Sunday, September 27, 2009

Same Evidence, Two Views . . .

We just finished watching The March of the Penguins tonight with the girls. What an amazing documentary which chronicles the incredible story of the Emperor Penguins and their journey 70+ miles across the ice to find the exact spot they started from, how they find each other, how they take care of their young, how they take turns moving to the inside of the "pack" to stay warm, etc. It was a truly fascinating look at them which showed, also, the amazing mind of man that he could film and document them in such a detailed way, including undersea shots and other footage that was simply stunning.

It was also sad. Multiple times Morgan Freeman, the narrator, would say something to the effect of, "We don't know how..." or, "We don't know why...". He even, one time, said something to the effect of, "They do this in a way designed to...". And yet, no mention of the designer, no recognition of a Creator.

Romans 1:20 says: For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. The "they" here is man. Us. God says we are without excuse when we can see the most amazing things of Creation and deny Him. That is a scary statement. It is very final. "Without excuse." That pretty much says it all and doesn't leave any room for hedging or hope apart from it.

I found it so sad that the same brilliant mind of man that could track and film these creatures amidst nature's harshest environment could, at the same time, see and study it all and miss the very One it points to, the designer of the design. I think that this struck me with such contrast because, just a few weeks ago, we watched as a family the amazing DVD series, Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution. In this series they, too, chronicled the Emperor Penguin (among many other creatures), but they showed how so many facets of the Emperor Penguin's life and journey and internal knowledge base could not have evolved, but how they had to be in place, all at once, for the species to survive. They watched and chronicled the exact same march, the exact same habits, the exact same species, and they, to the contrary, gave the glory to God and showed so clearly how these amazing creatures point to the Creator who created them. It was, coming just weeks apart, a stark contrast.

It is a clear sign of the depth of blinding that the enemy has accomplished that we can look at creatures like these, and miss the One who made them. How do they find their way 70+ miles to the same spot when the landscape has changed and shifted and altered their route? How do they take turns keeping each other warm if only the strongest are supposed to survive? How do they "know" when to go, and when to return, and that they are supposed to return and find their same mate and same baby? What is the source of this knowledge? How does it come about and how does it get transferred? How would this species have survived and reproduced if, at one time, they had less information in their minds than they do now, and could only find their way half way, or do half their job?

I could go on and on, listing more and more questions—questions that "brilliant" men struggle so hard to explain any other possible way than to simply recognize and acknowledge that One greater than they made it that way. To God be the Glory.

(Thanks to M/Y/D/S Animal Graphics for their royalty free clip art of the Emperor Penguin. I have not explored the site fully so I do not endorse any other part of it.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Family of Christ . . .

When the transmission went out on our van a week and a half ago we thought our planned camping trip was over. Instead, we were blessed beyond measure (the only regret is that we missed seeing a special family at Hume Lake where we were going to go originally). We had three people offer us vehicles (two from our church, and one from our homeschool group who we had just met that day) and a family in our church loan us a luggage roof rack for the vehicle that we did borrow. Not sure where to go as camping was out for space reasons, we kept hearing about Shaver Lake (we wanted to do some fishing and some homeschool outdoor science time). On a whim, Saturday morning, I did a search for Shaver Lake and found the link for The Church of Shaver Lake. I thought that maybe some brothers and sisters in Christ could give us some advice about the area and where we might stay for not a lot. I called the number and one thing led to another and we were heading up there on Monday morning to meet some new "family". We were so absolutely blessed by the hospitality of the fellowship, from their amazing pastor Jim and his wife Debbie, to the family we stayed next to who live at the church, to the rest of the fellowship that we met. The trip was a beautiful balance of being outdoors, having fun, and that fellowship in the love and Spirit of Christ that is so beautiful. We were completely at home in the family of Christ there and we felt the sweet presence of the Spirit there. It was so wonderful and blessed to be a part of their family for a short time, and we know that we have made friends for a lifetime.

We got to fish (even had Warner in their fellowship take us out for a day and teach us fly fishing), go out on Jim's boat, see giant Sequoias, swim, BBQ, go to some high mountain lakes, relax, laugh, love, and just be blessed. I think that it must so make our Lord happy when His children love one another, open their arms and homes to one another, and embrace one another as a true brother and sister, sharing their hearts as well as their "talents." We can't thank all the people who seeded in to our time with their prayers, loaners, and hospitality. We can't thank God enough for His love and goodness. It was truly wonderful and amazing to feel so at home and loved and welcome among a group of people you had only met hours before. There is, indeed, a sweet love and bond and fragrance among those who love the Lord.

Pictures: The chapel used by The Church of Shaver Lake, Mary Ann fly fishing with Warner teaching, our family at Dinkey Creek, the "girls" and their donuts (and bagel) at Dinkey Creek (really roughin' it!). If you are on my Facebook page I posted other pictures there as well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In the Beginning . . .

God is really working in me through Genesis. I never expected the study of it to be so rich (I fell in to the "that is Old Testament" trap!). I am teaching in it at church (up to Abraham and Isaac), Mary Ann is teaching in it at Children's Church (her curriculum chose it, not her!), and I am teaching our history class to Bethany for homeschool and find myself starting in, surprise!, Genesis.

Two things have really struck me there which I wanted to share. I am teaching them both to Bethany as the "eyes" to weigh and see history through.

First: The value of our free choice in God's eyes.
God didn't have to put the forbidden tree in the Garden. If He hadn't, all things would have been permissible. There wouldn't have been a "choice" of disobedience. But, He chose to give us a choice. He so valued our free will choice that He gave it to us, knowing in advance it would cause Him to later have to lay His own Son on the altar for us. This free choice in man, which God valued so much, is one of the driving forces of history. Since God didn't make us love Him, history becomes driven by His pursuit of us wooing us back until we CHOOSE Him. Evil runs rampant in the world because we CHOOSE against Him.

Second: The temptation of Adam and Eve.
This event first reminds us that there is a real enemy and a real war and this, in itself, drives much of history. Then, it show us the enemy's tactics (and these haven't really changed!). First, before tempting Eve, he placed doubt in Eve about God. He caused her to doubt God's Word ("Did God really say..."), God's trustworthiness ("You won't die..."), and God's love for her—planting doubt in her about it by implying God was holding something back from her for selfish reasons ("He knows you will become like Him...").

Then, (and I believe ONLY then—I don't believe Eve would have entertained the temptation if she wasn't first doubting God), from a place of now doubting God, Satan tempted Eve. Because she now doubted God she entertained the idea that she could find provision ("When she saw it was good for food"), pleasure ("she saw it was a delight to the eyes"), and wisdom ("she saw it was desirable to make one wise") apart from God. Isn't that the core of our battles today? The temptation to believe that we can find either provision, pleasure, or wisdom apart from God. Unfortunately, it is only counterfeit provision, pleasure, and wisdom. So, maybe the way to battle that is also seen in this story. To not counter the temptation as much as going after the root of doubts about God that even allow us to entertain the temptation in the first place.

From the Fall comes the explanation for the history we see and the situation today. Man became afraid of God, hid from God, evil entered man's heart (just look at the first two children—Cain and Abel!), the ground became cursed and labor (work and childbearing) became hard, death came upon man, sickness entered, etc.

Just some thoughts to share. Love you all!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Perspective Matters: Seeing from God’s Eyes . . . Part II

First: Thanks to Amy for her comment on my first “Perspective Matters” post (you can read her comment, and comment yourself if you want, by clicking on the comment link at the bottom of that post). I, too, rejoice in God’s mercy and gentleness with me!

I have found my mind drawn repeatedly back to my first post on perspective since I did it a few days back (can you tell whose eyes I used in that picture?). It seems like even in what I read since then I find things that make me think about it, or more examples of it. So, a few more comments about it and examples. As more come to me, maybe I’ll even do another post on it!

If you are reading this you likely are one who wants God to direct your paths. I believe I am. One of the keys that Proverbs 3:5-6 gives to God directing our paths is to lean not on our own understanding. Proverbs 13:15 says, depending on your translation, that good understanding brings favor. Clearly the proper understanding is critical to our Christian walk and growth and God’s favor on our life, and it can only begin with proper seeing, which begins with proper perspective.

So often, it seems, that we initially read a Bible story from our own perspective or framework of experience, emotion, background, etc. But then, if we can rotate 180 degrees around the event, and see it from God’s eyes we see it totally differently. As we see through His eyes we start to develop His mind and perspective, and we see the full and real picture of things. This allows us to operate from a true reality, and not an illusion. If we can practice this in Bible events, I believe we will become better at doing it in our daily events as well. I know this seems to help me, at least!

So, a few more examples of perspective:

1) The woman in Bethany pouring perfume worth a year’s wages over Jesus. Man’s perspective: a waste. Could have been used to feed the poor. Foolish. Unwise. God’s perspective: an act of worship without compare. Jesus said of her: “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. . . . Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Wow! What a difference! Foolishness to the world is beautiful worship and recorded eternally to God. If we want to bless the Father and do the things that are beautiful to Him we better think like Him and not the world!

2) Paul’s conversion. Man’s perspective: lost everything—reputation, wealth, status. God’s perspective: all that he lost is dung compared to the riches of the glory of what He gained—Jesus and eternal life! Wow! How do we rank the relative worth of things? I remember someone saying to a family member of ours, upon hearing what Mary Ann and I were now doing, “What a waste, with the education they have.” Wow! And we finally knew we were doing something of true meaning! What a different mindset and perspective. Only one is right.

3) Five thousand hungry men plus probably thousands of hungry women and children. Man’s (disciple’s) perspective: impossible. “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” God’s perspective: not a problem, not an impossibility, “Who is willing to make themselves and what they have available to Me and be the one I use to make the impossible a reality?” This carries to a much bigger theme—what we consider impossible is not impossible, but an opportunity to God. May we see those things that way as well, and live in faith and greater expectancy and availability! May WE be the ones available and willing for God to use to make the impossible a reality!

4) Mary getting the news she would bear Jesus. Man’s perspective: a stigma of unwed pregnancy for life, possible rejection by family and friends, disbelief by even her fiancĂ©, possible stoning (I understand). God’s perspective: the privilege of carrying the Christ-child, Savior in to the world. Through one set of eyes it is a cost, and a great one. Through the other there is no cost that could remotely compare to the privilege it offered. This, also, ties in to a much bigger issue. The cost of truly following Jesus, and the effort required to truly seek greater and greater measure of His face and presence, is, in worldly standards, great (rejection, scorn, loneliness, earthly pleasures, etc.—even from other Christians if we love and seek and worship God in abandoned ways they aren’t comfortable with or that challenge their own walk and hunger). But, when we consider the gain—the face and presence of God—the cost is, truly, so, so small if we can maintain the proper perspective.

These are just a few more examples that have come to me of issues of perspective—the world’s possible view on something versus God’s view on something. Our battle is, truly, to see through God’s eyes and heart and not ours, because, usually, the two are radically different and one spawns from the father of lies, and the other the God of the cross—our Creator. It is time to start thinking like citizens of heaven, with a perspective from God, rather than like citizens of earth.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Perspective Matters: Seeing from God’s Eyes . . .

I have been struck in my study and prayer over these recent years about how important it is for us to be able to rotate around to the back side of an event in the Bible to see it from God’s eyes and not just from our own point, or frame, of reference. I believe that as we practice this in studying events in the Bible we will become better at it in events in our life as well.

I believe that we, by our nature, tend to see events through our eyes, laying over them our feelings and faith and experiences. This is natural—what we would expect—but it doesn’t always give us the full picture we need to grow. Let me list a few examples, stating how we might see them from our perspective in our initial reading of them:

1) Israel at the Jordan the first time: Ten spies have come back with stories of how formidable the enemy is. You are not soldiers, you have been slaves up until recently. It is easy to relate to their fear and doubt and decision to not invade.

2) Abraham sacrificing Isaac: Possibly the most difficult, horrible event in the Bible from a parent’s eyes. How could God ask that or even put Abraham in that position?!? We think that we could never do it, and we struggle tremendously with it.

3) The cross: From the eyes of those watching Jesus die—those who had left everything to follow this man they thought was God and who now was dead—it was possibly the darkest moment of their life.

4) Death of a Christian: We miss them. It is an end. We won’t see them again on earth. We hurt and grieve.

5) Peter on the Water: The waves are big, the wind is strong. I’d be afraid too. I’d feel fear. I’d probably sink also. I am he of little faith as well.

Now, like the earth going around to the back side of the sun, let’s rotate around these five instances and see them as God might see them—and see how seeing them that way can really increase our faith and give us a whole new perspective. Remember, seeing the full picture—the physical and spiritual side of something—is to finally see actual reality and not just our cropped version of it. Only in knowing actual reality can we truly understand and evaluate something.

1) Israel at the Jordan: We get a huge clue how God sees this when He asks Moses, in Numbers 14:11, “How long will this people despise (reject in New King James) me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” What we see, and excuse, as simple and natural fear if we look through our/their eyes is, to God, rejection of Him and unbelief because He has given them His promises to deliver the land to them and to go with them in to it. Wow! Suddenly we see this a whole different way when we realize that what we see as simply fear in face of a promise is, through His eyes, unbelief and, ultimately, a lack of trust in God which He sees as a rejection of Him.

2) Abraham sacrificing Isaac: I know how wonderful I feel when my girls express love and trust in me, so I can’t imagine the joy and pleasure God must have felt when Abraham demonstrated the love and trust and faith in God he did by being willing to immediately do this for Him. From God’s eyes what we consider one of the hardest chapters in the Bible may be one of the most beautiful!

3) The cross: The darkest moment through our eyes, were we there, was the moment God worked His greatest victory and defeated the work of darkness and brought the redemption of His precious Creation in to reality! Though we couldn’t see it, standing at the foot of the cross, it was from a spiritual framework a moment of huge victory!

4) Death of a Christian: From God’s eyes, He has brought home a precious child out of the pain and suffering of this world to His perfect world and place He has prepared for them where they can enjoy His presence without hindrance and He can fellowship with them without the obstacle of sin.

5) Peter on the Water: I wrote about this on May 28, 2009, in my post, “God Rocked My World This Morning . . .” In a nutshell, what we see, and excuse, as natural fear is actually, down deep, I believe, a reflection of what we believe about God’s character. I believe we see this event as, “Who wouldn’t be afraid? I guess I don’t have enough of this thing called faith.” I think, that to Jesus, it was a question, “Peter, who do you think I am and what do you think My character is? Do you really think that I would call you out onto the water and then turn My back and let you drown?”

So often we stop at our natural feelings, and we excuse and justify them and allow ourselves to remain in them, saying, “It’s natural.” But, from God’s eyes, I believe that He looks deeper than our feelings to the core and sees what they really reflect about what we think and believe about Him and His character and Word and trustworthiness and love. The examples I stated above are not to say that our feelings aren’t real, but to bring perspective and alternatives to them so we can begin to take them captive and see our minds transformed into the mind of Christ, that we might see and operate more in His image than in ours. As long as we remain in the place where our feelings and perspective drive us then we won’t grow or be a force for Kingdom work. But, I believe that in some way when we can begin to see, and be led by, the mind of Christ, we will start to move toward that place that Jesus was in where He did what He saw the Father do, and said what He heard the Father say.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

World View and Politics . . .

(Note: I mention the phrase “world view” multiple times in this post. By this I mean the belief of a person about what this world is made up of in both the seen and unseen realms. For example, a true Christian world view would include one all powerful, loving God who is active in the world; the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible as His revealed Word to man; the reality of sin in man and man’s need of a Savior which is found only in Christ and His death; the fact that to follow Christ is to allow Him to live in you; and the inherent reality of Satan who runs rampant over this world driving the evil in it. A secular world view, on the other hand, might hold some beliefs like there isn’t a God, or if there is He is inactive in the world; that man is inherently good and capable of getting better and better; etc.)

I read the other day of the debate around some candidate for political office in the U.S. being called to defend a paper he wrote 20 years ago that expressed some strong religious views that affected his views on some social issues. I remember the last presidential election where debate raged about the legitimacy and "correctness" of exploring a candidate’s faith views. I have some thoughts about it all . . .

While, in America, we are a free country and I believe that people of different religious (or even non-religious) views should be allowed to run for office, I believe that it is naive to try and separate them from their world view. It is one thing to say that there shouldn’t be a religious test for office (I agree), and it is another thing to say that a person’s religion shouldn’t affect their decisions in office (I disagree, and think that it is impossible).

I do not believe that it is legitimately possible to separate a true believer in something from that belief—nor do I think that we should. The world view of a candidate (if it is truly held and not just declared or claimed for political expediency) will define their life and their role in that office in a dramatic way. Think about the office of President, for example:

A President’s world view will affect their attitude on good and evil, and the inherent nature and tendency of man. This will dramatically affect their dealing with other nations, their expectancy from other people, their trust, how they see and deal with terrorism and nations that support terrorism, etc.

A President’s world view will define how they see and understand the situation in the Middle East, as well as their stand on Israel. A President’s world view will dramatically affect where they seek their wisdom from. A President’s world view will define their own moral code—affecting how they operate—and it will affect their stand on social issues. A President’s world view will define their expectancy and outlook on the future. A President's world view will define their priorities. A President's world view will define if they see a spiritual component to situations. (And, I believe, because of my world view, that a true Christian President will give our nation a spiritual cover at the highest level whereas a non-Christian, or only professing Christian, President won't.)

It is one thing to disagree with a candidate’s world view and not vote for them (that is a precious right in our country), but it is simplistic and, I believe, ignorant (not meant derogatorily) to think that a person can sincerely hold a world view and not have it affect who they will be in office (hence, knowing their world view becomes important). How can, for example, someone who truly holds a Christian world view that includes at its highest place an almighty Creator who in love died for them set aside that Creator’s heart (regardless of the opinions of man) and support something that is reprehensible to that Creator? Likewise, how can someone who holds a world view that there is no Creator (or only an inactive one) come up with a true moral, absolute standard that is steadfast if they don’t recognize that there is an absolute in the world? How, in fact, do they come up with any litmus test for testing what is truly right or wrong and not just someone's opinion at the time?

Ultimately, someone with a true Christian world view holds that there is an absolute standard of right and wrong and that it derives from God—and someone who rejects God comes up, somehow, with their own standard of right and wrong which is, logically, no more valid than someone else who has an entirely different standard of right and wrong (because, by their very own belief, there is no higher standard or place to use as a base or foundation or yard stick). Moral relativism is basically a “what is right for you is right for you, and what is right for me is right for me attitude” and it’s logical extremes are so dangerous and deadly that a philosophy professor at West Point once told me that he would do all he could to get me kicked out of the academy if he truly thought I was the moral relativist I thought I was. The ultimate end of that philosophy is chaos and the reality that there is no "right" or "fair" way to say someone is wrong who says that for them some things we would call horrible and unthinkable are right!

So, I believe that a candidate’s world view is absolutely critical to know, and I don't think I would vote for a candidate whose world view I didn’t know or agree with. Candidates, during an election, can give their opinions on every issue on the table at the time, but it is only in their world view that we will be able to predict how they will decide on issues that come up later. If they are true to their world view it will define them. If they are not true to their world view, I don’t know that I can trust or believe or have confidence in them, or that I want them in office or leading my country.

None of this is to say that a candidate should, when in office, try and force others to follow his/her religion (in fact he should protect their freedom), but when deciding on issues and policies, and in dealing with other people and nations, he or she must, by necessity, have a world view that they draw on to understand situations, make their decisions, and define their values. Knowing their world view as a candidate should help us predict how they will be in office when a decision has to be made and they have to make it. Then, knowing that, we can decide who will best represent us, and what we believe and stand for, and we can vote for them.


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