"IS HALLOWEEN A CHANCE TO WITNESS?"
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I overheard a Christian lady recently talking about Halloween and the tradition of "Trick
or Treating." She was adamantly opposed to opening her door to give candy to kids proclaiming that she wanted no
part in a celebration geared toward evil.
I totally respect her opinion and honor her decision, which I assume
is based upon her own conscience.
Halloween itself, originated with the Celtic peoples' of Ireland, Scotland
and Britian thousands of years ago. The Celts were a polytheistic people, believing in multiple gods...including gods
that ruled over the weather and the harvest. They called this festival "Samhain," (pronounced Saw-win), and
it literally meant November. They celebrated this date because it was regarded as the end of Summer and the Harvest,
and the beginning of Winter.
They did not "Trick or Treat," during this festival, although they did believe
that the spirits of the dead were more prevalent at this particular time of year.
Many years later, the
Catholic Church moved their "All Saints Day," to November the first, to counter the festival of Samhain.
"All Saints Day," is also known as "All Hallows Day," and therefore the evening before "All Hallows
Day," became known as Halloween...or Hallows Even.
"Trick or Treating," began during "All Souls
Day," (Another Catholic Day), when poor people would beg for food from door to door (in Ireland) in exchange for prayers
offered for those in Purgatory.
This became "Trick or Treating," (an American term), less than
one-hundred years ago with kids going from door to door to ask for candy.
I personally think that Halloween could
be used as an opportunity to witness for Christ. Think about it. How often do you get a chance to witness to people
coming to your door? It's a great opportunity to give out candy with a "God Bless You," added in...or
it is a chance to give out candy with a gospel tract included.
I dare say that most kids who go trick or treating
know very little about the origins of Halloween, nor do they believe they are doing anything wrong or anti-Christian.
I'm not advocating anything either way...just saying that I think it's a good opportunity to show yourself as "friendly
and kind," to neighborhood kids. Remember, kindness is one of the "Fruits of the Spirit," after all.
Just something to think about.
STONES: DROP IT, HOLD IT, OR THROW IT?
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I've been blamed before for being a "defender of the sinner," while "ignoring
the righteous acts of the saints." That might be true, but I reason that...as Jesus said, "It's the sick
who need a physician, not those who are well." Or maybe it's because my own journey to the Cross
of Calvary causes me to identify more with the sinner, than with the Saint. I'm not sure, to be honest, what causes
me to have such a heart of compassion upon people who are struggling with sin or sickness...but I can't help it.
One thing I've learned over my many years of working with hurting people, (attempting to make their lives better in
the name of Christ), is that all behavior happens for a reason.
For example, people who grew up in poverty oftentimes
struggle with the fear of "ending up with nothing," and therefore rarely enjoy the things or blessings their money
could be to others or even to themselves. Many of these people die with large savings accounts, when they
could have died with a wing of a hospital or a youth facility named in their honor. Fear ruled their heart.
I've also seen people who have been verbally beaten, ridiculed and made fun of...become bitter and defensive, ready
to bite the head off the first person who says a cross word to them.
I've also seen people who have been raised
in staunch religious backgrounds either "go wild," giving up on their efforts to acheive the Holiness portrayed
to them, or they go to the opposite extreme of being "so Holy," that they alienate themselves from normal people
for fear of getting stained.
All of these behaviors happen for a reason. God knows this...and
so does Jesus. Thus the Bible tells us that "He remembers that we are dust." His mercy
and His grace are wonderful acts of love on His part, to look past the behavior and onto the reasons for it.
day a woman was caught in the act of adultery. What caused this woman to sleep with another woman's husband?
What was the "reason" for her behavior? Was she desperate for attention? Was she desperate for
love? Was she desperate for simple affection? Was she "promised the World," by the cheating husband
who would say anything to fulfill his own lust? The Bible doesn't answer these questions...but they are legitimate.
The men who drug her, barely dressed most likely, to Jesus...knew the behavior, but cared nothing for the reasons.
They were ready to stone her to death...having already humiliated her beyond what most of us would ever know.
asked Jesus for His opinion on the judgment of this sinner, He simply states: "Those of you without sin...cast the first
stone at her."
The truth is...we all stand there in the same position as these men...everyday. When
others we know fail, we have a stone in our hand. Maybe not literally, but figuratively through our judgment.
Do we "drop it," and walk away, convinced that we too are sinners and therefore have no right to judge another...or
do we "hold it," choosing to forever "hold a grudge against this person"...or do we "throw it,"
choosing to make this person pay...and pay dearly for what they've done...even though the precious blood of Jesus has
already paid once?
I remember well, going to a Pastor's Conference a few years ago when I was literally depressed
to the point of breaking. My many years of ministry had caught up to me and I was completely worn out. The problem
was...even though I was worn out, the expectation level was still there and I could not fail, so I kept going.
years before, I was diagnosed with clinical depression by a Christian doctor who began to treat me. I found the treatment
too harsh and stopped. Now I found myself back in this horrible place. At this conference I asked some of the
Pastor's there to pray for me. They took me to another room and surrounded me in love and prayer.
minutes afterward, we joined the conference where the evening's speaker began to "blast all those with depression
and accusing them of bringing it upon themselves." I could tell that the men who had prayed for me were red with
embarrassment for me.
The thing is...this particular Speaker was a dear friend of mine who loved and admired
me very much...and still does I might add. After the conference, one of the guy's who'd prayed with me, took
him aside and told him my story. He came to me in a type of humility I've never seen before or since and asked me
to forgive him for his judgmental and insensitive remarks. I was happy to do so and we remain dear friends to this day.
So often we have a choice to "drop our stone, hold it, or throw it." I pray
that you always consider what Jesus did on that day with the Adultress. That is, He remembered that there are reasons
for all behaviors...including hers. Right or wrong, they are valid to the person experiencing them. I plead with
you today to be people of grace, longsuffering and mercy, who willingly drop your stones...in remembrance of all the times
you could have been the target.
I love you all,
THE GIANT KILLER WITHIN YOU
The Bible doesn't tell us how old David was when he journeyed one day to check on his older brothers
at the battlefront...but it implies that he was younger than sixteen.
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Why? Because most young men of sixteen
or older, would most likely have been called upon to serve in the military of the Israeli Army, and David was too young for
that...in fact, he was still tending sheep, which was usually a job given to younger children.
say that David is all of fifteen years old the day he wanders into camp to find the giant Goliath mocking the frightened Army
of Saul. I just happen to have a fifteen year old son myself, and I can't imagine him wandering into a camp of Marines
to take on Usama Bin Laden, single-handedly, but that's about what David did on that miraculous day.
pick apart this story, we can find some very interesting facts...beyond David's age. One is that he is identified
as "a handsome and ruddy youth." That's another way of saying...he was a skinny, pretty boy...not someone
you'd expect to lead rough and tumble military men. However, in spite of his age and looks, David had something
the Israeli Soldiers didn't. Courage.
As David walks along the valley's edge that day, he hears Goliath
mocking Israel's Army and becomes angry. "This is the Army of God," David says to himself. "How
dare anyone mock the Army of My God!"
Apparently, David didn't think twice about what needed to be done.
He immediately asks what "benefits" would be granted to him if he went into the Valley and killed the loud-mouth
After being ridiculed by his older brothers...who were obviously embarrassed by the bragging of their
tiny...pretty boy brother, and after having the King of Israel try and dump his own Armor on the youth, David moves forward
to change history.
Psychologically, David had three things going for him. One, he'd killed a lion and
a bear with his bear hands, while protecting the sheep he loved. He believed with all his heart that it was God who
gave him this strength. He drew on this strength to prepare himself to battle Goliath.
Secondly, he had faith
that God was on Israel's side and would empower him to defeat this enemy.
Thirdly, he was skilled with a slingshot.
Did you know, that the Giants in your life can be defeated the same way? I truly believe we can defeat all our
gaints if we refuse to step back in fear of what we see. The Israeli Army focused upon Goliath...David focused upon
the power of God. Too often, we too focus on the problem, rather than on the One who can empower us to solve it.
Secondly, David knew that Israel was an anointed Nation and that he was an anointed young man. (Remember the
Prophet Samuel had already anointed him). You too belong to God and are anointed as His child to defeat all
Thirdly, David was skilled with a slingshot. One fast-moving rock and
Goliath was down for the count. When we become skillful with the "Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,"
we can conquer any enemy standing in the way of our reward.
Precious Brothers and Sisters...if you're facing
a Giant today...sharpen your sword...become angry that something is hindering you and then boldly step forward in faith to
conquer your enemy. You'll find that God was waiting on your faith to do a miracle on your behalf.
love you all,
Many years ago I was invited to preach at a Church in Dallas, Texas. At the time I was an Evangelist
and travelled virtually every weekend, but this was the first time for me to speak at this particular fellowship.
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As the people began to file into the sanctuary I noticed something odd. Almost all of the people were dressed exactly
alike. The women all wore long dresses and the gentlemen all wore three-piece suits and carried briefcases. There
was even a small child...not more than 5 or 6 years old, and he was dressed in a three piece suit and carried a small briefcase.
The next thing I noticed was that there were 50 to 60 chairs behind the pulpit, which I naturally assumed were placed
there for a choir. I assumed wrong! I shortly found out that all the ministers of that Church and others in their
district were going to be sitting there.
I was wearing a suit myself, but nothing like these guys. I stood
out like a pink dress on a hairy guy named Bubba!
As the service started and I was called upon to preach, I noticed
that the congregation was not looking at me...but they were watching the ministers sitting behind me. If the ministers
said, "Amen," to something I said, then...and only then, would the congregation follow suit.
much of the Church has fallen into this 'cloning mindset' in my humble opinion. Denominations were formed on
the premise that they had a market on the "whole truth," and went about to create clones of themselves. Anyone
who did not 'conform' was eventually cast out...either directly or by being shunned or ridiculed. Many were
even banished as wicked or evil.
What bothers me in this whole deal is that God created every single one of us
differently. We all have different DNA and we all have different fingerprints and so forth...yet many in the Church
want to destroy that uniqueness by changing everyone else into their own image. God help us.
with this agenda is that it "closes the door" of the Church to anyone incapable or unwilling to be cloned.
This attitude changes the invitation of Christ from "Whosoever will," to "anyone willing to be like us!"
The Apostle Paul found this exact same thing happening within the Church at Galatia.
Paul had founded
this Church on the message of "Liberty (freedom) in Christ Jesus," but someone came in condemning this message...trying
to replace it by "all must be circumcised," to be Holy. In other words...cloning.
Paul was furious,
saying the Galatians were fools to fall for such evil. He even went so far as to say they had become "bewitched."
Why is our uniqueness so important to God? Because it identifies us to Him!!! Many would hold that the
only way for God to love and identify with us is if we have been molded properly into some religious mold. IT'S
NOT TRUE...DON'T FALL FOR IT!!!
If we look at the early Church...picked by Jesus Himself, we see Tax Collector's,
Fishermen, ex-demon possessed...and...oh my gosh...WOMEN!!! Jesus chose people so different to demonstrate His true
idea of Church. We could all learn something from that, huh?
For some reason, anyone radically different
from ourselves causes us great anxiety. Yet we sometimes forget that God made us all different for a reason. In
our Church we have a lot of colorful folk that have made my life wonderful because of their uniqueness. Some are funny,
some are too serious, some are extremely faithful and others hang on by a tread. I truly love and embrace them all.
As a pastor now for fifteen years, I've had to learn that God made everyone different and I can embrace that and
learn from them...or I can try to clone them into my own ideas and image. The problem with that idea is...I know
me...and having more than one of me might not be safe for humanity!
I've also learned that everyone
has something to offer...because they are different. If I'm fearful of their differences, I'll neglect what
they have to offer and be the loser because of it. If I embrace their differences and learn from them, I become a richer
I've also learned that true freedom comes when we can fully be ourselves...without fear of rejection,
harsh judgment or ridicule. My wife Sharla taught me that. She was the first person I ever felt "totally
myself" around. Amazingly...she still liked me!
I'm writing this journal entry for two reasons:
First, to declare the "Liberty of Christ Jesus" over you, praying that you can celebrate and live your life towards
God in your own unique way. Secondly, to warn you that their are many people out in this world who would love
to stick you in a three piece suit, give you a briefcase, and clone you into themselves. If you do...just remember it's
a disguise and God might have a hard time recognizing you.
I love you all,
ONE POUND TOO MANY
This past Sunday I had a deep burden in my heart to preach a message that I've never preached before.
It concerned how "fragile" we as human-beings are.
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We live in a very harsh, cruel and demanding society
that weighs us down with expectations and demands. We live under constant peer-pressure, judgmentalism, and ridicule
and we are warned that the punishment for not meeting these demands is rejection, alienation, divorce, poverty and being
thrown away...just like common trash.
Living under this kind of continual stress causes millions to turn to
anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, alcohol, drugs, pornography and a host of other coping mechanisms. The results
of these "weights," are vicious 'life-stealers' such as depression, anxiety, bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism,
drug addiction, sex addictions, high blood pressure, heart disease and suicide...just to name a few.
saying that medications are bad...on the contrary. However, the ever increasing need for them warns us that we are placing
way too much weight on ourselves.
My greatest desire as a Pastor is to provide an atmosphere of PEACE to all who
enter the doors of our sanctuary. To give just a few hours per week of rest and hope to those who are literally crumbling
under the weights of life and over-expectancy. What is so sad is God has called us to PEACE, but the world works non-stop
to steal it from us. We must learn to fight back by rejecting the demands of society and man...at least as much as is
Have you ever wondered why so many teenagers wear their pants so low that they are virtually falling
off? Simple...peer pressure. Someone did it and considered it cool...and to fit in...all must follow or suffer
rejection, ridicule and abuse. These fears are very real and consuming. It might look stupid to us adults...but
to kids...it's very real and the risk is too great not to fit in. Why don't they just stand up for themselves?
Simple...they're too fragile.
My prayer for each of you reading today is that the God of Peace will wrap you
in His loving arms and give you much needed rest. I tell you that He accepts you...remembers that you're made of
dust...and loves you anyway. I also pray that for anyone who "gets their kicks" by placing added weight and
pressure upon your life...that they will get a good swift (And Godly) kick in the backside! As one little Catholic Nun
said once, "If I were God, I'd make them slip on a banana peel!"
I love you all,
Even the greatest weight-lifters in the World can finally be overcome by "One Pound Too Many."
"WHERE DID GOD GO?"
"My God, My God...why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me?"
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words were prophetically spoken by King David in the opening verse of Psalm 22. They are probably the saddest words
every spoken in any language, because they are the deepest heart-cry of a soul feeling desperate, alone and dying.
As History records, Jesus quoted this verse while hanging upon the Cross for my sins...and your sins...and the sins
of the whole world, past, present and future. Of all times to feel alone and forsaken by God, this had to be the worst.
I've heard it said, that the reason Jesus felt this way was because God could not "look upon the sin,"
that was weighted down upon Him at that moment. However, I believe Jesus felt this way because the Bible says,
"He had to suffer all things like we do, in order to be an effective High Priest."
Before Christ died...man
was grievously separated from God. Even the Holy of Holies was untouchable by man...separated from us by a huge curtain.
Man was alone...without God. For Jesus to understand how horrible that feels, He had to experience it for Himself...at
that moment on a bloody Cross of sin and shame.
There's not a one of us who has not felt this way at sometime
in our lives. How easy it is to feel a million miles away from God when going through a divorce, the tragic loss of
a child, when battling cancer or any number of other horrible events that life throws our way.
At these times we
pray, weep, despair and still the Heavens seem silent. We soon realize that nobody on Earth can help us. Not a
famous healing evangelist, not a close friend, not a spouse, not a counselor...no one. We come to realize that God...and
God alone can reach that inner part of us that seems to be quickly dying.
I submit to you...that is the point.
In my own life I have a tendency to do everything myself. I tend to try and "figure things out" alone,
I tend to try and accomplish things on my own...which means...I often leave God out. I hate to admit this but...I'm
still very human.
There have been times when God would lead me to the end of my rope...and let me hang there a
while. Why, because He's mean?
Not at all. Because He realizes that sometimes His only way into a vessel...is
when it's broken.
I honestly don't believe I'd be a Christian today...let alone a minister, had God
not brought me to the very end of myself and allowed me to be broken...feeling alone and desperate. I'm so thankful
that He did...although I don't want to ever have to go through it again!
Interestingly, in the very next Psalm,
we read about a breakthrough...
"The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want...even though I walk through the
Valley of the Shadow of Death...YOU ARE WITH ME!!!"
My precious friend...do you feel alone today? Do
you feel like God has forsaken you and has left you to die alone? I have wonderful news for you. He's going
to show up!!! And when He does, He will restore you whole. Sometimes the only way we will turn to God...is when
He is the only thing left. Perhaps that is where He's leading you to now.
If that's how you feel
today, I promise you this: He's never left your side for a single second. He keeps count of the very hairs
of your head. He knows everything going on in your life...and He cares. Turn to Him and wait. As the curtain
in the temple was torn in half at the death of Christ, the separation you feel now will be gone before you know it.
YOUR BREAKTHROUGH IS COMING!
He loves you so!
"AMERICAN IDOL OR BOLOGNA!"
I have my "Homepage" set to Foxnews.com so that when I sign onto the internet I can see the headlines
of what's happening around the world.
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Lately, I've become aggravated with this site because...it
never fails...they have some wild story on Brittany Spears. I admit, I've never heard her sing, never seen her perform
and...with all due respect, have no desire to.
My question is, why is a story about the sordid personal life
of a Celebrity so important that it makes news alongside stories of American Soldiers being killed in Iraq...Iran building
an Nuclear Weapon or thousands of miners becoming trapped in a gold mine in Africa???
I don't know about you...but
I can't think of a single Celebrity that I would care to idolize. There are many entertainers whom I've
watched over the years that I enjoy, but I can't imagine allowing myself to become infatuated to a point that I'd
want to know everything about them. Truth is...I have a life of my own to worry about without knowing "all the
dirt" on someone else...I don't care how rich and famous...or naughty they are.
As a touring musician,
over the years, I've met a number of famous people. Some were cordial, others were just egotistical jerks to the
people around them. Somewhere along the way they decided they were "above the lowly masses," and it showed.
I'd lose all respect for them at that moment. I could name names...and you'd probably know of them, but there's
no point. I can tell you that one was a world-famous comedian who was anything but funny offstage.
will say, that of all the famous people I've met, none impressed me as much as Big John Hall. Big John has had a
great career in gospel music, singing with famous quartets, such as "The Blackwood Brothers," as well as appearing
as a soloist for Billy Graham Crusades, several appearances on the famous Gaither Videos and so forth. He is well known
in gospel music around the Country and likely the world.
I met John Hall last year when a mutual friend hooked
him up to sing at our Church. During the opening worship music, I began to sing the classic song, "Jesus, There's
Just Something About That Name," and John left his seat, came to the stage...stood beside me and sang with me...two
bass singers...it was great. Many of the artists I've known over the years, would'nt have "stooped so low"
as to join a no-name.
Afterward, we went to dinner and really hit it off. He is funny, which I like very
much, doesn't take himself seriously at all and is genuinely interested in people. We've talked on the phone
many times since, talking about everything...and nothing. He has called me regularly.
person is Ken Turner who is also a world famous bass singer. He is such a lovely and beautiful person...even more so
in private one on one conversations, than in the public eye. I have enormous respects for both of these guys.
I don't know about you, but I think a lot of the people in the movies or in music could learn a few lessons from guys
like this. The Bible tells us that "God is no respector of persons," meaning, He views us all equal.
If that's true, we should never elevate anyone above another, I don't care how talented they are.
what I'm trying to say is this: Everyone should be judged by how they treat everyone else around them...more so
than what they do for a living. I once heard it said, "If you're eating dinner with someone
who is nice to you, but hateful to the waitress, you're not with a nice person." I agree.
The true sign of a "great person," is how they treat those much less fortunate than themselves.
Jesus Christ did that. He is the Son of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords and still took the time to stop...reach
out and touch...and heal a leper. Now that's a great person!!!
I pray that America and the World will
wake up to realize that idolizing any human is distasteful and silly. I don't care who wins on "American Idol,"
they are not worth...idolizing. They are creations of God and therefore worth loving...but not idolizing.
all seems a little crazy to me. An American athlete can make millions and millions of dollars...as can actors or musicians,
but the real hero's are: soldiers, teachers, mom's and so forth...most of which struggle to make a living. Nutty
huh? Anyone with any sense would want the autograph of their Mother before they would Brittney Spears.
above my computer right now is a small handwritten note which reads: "I love you because, your my dad, you help me!
and your the best o dad anybody could have." It's signed by my son Nathan. I wouldn't trade that
note for an autograph of any famous person dead or living...ever.
Ask a hungry child if he'd rather have an
autograph of an "American Idol," or a piece of bologna. You'll find out it a hurry, which is worth more.
Whew...didn't mean to vent.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF GOD IS REAL?
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How do you know if God is real? This was a question posed to me last year by my fourteen year old son Joshua.
Now that might seem like an odd question coming from the son of a Preacher, but I didn't take it that way.
I realized a long time ago that all a minister can do is "set the table," and invite people to eat. Everyone
has to respond to Christ for themselves...even the 'Preacher's Kids.'
Since then, Joshua has experienced
a dynamic encounter with God and is solidly Christian, just like his little brother Nate.
Come to think of it,
I don't know if there's anyone who doesn't have that same question pass through their minds, at least once in
their lives. "How do you know if God is real?"
My answer to that question is actually pretty simple.
First, I believe that all people are born with a inward knowledge that there is a God, even though they can't see Him
and cannot scientifically prove Him. This was evidenced with Paul when he came across a group of natives worshipping
the "Unknown God." He told them, "I know Who He is, and I'll tell you!!!"
fact that they were worshipping God, even though they knew nothing else about Him, tells us that the knowledge of Him was
born into their hearts.
I believe the fact that we are all born with a "Conscience" is one of the most
important pieces of evidence that God is real, and has written His laws in our hearts, as He said.
Listen to the
definition of the word 'Conscience.' "The inner sense of what is right or wrong
in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action." Doesn't this sound like
God's law within us? It sure does to me.
I remember well the first time I observed my own conscience
at work. Rick and I had been swimming at a public pool and were walking home. We suddenly decided we were old
enough to "cuss." We couldn't have been very old at all...but we felt (for some odd reason) that now was
as good a time as any to "let it fly." No sooner had the word I'd chosen formed in my mouth that something
inside me said, "That's not a good thing for a kid to do."
I wish I could say here that my 'newfound
conscience' kept me from spouting out the word, but I'd be lying...and the same conscience is telling me now...not
to lie. (he said grinning).
What came next, was even more unpleasant than hearing my conscience for the first time...guilt.
Whenever we go against our conscience...guilt will be the result. Why? Disobedience. eek.
As I said, we are all "born" with a conscience, but not everybody keeps theirs. The Bible tells us that
some people have disobeyed their conscience for so long, they have actually had it "seered (cut into) with a hot iron."
When this happens, evil is the only thing left. A person without a conscience is capable of anything and everything.
Now does the fact that we are all "born with a conscience" mean that we are all "born again?"
Quite simply...no. It means that the Law of God (which points us in the direction of right) is within everyone.
When a person becomes born-again, Christ actually comes to live within that person's heart (and conscience) by way of
the Holy Spirit. When this happens, the conscience becomes a place of wonderful, daily fellowship with a Living God!
Secondly, I believe God is real because of the Universe, the Earth and the people in it. How can anyone look
around them and believe that all they see is the result of a "Big Bang" in the Solar System, billions of years ago?
As one man said, "That's like believing the World Dictionary was the result of an explosion in an
Anyone with common sense can figure out that this world...and our lives have
"Intelligence" behind them, just like the dictionary. Who is that intelligence? Our "inner man"
tells us it's God...pure and simple.
Need more proof? Most people within a hundred years or less of reading
this text will have all the proof they need. Death makes believers out of all people.
As another person once
said, "To a non-believer, no proof is sufficient...to a believer...non is necessary."
Just a thought,