STAYING-IN-THE-LOOP | An occasional blog to keep you up-to-date with AIIA, Christian apologetics, and the Maine Witmer Family

August 2018 Witmer Family Update

Never before in my life has four months seemed to fly by so quickly.

Our sabbatical was wonderful. Except for the threat of Mary’s impending surgery and the considerable time spent in trying to arrange for home care when that happens, it was an almost totally positive experience.

I was able to relax in the sun on beautiful quiet Homer Hill, read more widely than I have for years, and together with Mary enjoy numerous day trips or overnight trips to some of our favorite spots along the Maine coast. Doing that also freed Mary up from cooking and cleaning and other routine responsibilities at home and here at the AIIA office.

Perhaps most importantly we were able to pray together and think about how we would like to focus our efforts in ministry with AIIA over the next few years, as God allows. More details on that coming in future months.

As regards the status of Mary’s diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis, not a great deal has changed since her echocardiogram in early July (see previous blog entry). She continues to experience almost zero concerning symptoms, e.g. lightheaded, short of breath, weakness.

We are convinced that this is God’s power at work because earlier this year we were all — including the cardiologist — convinced that she would probably be due for surgery late this Summer or early Fall. But she really wanted to be feeling well for a visit from Andrew and his family in August — and that is happening now, as I write!

We have no guarantee of what next month or even tomorrow may bring (who does?), but it seems clear that for now God in His mercy has moved to grant us some additional time before the next step in this journey. 

The photo at top was taken with my parents (Gene & Ann Witmer), my brother Randy and his wife Glenda, my sister Gina and her husband Jack, and Mary and me on July 16 in Lititz PA when we gathered to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. Dad is now approaching 91, so we were very blessed to have spent this time together with them all again, another benefit of God’s provision in holding off any further worsening of Mary’s condition for now, thus allowing us to travel to Pennsylvania.

Thank you for your prayers, concern, and interest in reading along.

Daryl E. Witmer

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July 2018 Witmer Family Update

Mary had her most recent echocardiogram on Monday, July 2. The very next day we received a call from her cardiologist’s office with some surprising news — her numbers had actually improved since April. This is evidently not routinely the case with aortic valve stenosis, which typically progressively worsens. So we’re very much thanking God that — at the very least — we now seem to have been granted some additional time and normalcy. Her next echocardiogram is scheduled for early October — unless she begins to experience symptoms before then.

Many of you have been praying. God’s power is released through the effective prayers of His people (James 5:16b). He is also merciful. And He is always sovereign over all of the “whens” and the “whethers” and the “hows” concerning this matter and every other circumstance in your life and ours. Those are the truths that we intend to hold onto as this story plays out.

Our four-month sabbatical ends on July 31. Four days later AIIA’s next Faith Matters event is scheduled at 2:00 PM on August 4. A volunteer work team from Grace Point Church in Paradise PA rolls in later that same afternoon. And our son Andrew and his family are also planning to be with us during that first full week in August as Andrew works on a book about Monson’s past.

Between now and then we’re planning a quick trip to Pennsylvania to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday.

So the pace quickens. See AIIA’s listing for more details about all of what’s happening this Summer and Fall.

Thanks so much for your interest in reading along once again.

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Alpine Water Troughs & the Evidence of Personality

One deeply memorable impression of my visit to L’Abri in Huemoz Switzerland in 1972 was of the water troughs in that picturesque little Swiss village. Water flowed freely and continually into those troughs from some higher alpine meadow or snow pack. Then the overflow would run down to a trough on a street below, then on down the steep slopes to another trough below, and so on.

In his book The God Who Is There, L’Abri’s founder, Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, describes how lakes in the Swiss Alps only ever form from water running down from higher lakes or sources. In other words, water never flows uphill. Then Schaeffer writes this: “Personality is like that; no one has ever thought of a way of deriving personality from nonpersonal sources.”

No scientist, naturalistic evolutionist, or non-Christian religious leader has ever offered a credible postulate for how human personality might have developed, or even could ever develop, from mere chemicals and inanimate matter, plus time and chance.

In contrast, the Christian worldview does just that. It includes the fundamental claim that an infinite yet personal God created men and women in His own image as distinct conscious reasoning beings. 

How is it plausible for human personality to be sourced in an impersonal “Cosmic Force,” “ultimate underlying reality,” “pervasive principle” — e.g. Brahman — as is proposed by Hinduism and other Eastern or New Age belief systems?

The existence of human personality therefore becomes a powerful apologetic for the existence of the God of the Bible — the God who became incarnate in a real human, Jesus Christ, who invites us all to know Him personally and truly — though not exhaustively — by faith today, right now, in this life.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NASB)

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV)

NOTE: The July-August 2018 issue of AIIA’s bimonthly printed publication, the Proclamation, has just been released. If you are among the 10,000+ addresses to which this thoughtletter is mailed, it should soon be in your mailbox. If not and if you would like to be included in this free postpaid mailing, we’ll send it to you for the asking. Contact us at: http://aiiainstitute.org/contact-us/ to receive this one-page paper — or with any other questions and/or response to the article above.

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June 2018 Family Update

Mary and I were in the midst of our AIIA board-appointed sabbatical recently, quietly checking out a Native American Spring festival in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine, totally minding our own business, when I was suddenly ambushed by this Navajo Indian brave asking if he could have his picture taken with me!

Well, that’s technically true. But in the interest of full disclosure, there is the minor detail that I first asked him if I could have Mary snap a photo of the two of us. He agreed but then, when I mentioned that I might be tempted to tell people that it happened the other way around, he quickly obliged and actually did ask me for permission to pose with me. He said that way I would be telling the truth when I reported the story that way. Great idea. So I agreed, he handed me his gun, Mary snapped the photo above, and we all parted company with our scalps and integrity intact.

For a few moments that day, Christian apologetics was a thousand miles from my mind — and that, after all, is an important part of what sabbaticals are supposed to be all about, right? Breaking with routine. Gaining fresh perspectives. Clearing out cobwebs. Thinking new thoughts. Spending more time with God. Developing larger vision. Meeting Navajo Indian braves.

So thanks to all of you who have gotten behind us with gifts, prayers, and notes — encouraging us to make the most of this four-month hiatus. The time has been flying by and is now, alas, over half complete. How can I slow the clock down and lock this in?!

By mid-April we had reluctantly given up the idea of taking our long-anticipated trip West. But we have enjoyed a number of extended weekend trips right here in Maine. It’s been good, refreshing, and almost 100% positive EXCEPT for one black cloud — Mary’s impending open heart surgery (see previous blogs), which seems always to be hovering on the horizon, and edging ever closer.

With only one significant exception she has remained symptom-free. But as we await the results of her next echocardiogram in early July, we remain keenly aware that the cardiologist has projected late Summer or Fall as the time when symptoms will most likely begin to manifest. We’ll see. Meanwhile, the most pressing concern for me is arranging for reliable home care (for both of us) during the time that Mary is in the hospital and recovering for six weeks or so here in Monson. The majority of home care agencies are frustratingly short-staffed statewide here in Maine these days and, although we’ve had a few thoughtful volunteers step forward, we’ve thus far not been able to put a really certain plan in place. We’re determined to trust God in this, but I also believe that it is up to me to do what I can to make necessary arrangements. How difficult it has been to know how to balance the two.

Anyway — thanks once again for your continued interest in following along as the drama of this next chapter in our lives unfolds — and for your ongoing faithful support in prayer and otherwise.

Stay tuned by checking — or better yet subscribing to — this blog for updates on at least a monthly basis, or even sooner if or when there are any significant developments.

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May 2018 Update on Mary

Mary and I met with her cardiologist in Bangor earlier today — May 3, 2018. Based on her most recent echocardiogram in April, and unless she begins experiencing symptoms, Dr. Crespo continues to advise that we await the results of her next echocardiogram in July before proceeding to set a date for open heart aortic valve replacement. Dr. Crespo’s best guess is that she will need surgery by late Summer or Fall at the latest. Meanwhile she is clear to continue maintaining her normal activities and routine while avoiding heavy lifting and especially strenuous activity.

So it seems that we have been granted one more window of time to make necessary arrangements in anticipation of this event. That is especially appreciated because we have yet to put a viable plan for my own personal care in place. Few home care agencies service our more remote part of Maine and two other tentative plans that we had been considering now seem even more tentative. We invite your prayers as we continue to consider the rather limited realistic options.

Thank you for your interest and support during this next challenging chapter of our lives. If circumstances change, we plan to keep you informed right here in this blog, on this website.

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Suppressing Christian Truth

 

I once heard about a birthday card that on the outside read: “I was in a card store the other day looking for a card with a message that would fit you when suddenly this born again Christian guy came up to me and started quoting Scripture.” On the inside of the card it read: “So I shot him. Happy Birthday!” 

Well, if you don’t like Christian truth, I suppose that’s one way of dealing with it.

In God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis describes another approach. “The man is shirking. He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true or false, because he foresees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true. He is like the man who deliberately ‘forgets’ to look at the notice board because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty. He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what he might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor might tell him.” 

Lewis continues: “The man who remains an unbeliever for such reasons is not in a state of honest error. He is in a state of dishonest error, and that dishonesty will spread through all his thoughts and actions: a certain shiftiness, a vague worry in the background, a blunting of his whole mental edge, will result. He has lost his intellectual virginity.” 

Lewis concludes by saying that to evade Jesus and His claims, “to look the other way, to pretend you haven’t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might be He who was ringing up, to leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because they might be from Him—this is a different matter [than having honest objections]. You may not be certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a Man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand.”

Scott Sauls is the pastor of a large Presbyterian church in Nashville TN. He wrote this in his blog on April 4, 2018:

“Recently, I spoke with a man who had heard the story of Jesus and the ‘many convincing proofs’ of the resurrection several times in his life. Yet, this man seemed deeply defensive, even overtly hostile, to the idea of becoming a Christian himself. I pointed out to my friend that he seemed not merely to disagree with the Gospel message, but that he seemed prone to also attack it. I asked him why this was so.

After a quiet pause, he answered, ‘Okay, Scott, I’ll tell you the truth. I’ll tell you the real reason why I dislike Christianity. It’s not because the evidence is unconvincing to me. In fact, the opposite is true. But I still don’t ever want to become a Christian because if I do, Jesus will ask me to forgive my father for the ways that he hurt me.’

Then Pastor Sauls wrote this: “I have had many similar conversations in which the person in front of me, when push came to shove, had no issues with the rational aspect of faith—but used the rational arguments as a smokescreen. For each of these friends and family members, beneath the surface was something about Christian discipleship—something about the narrow path of Jesus—that bothered them on a visceral level about the call to agree with and follow Jesus in every area of life. For my friend with the difficult father story, it was a painful memory of his deceased father that he didn’t want to release to God.” Sauls adds: “For others, it is difficult to envision surrendering to Jesus their approach to money, their sexuality, their prejudice, their addictions, their divisive and partisan attitudes, or their self-righteousness. And yet, the call to consider Christ remains the same. Embracing the resurrection and absolute lordship of Jesus Christ come as a package deal.”

Today’s culture regularly attacks Christian truth by marginalizing its message and openly ridiculing Christians, often with sharp sarcasm. Christian truth claims are seldom given the benefit of the doubt. They are viewed skeptically. They are not politically correct. Christian values are routinely assaulted, directly and subtly.

The Bible says that God becomes angry when people suppress and crack down on the truth that He exists in order to go on living and promoting immorality (Romans 1:18). But He will deal in mercy with those who accept the truth about Him in Jesus and turn to Him. He will welcome them as children (John 1:12).

Have you been shirking truth, ignoring truth, avoiding truth, attacking truth, or suppressing truth? Let me invite you to turn to the One who is truth. The meaning and peace in life that will result from knowing Jesus personally will surpass whatever cost there may be for you in turning to Christ. And God will grant you grace and strength to pay those costs.

If you are already a follower of Jesus and want to persuade others to Christ, keep in mind that some of those with whom you share the gospel, who cite intellectual objections as their reason for not believing, are actually throwing up a smokescreen. This is especially key for every Christian who strives to be an effective apologist for the faith (which should be every Christian)  At some point we may have to realize that a particular person’s real reason for rejecting Christ is not intellectual at all. It’s stubbornness and selfishness. We may have to call them out on that score.

I remember once answering question after question that a man brought to me about Christian belief. I would answer one question and he would raise another. Finally I said to him, “Dennis, what would you accept as sufficient evidence? If I was to answer 101 more questions to your satisfaction, what then? Even at that point would you be prepared to turn to Jesus?” He looked at me and grinned. He knew the game was up.

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April 2018 Witmer Family Update

Thanks to so many of you who have written, called, and/or been praying about Mary’s diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis since January. It means a great deal. 

Mary’s latest echocardiogram on April 3 showed that her condition has now worsened and is considered severe, making her a candidate for surgery. Nevertheless, her cardiologist believes that at this point the actual decision to proceed with open heart surgery should be symptom-driven, and to date Mary remains totally asymptomatic. No shortness of breath, chest pains, or dizziness.

So unless or until she begins experiencing such symptoms, we will remain in a sort of holding pattern for at least another month. We are scheduled to meet with Dr. Crespo on May 3 for further consultation. Her next echocardiogram is set for early June.

Meanwhile, we are grateful for each good today together and are thankful to God for a little extra time to arrange for this major event. The home care system is complex and it has been frustratingly difficult to get a comprehensive plan in place for my own care when this event unfolds.

On a positive note, John Wyatt Witmer (our youngest grandson, now nearly four years of age, who was born with HLHS, a serious congenital heart condition) just had his most recent examination at the UVA hospital in Charlottesville VA this past week — and the decision was made to postpone his next heart surgery until 2019!

Mary and I are now two weeks into our four-month sabbatical and are already appreciating what changes in the routine have been possible. Thanks for your prayers about that, as well — especially that the sabbatical not be compromised by distractions.

We’re much anticipating a visit with our son Andrew and his family when they arrive in early August from Harrisonburg VA.

Our son Stephen has recently contracted with InterVarsity to author a book on the importance of serving in small-town churches, part of a larger movement which he is now spearheading and that includes Small Town Summit seminars throughout New England. See more at: https://www.smalltownsummits.com

And our youngest son Tim will be putting his Maine Guide license to good use when he co-leads a major wilderness trip on the Gaspé Peninsula later this Spring.

More later.

For now, thanks again for your ongoing interest and support of our lives and work.

NOTE: See the entire Witmer family by clicking on the thumbnail photo at: 

http://aiiainstitute.org/about-us/the-maine-witmers/

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Good Friday 2018

On this Good Friday 2018 the words of the late Anglican minister, John W. Stott, come to mind: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross.” “In a real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”

Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Is there any other religion or worldview whose leader and founder offers what Jesus offers — to come alongside us humans in our struggles and adversity — as a fellow sufferer?!

“No one understands like Jesus, When the days are dark and grim. No one is so near, so dear as Jesus; Cast Your every care on Him.” (John W. Peterson)

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March 2018 Update on Mary

In spite of maintaining a normal rigorous routine (which includes walking on her treadmill most every day, carrying wash baskets up the basement steps, and much more) — all of which the doctors have encouraged her to do — Mary continues to experience absolutely no symptoms whatsoever of her aortic valve stenosis. Until or unless this changes, the next step will be another echocardiogram on April 3. We’ll plan to provide an update here shortly after we learn the results of that test. Meanwhile, thanks so much for your prayers on our behalf, and for your comments and encouragement. We always read and appreciate all of what you write, even if we don’t reply. At the very least, it seems that God has afforded us some additional time to adjust to the idea of what’s probably coming, and to make necessary arrangements.

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What About Theistic Evolution?

Generally speaking, mainstream science today endorses a version of Darwinian evolution which proposes that humans are the unanticipated result of wholly natural random forces at work over long ages. But because the Bible makes it clear that a sovereign infinite personal God fully intended from before time that humans would exist, Christians who align with modern science have to somehow involve God in their explanation of human origins. That gets tricky. So theistic evolutionists and evolutionary creationists often avoid taking any explicit position of just how God was involved. Dr. Francis Collins and BioLogos claim that, while certain evolutionary mechanisms “could be” directed, once God created matter and evolution took over, no further divine intervention “was required.” Well then, which is it — directed or not directed?

In an introduction to a formidable exhaustive new critique of theistic evolution, Dr. Stephen Meyer points out that attempts to accommodate both possibilities can lead to a logical contradiction:

“ . . . if the theistic evolutionist means to affirm the standard neo-Darwinian view of the natural selection/mutation mechanism as an undirected process while simultaneously affirming that God is still causally responsible for the origin of new forms of life, then the theistic evolutionist implies that God somehow guided or directed an unguided and undirected process. Logically, no intelligent being—not even God—can direct an undirected process. As soon as he directs it, the ‘undirected’ process would no longer be undirected.”

This brief commentary is part of the result of my March 2018 review of THEISTIC EVOLUTION: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, © 2017 Crossway. This reference incorporates articles by over 20 contributors, including Stephen Meyer, Wayne Grudem, Paul Nelson, and J. P. Moreland. It’s a real tome — over 1,000 pages — and can be rather academic at times. But it’s a work that will hopefully serve the worthwhile purpose of demonstrating that Christians do not need to, and should not, “yield to contemporary evolutionary theory.” — Daryl E. Witmer, Executive Director, AIIA Institute.

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Introducing our latest AIIA initiative


Welcome to our new blog! 
I really hope that you’ll “follow” along by subscribing with your email address at right. Or bookmark this page and check in often.

The pace of life slows during the winter months here in north central Maine. So I try to catch up on my backlog of unread books.

I just finished reading Humble Apologetics by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Here’s a notable excerpt: “The heart of the Christian religion is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and it is this to which [Christian] apologists hope to point their neighbors.”

That’s certainly a major purpose in my life. So it will be a major purpose of this blog.

I also intend to keep you up-to-date between bimonthly issues of our thoughtletter. A lot can happen in two months.

Some blogs will be brief and others longer. The blogs will be posted on no regular basis. I’ll write when I have something to say, not just because of some arbitrary deadline.

As long as it works, we’ll allow response (below). So drop us a comment if you choose.

God’s best to you until next time.

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Daryl E Witmer

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