if you want. Or you can be a Christian. But you can’t be both!”

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus spoke harshly to the religious leaders. (It was the religious people who crucified the Son of God.) Jesus said to them, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” (Mark 7:9)

Religious tradition (and the death it produces) is always in conflict with the Word of the Lord, which is intended to bring us to abundant life. (John 10:10)

Colossians warns us “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Col. 2:8)

Our churches are filled with bullies (scribes and Pharisees), prepared to enforce their traditions at a moment’s notice.

Last year, there was a problem at the wedding of my youngest son. There was a mix-up with the bride’s father. He was long past due. The groomsmen waited, perplexed, in an office. The bridesmaids milled about downstairs. The heartbroken bride stood alone, weeping.

I decided to go to her, to offer her some comfort. As I entered the room, some silly person in a bridesmaid’s dress decided to bully me. “You can’t see the bride before the wedding! It’s tradition.”

Seeing my daughter-in-law in pain, and being assaulted by a religious bully at the same moment, stirred the Holy Ghost in me. In terse, but plain speech, I silenced my assailant. “You can be superstitious if you want. Or you can be a Christian. But you can’t be both!” [Snickers of delight rose from nearby witnesses–bullies depend on witnesses to embarrass and pressure. Doubtless, she had been badgering them too.]

Don’t let bullies drag you down the road of tradition. Challenge every practice with the Word of the Lord. If Jesus didn’t say it, it will probably lead you to dead men’s bones.

Beware… lest any man spoil you…” i.e., leads you away in chains, as the spoils of war!

Nothing is so calculated to bring a person into bondage as religious tradition.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal.5:1)