My story (Stuart Orr) begins as a 36-year-old jogger running and meditating on a gorgeous April morning in Palos Verdes, California. That’s the way I began most every business day. But on that particular morning a fear engulfed me. Five years earlier I had started a quest to discover answers to the Big Questions of life: Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going? But my quest at the moment was stalled in an apparent failure, and it was gripping me. I had a totally secular worldview. It was informed by Ayn Rand (her philosophy of objectivism), and Maxwell Maltz (his psychological philosophy of psycho-cybernetics). I had no religious belief system. I thought because I was analytical that I could figure out anything in life – including its meaning and purpose – all by myself. I had convinced myself that once I discovered my purpose I would be able to direct all my life energy to achieving some optimum goal, and live the Big Dream that the world offered. Every day I would meditate during that 4-mile course — mile after mile, minute after minute. And it actually worked! After nine months I came to the first apparent answer: “Fame and fortune!” That’s the best I could do for the meaning of life, but I embraced it wholeheartedly and put my newly discovered goal to work. My company started growing. I was on my way to fame and fortune — I had discovered the secret to life!
I had left an executive position in a Fortune 500 company in Los Angeles to start my own software company. By the world’s standards I was successful and respected. My picture appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Computerworld. I lived in a lovely home near the beach in Southern California with my beautiful wife and two great kids. And, now I was on my way to having it all! But. to my surprise the euphoria of this new goal was quickly wearing off. The world heralds fame and fortune, and I was achieving it, so why didn’t it feel better? Why wasn’t it fulfilling? There must be more to it. Maybe a second round of meditation would do the trick. So off again for another 9 months — more miles, and more deep thinking. This time a second answer appeared: “Status and leadership.” Now my mantra became, “fame and fortune, status and leadership” — that’s the secret to life. More positive results followed – more money, more recognition, and higher status. But again, the afterglow didn’t last very long. How disappointing. Perhaps I should try one last time — good things come in threes. More miles, more meditation. After another 9 months the final couplet mystically appeared –“power and security.” My mantra must be complete now – secured with power to rule and security to protect it all. Again, the same outcome followed. Yes, growing worldly success, but quickly followed by diminished euphoria. Empty! Even depressing!
I’m a jazz fan — particularly the old standards. Peggy Lee had a song that haunted me during this time – “Is that all there is?” she lamented. “If that‘s all there is my friend, then just keep dancing, break out the booze and have a ball. If that’s all there is.” I could relate to that.
That April morning was spectacularly beautiful — the sky was filled with huge puffy clouds; the air crystal clear. Gazing into the sky the thought of a Creator came over me – literally out of the blue! I really didn’t believe in a personal God. I was a physics major and I knew that scientists had the universe figured out. It all came together by chance and natural law. If God existed, it must be some sort of force and equation. Someday sciencists would discover how it all worked. But the beauty of the sky that morning was so awesome and compelling, and I was desperate. I thought to myself – “Well just in case this god-equation exists, I need to add it to my meditation list, then I’ll have all bases covered! So, I added “g-o-d” to the bottom of my list. Now with each rhythmic stride I took I would include “god” in my mantra: “fame and fortune, status and leadership, power and security … and god.” But I was soon to discover that you don’t haphazardly add “g-o-d” to the bottom of any list without consequence. Within a week, my life started falling apart. My secretary lost a $10,000 check that I needed to make a payroll the next morning. My Jaguar was stolen from a downtown Los Angeles hotel. My newest and most promising customer cancelled our largest contract to date and demanded his deposit back. Now I’m suddenly thrust into a higher level of fear. Not only wasn’t my meditation formula working — but my real world was falling apart as well!
During Easter that year I was watching the TV series Jesus of Nazareth. There was indeed something transcendent about this man. Was he a man or a god? He apparently wasn’t just another religious leader. It seems that he could heal people and perform miracles — and I needed both. Soon, thereafter my wife and I were having dinner with the treasurer of a major Silicon Valley corporation. John was a Christian. I couldn’t quite put those two qualities together. I thought most all Christians were rather naive, unsophisticated in the business world, and people who needed a psychological crutch. He was none of those. He was successful in the world, but we could talk about philosophy of life just as easily as we could talk about business. That was something I had not previously encountered with Christians. I was telling him my story and he gave me a book to read by Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (see session 6). Schaeffer gave reasons why the natural world could not be the result of itself. That there was real evidence God created the world and everyone in it; and He created it for a purpose! There was a Creator who gives his creatures meaning and purpose. That’s what I was looking for. I read it and was impressed, but I needed to test his thoughts against science.
Two of the most fundamental laws of the universe are called the First and Second Law of Thermodynamics. These are fancy labels for something we all recognize. #1 – Matter and energy cannot be created nor destroyed, yet here we are in the world! I asked myself — How could all this come out of nothing? #2 – the whole universe was winding down to a heat-death. Yet, if it has an ending, then it must have had a beginning. What possibly could have the power to start this whole thing and then sustain it? My scientific training taught me, “In the beginning there was an accidental Big Bang.” But, what was the Big Bang and where did it come from? How did it get its energy? I had never really questioned this before. It was basically unexamined territory in college. Schaeffer showed me that it was the unquestioned assumption of the philosophy of Naturalism that was preventing me from considering a more complete and unbiased set of assumptions. And that these assertions resided in what he called the “Upper Story.” He likened life it to living in a one-level house with an attic, but never peeking into the “upper story” to see what’s there, if anything. He said it I would just peek I would find a more complete set of assumptions about reality that started with evidence for a purposeful Creator.
Six months later I was driving to the office while pondering these things. In a flash of insight, I had a spectacular visual that helped put this picture together. I was approaching downtown Los Angeles and there was a hideous thick yellow smog smothering the city. Thousands of cars like mine were driving through it, probably most all not noticing the extreme contrast between the yellow soup and the magnificent snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains glistening in the sun above it. Suddenly I knew that I was living in that noxious, smog-laden secular city. While the brilliant blue Kingdom of the Creator was hovering over it, ruling the puny things that man had built. I had to peek into that Upper Story. However, it would require a step of faith. I would have to challenge my worldview which I carried for so many years. In some ways, faith is a simple thing – just believe. At that time, however, taking a new step of faith was the most difficult thing I could do. I thought I would have to put my brain on the shelf. That I would need to believe that the Creator God really existed. I didn’t think in all honesty I could believe that. But, I also realized that I didn’t need to make a blind leap of faith; all I only had to do was peek with a sincere desire to know, then perhaps take a step of reasoned faith in God and follow the path wherever it may lead.
I came face to face with the assumptions I had carried for years: the material world (nature — the cosmos) was all there is and God, if he even existed, was irrelevant to my everyday life. But in my heart I knew there was way more to it than that. There was an immaterial world. I always sensed it even if I didn’t want to investigate it. My sense of beauty; my spiritual nature; my morals and values; my conscience; my sense of the transcendent in awe and wonder; my sense of justice; as well as my emotions of love, hate, compassion and mercy couldn’t all just be chemicals and atoms in motion as Naturalism says. It even seemed silly to me, yet I never examined it. Actually, the immaterial qualities of life were way more important than the material ones. Why hadn’t I ever checked it out before? There had to be another dimension to life — an immaterial dimension. One of soul and spirit, even eternal life. And it would make perfect sense if there was a transcendent God who created us, loved us, and cared for us. To not investigate this now seemed irrational.
I saw that the assumptions of theism were just as reasonable and just as legitimate as the atheistic materialistic assumptions were — perhaps even more so. It made sense that an eternal and all-powerful intelligence outside the confines of the universe, could create things inside the universe; and that miracles could be real. Things just don’t create themselves! And it made more sense that things would have a beginning. They couldn’t be eternal since everything in the universe was dying. I could accept with intellectual integrity the possibility of what the Bible said, “In the beginning, God created …”.
There was even more to it. The secular world taught, and I believed it, that man was basically good, not sinful – and in fact evolving and getting better and better. That man could save himself from the treachery and injustices of the world. All that was required was more money, more education, more resources, more power; and there were a lot of power brokers to choose from. That man was capable of pulling himself up by his bootstraps and saving himself from destruction. I no longer believed that. After five years of unfulfilled experiences analyzing the secular worldview I concluded that the worldly philosophies could not possibly be true. On the other hand, the biblical story — that man himself was the problem; that his rebellious heart is desperately wicked; that the world had fallen from its original state of goodness because of mankind’s disobedience (sin), and was getting worse all the time. That it was in need of redemption and restoration and that only the Creator could perform such a rescue operation. It was all starting to make sense.
The Christian worldview of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration, was believable. And it drove me onward because it was based on evidence – historical and scientific evidence that was testable. Jesus Christ was God incarnate on a rescue mission to save humanity from itself. Jesus was not just a religious leader as I had thought. He was the God/Man, and demonstrated it by being physically resurrected from the dead. No other religion or philosophy of life could make such a historically justifiable claim as that! But where was the extraordinary evidence that would support such an extraordinary claim? I read a short book, More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, and it gave reasoned answers to my basic doubts, then led me to a huge repository of deeper works on the subject. I started reading the Bible — the gospel of John in particular. I also started to pray believing that God would hear my prayers and respond to them. (Prayer before was just a periodic customary ritual of wishful thinking.) I prayed that God would reveal himself to me. Through these actions I discovered God! I understood that Jesus was the way to God! And I discovered why the Bible is true! Now armed with this knowledge and testable evidence I was faced with a crucial decision. I would have to either believe in Jesus or, “Just keep on dancing, break out the booze and have a ball.”
Doubt and the fear of the decision gripped me intensely. What if I was being misled and this was just crazy? Voices in my head resonated. Was I going to be like “one of those crazed fundamentalists?” On the other hand, the biblical claim was the only one that made sense out of my life, as well as out of the evidence. I couldn’t ignore it. The Bible says all you need is the faith of a mustard seed. That December morning in my car driving into Los Angeles I wasn’t sure I could muster up even enough faith to peek into Schaeffer’s “upper story.” But I visualized it as another dimension — an invisible spiritual dimension that surrounds the material world with God’s presence. The incredibly beautiful sun-drenched, snow-capped San Gabriel mountains were now in firm sight and it drew a fitting picture of that dimension. Whereas the smog-soaked LA basin of the world below spoke to me as the out-of-kilter material world in which I was living and trusted. The contrast was as stark as the decision I faced. Would I blindly continue on in the yuck of the material world, or would I attempt a step into the glory of the Kingdom of God. I reached up my hand into the “upper story” as an act of reasoned (not blind) faith, and it put me on the most miraculous journey for the next 40 years. Jesus Christ changed my life forever — in this life and for the next. He totally filled me with joy as he gave me the meaning and purpose I was seeking.
And, he will do the same for you, but you have to invite him into your life — he does not force his way in. You can experience the same eternal joy I have wherever you are now and in whatever condition you’re life is in. Jesus is not only the eternal Son of God, but he is also the savior of the world. He came from God the Father to forgive you of your sins. And to give you the power of God in your life through God the Holy Spirit. Even with any and all your doubts you can ask him to keep revealing truth to you. He promised, “I know the plans that I have for you,’ . . , plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will let Myself be found by you, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
I was sure that I had connected with God, but I wasn’t so sure about Jesus and the Bible. I had tons of questions and for the next several years I did serious study — a lot in the books I recommend below. I started praying and reading my Bible daily. We started going to church and as a family and became regular attenders. We joined a Bible study and discovered the joy of Christian fellowship. We attended classes at the church and grew in spirit and in truth. Eventually I learned the deep meaning of baptism and was baptized by immersion along with my 15 year old son. We all were “born again” and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and the joy of the Christian life. Every day now I start out knowing firmly that God created me, loves me, cares for me, and has given me eternal life. And, I know why I am here — to love Him back and to serve Him. And, I know in my mind, as well as in my heart, that I have a personal relationship with The God Who is There. My experiences for over 4o years have corroborated that my relationship with the God of the Bible is the most trustworthy of any worldly philosophy or religious belief I could have had — and I tried a lot of them! If you need more “data” before you take that step, may I suggest you start with the little book that helped me, More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, Tyndale House Publishers. I would be delighted to send you a complimentary copy as an act of friendship. Just request it and include your mailing address on the Contact Us page.
Your journey will be different than mine. Hard-heads like me require hard evidence before they can take a step of faith. But God is looking for open-hearts to receive him regardless of what preparation you may require. Whatever your situation is; whatever your level of knowledge; or whatever your temperament may be, may I suggest you get ahold of a Bible and start reading. The gospel of John is a good place to start. Jesus said “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37), and that by receiving his offer of salvation, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32). What are you waiting for? Time is running out.
— Stuart Orr, December 2020. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions
RECOMMENDED READING FOR FURTHER STUDY
More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell, Sean McDowell, Tyndale House Publishers, 2009
The Verdict of History, Conclusive Evidence for the Life of Jesus Christ, Gary R. Habermas, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988
The Case for Christ, A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, Lee Strobel, Zondervan, 1998
Jesus Among Other Gods, The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, Ravi Zacharias, Word Publishing, 2000
The Origin of the Bible, Bruce, Packer, Comfort, Henry, Tyndale House Publishers, 2003
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg, Intervarsity Press, 1987
A General Introduction to the Bible, Geisler & Nix, Moody Press, 1986
Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, Harper Collins, 1980
The Faith, What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why it Matters, Charles Colson and Harold Fickett, Zondervan, 2008
Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, 1994
The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer, IVP Books, Anniversary Edition, 2020
Miracles, C. S. Lewis, Harper One, 1996
There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, Anthony Flew, Harper One, 2008
Written on the Heart, The Case for Natural Law, J. Budziszewski, InterVarsity Press, 1997
God, Freedom and Evil, Alvin C. Plantinga, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974
Introduction to Philosophy, A Christian Perspective, Norman L. Geisler and Paul D. Feinberg, Baker Book House, 1980
Answering Doubts and Questions
The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999
Understanding the Faith, A Survey of Christian Apologetics, Jeff Myers, Summit Ministries, 2016
On Guard, Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, William Lane Craig, David C. Cook, 2010
The Logic of God, 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind, Ravi Zacharias, Zondervan, 2019
The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity, Hindson & Caner, Harvest House Publishers, 2008
The Purpose Driven Life, What On Earth Am I Here For?, Rick Warren, Zondervan, 2002
The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer, Christian Publications, 1982
My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, 1992