Hi this is Jim Daly with Focus on the Family. Before we get to our program today, I want to let you know about a fantastic Christian movie about to hit theaters through Fathom Events. The Thorn is a visual spectacle that beautifully shares the passion of Jesus.
And you'll be able to see it on March 6th and 7th. We have a terrific interview with Paul AC from our Plugged In team and John Boland, the creator of The Thorn. Go to PluggedIn.com slash Thorn to see that interview and to find out more. Life and death is in the power of the tongue. So almost like with war, God gives us a positive vision of how communication can be used to impart life, but he equally gives us negative ideas of how this communication can really hurt people.
And I think for us, we need to impart light even in our disagreements because we know how it profoundly changes people and then be very careful your words really hurt. That's Dr. Tim Muehlhoff reflecting on the ways God uses communication to provide grace in our relationships with others. We're really pleased to have him back as we dive into this subject further. And this is Focus on the Family with your host Focus President and author Jim Daly.
Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller. John, I'm really pleased to have Tim back again. We covered some good ground last time, asked some tough questions. Tim's a professor, so he's used to those collegiate style questions.
You know, Professor, tell me the truth. And I think we hit that last time. We did discuss the common dilemma that our world experiences, all the pain that's going on. Probably the most common question is if God is real, then why do children suffer? Right?
That usually pops up as number one. And I think Tim did an excellent job last time kind of explaining God will work miracles. God will work through common grace is what he talked about in terms of invention machines that detect cancer. I mean, the way that he works through human beings to innovate. And then sometimes he's silent and it's beyond us to understand when God does what and how. And that's really the bottom line.
Do we have faith in Christ and faith in the Father simply because he is? And that is the question. Yeah. And if you missed any of that first part, stop by our YouTube channel or get our app. Stop by the show notes. There's a lot of detail and great content in that first portion of the conversation. And Dr. Tim Muehlhoff is professor of communication at Biola University, and he also is a speaker with Biola Center for Marriage and Relationships. And he teaches conflict resolution and family communication, a lot of practical topics.
And he's written a book called Eyes to See, Recognizing God's Common Grace in an Unsettled World. This is an excellent resource. We'll encourage you to stop by the website to get a copy of it or give us a call.
And again, the details are in the show notes or call 800, the letter A in the word family. Tim, welcome back to Focus. Boy, it's great to be with you guys. You sound really busy. How'd you have time to come out here? I will always make time for Focus.
My goodness, that's amazing. You're doing a lot every day, but probably one of the things and I'm a little envious being able to be with college students and talk about life with them. And that's something I wish I could have capacity to do. But is it a fun environment for you? It is a great environment. It keeps you young. That's for sure.
That's the good part. And challenging. And challenging. It's become more challenging. I mean, we are going through a tough time mental health wise, partly because social media has had an interesting effect. It shows you the world in all its good, bad and ugly. All the time.
All the time. You can have 24 hour access to it if you want. And we know our students are really connected to that phone. And we know Facebook depression is for real, the comparison trap. But what this book talks about, particularly with social media, is I can read newspapers from across the world. So I just don't hear about mass shootings in the United States. I hear about mass shootings everywhere.
I can follow what's happening in Ukraine 24 seven if I want to. And it becomes simply overwhelming. And you start to think the world really is spiraling out of control. And students are having a really hard time sitting in this distress. But it's also an opportunity, especially at a Christian school like Biola and the other 150 Christian schools around the country. I would I would use that opportunity to talk about fear not, you know, that God's with us even in this.
I'm excited about this generation coming up. You know, some of the older leadership, they've said, well, you know, they're not as good on orthodoxy and things like that. And I think what we're communicating is God didn't know who to put here for this next generation.
I think that's a very daring thing to say to God, because he knows better than I do who needs to be here, what spirit he's put in, what body for this coming century. Right. Yeah. And these students are activists. They are activists. They want to be outside the classroom.
And let's go do it. And they're truth seekers. I mean, even within the Christian church, they have fair criticism about hypocrisy in the church. It's a good thing. And I'm hopeful that they'll continue to grow in orthodoxy as well as in power and that, you know, that may be exactly what the Lord's plan is. Right.
To raise a generation that not only can speak truth, but do it and talk about common grace. So, yeah, there's a lot with social media that I would pick on as a communication professor. But my goodness, the good of social media. I mean, look at the reach of focus on the family. Well, yeah.
Well, you know, convince yourself the good outweighs the bad. Well, I get it. I get the point. But we can get the positive messages out there as well as as the damaging messages. Sure. Let's let's come back for listeners and viewers that didn't catch last time and just the recap on common grace. Let's just stay with that theme of common grace.
What's the definition again? So the psalmist says in Psalm 145, God is good to all. And sometimes we forget that. But the all part is what common grace is about. God isn't just good to people who love him. He's good to everybody. Rain falls on the just and the unjust so that we can have crops.
We can have agriculture. He gives medical discoveries to non-Christian scientists as much as Christian scientists. He knows what's happening in this world. And he is giving us gifts 24 seven to help us deal with a fallen world that in no way means he can't act miraculously. And we get reports all over the world of God doing exactly that.
He's not limited to common grace, but we've kind of set common grace aside and don't give it its due. And the book was just simply a way of introducing readers to common grace and then giving illustrations that we can share with our coworkers, family members, children, my students. Because we know illustrations are what people remember.
So the book is chock full of these amazing illustrations of inventions and communication techniques that were developed by non-Christians that we use today. And it helps us resolve conflict. You know, Tim, I love numbers. I didn't do that well in statistics in business school, but I enjoyed it. But I do like the data, the metrics.
It seems to prove a case. And in the book, you share some of those statistics that you found on our exposure to violence and war and why it becomes so hard to focus on something other than despair with that bombardment. What's some of that data that you found when it comes to the information coming at us, particularly around war?
Yeah, consider this disturbing statistic. The average person today processes as much as 74 gigabytes of information a day, the equivalent of 16 full length movies being watched back to back to back. Per day?
Per day. I've never done that, but I've gotten about three. Yes, I probably have too. That's called binge watching. I can feel that stat, my goodness. Well, here's what's amazing. 500 years ago, a fairly well-educated person would have received 74 gigabytes of information in his entire lifetime. Wow. So 16 movies in a lifetime versus a day.
A day. Now, there's good and bad with that, but we are bombarded with information. Now, when it comes to war, I'm a rhetoric professor. Rhetoric is public declarations. And when President Putin is rattling that nuclear saber, my students hear that.
Like, hey, could World War III really happen? I think the world hears that. And is appropriately nervous. And at that point as Christians, I think there's a double burden. Like, okay, what's God doing about this? Like, is he doing anything about this? Like, why doesn't he just step in? Why doesn't he take out Putin or why doesn't he just defeat all the armies of Russia like I've seen in the Old Testament?
And I think all of those are legitimate questions. But in the book, I take a look at things like the Geneva Convention, which is a way of saying, listen, in light of the fact that war is going to happen. Yeah, it would be great if we could get rid of war. But military historians tell us, boy, I'll tell you what, humanity and war have always been linked with each other. And as Christians, we shouldn't be surprised about that. Jesus said, yeah, there'll be wars and even rumors of war, so get used to it. In a fallen world, this is going to be part of your life. Now, some of you might be thinking, why doesn't God just get rid of it? Why try to manage it? Well, that goes back to one of the central points in the book is God is working for human partners.
Right? Could God take care of creation? Does he need the creation mandate of saying to Adam and Eve, I want you to be caretakers of the world?
No, God can take care of his world that he created, but he delights in the fact that he works with human beings. So I reference, when it comes to war, this old movie. Remember Oh God with George Burns? Barely.
Do you remember this movie? Yeah. So George Burns is God. We can all just take a moment and say, well, that's a little disappointing, I imagine.
Yes. Him being bigger than that. And in the movie, he's God, but he's being put on trial because of crime in New York. Well, if you're God, why don't you take care of it?
Well, he's actually on the stand and the prosecutor says exactly that. Well, if you're God, why don't you take care of crime? God looks at him and says, why don't you? What a beautiful moment.
God wants human partners. Let me ask you, keeping on with the war analogy. You tell a story about a soldier who invents the perfect solution to violence in war.
What was that? So one of the great gifts that God gives us is hypothetical thinking. We don't just think about what's happened. We can think about what could happen. So Ray Bradbury is one of the top science fiction masters.
He wrote a great short story called A Piece of Wood. It's about a soldier who has made this invention that any weapon can be reduced to rust. So your sidearm, a missile, a helicopter. Quickly. Quickly. If he wants it to turn to rust, it turns to rust. And so he's sitting there talking to a general and he says, so what do you think about that?
The general goes, it doesn't make any difference. Get rid of all the weapons and we'll bite each other to death. We'll attack each other with our hands. And so the soldier just looks at him and he realizes getting rid of the weapons won't solve anything. You need to change the human heart.
So it actually ends in a really cool way. The soldier gets up and walks out and the general looks and his sidearm has been reduced to rust. So now he grabs a chair, busts the chair made out of wood, and goes after the soldier with a piece of wood thinking I need to kill him or he's going to destroy all of our weapons.
Bradbury's point is much like what God would want to communicate. Listen, I could get rid of all weapons. And hatred in the human heart is you'd be killing yourself and strangling yourself with human hands. What, do I get rid of all human hands? No, I need to deal with the heart. And so getting rid of weapons won't solve anything. We need to deal with the human heart. And I think that's what's being writ large today is get rid of all nuclear weapons and we still would find a way to destroy the planet if we wanted to. I mean these are really deep and important things to think about and we're not always going to have the answers.
It's not that clear in some of these spaces. Many have come to believe that God is indifferent to war or even supports it as in the Old Testament. How many critics of the faith go to the Old Testament and all the deviants of the Old Testament, right? And they point out that God encouraged war and encouraged killing men, women, and children, etc. But what is God's response to violence and how does he convict us in our own sin when it comes to common grace?
So he does two things simultaneously. He gives us a virtuous view of war, which again, here very clearly from God, my desire is there would be no war. And by the way, in heaven, there will be no war. The first things will pass away.
The new things will come. So he's eventually going to eradicate war. But in the world today, unless he gets rid of our free will, people can choose to go at war with each other.
So God plants in our mindset what is war like if it was done virtuously. So Sun Tzu and the Art of War is one of the most referred to books by everybody. I've read it as a business book.
Yes, as a business book. So it's read everywhere and Sun Tzu is amazing when he says, listen, the last thing you want to do is go to war. But if you do a couple of things, one, don't destroy the earth. Don't have a scorched earth policy because you're going to have to re-inhabit that. Second, offer people surrender. Give them a golden bridge that they can surrender.
Once they do surrender, treat them kindly because you can convert them and they can actually become part of your community. Second, he paints this vivid picture of what war can look like if it gets out of hand. So in the book I reference this crazy song called 99 Red Balloons. Do you know this song?
Yeah, I do. It was number one both in German and in English. It's actually a true story. The guy who wrote the song went to a Rolling Stones concert when Germany was still split east and west.
Obviously, they were in the west. A person lets go a red balloon and it floats over into East Germany. He imagines, what if they pick that up on the radar and think this is an attack? Then they actually launch all their missiles based on this one red balloon. So it's this anti-war song that gives us forward thinking. Listen, you better reel in the dogs of war, Julius Caesar, because once the dogs of war are unleashed, you might not be able to reel it back in. That's a gift of God, hypothetical thinking of how badly this can go. So he gives this virtuous idea of war and then he plants in our minds apocalyptic literature that this whole thing can go south very easily.
So be very careful. Big stuff today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. That's Dr. Tim Muehlhoff. My goodness, how relevant this is. Dr. Muehlhoff has captured much of what he's sharing today in a great book.
It's called Eyes to See, Recognizing God's Common Grace in an Unsettled World. Certainly, we'd commend this book to you. Stop by our website. The link is in the show notes to get your copy.
Or call us, 800-A-Family. Tim, let's talk about civility or incivility, which we're seeing far more of that nowadays. It feels like to me, spiritually speaking, like a can of incivility has been popped open and the aroma is around the globe. And we see it here in our cities. I saw a stat the other day, 87% of Americans have said that they no longer feel safe in public spaces. 87%!
That's amazing! Let me add to that statistic coming from Pew Research. 98% of Americans – now I want you to think about this. In a time when it's really hard to get an American's degree on anything, 98% of us would say incivility is a threat to this country.
68% would say it is at crisis levels. So in addition to being a professor, I'm also the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project, where we seek to reintroduce compassion, empathy, civility back into our very public disagreements. I would argue that each one of those is a God's common grace. Empathy, civility, perspective-taking. Love your neighbor? Love your neighbor.
Let's go with that one. So again, when it comes to communication, the Book of Proverbs is amazing. I mean, my master's thesis, I used the Book of Proverbs. I couldn't say it was the Bible. I had to say it was Jewish wisdom literature. An ancient book of wisdom.
An ancient book of wisdom. But think of my favorite verse, Proverbs 18, 21. Life and death is in the power of the tongue. So almost like with war, God gives us a positive vision of how communication can be used to impart life. But he equally gives us negative ideas of how this communication can really hurt people. And I think for us, we need to impart life even in our disagreements because we know how it profoundly changes people.
And then be very careful. Your words really hurt. But let me point out one really cool thing from the book. God didn't just give this to Christians. He gave this idea of life and death and the power of the tongue to everybody.
So in my research, this is what I found out. If we go to Hindu mystics, if you take a look at the Vedas, you get this from the Vedas. Quote, words can comfort or hurt. It is our pride that makes us use words to hurt. Buddha, long before the book of Proverbs, said words have the power to both destroy and heal. Muhammad said the most important word you can speak is a virtuous word. And Confucius said without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know more.
Now think about Buddha just for a second. This is well before the book of Proverbs. So this is what Christian theologians say. God gave it to him via common grace. So he had no access to the book of Proverbs. So God gives him this idea words can hurt, words can heal. And then later we get the inspired version in the book of Proverbs. So some people say, well, isn't it possible that was really Buddha and we borrowed?
No, they weren't communicating with each other. God gave this great idea. Guys, watch your language.
It can hurt and heal. And he gave it to Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, even atheists. I quote Sam Harris in the book. This is God saying to everybody, be very careful with your communication because it can do great harm, great good. I think that just shows God's graciousness that you don't have to be a Christian to get this wisdom. I'm giving it free to everybody.
Now, sadly, everybody doesn't take advantage of it. Yeah, that's good. Let me for the sake of the content of your book, Tower of Babel. So that's kind of a somewhat humorous story that the Lord lays this on everybody because they're getting along. So, boom, I'm going to separate them, confuse them, give them all different languages to speak.
So here's the bummer with common grace. Every single good gift God gives can be used for good or can use for bad. Let's talk dynamite real quick before we get to the Tower of Babel. Dynamite, Alfred Nobel, was created for agriculture to break up hard soil. Well, you better believe the military complex said, hmm, dynamite, awesome, and went and took it.
And today dynamite is one of the most effective killing machines we've ever seen. But it originally was created for agriculture. OK, let's take language. God wants language to bring us together, to work in harmony, to fulfill the creation mandate. And sure enough, just like dynamite, people are using communication to plot against God. Like they're actually organizing, which is a common grace, but they're doing it to usurp God. And God looks at this.
And again, this is the same kind of way that he tries to control war. He goes, OK, this language thing they've taken in ways that can be very harmful to the entire planet. I'm now going to put in a roadblock. I'm going to separate them. And language is going to be more difficult. By the way, still common grace. I mean, people who speak the same language can very quickly connect with each other and things like that.
But he kind of put in this safeguard that now the languages are separated so that they can't easily come together and plot against God. Yeah, great example. You were in Kenya.
I want to capture this before we end today. But you're in Kenya. What happened in Kenya? We often hear in America these miracles that do occur abroad. But this is kind of unique.
It has both kind of a material solution, but it is a miracle. It is American. It's haunted me for years. So I was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, now called Crew. And we would go show the Jesus film, particularly in the poorest parts of Kenya, the Mathare Valley. And so what happens is they dropped off three teams.
You're dropped off with your people. I was the team leader. A projector, a camera, a screen. And you're going to show the Jesus film where the first team dropped off. We were literally setting up the screen. Eventually, a thousand people would come.
I mean, it was amazing. And we're right about to start the Jesus film. And a sophomore comes up to me and says, Tim, we don't have the connection cord from the projector to the generator. We can't turn this thing on. There are a thousand people sitting looking at us. Now, this is before cell phones.
We're stuck in the literally in the middle of nowhere. So we're all sitting there. Jim, I had given a devotion. The humor of God is amazing. That morning, I gave a devotion. I promise you, on Ephesians 320. Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we ask or thank. The sophomore, she says, well, Tim, based on that verse, let's pray and just turn on the projector. God does not need electricity. I looked at her and I promised her in my heart. I was like, yes, let's hold hands. We surround the generator, the projector, and this woman is praying and she is about to say amen.
God, you don't need anything. You can show this film. And we want to tell people about the gospel. And just as she's finishing, I hear an all-terrain vehicle flying down this dirt road because he dropped off the other two teams and had an extra court. And so he literally backtracks, goes to team three. They have it.
Team two, oh, it's Muehlhoff's. So now he's flying. And just as she says amen, he literally drives by, lowers the window, and throws it to me. Now, I was haunted by that for years because I honestly truly wish he would have been a minute and a half later because that woman was about to say amen.
And we're going to turn this projector. Now, if you ask me as a Christian who studies the Bible, do you believe God could have done it? I am telling you yes.
Let me be really honest. Do I think it would have happened? Probably no. Because I'm a Westerner.
It doesn't work. Well, maybe even an Easterner might find that one a little difficult. Maybe an Easter. But we got the court. We plugged that thing in. We showed the Jesus film. And I have my notes.
A hundred people prayed to receive Christ that night. Yeah, that's good. That's really good. Right at the end here, Tim, last question. For that person today who feels as though they are on the edge of despair. I mean, we've touched on that last time with your wife, Noreen, suffering from cancer.
Thankfully, she was healed through the doctors. But that person listening, watching, they just don't see Jesus working. He's silent. What would you say to them so that they don't walk away from their faith?
There's nothing wrong with you. You are walking a path that the giants of the faith have walked. Saint John of the cross, dark night of the soul.
We borrow that language all the time. Saint John was in a dark night where he saw nothing of God. When C.S. Lewis's wife, Joy, died of cancer. And this is a man who wrote the book, Miracles. He was never the same. His personal secretary later wrote about this and said, Lewis still hung on to the faith.
He was never the same after that. So if you're sitting there thinking, I'm less than because I'm in this dark night of the soul and I don't see God, you just need to know, no, there's a company of Christians who have been exactly where you are. I would say this, don't suffer alone. Pull together some Christian friends.
And I hope these are friends who aren't going to jump in and give a quick answer. But they will sit with you and pray with you. And if they're honest, they'll probably tell some stories. Yeah, I've been there.
And maybe one will even say, I'm with you right now. And I so appreciate, Tim, the fact, as we talked about through these two days, that Jesus clearly said that he has overcome the world. And you could put many things, fear not, don't be anxious. And there are going to be things that we can't explain in this life. But to hang on to your faith in Christ is what it's about. And there's something so much better coming.
And I'm looking forward to that. Thanks for being with us. So appreciate this dialogue, this honest, raw interaction about these deep questions of faith. And listen, turning to the viewer and the listener, eyes to see.
I mean, this is one of those spaces in your library that you're going to need a resource because either yourself or your teen kids or your college kids are going to be asking tough questions. Read it together with them. I certainly want to share it with Trent and Troy and, you know, make sure I'm doing the best I could do to answer those questions. And you can get a copy. Join us in ministry, make a gift of any amount, do it monthly, do it one time, whatever. And we'll send a copy to you as our way of saying thank you. If you can't afford it, let us know. We'll get it into your hands.
Trust others. We'll cover the expense of that. And even beyond the book, we have so many other resources to help you in your spiritual walk. We might mention our counseling team. If you're stuck, if you're feeling, as Tim said, feeling alone in your suffering, reach out and speak with one of those counselors.
Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family. Or you'll learn more about our counseling team and the book and ways to partner with Focus on the Family in the show notes. Coming up next time on this program, Dr. Kevin Lehman examines some common challenges in parenting. When you're fighting with your kids, you're cooperating with them. You're the adult here. You don't have to go there.
You can say it once, turn your back, walk away. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. We'll talk with you, pray with you, and help you find out which program will work best. That's 1-866-875-2915.
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