Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Topic Worth Following

If you've not been following the findings of different matter in fossilized dinosaur bones that couldn't possibly be as old as old earth scientists claim then it is something to watch closely. Here is a link to a very recent (and ongoing) part of that battle. It is well, well worth reading! The link is from FOX news, but it is written about in many other places as well. It is:

Scientist Claims California University Fired Him Over Creationist Beliefs

As you read the article it should be a strong reminder of something that I've talked about a lot—our worldview matters! We will begin our study, our processing of new information and events, etc., from the starting point of our world view. This world view is made up of the presuppositions we hold—those things we presuppose or assume or believe to be true. At the core they begin with what we believe about God. (Is He real? What is His character and nature? Is He active in our life? Etc.). They move to what we believe to be true about truth. (Is there absolute truth? What is its source? What do we believe about the Bible? Etc.) Then onward from there . . .

It is imperative that we begin with an accurate world view. If, for example, we don't recognize a spiritual realm that interacts with us then, based on what the Bible says (which I believe to be true) we will miss our real enemy, we will not recognize some things that the enemy is doing as works of the enemy, etc. For example, imagine how someone without room to recognize demonization would have treated the man in the tombs with the legion of demons that Jesus encountered. They'd medicate him into a stupor when his issue wasn't medical.

We can't help but process our world from the starting point of our world view, because we process our world from what we believe to be true about it. So, if you begin with a "no God" belief, or the belief that the earth must be vast ages of time old, then you are going to stretch and twist evidence to the contrary to fit your belief. That is one of the reasons that geology for so many decades practically labeled heretical any reference to catastrophes in nature (because it hit too close to the "flood" issue). But now, finally, geology is recognizing the major role of catastrophes in shaping the earth as we know it today.

That is also the reason that these finds of things in dino bones that couldn't last the ages of time they are claimed to be are causing such a ruckus. Because . . . if we are finding things in bones that could only be a few thousand years old . . . and we can't embrace a young earth . . . then we are going to desperately fight to find some other explanation. And, if you vehemently oppose God being a part of anything, then you will vehemently oppose anyone who might bring news that might include God. The result is that we force the evidence to fit our world view rather then draw our world view from the evidence.

Do young earth Creationists like myself do the same thing? At some level, absolutely. We start with a world view that the Bible is true, literal, etc. We look at the genealogies and other dates and date ranges and we determine that the Bible says the earth is around 6,000+ years old. Then, from this world view, we look at the evidence around us and see that for the most part it fits our world view nicely (much better, we believe, then the evidence supports an old earth). Do we have all the answers? No. Does everything fit our model perfectly? No. But it is impossible to escape a world view as the dominate influence on our perceptions.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When I Don't Understand . . .

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.    Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV)
Recently I performed a service for a man who was killed in his early 50s in an accident. Ironically, he was a recent cancer survivor. I shared at the service that while it is tempting for Christians (especially if we are uncomfortable investing in someone) to throw some well-intentioned verses toward someone and expect (hope?) it makes it all OK, the reality is that short of a direct revelation from God this side of Heaven we won't understand things like that which happen all too often in this painful, broken world.

As I was in my reading through the Bible this morning I came across Deuteronomy 29:29. It comes after the people have been reminded of the blessings and curses of obedience and disobedience, and have renewed their covenant with God. I thought it captured so much of our life so well. The secret things belong to God. Those things we don't and won't understand. His ways are not our ways. He knows things we don't know. But, that we might stay in faith and not stumble, the things revealed (the things we DO know) belong to us are intended to keep us in faith and obedience.

I am reminded of Matthew 11:4–6. John the Baptist is in prison and he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus replies, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (ESV). The ASV version says, "And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me."

Keeping in mind that John declared who Jesus was, was there when the Father spoke about His Son, etc., it is an amazing (and confusing) moment, that John would then question if He was the One. Equally perplexing to me when I would read it was the last part of Jesus' response to him. But then one day a pastor I was listening to taught on how Jesus was the one supposed to set captives free, and here John was in jail and rightfully confused. He said Jesus was telling John, "Don't be caused to stumble because of what about Me you aren't understanding—what about Me doesn't match your expectations." That really spoke to me and I believe there has to be some truth in that interpretation.

I shared at the service that while I didn't understand a cancer survivor then dying in an accident a short time later, there were some things I did understand, and that it is those we must hold to and stand on. When I look to the cross I understand that God loves me. Because He loves me I understand that I can trust Him. When I look to the cross I understand that He wants to be with me, and I understand that He understands suffering and loss. And when I look to the empty tomb I understand that He is bigger than death.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God . . ." Yes, there is much I don't understand. And God has revealed so much of Himself that I don't think it is wrong to seek to understand. Even Jesus, talking to Nicodemus, expressed that we must be born again as we can't understand the things of Heaven if we aren't. ("If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" John 3:12)

". . . , but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." But not understanding must not cause me to stumble in my faith. My faith is anchored in what I do understand: He loves me; I can trust Him; He wants to be with me; He understands suffering and loss; He is bigger than death. Whenever I doubt these the cross and the empty tomb stand there reminding me I don't need to doubt them.

I believe that we, as Christians, must be OK with saying we don't understand something. It is so much better than trying to hide behind verses. And, when I am honest, while I'd love to understand everything, the reality is that if I could understand everything about God He'd be too small for me to trust Him with my life. He is God. He is holy. He breathes out stars and by His power not one is missing. He knows every hair on my head, and He has assured me I am more precious to Him than Creation. This I do understand and on this I must stand.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.   1 Corinthians 13:12
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.   Isaiah 55:8–9
All of this is not to say that we miss an attack of the enemy, or accept everything as God's will. Things do happen as a result of spiritual warfare, and of poor choices. We must be ready to recognize those things and take action when that is the case. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that our choices do matter—or else God would have no place to be angry with Israel for their choices, or to warn us about the consequences of certain choices, if everything happened by His doing. I am not saying we shouldn't examine things, or that we shouldn't be open to the Holy Spirit teaching us or showing us things, but I am saying that, when all that is said and done, and we find we still don't understand something, we need to be OK with the mystery of God and to not stumble because of it. We need to stand on (and trust in) what we do understand: He loves me; I can trust Him; He wants to be with me; He understands suffering and loss; He is bigger than death.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

More Golf Cart Thoughts . . .

In my last post (Food for Thought . . . ) I used the example of a child driving a golf cart ten feet when told not to as a way to illustrate to ourselves our own heart toward God. I'm not going to repeat it here, but I'll assume you've read it (or you can read it by clicking on its link above).

I had another thought about it that was helpful to me. In that thought I could picture the same kid who disobeyed. But this time, instead of just being told not to drive the cart, he is told something like, "Don't drive the cart because it is out of oil and the engine will burn up (if it was a gas engine)." Or, "Don't move the cart because I discovered a sink hole under the dirt in front of it."

In any of these type of examples, what if the child, who would have otherwise driven the cart when told not to, now says, "Oh! OK," and doesn't drive the cart because they now understand the reason why not to (and, implicit in this, they agree with the reason why not to)? This further reinforces the pride and arrogance and rebellion of the child, even though they obeyed! Why? Because they obeyed because THEY understood and agreed. If they hadn't, they wouldn't have.

In the golf cart example I gave in the previous post it was clear to me that a reaction of, "Wow! He punished you like that for only driving it ten feet! That's harsh!" was a reaction that puts the person being given instruction in the place of "god" and judge. The true heart that understands authority would say, "Wow! I can't believe you drove the cart when he told you not to!"

In this example of obedience because of agreement there is nothing different. If we say, "Good boy. He didn't drive the cart," we are again focusing on the action and not the heart because he would have if he didn't agree with the reasons! He is still rebellious and proud and arrogant!

Again taking this back to us and God, it is a fair question to ask, "Do I obey when I understand why God is telling/asking something, but I don't if it doesn't make sense to me?" This is something we actually often cultivate when we say things like, "God says not to XX, and it makes sense because if we do there is a risk of YY or ZZ." This isn't to say that it is bad to explain how wise God is as a witness to His greatness, but it is dangerous if understanding is made a portion of obedience.

God is holy. He is set apart. He is the Creator. Far be it from the Creation to have the arrogance and pride and foolishness and rebelliousness to demand more before we obey than to simply know God said it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Food for Thought . . .

In my last post (Just a Bunch of Sticks?) I shared some thoughts I'd had about an Old Testament account of a man being killed for collecting wood on the Sabbath. I shared how my first reaction had been to assess the severity of the crime in terms of the action of the man, and not the heart. I first thought of it as a severe punishment for simply collecting sticks, until I believe God showed me that the true sin wasn't picking up sticks, it was the rebellion against God that was at the heart of the man who would pick up sticks when God expressly told them in the Ten Commandments not to work on the Sabbath, on the day He'd set apart as holy.

Last night at Men's Group we were talking about this and how casual we can become with God and our understanding of His holiness, and I felt like God gave me an example that spoke to all of our hearts there, and helped a lot. I wanted to share it in case it helps you as well:
Some people we know have a golf cart that grandchildren and visiting kids are taught safety points about and how to drive. They are then given a driving test for it, and if they pass they are approved to drive around the property. It is pretty slow and safe, but the people take it seriously and the kids are taught to as well. The example that I felt God gave me was of the man telling a child not to drive the golf cart. The child goes out and drives it ten feet. The man then punishes the child in some hypothetical way—say takes his license for a month and maybe something else.
In this situation someone might easily say, "He did all that to you for driving the cart ten feet?!" The proper answer is, "No, he did all that because I disobeyed." That is the heart of it. Five feet. Ten feet. A mile. The distance doesn't matter. What matters is that he was told not to do something and he did it anyway. It is revealing of a much deeper sin than driving ten feet. It is revealing of a heart of pride and rebellion and self-focus.

We can learn a lot about ourselves by putting ourselves in the position of someone the child comes and complains to. Would we feel like, "That is harsh! I can't believe he did that to you for driving it ten feet!"? Or, would we feel like, "I can't believe you went out and drove it when he told you not to!"?

Once we answer which one of those responses would be ours we then can ask ourselves if we are consistent in that application. When God says something, do we weigh the action (putting ourselves in the place of god and judge), or do we say, "My God said it and that is enough for me."

The question is not if the action seems big or small to us. The true measure of our heart is whether the fact that God said it is big or small to us. That reveals it all.

Collecting wood. Eating fruit. Driving a cart ten slow feet. Murdering someone. Adultery. In our minds, when we look at them, we can easily rate them as small or big. But rebelling against God? That should always be huge to us, and if it isn't I think it should be a warning sign. And that is truly what is at the core of it all.


Another Morsel: Tonight we wanted to surprise our girls and borrow a DVD from someone that they'd been wanting to watch, but after some emails and phone calls it didn't work out and we didn't tell them. I wonder how many times in our life it seems to us like God isn't moving, but in reality He is doing all sorts of things on our behalf. Can we trust His love and heart for us when we can't see His hand at work?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just a Bunch of Sticks?

In my reading through the Bible this morning I came to Numbers 15:32–36 which says:
While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the Lord commanded Moses. ESV
I read something like this and there is this reaction in me that says, "Wow! He was just picking up sticks! It wasn't even something bad!" And . . . that reaction tells me more about my view of God than I like to admit.

As much as I can teach about God's holiness, and how He breathes out stars, and how amazing and worthy of our awe and worship He is, etc., a reaction like that reveals to me how much of that knowledge of God is in my head and hasn't captivated my heart.

Why not, instead, would I have had the reaction, "Oh, man! This man has such a wicked heart to rebel against God! To do things His way and not God's!" A failure to react that way gives me insight into the heart of why I can, at times, be so casual with the "little" sins. I am seeing it as an issue of degrees and about the action, and not about the rebellion—not about the incredible pride and arrogance of thinking I can do what I want when God—the holy Creator of all—has said something different about it. In reality, I think I can judge what is truly OK and what isn't. I may not say that is my reality, but my actions reveal it is.

It is similar to Adam and Eve—"so you're telling me that they and all mankind to follow got a death sentence and cut off from God for eating fruit!?" No. That isn't the reason. It is for the pride and rebellion of the heart that thinks it can do things its own way and that it is OK to do so. It is for the heart that thinks it, better then God, can define what is OK and what isn't. It is about a trust—a faith!—that is greater in myself then it is in Him.

We must never forget, God loves our faith and without it Hebrews tells us it is impossible to please Him. When the Israelites came to the promised land it was GOD that told them to send in the spies! He didn't sucker them into the land and then have them realize what they were surrounded by so they had no choice to rely on Him. He had them spy it out and see exactly what they were up against so then they could choose—sight (what they saw in front of them), or faith in God who had promised them both the land and His presence. They didn't trust Him and He says of them (in different places throughout the Bible) that they were in unbelief, not following Him, disobedient, stiff-necked, hardened hearts, not mindful of the works He had performed among them, faithless. And, though they would have been the first to say they believed in God's existence, HE said of them that they didn't believe in Him.

God is looking for so much more than simply our acknowledgement that He exists (even the demons believe, and tremble the Bible says). He is looking for us to believe in Him in the way that commits our life to Him, to trust in Him, to follow Him.

Eve's sin is similar. Before she ever saw the tree as good for food, pleasing to the eye, or desirable to make one wise she first had doubt about God and His love and His Word and His trustworthiness. Then, after entertaining those doubts about God, she came to the place where she believed she could better take care of her needs, pleasure, and wisdom apart from God and His ways then doing it God's way. She walked out of trust of God, and trusted more in herself. She walked out of faith in God.

When we assess sin by the action ("he was just picking up sticks!), instead of realize it is a heart of rebellion and disobedience to God, we can tend to water down what sin really is and lose the reverence of the the holiness of God. I am reminded of when David was bringing the ark back to Jerusalem. It is found in 2 Sam 6:5–7
And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. ESV
Did Uzzah die because he steadied himself or the ark when the oxen stumbled. Is that really worthy of a death sentence? No. Uzzah died because, first and foremost, David decided to do something his way and blew off a holy God's commands about how the ark would be handled (even "religious" things can be sin). Then Uzzah died because a holy God said the ark would not be touched and he touched it. As long as we say he died simply for touching the ark we have missed the point. He died for the rebellion and haughtiness that said, "Even though God said one thing I can do it my way" (sorry Frank Sinatra).

It is an important lesson for us to learn (and relearn, and relearn . . .). Whenever we assess sin by the action instead of seeing it as rebellion we have lost our grip on God's holiness and who He is. We do things "our way" because we are looking left and right, instead of up. Left and right we can always find some reason, or someone else's life, that will justify us. Looking up into His holiness, and across the gap to the blood-stained cross, will remind us of what sin really is. It is not an action, it is a heart.

May I never lose sight of the fact that my sin, my "casual choices," are rebellion against God no matter how insignificant they seem. May I fear my heart, and may I embrace faith—a complete trusting of my life to Him and His ways because I have complete trust of Him and His Word and His love and His faithfulness.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Free Book

Hi Again. A minute after I posted my other post tonight I got a message from Rosemary Hines. She is an author I've blogged about multiple times (see below) whose novels have really blessed me. She is giving away, between now and Monday, the first book in her series in e-book from. It is called Out of a Dream.

The link is:

If you haven't read it, I really recommend that you do. She writes fiction based on life she's experienced and this first novel deals with the seductiveness of the New Age—a huge issue among adults and youth in our area, and I am sure in yours!

The two posts I've done on her books are:

Blessings.   —Erick

Just a Relative?

I just read a line in a blog by a man named Samuel Clough that really struck me. It says, "We are called to be the bride and I am afraid that most of us are more content with being relatives of God rather than a bride."

I had to stop and think about that. And I realize I can approach it in two ways, both valid and both powerful, and each having their time and place.

Approach One: This approach uses the quote to evaluate my walk and relationship with Him from my position, and toward Him. It includes questions like:
Is that me? Do I prefer the relationship with Him where I can invite Him over (or go visit) when it is convenient, with the boundaries I want to set, etc.? Am I content to know I have a more special relationship with Him then non-relatives do, but to not really be joined to Him inseparably as one flesh? Am I OK with being aware of burdens of His heart and kind of picking which ones I should address, or am I bound to Him as one flesh with His burdens as my own? Do I feel like I have an option of stepping back when I need to take care of my "own stuff," or do I feel like I have nothing that is not His stuff as well?

In this context the quote is a powerful line that brings forth powerful questions and introspection!

Approach Two: This one uses the quote to evaluate my walk and relationship with Him from His position, toward me. It includes questions like:
Do I realize He doesn't just get "related" to me (which could mean many different levels of attachment, not all very deep)—He chooses me as a bride?! Am I living like He is "just" a relative, interested in much of my stuff but with His own stuff too—or do I realize He has joined Himself to me in a relationship without separate compartments . . . a relationship He describes in earthly terms as two becoming "one flesh"?! Am I living like He wants to see me now and then when it works out, or do I realize He wants to be (and is) with me always, no matter what, with no created thing able to separate me from His love?
Mary Ann and I recently celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. I love her so much! She is my best friend! There is no one I'd rather be with, and even when we go to visit others our heart is to be joined in the same conversation rather then "guy talk" outside and "girl talk" inside (not to say there isn't a time and place for that, but too often it seems the norm or even preference). If I experience something wonderful and Mary Ann isn't there to share it with then something feels missing to me. She is my bride. My one flesh. My best friend. My pal.

Do I realize, and live like, God feels that way about me? The question goes two ways. 1) Have I believed a lie that He feels otherwise? 2) Am I content with something otherwise?

God uses two very powerful relationship in the Bible to describe our intended relationship with Him as born again believers—a Father/child, and this one, a Bridegroom/Bride. Both are relationships where, if lived correctly, there is a union far deeper than simply being "related." They are both unions that transcend that to a tie that is stunning in its depth. I can use the model of those two relationships to evaluate my relationship with Him to help me see areas I am not walking with Him as I should. And . . . I can use them to remind myself of just how much He loves me and I am joined with Him and how vested and interested He is in my life!
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