Can You 'Read'?

Some people can read the signs, others never will! 


Lew Wallace, author of Ben-Hur



       I was surprised to learn that America's most famous Christian novel—Ben Hur—was inspired by America's most notorious atheist! Written at his request, as a matter of fact! 

Isn't it amazing how God works? Does it give you some hope about our culture today? I hope so dear faithful ones. 

Robert Ingersoll was already quite renowned for his atheistic lectures and vicious tirades against the Christian faith when, one day, while on a train, passing through Missouri, he brought the subject up to a dear friend of his—Lew Wallace—right next to him on the train. 

Wallace was a business associate, actually. Both men were lawyers; they had worked a number of cases together. During the Civil War, Wallace had been a General in the Union Army; he would very soon become the Governor of New Mexico, but right now he was practicing law, and just recently he had decided that he might want to become a writer. 

Interesting man. 

But on that particular day, the two men were just friends, on a train, watching the countryside fly by. When the train passed through St. Louis. Ingersoll looked out over the city with a sneer: "Look at that will you?" He elbowed his friend. "Look at those steeples all over the place! What a pitiful display of human ignorance! And what a waste of money too!" 

Then he turned to his friend: "You know Lew? There really is no convincing evidence that Jesus Christ ever even existed! And yet, look at them all, embracing this nonsense!" 

"It is a shame," Wallace politely agreed. 

Ingersoll launched back in: "Why Lew, there's something you ought to write about! You've been telling me you want to write a book. Why don't you write one that will prove to all the world, that Jesus Christ is just a myth? Perhaps you can dispel this nonsense once and for all!"

"Hmm," Wallace thought it over a moment. "You know Bob, that's a great idea. I just might do that!" 

And that's how it all began. 

For the next several years, even after he became Governor of New Mexico, Lew Wallace spent every free moment he had studying the life of Jesus Christ. He read his Bible from cover to cover, looking for flaws and for evidence of "fabrication". He pored over every commentary he could get his hands on. He even visited the Holy Land and studied its archaeology. When he got back home, he settled down to study ancient Roman manuscripts, written around the time of Christ, knowing that Jesus would never be mentioned. 

Much to his astonishment, Jesus was mentioned!—and not just here and there; but in numerous ancient writings! As Lew Wallace waded through the evidence of it all, it slowly began to dawn on him that just he might be wrong! The existence of Christ was no 'myth'. It was amply documented by even non-Christian writers! 


Then something greater started to happen. The more Lew Wallace studied the issue, the more he began to "see" —I mean truly 'see'—what he had never "seen" before... 

There were 'signs', all through the Old Testament, pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. There were 'signs' of the lasting impact—staggering impact!—that this humble 'carpenter's son' had made upon all the world around him. Lew Wallace saw those 'signs' and was able to 'read' them clearly: all of them proving that this man's life was no ordinary life and that Jesus was definitely no ordinary man. Eventually, he became convinced that this was truly the Son of God and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.  

And that's when he decided to write a  book very different book from the one his friend had requested: Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ. For decades on end, the book was a best-seller! It has never been out of print and has now gone on to inspire four movies. Lew Wallace's Ben Hur has been called "the most influential Christian book of the 19th Century". 

Praise God! Thank you, Mr. Ingersoll! And don't tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor! Ingersoll would go on to rant and rave against the Christian faith for the rest of his days—twenty more years! But his only lasting contribution was Ben Hur, and the Christian faith still marches on! 

Listen, dear ones: Some people can read the 'signs' and others never will! And the burning question is: which are you? 

Oh, the 'signs' are always there. Right there in plain sight! It's not that they can't be seen and read; it's just that they won't!  Signs that prove the existence of God and the coming of His Judgment, and the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the truth of every syllable of God's Word. 

Jesus once sternly rebuked those who could not 'read' the signs. Did you know? We are supposed to be able to do that! 

"You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you cannot read the signs of the times." Mt 16:3 

How shocking to find, right here in our own generation, literate, educated, 'sophisticated' people who, somehow, cannot 'read'! In fact, I think we can safely say that the more 'sophisticated' and 'cultivated' we become, the greater is the danger that we won't know how to read when it comes to the things of God; when it comes to His signs of the times. 

How about you? How's your 'reading' coming along? God bless you dear follower of the Cross! Let nothing move you now! Stay the course! Straight the path! 


See you Sunday.                                          RAS

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