Wednesday, December 30, 2009
There are, actually, many aspects of Christmas that never end and which we should rejoice in and celebrate and participate in all year long. For instance, every day you enjoy your salvation you enjoy the Christmas message proclaimed by the angel to the shepherds, which is the good news of great joy of a Savior. Then there is our role in the unfolding eternal plan of God which was initiated with Jesus' birth and which we participate in by spreading the Gospel until the day of His return—a day all the hosts of hell can not stop! Every day you follow God's lead and share the good news of a Savior you share the Christmas message and participate in the "Christmas plan" of saving a people until He returns.
Then there is the one I find most stunning to me given my intimate awareness of my failings. It is the role I play in the continuance of Immanuel, which means, "God With Us." At its most basic level Immanuel obviously refers to Jesus (God) being born of a woman and living among us. Then there is the continuance of it in which the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us as our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, and seal of our adoption as God's children. But, then there is the natural extension of that which really causes me to step back and evaluate my life and how I live it, and the priorities I choose for it.
I am a part of the body of Christ. I am His hands and feet. While He operates sovereignly at times, He very often chooses to wait until His children (His body) are obedient to do His will. I, as God's adopted child, indwelt by His presence, serving as His hands and feet, am His vessel for bringing about His will and for showing Him to the world. Just as Jesus represented the Father on earth and was His image and modeled Him for the world, Jesus then sent us as the Father sent Him. As His disciples we are to walk as He walked. More than that, we carry His presence. We are the new dwelling place (temple) of God.
Stop and let that melt in to your heart for a moment. If you are a Christian, you carry the presence and image of God in to a lost world around you. You bring His presence and power with you wherever you go, you have the access to His wisdom and favor those around you need, and your actions should show them the love and forgiveness and servanthood and authority and power He embodies. You are His child, you are being transformed in to His image, you carry His name, you exercise His authority, He tells you the secrets of His heart, He beckons you to hear His voice and carry out His will—you are His body, you are the vessel He chooses to use.
You are, in a sense, to the lost around you, Immanuel. Now don't take that wrong, or blasphemously, because that is not how it is intended. We are not God, but we carry God with us. We are not God, but we reflect His image. We are not God, but we reveal God and point people to God. As His children, in whom He dwells, when we are with a person who is lost He is with us so He is, inherently, with them! You have brought to them the presence of God in you, and you are His hands and feet and mouth to follow His leading and show them His ways and speak His prophetic words to them. So, in that sense, which is humbling and awe inspiring, God has chosen you and I to continue Immanuel. Every time you carry the presence of God in to someone's "space" you live out the Christmas message of God with them. I don't know why God chooses to use frail vessels for such an awesome job, but He does, and it is pretty amazing to think that through me the Christmas message is lived out tangibly and physically every day I am among people who are lost. May every day of the year His presence in me, and my surrender to Him and His will, draw them to Him—the great Savior whom Christmas proclaims.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Second, a neat story. We spent Monday in Carmel on our "traditional" (in our family, anything twice becomes tradition) day of Christmas shopping and hanging out with my mom. We begin the "tradition" each time (this is our second time) with my dad joining us for coffee at Il Fornio, and we are batting 100% in getting the seat by the fire. You can enjoy the moment with us in our "traditional" picture, above. Last year's picture is in the right column of the blog, a ways down, if you want to see how much the girls are growing in a year (or how well I am aging—ha, ha).
Anyway, while shopping mom took the girls for a few minutes to a store so Mary Ann and I could be clandestine and get a few things. About five minutes before leaving Carmel Plaza to rejoin them, my left ankle started hurting with a real sharp pain that made it uncomfortable walking. We crossed the street and a woman passed in front of us on the sidewalk, being pushed in a wheelchair by a man whom I assume was her husband. We fell in step behind them and as I looked at her foot in a cast I thought about Jesus and Christmas and His love and power. I spoke kind of loud to them as they were a few steps ahead of us, "Can we pray for you?" They stopped and said, "Okay."
Now often people caught like that think you mean, "Can I pray for you sometime in the future or when I think about it." They usually don't think you mean "right now, on this corner, in downtown Carmel" so I quickly added "now" and moved up beside them. Mary Ann joined me and I put my hand on the woman's shoulder and we all bowed our heads there by the intersection and I asked God to pour out over them, to defy the doctors with her healing, and for it to be the best, most God-filled Christmas they have ever had. After we were done praying they thanked us and we parted. As we left them and began walking up a hill toward our rendezvous with my mom and the girls, I noticed that MY ankle pain was gone! How cool is that!
Third, a Christmas thought. I shared this in much more detail with our church on Sunday, but I wanted to share its core here with all of you as well.
When the angel appeared to the shepherds he said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lu 2:10-11). There is, in this proclamation, the foundation of our whole faith and joy. When everything else is stripped away, when theology is confusing us more than helping us, when life has broken us, there is a place of joy we can turn to.
The angels said that the birth of Christ (which would end at the cross) was:
1) Good News!
2) of Great Joy!
and it was to all the people! He didn't say, "to people of secure finances" or "to people who have a great marriage" or "to those who have it all together." No, he said that this good news, of great joy, was available to all people. Now Jesus didn't go and fix every earthly problem, but He did pay for our sins that we might be restored to our Father in heaven if we would embrace His gift and Lordship. So, this is clearly an "eternal" joy—a joy fixed on our eternal condition, tied in to Jesus' role as Savior. It shows the Father's emphasis on eternity over simply the now (though I do believe He desires us to joyfully walk in, and use, the authority He gives us to tackle and destroy the works of the devil in this life, as well).
The other day I hit a real low spot. I wasn't sure anymore what this pastoring was about or supposed to look like, or what I was supposed to be telling people, and it seemed like every "theological" conclusion I came to I was finding a verse to contradict it. I felt closer to stepping down than I have ever felt, and I was sitting by the fire with Mary Ann and I told her, "I don't know what this is about any more." She said, "Yes, you do." She then said something to the effect of, "God loves you and He sent His Son to die for you and you are His forever." It was utterly simple, and it touched and stirred something so deep in me I can't explain it. When all else is stripped away, when you feel like a failure, when life crashes in, that is the core, foundational message that it all comes back to—that is the message that never changes or leaves you—it is the good news, of great joy, that is unto me and you. This doesn't mean we take joy in clear victories of the devil, but it does mean that no matter what is stripped away there is, at the core, a place that can't be touched and which we must always return to—a place which simply is our eternal, born again, new creation life with God that can't be taken from us, and that came because His Son came to earth and died for us out of a love beyond our comprehension.
The utter simplicity and foundational essence of that reminder brought to life for me, again, the Christmas proclamation—and I hope it helps you, too. God bless each and every one of you, and Merry Christmas!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Hello All! I hope that this finds you well and your hearts being prepared more and more each day for the amazing day we call Christmas. We had a nice couple of days last week visiting Mary Ann's family in the Los Angeles area for a homeschool trip we took with the girls (and, yes, rest well, I was able to spend some good time studying in a coffee shop near her mom's house). We got to visit the La Brea tar pits (the outside grounds because there was a power outage and the museum itself was closed) and the Griffith Observatory (our family must have looked pretty funny counting to three and then jumping up and down as hard as we could to try and get the seismograph to register our movement!).
I put a few pictures here from our trip for you to enjoy it with us. They are: 1) The girls in front of the La Brea "lake" display, 2) Mary Ann and the girls at the observatory model of the size of some stars—our sun would be the size of one of the tiny yellow dots straight above Abigail's head if the large yellow and red balls represented some of the giant and super giant stars out there, 3) Me next to the scale that informed me I would weigh over 500 pounds on Jupiter (I think I'm staying home!).
Christmas is almost here, and as I shared with our fellowship yesterday, I just can't grasp or wrap myself around the fact that the God who breathes out stars and holds the universe in His hand is also the baby in the manger . . . that the baby in the manger is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the One before whom demons tremble . . . that God is surrounded on the throne by the multitudes of angels and hosts of heaven worshiping Him in the glory He deserves and yet He came to earth, laid in a manger, greeted by shepherds, hunted, mutilated, murdered—by choice, for us, His rebellious creation.
I can't grasp that. Any words fall so short of its majesty and love. But one thing that I do grasp about it comes from Philippians 2:5-8 which says: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Surrendering our rights is a hallmark of Christianity and the only true way we can, I believe, reflect Christ's image and truly model the heart that made Christmas. It is not easy in a society that prides itself on individual rights, but that is probably why it stands out as such contrast from everyone else when it is done. It is hard because, by the very nature of the word, they are our rights. But Jesus, who had every right as God, didn't hold on to His rights but surrendered them and came to earth as one of us to be subject to our same temptations and limitations and dependence on the Holy Spirit. He who had every right to judge us, to stay in heaven where He was worshiped and recognized, to obliterate His attackers, gave it all up, by choice, of His own free will, in love. He laid His rights down at His Father's feet that His Father's will might be done and His Father glorified.
I don't think we can truly capture, or model, the heart of Christmas until we capture, and model, the heart of surrendered rights. Yes, we have a "right" to be apologized to, a right to freedom, a right to be acknowledged, a right to be heard, a right to be comfortable, a right to justice when we are wronged, a right to . . . but until we are willing to lay our rights down at the Father's feet we will never live as Jesus lived. This doesn't mean, say, as parents that we contradict other parts of God's Word that tell us to be heads of our home and to train up our children, or that we contradict other parts of His Word, but it does mean that if we are to truly show the world Christ, and Christmas, we have to be willing to say, "Yes, that is my right to ____, but I chose to surrender that right and humble myself, in love, for my Father and for another." It is only when we let go of our tight cling to this life and its comforts and "rights" that we will truly live a life focused from heaven, to earth, as Jesus did. The only way to show heaven to earth, and to show the Father's heart to man, is to live as in heaven and as the Father, and that is modeled, in Christmas, with surrender.
Note: Please still consider answering my request to you in the post: So, You've Been Given the Pulpit . . . Christmas. I would truly treasure your answers, and I believe others would be blessed by them as well as you being blessed by the prayer and thought it would require.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
This is too good to not share! I’m jealous—I want dreams like this! For those you who know me, or follow this blog, you will really laugh when you read that last part. God bless you all, and have a great day (please don’t forget, as well, to send me your answers to my “So You’ve Been Given the Pulpit . . .Christmas” post—I think you’ll be blessed by the first response I’ve gotten, you can see it in the comments on that post).
So, the dream . . . yesterday morning Bethany (shown in a recent picture of her) came in to our room very excited to share the amazing dream she had. She said that she and Abigail were playing in the play area when there was a knock on the door. She went and answered it and, believe it or not, Jesus and His disciples were there! They came in and she said that Mary Ann and I had coffee with them on the screen porch. When Mary Ann asked who made the coffee, she said that I did. Now is that cool, or what!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I heard an interview on K-Love radio yesterday with, I believe, Jeremy Camp. In it he said something that spoke to my heart. I will paraphrase it since I was driving and couldn’t write it down.
Basically, he was talking about the songs he writes and he shared how he had set out to write songs that connected with and touched the people and ministered to them. During the process God told him, simply, “You write songs that touch Me, and let Me worry about ministering to the people.” Jeremy said it was so freeing because he realized he only needed to write songs for God and God would do the rest.
As a pastor I found that speaking to my heart. There is such a temptation to preach to, or at, people, and to weigh their possible reactions to things in your mind as you write them. You have to battle all of those things aggressively or they will start to be the driving force. Each week I have to bring myself back, out of that place, and simply ask, “Father, what do You have for this Sunday?”
I don’t think that the struggle is simply for those in ministry, either. I believe that we all struggle with focus and where we put our eyes. Some struggle with wanting the glory of men more than the glory of God, so they live in fear of the cost of open worship or testimony. Others struggle with ministering for God, hoping it will bring intimacy with God, instead of ministering FROM a place of intimacy with God. Many of us carry burdens that the Lord never put on us, because His yoke is easy and His burdens are light. The struggles, the pain, the doubt, the fear, the longings, the needs—the all can weigh so heavily that we sometimes forget the model of Mary, to simply take the time to sit at His feet.
So, maybe the lesson in this busy season from the Jeremy interview is this—before we wear ourselves out trying to do good all around us let’s first simply worship and adore Him, and see what comes out of that. It is truly amazing what He can and does do through a surrendered heart and life that is fixed on worshiping Him! When we let go and let His Holy Spirit lead, the world is turned upside down. It is not about not doing anything—our faith is called to be an active faith expressed in works—but it is works that come from the place of our faith, works that are led by the Spirit who inhabits our praise and worship, works that spring from a place of love for Him and others.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I would value you, the reader, imagining that you have been given either the pulpit of a church (preaching to Christians), or a soapbox on a street (preaching to the lost), and you have ONE message you can deliver about Christmas. What would it be? Give it some real thought and prayer, and then send me your answer in a comment which I will review and then post (assuming it is not offensive).
So, what about Christmas, or the Christmas story, would you most want to share if you had one crack at sharing it with someone? When you reply, specify if your "message" is from the pulpit (directed to Christians) or from the soap box (aimed at the unsaved)—or send me an answer to both.
I would treasure what you have to share. I'd love to know what about Christmas, or the Christmas story, fills your heart and would be the one thing you could share if you could. Would it be different to a Christian or non-Christian? What is Christmas to you and how do you keep your heart fixed on it? Let me know, please. It would bless me to be ministered to by you and to share your heart, and I know it would bless others as well. Don't sell yourself short, God has great things to say through you!
I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that thankfulness is still filling your heart as the days after Thanksgiving unfold. It is amazing, when we consider that the Word says that every good and perfect gift comes from God, how many things we have to be thankful for when we start to count EVERYTHING good in our life . . . from every breath, to every meal, to every smile we give, to every smile we get, to every bit of love we show, to every bit of love we are shown, to every piece of clothing we wear, to every night in a warm bed, to the Cross of Christ, to the Word of life, to . . .
We had a wonderful day after Thanksgiving going to a local Christmas tree farm to cut a tree for our home. An anonymous person gave our family a certificate for one free tree and we went to the farm to find hot chocolate and a tractor pulling a trailer with a hay bale on it to sit on waiting for customers. The girls had a great time running through the trees, playing with the owner's dogs, and even sitting on the back of the owner's horses. We tied our tree to the roof of the van, drove home under a cloudy sky, and got out some of our Christmas stuff. Before we brought the tree in or decorated anything we sat in front of the fire and read the Christmas story from Luke and Matthew (chapters 2 in both) and then we set up our nativity scene (complete with the glowing star I made out of a plastic can lid mounted on an old night light, and a poster board back drop with stickers of stars and a cut out moon on it—see picture). It has been a wonderful few days as a family, and I am grateful to God for the time.
Christmas is always a time in which I seek (and sometimes struggle) to grow deeper and closer to the heart and message of the Savior come to earth. Each year it seems that a different part of the story comes alive for me. Last year it was the concept Immanuel (God with us). It became the "theme" of Christmas for me and, to this day, if I'm heading in to something hard, Bethany will still whisper to me, "Immanuel" as a reminder that He is with me. I don't know what it will be this year, but I do have to say that as we read the Christmas story Luke 2:9 leapt in my heart, as I wondered what it meant, and what it looked like, and what it was like to have the glory of the Lord shine around them. (Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.)
So, this leads me to the title. I am going to post another post in a minute with an invitation to you. If this works out then maybe we'll do this more often. My heart has always been that this page would be about more than me, and here's a chance for you to bless me and the body of readers. So, read the next post, "So, You've Been Given the Pulpit . . . Christmas."
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The best part of the morning so far has been the opening of our Praise Jar. Some years back, in an effort to put God at the center of our holidays, we came up with the idea for this jar. (You can see it in the picture of Mary Ann and the girls by the fire—and its lid in the picture of Abigail and I that Bethany took this morning.) Basically, I took an old pickle jar and I made a wooden circle and cross which I then fastened to the lid of the jar.
The ideal is that each night at dinner we bring over the old cigar box (now painted gold and covered in "jewels") that you see the Praise Jar sitting on in the picture. Inside it is a pen and a pad of small sheets of paper. Then, we record any praises from the day—times or instances we have specifically felt or seen God's hand in our family's life that day—and put them back in the box. At the end of the week we read the week's praises to remind ourselves of God's hand and goodness in our life, and then we put the week's praises in the Praise Jar. On Thanksgiving, we spend the day opening it and reading the past year's praises. It is an amazing time of remembrance and joy and praise as so many things we thought we'd never forget, and did forget, are brought back to us.
For us, in many ways, doing this is our "New Years." I say this because we spend the day looking back over the year remembering God's hand in it, and then we empty the jar and start filling it again the day after Thanksgiving. So, in a sense, the year we keep record of goes from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving.
My hope is to, one day, make copies of all the praises, year by year, and bind them in a book for each of the girls to take to their own homes. This is, after all, the testimony of God's hand in our lives—in their family—and it is the heritage and legacy they carry forward. Biblically, the preservation of the testimony is very important, and Biblical history shows that any time the testimony of God is lost the people fall away. The testimony of God and His hand in His people's lives, beginning with the first pages of the Bible and continuing in to our lives today, is critical to preserve. It is our heritage. It is our inheritance in the family of God. It builds faith and thankfulness, and carries with it power to reproduce. If you think about it, we are all living in the period of the Bible between the last epistle and the book of Revelation. We are, in that sense, still "writing" the work and hand of God—filling in the blank pages until He comes again or takes us home.
So, now I head back to the family and the fire. I wish you a wonderful, blessed, praise-filled day in which God is glorified in your hearts. May His love and goodness break through any barriers in your life or heart, and may the joy of the Lord be your strength today. If you ever want, or need, to talk just drop me a note in a comment. No one will see it if you ask me not to publish it. Let me know how I can help, or get in touch with you, and we can talk. Even if we can't share a cup of coffee and fellowship in person, in this day and age we certainly can share together over the phone.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
One of my favorite Christmas carols, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, did not begin as a Christmas carol, but rather as a song or poem born out of the hurting heart of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882, seen in this 1878 picture). According to the Maine Historical Society web site (who graciously has allowed me to use this picture), in 1861 Longfellow's wife, Fanny, was melting sealing wax when she set her clothes on fire and was enveloped in flames. Longfellow tried to put the fire out, but failed and she died the next day. While trying to put the fire out he burned his face and hands, and he grew the famous beard he is well known for to hide his facial scars.
I quote their web site here: A month after Fanny's death, on August 18th, 1861, Longfellow gave voice to his despair in a letter to his late wife's sister, Mary Appleton Mackintosh. He wrote, "How I am alive after what my eyes have seen, I know not. I am at least patient, if not resigned; and thank God hourly—as I have from the beginning—for the beautiful life we led together, and that I loved her more and more to the end."
The same year that Fanny died the Civil War began and in 1863 Longfellow's son, Charley, ran off to join it against his father's wishes. The United States was plunged in to a bloody war on its own soil, one that pitted brother against brother and family against family. In July of 1863, in the battle of Gettysburg alone, close to 50,000 American's died in three days. In the war Charley was also severely wounded (he would survive), and Longfellow's pain of heart for both personal and national loss must have been close to overwhelming.
Depending on which source you read, it was on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, of 1863 that Longfellow penned the now famous words which would, some years later, be put to music by others and become the Christmas carol we now know so well. The stark honesty and questions, the doubt and fear, and the overcoming faith of this song cause something deep to rise in me. As you read it, follow its progression, and lay within the words whatever it is around you that causes you to doubt or fear or feel lost or overwhelmed. Then, remember, that we walk by faith and not by sight, and rise up in the soaring conviction of the fourth stanza—that though around us it seems hope may be lost, God is not dead, nor does He sleep, the wrong shall fail and right prevail! God is good. All the time. And He loves us so much He sent His Son to die for us, that we might live again in relationship with Him. We walk by faith, and not by sight, and we stand convinced of that which is not yet seen, but promised. Christian, He will not leave you or forsake you, and greater is He who is in you than he who paces about this world.
1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
2. I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
3. And in despair I bowed my head
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'
4. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.'
5. Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
Monday, November 23, 2009
As I have thought about Thanksgiving in these recent days, there has been one story from the Bible that has returned to me repeatedly. It strikes me that it goes to the very core of Thanksgiving, because I believe, ultimately, that our attitude at Thanksgiving is directly tied in to our attitude toward God. If we see God as the source of all good and all life then we are tremendously, eternally, "fall at His feet" grateful for our lives, the cross, and all that He has done. Every single thing that we start to take credit for ourselves or attribute to luck or skill or whatever, other than God, erodes that plateau of Thankfulness toward God.
I believe that the Biblical lepers were a tremendous picture of the state of man. We are cast out, cut off, sick and dying. The difference between them and others is that their sickness was/is so obvious they can't deny it. We can find a hundred ways to deny our sickness of soul and deadness of spirit.
But God, who knew ahead every rebellion we would commit, every pain we would cause, and that our life would mean His Son's death, gave us life, and gave us His Son that we might have relationship with Him restored. Every man, woman, and child on earth should be "fall at His feet" grateful to Him, but so few are. Even those who know and believe in His truth often (myself included) live in a posture of grumbling, lack of gratitude, and failure to recognize the thousands of beautiful, good gifts He gives us each day—simply because He absolutely loves us beyond measure. Every breath, every meal, every bit of love and kindness received or given—it all comes from Him. Our life in the womb, our life on earth, our born again eternal life with Him—it is all a gift.
And so, with all that said, I offer you the following account from the Bible. Read it. Read it again. Read it again. Invite the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to it and to what Jesus would have felt in it, and read it again. For me, this story is the story of Thanksgiving and it has challenged me tremendously. It comes from Luke 17:11-19:
On the way to Jerusalem he [Jesus] was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”Those words of Jesus ring in my ear and touch and challenge my heart, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” I have a sense that no words I can write will evoke in you what this evokes in me. It will have to be a God-thing (and, then again, maybe it is just for me).
When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
God bless you, and may you have a wonderful, blessed, grateful, "fall at His feet" Thanksgiving, whether or not this account touches you like it touched me.
Friday, November 20, 2009
My great grandfather on my dad's mom's side, Harvey Randall, was a Methodist minister. (I have posted a picture of him and my great grandmother, Lauretta Randall, on their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1942.)
Stuck inside my great grandfather's Bible, in the Hebrews 11 faith section, was a printed flyer (or sheet) by Ralph Beebe. At the top of the sheet it says:
FEAR KNOCKED AT THE DOOR. FAITH ANSWERED. NO ONE WAS THERE.
Mr. Beebe then wrote, "I read these words over the fireplace of the Hind's Head Hotel in Bray-on-Thames, not far from London, a year ago. They were ascribed to no author, and I had never met them before, but they have been with me since."
These words really spoke to me. If you have followed this blog any length of time you know that faith is a strong theme of it. The Bible says that we walk by faith and not by sight, that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that faith released many people's desperately needed miracles and unbelief quenched the work of God as well. I believe faith is, ultimately, at its core, the commitment we make in to the conviction we have of God's goodness, love, trustworthiness, power, and Word, and I believe that there is tremendous power in faith—it is like the water that brings out the life in the seed of God's Word and promises.
When fear knocks, we answer with faith. We bring God's Word and promises and character to bear on the situation, and rest our emotions and thoughts and expectations and hopes on what He says and brings, and not on what we see before us. We dare to believe and rest our trust in the One who calls things that are not as if they were, and who, with a word, speaks in to existence that which was not. He's the One who will never leave me. He's the One who died that I might have an intimate relationship with me. He's the One in me who is greater than the one pacing the world. He's the One who is faithful to complete the good work He has begun in me.
To borrow the cry of the Zimbabwe believers, "That's my God!" (see the November 19, 2009 post That's My God!).
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This story tremendously touched my heart. It reminded me of Amy’s story of her first Christmas in which she, for the first time, understood and personally “owned” the words found in Christmas carols she’d sung all her life. (Her story is in my November 18, 2009 post “A Christmas Memory to Share . . .”).
Here’s the story, then a few thoughts:
Ezekiel Guti thanked me profusely for taking him to Universal Studios theme park in California. Guti, founder of a very large organization of black churches in Zimbabwe, was not excited about the rides or other shows. He especially appreciated the knowledge of how they fooled our eyes and made things seem to be something that they were not.Back to my thoughts. It is truly touching to me to see a people who so unashamedly rejoice and shout about the works of their God, and who so personally claim Him as their very own. I see people shout like crazy at sporting events, cheer for celebrities, etc., but rarely do I hear people shout with childlike joy and pride at the works of our Father, be it the miraculous, the healing of a marriage, the salvation from depression or addiction, or any way in which He works. I know that this story truly challenged my heart. May it will speak to yours as well. God bless you all.
He explained, “My people are not sophisticated enough to know that this is trickery. They think that what they see on the movie screen is what actually happened. This is wonderful that I can go back and tell them the truth.”
I tell you this to introduce another event of great proportions. Another friend, Bruce Coble, went from Tennessee to Zimbabwe to serve as the director of Gutis’ Bible College. He became a much-loved person to the students. On one of his trips back to the United States, Bruce collected some of his favorite videotapes to take back and show to the students. The tapes included Hollywood’s version of The Ten Commandments. The classic scene in the movie is the parting of the Red Sea. Bruce found it difficult to tell me this story without choking up with tears, but he said that when the students saw that depiction on the screen, as far as they knew, the camera was actually there recording the scene. They got so excited that they were all standing on their chairs shouting, That’s my God! That’s my God!”
Such straightforward love of God!
Multiple readers of this blog have expressed difficulty posting comments to it. I truly value your comments and thoughts and reflections—they make this blog more of a community than just about me, and they grow me along with you—so I asked a couple of people who are able to post comments for help making up a list of instructions about how to do it (it is different for me than it is for you since I am logged in as the blog's administrator).
1) You need to be on the blog's page, not in an email, to view or make comments. For those of you who have signed up to get an email each time there is a new post this means that you need to click on a link in the email to get to the blog itself. You can click on the post's name to go to just that post, or the blog's name at the bottom to get to the blog (the most recent post will be shown at the top).
2) At the bottom of any post will be a link "# comments," with # = to the number of comments that have been made to date on that post. Click on that. (For some of you, comments will already be visible when you go to the post.)
3) Clicking on the "# comments" link will show you any comments that have already been made (and approved), and at the bottom of them will be a window to "Post a Comment". Type in what you want to say.
4) Select a profile in the "Comment as" drop-down menu. If you have a Google account choose that, if not choose the Name/URL option and, then, type your name in but skip the URL window.
5) Hit "Post Comment."
6) At that point, your comment Preview will come up, along with a Word Verification box with some funny letters that you have to type in to prove you are a real human and not a "spam" computer. Sometimes people get a error message before or after they fill in the Word Verification, but just hit "Post Comment" again and fill in the Word Verification a second time; that has always worked.
7) The screen will then tell your comment will be sent to me for review. As one reader said, U R DUN!
Thanks, and let me know if this works for you or if you have any suggestions to add to it. I look forward to hearing from you, and what you have to share with me and others.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Yesterday I posted the following fun thing on my Facebook page: Okay, I've done it. The Christmas music started getting played today. Usually it is an after Thanksgiving thing, but I couldn't resist. I tried. I fought it. I know, I need help. But I couldn't hold out any longer! I love this time of year! Thanksgiving is such a beautiful time, and to have Christmas follow it is awesome! Thanks, Lord, for all your goodness in our life and for Your Son who gives us Christmas!
In addition to a bunch of fun comments on my page I received the following email, which touched me (and challenged my heart), and I asked permission to share it. It comes from one of this blog's readers, Amy, who Mary Ann and I have known for years. She came to Christ shortly before I did, both of us tremendously drawn that direction by how God was using Mary Ann in our lives as a witness in both word and life. If you follow this blog you may remember that I talk a little about Amy and a dream I had at her house when Mary Ann and I stayed there in my August 28, 2009 post Happy Birthday to Me.
Amy's email went like this:
So! Talking about Christmas carols on Facebook brought back a wonderful memory. In December of 1992 I was nearly a year old in Christ, but it was my first Christmas as His child. If you recall, I was still living in Fort Collins . . . but was housesitting in Carmel for xxx that December. That's the background; here's the memory: You two (MAZ and EAR) and I were walking around downtown Monterey at night, and there were old-timey carolers (dressed in costume) in the various historical buildings (I think—they might have been strolling and stopping at various places). It was the first time I had really heard the words to the songs. I heard, "Glory to the newborn King" and thought, "Hey, that King is MY Savior!" I heard, "Christ the Lord!" and thought, "Wow, EVERYBODY is calling Him Lord!" On and on. The words that had so automatically come out of my mouth for 38/39 years were now shining and sparkling and proclaiming the glory of God in my heart! And, as Walter Cronkite used to say, "You were there!" Love you both and the girly-girls too.
Thanks, Amy, for reminding us of the joy of our salvation, and the true PERSONAL meaning and richness of the CHRISTmas tradition, and traditions, that sometimes become more tradition and impersonal than living realization. He is OUR King, OUR Lord! I am a new creation, a new man, His child, and He is MY Father in Heaven!
As a pastor I struggle more with Christmas teachings than almost any other teaching because I am so inadequate to capture the majesty and love and wonder and awe of what Christmas means—of Creator coming in to His Creation, subjecting Himself to it, out of love giving Himself for those who have rebelled against Him. Some years back I felt God lead me to turn December over to a month of testimonies in our church on Sunday mornings. Each person I ask to share I ask to prepare with the thought, "Why is my life different because of Immanuel—because God came to earth and is with me?" After all, the ultimate end of Christmas was a people restored to their loving Creator. Christmas is, ultimately, what Amy wrote about and captured so beautifully—I am His, and He is mine, and we are no longer separated but joined for eternity. Lives are, naturally, radically different for that!
I'd love to hear others of your stories or what Christmas means to you. We can all use help keeping the joy of the Good News of the Gospel fresh and alive in our hearts! God bless you all.
P.S. MAZ is Mary Ann Zuzow. EAR is Erick Arthur Reinstedt. MAZ is what many of us who knew Mary Ann before we were married call her.
Monday, November 16, 2009
One of the first books I ever had recommended to me as an early Christian was Gayle Erwin's The Jesus Style. Since reading it, Gayle's books have been woven into my life in different, various ways. One of the most special has been his book, That Reminds Me of a Story, in which he shares different anecdotes and stories from his rich life. It has become our family's summer "tradition" to spend some mornings on our upper deck enjoying the beautiful view (see photos from our deck), sip coffee and hot chocolate, and read stories from Gayle's book.
I recently was able to find a copy of Gayle's second book of stories, That Reminds Me of Another Story . . . I have enjoyed what I have read so far a lot. Some of his stories are more serious than others, but all touch or speak to me in different ways. I contacted Gayle yesterday through his web site Servant Quarters (http://www.servant.org/) and asked his permission to share a few of the accounts. He graciously granted me that privilege and I will share the first below. I think, if you know me, or simply knowing the title of my blog, you will understand why I enjoyed this so much . . .
Coffee and Angels
At my first pastorate, an elderly, retired preacher served as one of my favorite people and staunchest supporters. His background in the denomination of his past was highly legalistic. They had preached against coffee, doctors and just about anything else. However, this brother was a few steps beyond that because of his gentle spirit and relationship with God.
He told me that he preached against drinking coffee (an official position of his denomination) until one night he dreamed of dying and going to Heaven. He described it as incredibly beautiful with angles walking around everywhere. He said that every angel he saw had a cup of coffee in his hand. After that, he never preached against coffee.
So, for those of you readers who love the Lord and who I will never meet or share a cup of coffee with on this side of the grave, there is now strong evidence that we can share some heavenly brew on the other, and I am looking forward to that time ahead with you!
The only problem with Gayle's story is the deep theological questions that it raises—in heaven do they drink decaf or regular?, Columbian or French Roast or another?, drip or perculated or French Pressed? straight coffee or some foo foo drink? In heaven, do you get a free cup after you've had 10,000? Do they have free wireless access, or are laptops banned in deference to the old school coffee house lovers who don't like being surrounded by them? Are there free refills? Do they care how long you sit? What will Abraham and Moses and Noah and Peter be drinking? Will they think less of me if I don't drink it black?
As the bank robber said in Dirty Harry, "I gots to know!" If coffee doesn't keep you awake at night, I am sure these questions will :) At least we do know this, the coffee shops there will be "non smoking," and they are sure to have quite a view! God bless you all. Love ya!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The Bible says that the heavens declare the glory of our God and the heavens are, indeed, massive and glorious beyond our ability to fathom or comprehend. I tried to keep this picture small enough to not clog your internet, but large enough for you to see some detail. Try clicking on it to enlarge it and see if that helps. For the image in this post I brought their 5-picture sequence into a draw program and put in the arrows to help it make sense. In a nutshell, in each case the "next" picture in the sequence is an enlargement of the small square in the previous picture. So, if you follow it across and then down, the last picture is probably not even a visible fraction of the first picture! And this is all in just one tiny slice of the sky we could probably cover with our tiniest finger nail! Wow, when Isaiah writes, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Is 55:9) it really makes us pause and wonder!
Our family has been watching a lot of Creation videos lately and one thing that really comes through in them is just how immense our known universe is. There are billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone, and there are billions of galaxies, each with their own collection of billions of stars . . . and as the heavens are higher than earth (higher than we can even fathom!) so are His ways and thoughts higher than ours! It really gives us some pause for thought. What comfort to know I am trusting my life to a God so huge and wonderful and glorious! (Note: as of 1999 the Hubble Space Telescope people were estimating there were 125 billion galaxies . . . and that was 10 years ago!) I find that if I can keep the size of things like this in perspective in my mind the things in this life that seem really big to me often just shrink as a result.
Enjoy the picture! Let me know if you like this and I can share some more of my favorite Hubble pictures. If you want to cruise the Hubble site (awesome pictures, not so accurate date estimates) the link to a good starting page is: http://www.spacetelescope.org/bin/images.pl?searchtype=bestof . I also have posted quite a few of my favorites on our church web site in the Photo Gallery section in an album called, "The Heavens Declare."
(Also, you may have noticed, I added a few fun widgets to the blog that should be neat to watch as the blog grows. One is a live activity feed which shows where people are visiting from. There is also one that shows the most recent comments. At the bottom of each post a widget now suggests other posts I've done that it senses are similar and that might interest you if that one did, and there is another that shows some of the different tags that I have used for posts. You can click on any of the tags shown and it will show you other posts which have that same tag. Let me know how you like these widgets, I thought they were fun.)
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I want to express my sincere gratitude to all who serve, and have served, to keep our country safe. Your willingness to risk your lives, to be separated from your families, and to submit your lives to another's leadership and decisions is a Christ-like quality. I value that I live in a country where I am free, where I can freely proclaim my faith, where I can raise my daughters, and where I have easy access to food, clothing, and shelter. I treasure that I can write a blog, express my views, preach from the pulpit, and do so not in fear. Again, thank you to all who have and do serve, and to all the families that share their loved ones in the service with us.
Let us, who call on the name of Christ, remember that we never cease being soldiers in a spiritual war until the day we are called home to Heaven. Unlike the seasons of our life where we may have served in the military, there is no retirement from the war we are in. Even if we choose to "step out of it" or ignore it, we are in the war none-the-less and the enemy never rests. One of the greatest challenges I faced as a platoon leader in Panama shortly after the invasion was keeping my men at a high level of readiness. After days and weeks of no encounters we tended to drop our guard, forgetting that the enemy, when he chooses to attack, will do so at 100% readiness.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say we are to be afraid of the devil and his hosts, but it does say we are to be on guard, vigilant, and prepared against him. He is an enemy who I feel that Haman in the book of Esther represents well. Haman was the man behind the orders given in Esther 3:13 which says: And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth [month], which [is] the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions. Satan is a thief and a liar who works in deception, and he is ruthless beyond measure. Just look in to the lives and eyes of those around you and see the hopelessness, pain, broken marriages, "orphan" children, deceived people, depression, longing for love and worth, wasted lives and resources and hours, addictions, blasphemies, vulgarities, and twisted senses of right and wrong that call good, bad, and bad, good.
The exciting thing is, if Haman is a picture of Satan, and the book of Esther has anything to say about it to us, then Haman and his plans were defeated when Esther rose to her place and exercised her favor with the king. She was given Haman's house, and Mordecai was given rule of Haman's house and the Kings signature ring of authority that used to be Haman's. The very gallows Haman intended to hang Mordecai on became his own gallows (just as the cross the devil intended to destroy Jesus on became Satan's own defeat). The Jews, strangers in the land (like us), moved in the King's authority and destroyed the hosts that Haman had stirred up against them. It is a beautiful word and picture, I believe, of the life we are called to live in as servants of Christ—tender and loving and humble to others around us, and ruthless to the hosts of darkness we have been given authority and command to oppose. Just as Mordecai wrote orders and sealed them with the King's ring (or name) we, also, operate in Jesus' name. This is not a magical phrase we tack on the end of prayers, but a powerful realization that we walk in His place and authority with His power of attorney.
So, today, on Veterans Day, thanks again to all who have (and do) serve in our armed forces, and to your families who share you with us. And, thank you, my brothers and sisters in the faith, for your fight, for your prayers, for your example, for your encouragement, for your carrying Christ's image and authority into the spiritual battle on behalf of our King. May His Kingdom continue to expand in every area you are given authority, and may His image (love, holiness, servanthood, power, wisdom, creativity, submission) be shown in you to a world that desperately needs to see it. You carry His name, His authority, His image, and His presence. Go and turn the world upside down! Like Esther, live for the season you are called for, from a place of intimacy with the King, walking in His authority, saving a people and defeating an enemy.
(Note: The picture is from my time in Panama when we were preparing for a raid on a walled home. I'm the silhouette in the middle with the shotgun barrel up in the air.)
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Here's another Esther thought: From Esther's place of intimacy with the king she was positioned to save a people. It was a chance that involved risk for herself, but, as Mordecai told her in Esther 4:14 ". . . And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
As Christians, with access to the King's voice and heart, we have had our eyes opened to the eternal realities of heaven and hell, and the glorious news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of men. We are offered the anointing of the Holy Spirit to empower our ministry (even Jesus said He cast out demons by the Spirit of God) and we are given the commission (really a command) by Jesus to go in to the world and make disciples, operating in His name.
Our eyes have been opened to the great, eternal truths, and we have been placed where we are for such a time as this. We operate from our place of intimacy and favor with the king in an effort to save a people. We have been given both the terrible revelation of eternity without God that so many around us are headed toward, and the most amazing revelation of eternity with God that we know the key to. It may involve great risk to ourselves, but we can't keep that to ourselves simply to protect ourselves. Like Esther, we have a call upon our lives and we must decide---do we play it safe to protect ourselves while others around us perish when we might have done something about it, or do we take the risk and answer our call and step out to save a people?
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Es 2:17-18 says: the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great feast for all his officials and servants; it was Esther’s feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity.
Notice here that the entire province was blessed by the favor Esther had in the King's eyes. For nothing they did, simply because the King was delighted in Esther, the region experienced blessing and relief and gifts. I believe that our "regions" (neighborhoods, workplaces, classrooms, homes, circle of friends) should be experiencing localized blessing simply because of our place of favor with the King as His children and friends and the bride of His Son.
Think about the workplace, for example. We are the ones with access to the King's wisdom, His blessing, and His creativity (just look at nature—He defines creativity!). When unique solutions are needed, when problems arise that are new, when great wisdom is required, who better to display that than the ones who have access to the wisdom and mind of the Creator of the universe? Our bosses should see in us excellence and creativity and wisdom outside of this world's (that doesn't mean they will receive it).
When areas are struck down, and hopelessness abounds, and unforgiveness and judgment loom large, who better to alter that atmosphere than the ones who bring with them the living Holy Spirit of the living God?
Whatever our environment or region of influence, simply walking with the King and having access to His heart, and having He who created intricate flowers and DNA and ecosystems dwelling in us, should make us supremely different. And that, like radiant heat, has the potential to lift up and bless all those around it.
God loves the whole world, but He has given His heart to His children. He has given us a place of friendship with Him and favor with Him and access to Him. When the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, makes His face to shine upon us and grants us His favor and delight, that should flow not just upon us but all around us—it is too big to contain. This doesn't mean that others will receive it or recognize it, but it should be there none the less.
The world has enough judgment and anger and selfishness. Let them see the unselfish love of the Father in us as we share the blessings of our favor with Him with them, and then they will see modeled the heart of the Father who gave His Son for them when they didn't deserve it, and they will see glimpses of a heavenly realm that will lure them as Heaven touches them and reveals itself to them through us.
Note: I owe great credit to Bill Johnson for opening my eyes to this line of thought through his teachings and books.
Monday, November 2, 2009
As I was reading in Bill Johnson’s book Dreaming with God he was talking about how the disciples went from a servant to friend relationship with Jesus in which Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). As Jesus’ friends He shared with them the things of heaven, the things His Father shared with Him.
It reminds me of when Jesus told Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). I believe God stands ready to share His voice and thoughts, and reveal secrets of His heart from heaven, to those who will be His friends. He has, I believe, created us for intimate relationship with Him which involves a sharing of hearts. For a variety of reasons we don’t always hear (or recognize) His voice as easily as other times, but I believe the invitation is there for us to pursue.
While talking about that change in relationship with Jesus that the disciples experienced (from servant-based to friendship-based) Bill mentioned casually that of the people of old the one who might really understand that would have been Esther who went from captive to queen. As God so often does for me, a comment made almost in passing can change the entire direction of my study or thought. I found myself looking up the book of Esther and from there starting to read it, and I was caught up in excitement as my heart was quickened to so many things in that book that I had never seen before.
I plan on sharing some of these things in some upcoming blog posts. I shared a few at church yesterday and I want to state something here that I stated there, which is this: In what I will be sharing that He showed me I am not saying that God meant these things to be symbolized as He authored Esther (that He intended the symbolism or wrote it to symbolize them). I believe the book of Esther to be a true, historical account that stands as it is written without there needing to be symbolism in it (though, maybe He DID intend it, I just don’t know). What I am saying is that He is USING the story of Esther to illustrate some things for me. As I told the church, I don’t believe God created seeds and soil simply to illustrate evangelism, but I believe He USES seeds and soil to illustrate evangelism. Likewise, I don’t know that He authored the book of Esther to illustrate the things I will share, but rather that He is using the book of Esther to show the things to me that I will share.
The first of the things that I felt God showed me was the invitation to us all to move from captives to a place of intimacy with the King. Esther was an orphan, and a captive, living in a land not her own (the least likely, in other words). Then, one day, she finds herself the Queen of Persia, and in a place of intimacy and relationship and favor with the King—still living in a land not her own, but now positioned to hear the King's voice and to influence the land from her place of favor with the King. We all are captives to sin and slaves to Satan until we accept the blood of Jesus as our sacrifice for our salvation. When we do we become the Bride of Christ, the children of God, colaborers with God, citizens of heaven living on earth (not our own land) with a tremendous potential to have tremendous influence over our regions because of our place of favor with God and our new identity as His children and dwelling places of His Spirit.
So, I encourage you to pick up your Bible and read through Esther. It’s not too long. Tell me what God shows you. I’ll be telling you what He has showed (and is showing) me.
Your friend in the journey. Love ya all. Erick.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I have been reading Dreaming With God by Bill Johnson and in it he talks about an incident that I have shared in church before. The details vary in different accounts of the story, but most say that it occurred at a dinner for survivors of George Mallory’s third attempt to scale Mount Everest. Mallory had tried twice to reach the mountain’s summit and failed, and on the third attempt he was killed. It is reported that, at the dinner for those who survived (but didn’t make it to the top, either—that was still about 30 years away), the leader of the expedition stood up, faced a picture of Mount Everest at the back of the room, and said:
"I speak to you, Mount Everest, in the name of all brave men living, and those yet unborn. Mount Everest, you defeated us once, you defeated us twice, you defeated us three times. But Mount Everest, we shall someday defeat you, because you can't get any bigger, but we can!"I love this story! I have seen tremendous victories in my life and the life of people I have ministered with, and I have seen some heart-breaking losses—some times when “Mount Everest” won a battle. I don’t understand why I don’t see more victories, and why I sometimes struggle so, but I do know that I am an heir of tremendous promises from God and I have in me the Holy Spirit of my God, who defeated Satan at the cross. I am lured, and invited, by the possibility latent in such verses as:
John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
Matthew 17:20 . . . For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.
John 16:23-24 . . . Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
Mark 9:23 . . . All things are possible for one who believes.
Additionally, God’s Work tells me that I don’t need to be anxious for anything, that I am a co-laborer with God, and that I am to pray (and play a part in bringing about) that His will would be done ON EARTH, as it is in HEAVEN! I am to partner with God in showing Heaven’s realities and the Father’s heart and love and will (which is always good!) to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
I am, according to 1 Peter 2:9 . . . a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession [that I] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you [me]out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Here is the thing. The devil, like Mount Everest, can’t get any bigger. But I have an invitation from my Father in Heaven to grow in intimacy with Him, to walk in purpose with Him, to live for the eternity He promises me with Him that the devil can’t take away, to demonstrate His love and power and nature to the world, to be transformed in to the image of Christ, to grow in grace, and to work toward seeing those awesome promises above become more and more the reality of my life as I seek to destroy strongholds of the enemy in my life and the lives of others.
The temptation the devil would love me to swallow is to say those promises (or, as I see them, invitations) above don’t really mean what they say, or seem to say. Once I swallow that I start to water their meaning down to match my level of experience, and I don’t grow but I shrink the meaning of God’s Word down to justify the level I am at. But, as long as I don’t water down what God’s Word says and, instead, contend to raise my experience level to match it, I continue to grow and the devil hates the sound of that! It is time for the people of God to start moving in greater and greater measure of not just declaring, but also demonstrating, the love and power of our mighty God! A world bound by deception, pain, hopelessness, abandonment, addiction, disease, purposelessness, orphan spirits, and counterfeit power desperately needs it.
Photo of Mount Everest from a free download of travel wallpaper at http://travel.desktop-wallpaper-photo.com
Friday, October 23, 2009
I love being surrounded by things that remind us of God. Bethany and Abigail play with a cute Noah’s Ark toy that I had as a kid, we hang Christmas ornaments with Bible pictures, we send and receive cards with pictures of Bible things on them, and we decorated our girl’s crib area with cute little Noah’s Arks that are delightful to a baby with their elephants and giraffes sticking their HUGE heads out of the TINY ark. These are delightful and wonderful and I’d probably decorate our nursery again with them, so don’t take what I am about to say as being a “kill joy” or “conspiracy theorist.”
These things are, I believe, fun and a great way to introduce our children to the testimony of the Lord’s work through history, but they may, unbeknownst to us, aid in undermining our faith in the account when we get a little older if we aren’t careful and diligent to replace those cute images with real facts about things like the ark.
What I mean by that is this—the ark would have had to have thousands and thousands of animals in it to do what God said it did, and if we try and fit the Biblical account of Noah in to an image of the ark that goes back to our childhood nursery or toy, we will, by necessity, find doubt about the account (hence God’s Word) creeping in. There is simply no way the account of Noah’s Ark could be true if it is anything like the way we usually see it pictured and, if that is our picture of it, we will begin to doubt or try and water down this account of God’s judgment and the faith that preserved a righteous people through it. I don’t care where doubt in God’s Word creeps in—it will always, from there, try and slink and slither its way toward the core of God’s Word, the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, yesterday for the history time of homeschool, we took my 50' tape measure and started in our yard and took it nine times down our driveway and across our road in to our neighbors field to make the Bible’s recorded 450' length of the ark come to life for us. I can tell you, if you have never done that, that was one big ship! Wow—it truly was an awesome, mighty vessel worthy to sustain the violent upheaval of the earth and heaven’s waters! Looking at its size you can see how Noah was a giant of faith to persevere in building it!
So, if you ever want to be blown away, and to have your faith restored, come on over. You can now stand outside our kitchen window and look up at the nail in our wall marking Goliath’s height (9' 6" in our case, though some say he was 10' 6"). Or, you can look at the nail in our wall at 15' off the ground marking the diameter the sun would be if the earth were the size of a golf ball. Or, you can now stand in our driveway and stare all the way down it and across to our neighbor’s field at the circuit breaker standing there 450' feet away, and be awed by the ark and the man of faith who believed in God’s Word enough to build it. No wonder God sought to preserve faith like that!
(Note: You can see a picture of our girls under the Goliath and sun nails in our wall in my Oct. 6th post, “Fallen Giants and Big Stars — Good Reminders . . .”)
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I made my post on Tuesday evening about the critical difference between evolution and Creation (as recorded in the Bible). The thrust of that difference is that evolution (whether accident or God initiated) removes the Fall, hence the need for a Savior, and ultimately undermines the whole Gospel message.
Literally just a few hours after making that post I curled up in bed and started leafing through Dennis Petersen's book Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation. On page 75 he writes, "Can an atheist understand the battle better than most Christians? Note what one wrote:". He then goes on to quote from a 1978 American Atheist periodical which says the following (punctuation, spelling, and capitalization are exactly as quoted):
Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus' earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of god. Take away the meaning of his death. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.This atheist said it better than I did! I found it fascinating to stumble on this just hours after sharing (far more clumsily) what I had about exactly that same point. We can't afford to doubt the Bible, nor can we afford to say, "What does it matter if it is a literal six days or figurative?"—and we don't need to say it. Literal, Biblical Creation is dependable, supported, and true.
Christianity, if it is to survive, must have Adam and the original sin and the fall from grace, or it cannot have Jesus the redeemer who restores to those who believe what Adam's disobedience took away.
What all this means is that Christianity cannot lose the Genesis account of creation like it could lose the doctrine of geocentricism and get along. The battle must be waged, for Christianity is fighting for its very life. (Note from Erick: Geocentricism is the belief that the sun orbits around the earth.)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
In the book Ken made a comment that started my mind down a path of thought that I wanted to share. In a nutshell, it is this: Evolution stands as the absolute opposite of Creation in more ways than just the obvious (how life and we began). If we believe in Creation as it is recorded in the Bible then man started off in God's image, we started off good, and then we fell and became separated from God, in need of a Savior, and cut off from the life and source of goodness. If we believe evolution (either accident or God initiated), man started out as a cell in some primitive pool billions of years ago and we have just been improving ever since! Truly, in evolution's natural conclusion, we just keep getting better.
Are you starting to see where this is headed? Evolution, which in its truest implications says man is just improving more and more, stands in stark contrast to Creation which says man is getting farther and farther from God, hence more and more lost and astray. The gap between the two end points of these two explanations just gets wider and wider as they both continue down their logical paths—one saying man is rising, the other saying man is falling.
Evolution promotes, inherently, the idea that in man we will eventually find man's solutions. It promotes the idea that the key is to just keep getting better, trying harder, etc. The natural implications of evolution, when we take them to their natural conclusions, draw man farther and farther from God and the realization of our need for God.
We see this ever-widening separation in the vast gap between politics and candidates and policies that exists today—one side feels man can fix man's problems, the other says that only God can and that we will only find our solutions in a deep reliance and dependence on God.
For the atheist, this all poses no seeming problem. They don't believe in God or the fall or heaven or hell so they don't see any other option than man fixing man. But, for the Christian who has embraced evolution, there becomes a very big problem—when was the fall? (I speak from experience here, having tried to reconcile evolution and Creation as a young Christian, and eventually finding out it just can't work if we allow it to take its natural course to its natural conclusion. I explain this below.)
Think about it with me for a moment if you will. If God started the whole thing and then let evolution bring us to today, when did we fall? When did we become advanced enough to understand good and bad and the law of God and to become accountable to a decision to disobey? When did that happen? Was man still hunched over in ape-like form when he first understood what God wanted and chose to disobey? When was the point of accountability and separation from God? Really, it boils down to this: When was the fall?
You see, the problem is that in evolution there is no room for a fall. We are just improving, not falling. We are going up, not down. There was never a defined point in which man fell. Evolution is the epitome of the results of rebellion in which God decreases in our eyes and man increases because in its teaching man continues to improve. Inherent in that is the assumption that technology and knowledge mark improvement, whereas inherent in God's Word is that the fear of the Lord marks the beginning of knowledge and growth, and that the fool in his heart says there is no God.
In evolution's natural conclusion we don't need a Savior because there never was a fall, and we are just getting better and better—we will become our own Savior. In Creation, and the Word that provides authority for Creation, we fell from God and until that separation is bridged we are lost and hopeless and separated from goodness and our Creator until we are saved . . . and Jesus alone is that Savior.
Of course, start to doubt the Bible's account of Creation or the Flood and you (or, if not you, then your children) may soon start to doubt the Jesus that the same Bible talks about, and Whom the Bible gives His lineage back to Adam, and Whom talked Himself about Noah and the flood and the ark as a literal person and event and boat. Be careful, it is a slippery, untenable slope to begin down the path of "Christian evolution." I know, I tried it out when I first became a Christian. Trust me, it doesn't work if we think it all the way through. The nice thing is that "Christian evolution" doesn't need to work—Creation, as described in the Bible, stands alone, scientifically supported, easily defended, and authoritative. Yes, there will always be faith required, but the faith required to embrace Creation is reasonable, not blind, and does not require at all the amount of faith it requires to believe in evolution in the face of all of the honest science that stands against it. Whatever your stand on this, I love ya. Just, please, think it through, because it is a serious, unsupported, dangerous slope we start down to embrace any evolution across kinds.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I praise God that He has taken me out of darkness and in to His marvelous light. I now stand and look at these things and wonder how I ever could have been so blind and foolish as to think that it all was an accident. There is no way fathomable by an intellectually honest mind that all of that could have come about with intelligent design, and without the guiding hand of a maker.
1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Thank You so much, Lord! I can see!