Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Higher Call . . .

I am watching the Army-Navy game for the first time in quite a few years. I am sure hoping that Army wins as Navy has won the last 10 games. I can remember so well those four years at West Point when I went to the game and the energy and the emphasis and the enthusiasm of that rivalry. You could have a perfect season and lose to Navy and it felt like you'd lost the season. I'd love to see the West Point seniors experience at least one win against Navy. It means more than maybe anyone can imagine who hasn't been a part of it.

For the whole year you are looking ahead to the Army-Navy game. Plebes (freshmen) know that if Army wins they get to "fall out" (not ping along the walls) until Christmas. From the beginning of the week prior Navy overflies your lunch formation with jets screaming above you, taunting you. There are rallies, and ultimately the impossibly long caravan of buses taking cadets to Philadelphia to the game, with the police traveling ahead blocking all the on-ramps for the buses. You arrive at the game and march onto the field as a corps, tens of thousands of people cheering in the stands. Then you take your seat (yeah, right! you stand the whole time) and watch your team go for it.

The Army-Navy game is called America's game. It may be the greatest rivalry in college football and has been going on for well over 100 years. There is something very special about that rivalry. Usually it isn't due to great football. Because the players are all heading to active duty officer commissions in the Army, Navy, or Marines they must meet stringent height/weight requirements that no major college team would survive under in a big football division. You won't see three hundred pound monsters out there. And usually you won't see pushing or shoving or face to face confrontations. It is truly a special game.

I think the reason for this special love for this game is because these men aren't playing hoping for a pro-football contract for millions of dollars. No, every one of them, including even the female cheerleaders, are heading to active duty as officers and to putting their lives on the line for their country. They may be slamming into each other now, but in a year one of them may be flying cover for the other, or going behind enemy lines to rescue one of them if they are shot down. As other people have noted when writing about this game, these players will never, except in rare occasions, experience the football fame and accolades and glory of their peers in other colleges who grace the covers of Sports Illustrated, are topics of ESPN specials, and who are mentioned in conjunction with famous bowl games and trophies. They will never be a household name, because they have chosen to serve something bigger than themselves. Instead of being on pro-footballs Monday night game in a few years, they will be in the jungles and on the sands and in the seas of the world defending their country, and for many, giving their lives. And that, I believe, is what makes this game so special.

It reminds me of those who have chosen to follow Jesus. Likely we will never experience the praise of the world or the pleasures and profits and comforts and luxuries it offers. We will likely never be household names, and many will likely be called to give up even their very lives. Why? Because we have chosen to serve Someone bigger than themselves. They have chosen to lay their lives and own gain aside for Another. And, just like the pumped up cheering crowd at the Army-Navy game loving on those cadets and midshipmen and cheering them on even though most are not great football players, the Bible tells us we have a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on . . . and Heaven is our biggest fan. May we run the race, fight the fight, with endurance, keeping the faith, looking, like Jesus, to the finish—our hearts fixed on something higher, encouraging one another.

God bless you all. And, go Army!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Worth a Look and Read

This blog post (click here) is well worth looking at and reading. To think, Christ rejoices over His bride, His church, us, this way . . . and we will rejoice over Him this way, too!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Responding to the "General Revelation" Argument

If you've read this blog any length of time, or know me in person, you know I am pretty outspoken (hopefully in a gentle, but firm way) about my belief that the earth is young and that Genesis' account of Creation is literal and does not need to have any "hidden" eras (or elongated days) inserted into it. I also believe this issue is important; matters; and has deep significance for, and impact on, other areas of our faith. And, I also know others who love the Lord, follow Him, and don't agree and I don't question their walk or love for Him at all.

With that said (and leaving my other blog posts over the recent years to explain why I believe this issue is so important), one of the things I (and maybe you) hear a lot in these "debates" is a distinction made between special revelation and general revelation. This distinction says that God reveals Himself and gives us insight into Creation by both special revelation (Genesis) and by general revelation (nature). To this point, this is true. Romans makes it clear that because God is so evident in Creation no man has an excuse to deny Him or suppress His truth. And it says things like, "the heavens declare the glory of God." But, it is at this point that I feel the argument often strays into error or inconsistency and I want to share a couple thoughts on it for you in case you find yourself facing the argument, or considering it for your own.

First, there is this seeming presupposition/assumption that the two revelations (Genesis and nature) provide different interpretations. This is an error. There are many, many brilliant scientists who believe in Young Earth Creationism (YEC) and who believe that if science could simply look at the evidence in nature, absent of preassumptions and bias and trying to fit it into their assumed models, they would see that the evidence overwhelmingly supports Genesis' account. But, the media and secular science has so overwhelmed their voices that there is this assumed "reality" that science and Genesis don't mesh when, in fact, they do.

So, first off, we don't need to choose between God's revelation in Genesis and His revelation in nature. The two support each other and are in total harmony. But, having bought the argument that the two contradict, many Christians then feel natural revelation (as they interpret it) trumps Scripture and they then feel led to reinterpret Genesis to fit natural revelation (as they interpret it). We end up then with theories that there is a huge gap between one or more of the "days" of Creation, or that the "days" of Creation are in fact long, long periods of time. What happens is a very dangerous forcing of Genesis into secular science, making the Bible support it instead of the other way around.

Here is the big problem. If we believe, or teach, that "science" or natural revelation forces our interpretations of Scripture we have opened a door and on the other side of it is a slippery slope. Even if we are strong enough in our faith to only do this with Genesis 1 (which would still be wrong), others, especially youth, may not be and it may very likely lead to a slide that ends in writing the Bible off as simply a good book or a moral code.

The reason I say this is that natural laws and contemporary "science" (at least that which gets taught and reported on) goes in the face of much of the Bible, not just Genesis! If you let natural laws and modern "science" interpret Genesis and trump Genesis 1 then, to be consistent, you must do the same for other events in Scripture. I can guarantee you that the same "science" that embraces old earth and drives old earth Christian interpretations will not be able to accept a resurrection from the dead, a talking serpent, a rod turning into a snake, an ocean parting, a trumpet and shout collapsing a fortified city, a realm of demons and angels, miraculous healings, orbits being interrupted, people being taken up by the Spirit and moved to other places, etc. They will either say, at worst, that these are just fables or, at best, they will come up with a naturalistic explanation for them. Yet, my guess is that most Christians who are old earth believe each of these other things truly happened and are miraculous and out of the bounds of natural law and explanation. This is inconsistent and, for many, can lead to some serious doubts and issues in those seasons in life when all we have to hold on to are the promises and love of God as revealed in Scripture.

So, to sum it up and help equip you regarding this argument:

1. A literal reading of Genesis (Creation days and the global flood) and natural revelation are not in opposition. When studied without pre-bias or molds the natural evidence around us actually supports a literal reading of Genesis and there are, in fact, many, many scientists who believe it but who can't get their voice heard.

2. It is inconsistent to allow Scripture to trump secular "science" (natural revelation) in so many areas that secular "science" would not believe, and then to allow secular "science" to trump Scripture in the case of Genesis 1 (and the flood accounts).

I hope this helps, or at least gives food for thought. Wherever you stand on this, God bless you and thanks for reading!

Monday, November 26, 2012

You Might be Country If #2

In response to the overwhelming (that's a joke, though many people did tell me they really enjoyed it) response to my post in September called "Just for Fun . . ." my family and I have gathered a few more "You might be country if . . ." thoughts. Of course, just like the first one, I'm not saying that I know anyone these have applied to in real life (smile). Of course not.

You might be "country" if . . .

. . . you put up the 16' Christmas tree at your church building that someone cut in the hills around you and brought to the building in a beat up pickup truck and find you need to cut two feet off the trunk. So, someone whips out a chain saw and cuts it off . . . while you are still in the building.

. . . the "tooth fairy" brings fly fishing lures and puts them under the pillow.

. . . you vote absentee ballot . . . because they make you because you don't have a polling place.

. . . when you go on a call on the volunteer fire department there is probably a 50% chance or better you'll know the person you are responding to.

. . . one of your youth groupers stores a pig on your property . . . and its alive, not in your freezer.

. . . one of the highlights of your family's year is the day it is green enough out and you have your burn permit and can burn brush piles and downed wood in the field, and sit around and have coffee, cocoa, roasted hot dogs, and smores as it burns down.

. . . when someone asks your kids if they have any pets and they reply, "five chickens, three cats, two cows, and a lost sheep that jumped into our field and whose owner we can't find."

. . . you hop the fence by your house and have to be really careful . . . because it is barbed wire.

. . . you don't use a cell phone . . . because your house doesn't have cell coverage.

. . . you are helping someone move and you are thrilled when they give you a bag of horse poop for your garden.

. . . you pick plums from the top of your plum tree . . . by being lifted up in a tractor bucket.

. . . getting ice cream from the store to your house before it melts is a big challenge.

. . . the bathroom at your local community center is "flushed" by scooping a cup of ash out of the can in the bathroom and pouring it down the hole when you are done.

. . . the "basic necessities" include baling wire and duct tape.

. . . one of the best Christmas gifts you've ever received is someone bringing you a load of firewood.

. . . more of the people you know barbeque with wood than with charcoal or gas.

. . . you could put on a live nativity . . . using only animals owned by people in your fellowship.

Enjoy. Remember, A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

Surrender . . . Lay it Down

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My guess is that for many, now, the Christmas music and movies and decorations are starting to come out . . . or at least you have a plan for it. I know we have already watched a few Christmas movies and we are starting to think ahead to when we might go into the hills and cut a tree, about our local church family coming over next Sunday for an open house fellowship at our home, about visiting with others, etc.

I know for myself, and I would assume that for most Christians, I hope that this Christmas season I can show Christ to, and share Christ with, others. I long to have Him be the center of my heart, life, thoughts, awe, wonder, thanks, words, and deeds. And, I think that this is a lot more simple than sometimes I make it as I too often tackle the issue with all this self effort, trying harder, trying to do more, etc. I think that it is, simply, found in surrendering.

Think, for a moment, about one of the most amazing realities of Christmas. It is Immanuel—God with us. Jesus came in the flesh and walked among us. He lived completely reliant on the Holy Spirit and completely surrendered to the Father. His words and deeds were so much the Father's through Him that He could say, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father."

Then something even more amazing happened. He died, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into Heaven after 40 days, and now comes, as the Holy Spirit (God Himself!) to dwell inside every believer. If you have surrendered your life, in faith, to Jesus and received His work on the cross in your place as the basis of your salvation you are born again, a new creation, with God Himself living within you!

The Bible tells us we are the body of Christ, His hands and feet, and He is the head. How does a human body best please and represent the mind (head)? Not by its members running off on their own self effort driven attempts to do good, but by simply surrendering to the head and letting the head dictate its wishes and direction to them. It doesn't mean they are lazy or not doing anything. It does mean they are letting the head live out through them. That's a body fully functioning in the simplest human sense, and in the body of Christ sense.

God lives in us and, just like Jesus modeled in His relationship to the Father, He desires to live through us. What He needs from us is surrender. Basically, to get out of the way in a sense. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." That is the reality. As Christians, Christ lives in us. He simply wants to live through us.

How does Christ, living in us, best live through us? When we surrender and let Him. When, in faith, we rest in His presence and voice in us and let Him lead us and guide us into His plans and purposes and words.

When will the world see the image of Christ in us? When we let Him live through us and they see Him and not us at work.

This Christmas I want to get out of the way. I want to live aware of His voice and leading and nudging, and then to obey and follow them. I don't want to be so consumed by my own good ideas and self effort that I have no room, or silence, to hear His voice and sense His leading. No matter how good my intentions the world still only sees me when I am the one leading. It may even be big, religious stuff I am doing and still not be Him. Only when I let Him truly live through me will they truly see Him and not me.

That is my hope this Christmas and my guess is that, if I am able, my other great hope for this Christmas will be realized. This hope is that the awe and reality and wonder and gratitude of God coming to earth for me, and living (and dying) among us for me, would captivate my heart and break through the walls of numbness I sometimes feel to the amazing truths I preach. I long to be overwhelmed and awed and captivated by the reality of His love, and majesty, and holiness, and presence and my guess is that I will most achieve this when He is living most fully through me as, then, not only will others—but also myself—be most close to seeing the image of Christ and experiencing Him most fully.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Silence, Hello, and Praise Jar

What would my blog be without sharing with you our annual Praise Jar morning? But, more on that in a minute . . .

It has been awhile since I last posted. From the start I've never wanted to post just to post or to keep the blog's name at the front of search engines, etc. If God isn't leading and blessing what I do I don't want a part of it. Over this last few weeks, besides being more busy than I can remember in a long time, I've been doing a lot of reflecting—especially after the election. I awoke the morning after with knots in my stomach not just at the idea of four more years of pro-abortion and anti-Biblical values leadership, but even more at what I believe the elections across the nation (Presidential, Congressional, initiatives and ballot measures, etc.) reveal about the true makeup and direction of our nation. I have had, in the last few weeks, to "practice what I preach" and take my thoughts captive to Christ, constrain my fears to His love and presence with me, and ask myself what difference my faith makes in how I see things. Especially hard for me has been wondering what my children and, if God tarries and grants it, my grandchildren, will face as a national political climate in relationship to their ability to homeschool, to teach what God says is right and wrong, to live a life not micro-regulated, etc. I was also struck, powerfully, with the reality that I'd known in my head, but hadn't felt so strongly in my heart until that Wednesday morning, that I am now, truly, in the minority. Up to that time I think I'd held out some hope I might be wrong, but the elections removed any and all doubt about that and it hit me hard.

Shortly before the election a survey was released revealing that for the first time ever America ceased to be a Protestant majority. Christians can sugar coat it all they want (saying its because we are now non-denominational, evangelical, etc.) but the reality is that we are, truly, far from a nation in which the majority are Jesus following, Bible believing Christians. The elections confirmed it. With no more unknowns we, with eyes wide opened, heavily supported the most anti-Christian values platform I can ever remember. But, I do see some good news for Christians, though, in this—but it is only seen as such through eternal lenses.

What I mean by this is this: Jesus said that the gate and way is narrow and few will pass through it. We should be suspicious of any majority professing to be His follower. It's not Biblical. What this new climate in the nation is providing is a freedom for those who truly aren't followers of Jesus to admit it instead of putting forth a facade of being Christian while inside having rejected it. What this means for us is that the mission field becomes crystallized and much clearer. The coworker or acquaintance who might, a few years ago, have said with mock indignation, "Of course I'm a Christian. I'm an American," will now feel a much greater freedom to declare their true hearts. For us that means we have much greater clarity in who we should evangelize, and that is not a bad thing.

All that said, this has been a time for processing and taking captive for me. I must remind myself that I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and Jesus is my Lord, and that He loves me and will never leave me or my children, no matter what course the nation takes. We have so much to be thankful for and, as I taught on Sunday, from the beginning God has made a mark of His people to be their thankfulness to Him. He is good, all the time.

Praise Jar
Today we are celebrating Thanksgiving in our home because tomorrow, for the first time, we are heading into town to deliver meals for a ministry that both serves meals to people and delivers them to shut-ins. So, this morning we continued a tradition we began in 2003 of opening our Praise Jar in which we have put recorded praises in our life (evidences of God's hand) from the previous Thanksgiving onward. We light the fire, make hot drinks, and pass the jar around taking turns pulling one out and reading it. It is so refreshing and wonderful to be reminded of all these things that, at the time, you thought you'd never forget . . . but too often do. To read a year's worth of praises in the course of a day or two is very powerful and if you've not ever done it I suggest it to you. For us it is a large old pickle jar to which I fastened a wooden lid and cross I made (you can see it in one of the pictures), but it could be anything you choose. The vehicle and format is not important, but remembering His goodness and passing it on is. You can, as is tradition here on this blog, share the morning with us through pictures. Thanks for sharing in our life and may you have an amazing, God-centered Thanksgiving, whenever you celebrate it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Taking a Step Back . . .

Recently I had to take one of our cars into town for some service on it. Town, for us, because we live so rurally (is that a word?), is about 55 minutes away. When I got to town a friend picked me up at the repair place and we went to get some coffee and a light breakfast before going together to a ministerial meeting.

For getting our coffee and bite to eat I suggested a spot I like where you can get a cup of coffee (and a refill!) and a bagel for only $3, but my friend took us to another, closer place since my suggestion was "on the other side of town" (about 7–8 minutes away) and our ministerial meeting was on the side we were already on. I was totally OK with him picking—this post isn't about his choice!—but I was struck by the matter of perspective both suggestions revealed.

To me, who had just driven 55 minutes into town, the idea of a "mere" 7–8 minutes being far, or out of the way, was not even a thought. But to my friend, who lives in town, "the other side of town" is a distance. I remember this feeling from when I lived on the Monterey Peninsula. Then, to go the 10 minutes from, say, Pacific Grove to Monterey, to run an errand or get a cup of coffee was "a long way" and avoided unless really necessary. Now, however, when we go to the Peninsula to see my folks, running over to Monterey or Carmel from Pacific Grove is nothing—because where we live now even the most basic errands are a minimum of 30 minutes away, and most almost an hour away.

As I reflected on this difference in perspective I thought how it really is a picture of the perspective we must have as Christians to live effectively in this world and not be pulled by this world. If we can't step back from the world and see things from the much bigger perspective of eternity then the things (events, circumstances, physical items, lures, etc.) of this world will seem really big to us. But, if we can step back from our narrow focus of the world around us and see things eternally, from the big picture, I believe we will find the things of the world not seeming so big to us—hence, they will not have the weight of pull on us they might when our life defines the boundary of our perspective.

Just as from my "distant" perspective "the other side of town" seemed like nothing (and from my friend's town perspective, it was too far), if we can see the things around us and that pull at us through eternal eyes I believe we will see them in the proper weight and perspective we are supposed to. Just like Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him (Hebrews 12), we must live in this world constantly aware of our heavenly home, of eternal life, and of the things that carry into eternity and the things that are temporary and rust and are consumed by fire.

The expression is often used of people with eternal perspective that they are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good, but I don't see that. To me, and I think to the Bible, we won't be of earthly good unless we are heavenly minded because a heavenly, eternal mind is the only thing that can keep us keeping things in their proper weight and perspective. If this world is our biggest reality and hope then is stands to reason that the things and events of this world will be our highest influence and weight. But if eternity is our biggest reality and hope then the things of eternity will have the most influence on us and carry the most weight with us. But, because the lure of the world is so powerful and because we live in the world, having an eternal perspective is not natural. We must cultivate and tend it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Inconsistent . . .

One of the things I have been teaching on a lot lately at our fellowship is that our faith and belief "statements" should not just be for thick books and seminaries. If they don't affect our daily life, in the grit and grind of living in this world and being salt and light in it, then haven't we missed something? Jesus didn't spend His whole time on earth in some ivory tower coffee house of safe discussions—He lived very much in this world and interacted with it and touched it. Then Jesus said He was sending out the church as the Father sent Him. Additionally, Ephesians tells us a pastor's job is to equip the saints (the body of Christ) for the work of ministry. Our faith is supposed to impact our daily life, to define its choices and change our priorities and expectations and values and words. We are in the world for a reason, for the work of ministry, otherwise the Father would take us immediately to Heaven where there is no pain, sorrow, death, sickness. This is one of the reasons I stress so much knowing a person's world view—because if they are true to it (which you would hope they would be if they really believe it) then it should affect their lives completely.

Last night's Vice Presidential debates really struck a note with me, though not a good one. I listened to Vice President Biden say that his personal belief is that life begins at conception (that's his supposed world view). Then he said he'd never force that on someone else or take away a woman's choice in the issue. My mouth almost dropped open. How can someone truly believe life begins at conception and then not take a stand to defend that defenseless life? What is the difference between that and removing laws against murder? How can he truly believe that is a life, a baby, inside the mom and then say he won't legislate to stop someone from killing it? If he truly believes it is a life inside a woman then, whether or not he'd admit it, he is saying that he believes a woman should have a choice to kill it.

Now I need to say that I believe Christians have handled the abortion issue tremendously wrong in many ways, and we have come across as cold, insensitive, hateful, angry, etc. I think we often haven't shown a mom to be the compassion of understanding her fear, her dilemma, etc., especially in the cases of unwanted pregnancies. I think we have spilled words that condemn a woman whose had an abortion instead of showing her the love and forgiveness of Jesus. But, all that said, if it is a life in her—and we believe it is—than that is a separate life and it must be dealt with as any other life, and we don't allow murder of anyone else no matter how convenient or expedient it is.

It is not just about the woman's choice! There is another life involved, and if we believe that we must—must!—defend the defenseless. That is God's mandate! I remember for me the turning point in the whole issue came when a brother said to me something to the effect of, "Everyone talks about a choice. What if they ask the baby its choice? What if they said to it that it was an accident, would it like to die? No one talks about the baby's choice." That, for me, was the defining moment. I realized that if I truly believed that was a life inside a woman then it, too, had rights and a choice, and if it couldn't defend or stand up for them on its own then others must. That is what God is about, and American used to be about. Are we still? He still is.

At its core this whole issue reveals an even higher and more important truth in a man or woman—what is our true (not just professed) world view, and what is our highest standard of truth? This issue, like many others, has at its core a much greater truth and that is the truth of where we stop as the final word in truth and right and wrong. Will that highest point that trumps all be God or man's opinion? Questions like this cut through all the expedient words and empty professions and reveal the true heart and belief of the person making them.

Note: Even Congressman Ryan wasn't consistent with his world view as he was listing exceptions to his anti-abortion stand. I think that when we start to make murder OK even in a few situations we are opening a slippery slope that won't stop just because we say, "no more." Once an avalanche begins it is unstoppable. It then becomes not a question of right and wrong, but a question of how far right or left the demarcation line is put, or of when it is right or wrong. The reality of that is that we aren't any longer saying something is right or wrong as an absolute, but we have changed over into saying man's wisdom defines right and wrong. That, then, becomes arbitrary which leads to moral relativism . . . one of the most dangerous philosophies a society can have. The rejection of absolute right and wrong is not tolerance, it is naive foolishness and the first step on the path to death.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Long, Long Time Ago . . . ???

I am pretty passionate about defending Genesis 1's account of Creation and the later descriptions of the flood of Noah as literal. I believe it there is no reason, scientific or otherwise, to doubt them—and I believe our stand on them is of tremendous importance. I believe that the Gospel (and our outlook on future judgment) hinges on the truth of Genesis 1 and the judgment of Noah's flood, and that there is no other true way to explain death as a wage of sin, or to trust either the Bible or Jesus' words (Who spoke of Creation and the flood as literal), without trusting in both as literal and true.

In my experience, the primary reason people start to doubt them or to try and compromise with them is because of an underlying assumption of vast periods of time being needed to create what we see around us and in space. Basically the two schools of belief divide along these lines—either slow change over long periods of time, or rapid change driven by major cataclysmic events (i.e. a global flood and the fountains of the deep opening up) over a short period of time. Our educational systems (including some Christian, of which I have friends in) have seemed to have bought, without question, that what we see is the result of vast periods of time and gradual change.

Unbiased science, however, does not support this—and yet we teach it and receive it as truth instead of just another belief system or theory. If you want evidence of massive geological change over short time look at a Creationist account of what happened at Mount St. Helens. It was that experience that turned my friend, Dr. Rick Oliver of Confound the Wise Ministries, from an avid anti-Christian with a PhD. in Evolutionary Biology into a Genesis defending scientist. What happened there in a very short time turned upside down the teaching of how much time is required for major geological change—and Mt. St. Helens was not a large volcano in terms of what is believed existed some time ago.

Look also at the errors in scientific dating methods and, even more importantly, the underlying assumptions that are made in the dating methods. Whether mechanical (carbon dating, etc.), or by association (strata dating, etc.), there are tremendous assumptions made that are embedded in a prior belief of vast periods of time. Then, with that prior belief, we develop dating that substantiates it. Then all these "educated" men and women come out touting eons of ages and we, as Christians, intimidated, try and come up with theories to mesh "science" and the Bible.

Simply look at the advances of man within the last 150 years and I think you'll see that man doesn't require a lot of time to advance rapidly. In 1903 the Wright Brothers took the first 12 seconds of powered flight. By the middle to end of the next decade planes were flying bombing runs and dogfighting in the sky, and within 66 years of their flight we were sending men to the moon and bringing them back. Many of you readers will remember the first home computers and the massive, room-filling more "advanced" computers of just a few decades ago . . . and now most people in America have, as a "necessity," phones and tablets that are tiny and yet vastly more powerful and all connected around the world with wireless technology. We fought the war of 1812 (and wars much later, including our Civil War) with sailing ships. Today, only 200 years after the war of 1812, and only 150 years after the Civil War, we have nuclear powered super carriers that can go over 25 years (yes, years!) without refueling, and are over three football fields long (the Enterprise is, according to Wikipedia, 1,123 feet long—almost four football fields!). Only one hundred and fifty years ago this coming November Richard Gatling patented his Gatling gun which would revolutionize warfare . . . and in only a little over 80 years after that, in 1945, war would be turned upside down forever by atomic bombs that would do to entire regions and cities what the Gatling gun did to an advancing small body of men.

We could go on and on in all fields—medicine, technology, science, etc.—but it is clear, man doesn't require long periods of time to rapidly advance, and nor does geology . . . especially when you add to Creation the realization that God probably created with an appearance of age, and that there was a massive global upheaval and flood from both within and above after that. We must, I believe, if we and our generations are going to remain and stand confident in the Bible and God, question why we ever doubt it and realize that we are buying into assumptions and theories that are laden with guesses, falsehoods, and bias. Let every man be a liar, God is still true, and He always will be.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rude, or a Life Preserver?

On the recent trip to San Diego I wrote about in my last post we were blessed by a couple getting us a hotel room there with some travel points they had. It made it so wonderful to be able to stay in a place with a pool and not have to rush 2–3 hours back to Los Angeles late at night after the reception. While at the hotel that night we had a special time with the girls going into the pool and whirlpool late at night (for us). While near the pool there were a few guys sitting around, one of whom was smoking a cigar and the smell was hard to escape. Then, when we got to our room, we found the smoke from the cigar rising and floating in our open door and we had to close it instead of leaving it open.

I found myself a little irritated, and judging the man. Then, the next morning, we found out there was an AA convention at the hotel, and I had the thought . . . what if that man had lost his family and maybe everything to an alcohol addiction and he was at the convention, turning his life around, and smoking a cigar was his only way to combat the urge to drink? What if that cigar was the price to pay to see a man's life restored, a father and husband brought back, and a life turned around?

Now, I realize there are ways that are simply courtesy, and I am not saying that nothing is right or wrong, but after having that thought (which I don't know if it was even remotely true or not) I thought . . . if that was the case I would sure find my heart toward that man different.

We never really know what is someone's story, someone's past, or someone's reason. How often I've assumed something or thought something only to find it had no basis in truth. The Bible makes it clear how careful we must be not to judge others. We can be discerning, but judgment is another thing. God knows the heart. We don't.

I have met many Christians who were "rough around the edges" and didn't "behave" quite "properly" in church. And I've met many Christians whose noses go up at that. But, I wonder, if in many cases we could see how far the "rough" Christian has come in their walk based on where they were when they came to the Lord, and how far the judgmental ones have matured from where they came to the Lord, we just might find that the "rough" ones have come a lot farther than the "proper" ones in their walk.

I've always said our fellowship is a workshop, not a museum. If we can't, as Christians, find (and offer) a place for all people to grow in the love of Christ then we have missed what it is all about. I am reminded of when Chuck Smith reportedly threatened to rip out the carpet of his church building because elders were concerned about the "rough" ones off the beach tracking in stuff and ruining it. May we never care more about "carpet" than people.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

God's Plans or Ours?

Over twenty-five years ago I was in San Diego on a summer break from West Point and I vividly remembering driving through the grounds of a Catholic college campus shouting an obscenity out the car window as loud as I could at a God I didn't think I believed in.

This weekend I had the privilege of attending a wedding for a former youth grouper in San Diego, just a few miles from that site. This young man, along with many other former youth groupers, had moved to San Diego a couple years ago and is strongly involved in a fellowship and ministry while there. Multiple people from our area went to the wedding and Mary Ann and I were awed, and blessed, to see 12 former youth groupers and 6 current youth groupers at the wedding. We had worked with some for the full 6th-12th grade, and others only taken to winter camp once or twice. Some were very strong in the Lord, and others still figuring it out.

It struck me deeply as I looked around the room and as we got to take our picture with all of the former youth groupers, how amazing God's plans are for our lives—and how different they are from what we would probably design, and how different they are from what the world calls valuable.

At the same time I was at West Point Mary Ann would have been getting a degree in foreign language. Some time after we were married and moved where we are now and started working with youth and pastoring the small, rural fellowship we attend someone who knew one of our parents commented something to the effect of, "What a waste. With their education they could have really done something." So often what the world defines as doing something, being successful, etc., is in complete contradiction to the plans God has created each person to walk in. We will have to choose whether to walk in our own plans and wisdom, or to walk in the plans He has created us for.

As I shouted out the window that day I can only imagine that God could see me and could, at the same time, see 25+ years ahead of the moment to when I would be sitting a few miles away, surrounded by youth groupers I had shared His name and story with. And yet, at that moment, He and anything called ministry were a million miles from anything I would have planned for myself.

If I am honest there are times I really struggle. I see people all around me who can take vacations whenever they want. I see people who can fix their cars, buy what they want, go to the doctor freely, etc. I struggle, not with the people (who I have nothing against, and many of who have been overwhelmingly generous to us), but with jealousy. Then I look around me and the world and see all the people who have so much less than me and the condemnation comes in for feeling that way. It is a battle, but one in which moments like the wedding will frame my thoughts. I will see my life, my family, the lives that have been touched by God in some way through our meager efforts, and I have to ask, "What could I possibly get or have gotten for myself that would have any eternal value or true, lasting happiness, compared to that which I get by being who God calls me to be, in the way and place He calls me to be it?"

It is something, I think, we all have to decide—over and over. Will I frame and define my life, or will I allow the One who created me for special plans frame and define it? And, truly, when we think about it, what could we possibly do or get for ourselves that would, in the end, not seem hollow compared to the privilege and eternal value and wisdom in serving the Lord who is worthy of all honor and glory, and walking in the unique plans He has created each of us for?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Us and Him

The other day on the way into town Mary Ann was reading from one of our homeschool books to our girls. She shared a story out of Egypt some years back where a Muslim Egyptian postal employee, seeing that a large bag of mail was from the "rich" U.S.A., took the bag to his desk and went through it. He found a thicker package, stuck it in his coat pocket, and took it home. That night he opened it, envisioning money, only to find a New Testament that was being sent to a teacher. Thinking something to the effect of, "So this is the holy book of those Christians" he started to read. By the time he got through the gospels he knew Jesus was real and by the time he got to the question cried out in Acts, "What must I do to be saved?" he eagerly read the answer and believed on the name Jesus Christ. He bought a new Bible to replace the one he'd stolen and now his name is protected as he distributes all the Bibles he can get from America to people and places in his homeland.

To contrast, I once, before being a Christian, worked with a kind man who was, simply, brilliant. He may have had one of the highest SAT scores ever. He studied New Testament studies at a university because he was deeply interested in it. He poured over Biblical archeology magazines. He could quote and talk about the Bible and archeology and word origins and original manuscripts "better" (in an intellectual sense) than I ever can hope to and yet . . . to him the Bible was a good story, had some historical relevance, but was certainly not the revelation of God coming to earth. He was involved in a lifestyle contrary to the Bible, and seemed to feel that while it was intellectually fascinating, the Bible (and the God it reveals) had no bearing on his life.

As I reflected on the man I knew, and the man Mary Ann read about, I thought, "What an amazing difference in responses!" One man spent years in the New Testament and it has meant nothing to his life. The other read four books of it and by the fifth knew Jesus was real and God and gave the rest of his life to Him at great risk to himself. What it reminds me is:

1. The true work of conversion will be a transaction between an individual and the Holy Spirit, and we never know when it may happen. We are called to be God's witnesses, not His attorneys. We aren't going to "win the case" for Him. We share what we know, as God leads us, and realize the results are up to Him and between Him and the person involved.

2. Be ready in season and out of season. I shared some time back the story of Daniel (you can click here to read it), a man I met on the street in Los Angeles while I was walking to get a toilet part, who approached me and who, within 10–15 minutes I was leading to Christ. On the other hand I have shared Christ, and defended Christ, and argued Christ, for sometimes years with other people and seen no conversion. We never know when it is "the moment" that God has prepared and when the person will make their decision.

There is great freedom and responsibility in these realizations or reminders. Freedom—it is not our job to convert someone. We just are faithful to share as we are led. Responsibility—we need to be available to be led and position ourselves to be receptive to God's nudges. With Daniel, a simple decision to walk on the other side of the road and the contact wouldn't have happened. With Paul, resisting the Holy Spirit would have sent him to a region the Holy Spirit didn't want Him (even though he would have been doing "God's work"). We never know the time or season or moment, nor what seeds we are planting even when something seems futile. We must let the Spirit guide us—let Christ in us live through us—and then trust Him with the rest.

I close with a similar example. One of my earliest youth camps almost caused me to quit youth work. I had taught on multiple different evidences for our faith, including the evidence in Creation. I felt like no one had heard a thing. Mary Ann and I were so discouraged and went to a pastor's home, ready to quit. He asked one question, "Did you do what God asked you to do?" That question has changed my life. As I realized I had he said, "Then that's all He's asked you to do. Trust the results to Him." About a month later God gave me a glimpse of the fruit of that time I thought had done nothing (we don't always get those glimpses, and that is why we must trust!). One of our high school girls in the youth group came up to me and told me that in science class that day the teacher had told the class that if they didn't believe they'd come from fish to get out of the class . . . and she had gotten up, in front of the whole class, and walked to the door. The stunned teacher asked what she was doing and she replied, "I don't believe I came from fish. I believe God made me." The teacher sputtered and told her to stay in, just not to say anything.

We never know. We simply do what He asks, and trust. All we are responsible for is what He asks of us. By the way . . . the parents of that girl gave us a homemade plaque that still hangs in the center of our living room which ways, "I know I'm somebody, 'cause God don't make no junk."

Friday, September 14, 2012

We'll Never Understand With Just a Surface View

Our stand on the Bible and what it says about the physical and spiritual world, and Satan and evil, will dictate whether or not we truly understand world events. This is critical for everyone to understand, not just a President . . .

In response (I assume) to all the rioting against, and attacks on, America in the Middle East and Africa these last few days the Obama administration has apparently asked YouTube to review the Islam bashing video that is supposed to have started this whole thing. You can read the FOX article by clicking here. In the article it says, "The White House has asked YouTube to review the online video that has been cited as the spark for demonstrations raging across the Middle East and North Africa. The Obama administration is not explicitly asking YouTube to remove the film, but to check if it meets their standards."

They don't get it, and anybody who thinks this is about a video doesn't get it. It's not about a video! Millions of people around the world have seen and read and heard things offensive to their beliefs, faith, etc. and not rioted, murdered, burned down buildings, etc. You probably have—certainly you have if you are a Christian in America. I have heard hateful things about Jesus, and I have heard hateful things from the mouths of professing Christians toward others as well. And yet, we don't do what they are doing around the world right now (and, in reality, it is so far a tiny minority in these countries, not necessarily reflective of the whole country).

But for a U.S. President's administration to get involved asking YouTube to check the video out is naive at best, and at worst a huge mistake in even giving these people an inch. It is as if someone in the world can decide they don't like something America does, riot, and we say, "Sorry. We'll try and change that." and dance to the tune they select as they manipulate our marionette strings. Does anybody really think that even getting the video pulled is going to change the type of people who do these things? It only makes America look weak and afraid—and as every Christian should know, evil doesn't honor weakness and fear, if feeds on it and is empowered by it.

Foreign policy wisdom aside—that isn't really what this post is about—this focus on the video demonstrates a huge ignorance of the reality of world events and of the battle between good and evil. Christians, above all, should know that. The Bible makes it clear that our real enemies are not flesh and blood, but the principalities and powers that drive them. Satan hates God. He hates Christians in whom God dwells and who are adopted by God. He will use any and all means to incite rage and evil against anything that is good or dear to God's heart.

Recently a young adult asked me, in light of talking about 9/11, "Why do people hate us?" I told them that there is no way they will truly understand what is happening and the "why" of their question unless they understand the reality of God and Satan, good and evil, Satan driving evil, and of the fallen nature of man and our choices unconstrained by God. It goes far beyond 9/11, or even Bush, or Reagan, or . . . it goes back to a cross and an empty tomb, and before that Abraham and two sons, and before that a garden and a couple made in God's image and a serpent, and before that . . . well, you know what I mean.

We can never truly understand this world, evil, the hatred directed toward America and Christians, etc. until we understand the spiritual reality that overrides it all—and trying to understand or deal with these issues outside of that framework and reality is ignorant and will never truly work or lead to an understanding of the true enemy. It is like painting over dry rot or termite damage and thinking you've addressed the problem. This is one reason I think it is so important to understand a politician's worldview—we can never truly hope to understand them or hope that they will understand the world unless we know if they understand the truth of what is really going on.

It is not about a video. Just like it is foolish to think everything that happened in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict was all truly about people enraged by injustice. Or all the looting and stuff after Katrina—what, were the people who did that mad at the hurricane? Man, apart from Christ, is a breath away from darkness—and darkness needs but little fuel to enpower it and bring it to light.

Just the other day I went on a call to a barn fire that also burnt up a bunch of grass and debris. We spent hours mopping up, making sure every bit was out. Over and over there would be a wisp of smoke as the only evidence of the ember smoldering and waiting below, and then you'd flip a board and the oxygen would rush in and the ember would ignite into flame. Evil, darkness, is like that. It is always just below the surface, smoldering, waiting for whatever it can use to get its "oxygen." In the end it isn't really about the fuel or the oxygen . . . it is about the one putting the match to it or blowing on it. This stuff in the Middle East and Africa isn't about a video! And, to even address the video or think that it is displays a deep lack of understanding of reality.

I thank God for His written Word which helps us understand the true world, spiritual and physical, and for the reality we know as Christians that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that whatever happens in this life is but for a moment in the light of the eternity He has reserved for those who have placed their faith in His Son's work. May His Spirit give us all understanding and open our eyes to truth as we seek to live in this world, but be transformed that we are not like this world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just for Fun . . .

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

You might be "country" if . . .

. . . driving into town for your once a week town day you realize that the envelopes you used to mail your bills in aren’t sealing so you use the roll of gray duct tape you happen to have rolling around on the mini van floor to seal them with before you drop them in the mailbox.

. . . your wife drops you off in front of WalMart so you can quickly run in and when you come out you immediately spot your van in the full parking lot because it is the only one you can’t see through the back window of because of all the dirt road dust on it.

. . . someone in a car knocks over a tree in front of the church you pastor and one of the parties involved says, “I’ve got a loader, I’ll just pick it up and haul it off.”

. . . you get your soundboard working again with tin foil after a fuse blows.

. . . a mouse joins you on the floor for youth group.

. . . you go to repair your church’s septic tank and find out it is a buried 55 gallon drum.

. . . you walk across 40 acres of grass and mud in your funeral clothes because the road is too slick to get home on.

. . . one of the fundraisers for your youth group has been a cow drop contest in which people buy tickets to get a square in a field and you then let a cow loose in the field and see which square it poops first in to see who wins the prize.

. . . the guys on the volunteer fire department with you are better armed than the police.

. . . you have a bumper sticker that says, “Fairy tales say a frog became a prince. Scientist call it evolution.” . . . on your tractor.

. . . you preach on the heavens declaring the glory of God and every person you are preaching to knows what you are talking about because they see a beautiful display of stars at their homes every night.

. . . you take your youth group to a winter camp and as counselors you are taking the pastor and his wife, an elder and his wife, the worship leader and his wife, the church secretary and her husband, the Children’s Church director and her husband, the youth pastor and his wife, the treasurer, and the missions head . . . and you’ve only taken five counselors.

Not that I know anyone these might describe, of course.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Churches . . .

Thanks to everyone who has been commenting or emailing me with thoughts about how they are processing the warm embrace of Romney evangelicals are giving him that I posted my concerns about in my last two posts. I appreciate your thoughts and value your opinions as I work through it all.

Yesterday at our service I introduced a series I will be teaching through in which we will be examining different foundations/beliefs of our faith from the perspective of not trying to be too deeply theological but rather from the angle of, "So What?" I don't mean that in the sarcastic, bored, disinterested stereotype teenage response, but in the deeply interested way of, "Okay, so you believe [fill in the blank], so what? How does that belief make you different in the world you are called into as light and salt and the image bearer of Christ? How are you different and how do you become different and take thoughts and feelings captive to that truth, because of that truth you believe? How can we formulate questions for our life that will help us take our thoughts, feelings, priorities, choices captive to that truth and make us different for that truth?" Believe the right thing is the basic first step, but it is not a guarantee of any eternally valuable walk. We must not only believe something, but let that belief alter our walk and our attitudes and our feelings.

After the service a man came up to me and shared why that question, "So what?" had affected him so much. With his permission I share what he shared with me . . .

Last week he'd been in a city in Southern California. He works in making companies more energy efficient. Dressed to include a button down shirt and tie he went into the facility of a large, non-denominational evangelical church in a nice neighborhood to try and get contact information for the facility manager so he could set up an appointment with him to discuss the facilities energy use and how he might help them scale it back.

There was a large coffee shop book area with a sign that, though the offices were on the other side of it, you can't pass through it to get to them, but have to go outside. He asked someone who curtly told him, "You have to go outside." Doing so he encountered a locked door with a buzzer. After ringing it a voice asked his business and after he explained it he was buzzed in without any words being spoken. He was met by a security guard with the words "SECURITY" across his chest who escorted him to the receptionist. She, in a very business-like way without much fluff or seeming caring of him as a person, asked his business. He told her. She, without warmth, said, "Do you have an appointment? He doesn't see people without an appointment." My friend repeated he was trying to simply get contact information so he could set up an appointment, to which she repeated that he didn't see people without an appointment. Finally, after going back and forth, she handed him the manager's card and the security guard escorted him to the door. Asking the guard if they'd have problems (the neighborhood looked nice) the guard got apologetic and said it was just their policy. They then talked and shared a bit.

Heading down the street he saw a Catholic church which had classrooms and a decent-sized facility and he stopped there. The doors were wide open. Going into the sanctuary he saw people in it praying and he paused a moment to pray as well (not to the Catholic symbols, but to Jesus). He'd been there but a bit and he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked into the eyes of a man who kindly and gently said, "I'm Father ___. Would you like to confess your sins or is there something you'd like to talk about?" The difference between the two receptions (and my friend is not Catholic), was like night and day.

The point in sharing it was that my friend had just had that experience and then he heard me asking, "So what? So you have that belief, how are you different?" His heart had been wounded that day. He'd thought maybe he'd have even bump into the pastor of the church and have a moment to pray or gotten a word of encouragement. He'd had a hard week. Here they have this huge facility and a nice coffee shop and tons of resources . . . but, "So what?" He was greeted by uncaring voices, people who treated him like an object to be gotten rid of or dealt with, security guards, and locked doors. Down the street he met open doors and kindness and caring.

"So What?" So what difference does having Jesus and our beliefs make to us. What do people meet when they meet us? Which church best represents us, our fellowships, our homes? Which one best shows Jesus to the world? How do people feel when they come in contact with you or your fellowship or your home? These are questions to ask. Americans may have more access to knowledge about God than any other nation, and yet statistics about American Christians are shamingly close to statistics about unbelievers in marriage statistics and other areas. "So What?" So you and I have all these correct beliefs about God that we can spout out easily. "So What?" How are we different because of those beliefs. It is a question I ask myself regularly as I seek to take my thoughts and feelings and priorities captive to what I believe about God and His promises and His character and His Word. My flesh still wants to rule. I don't want it to. I must let my beliefs make a difference in my life, even if my first impulses don't come forth from them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thanks & Comment Note

Thanks to the couple people who emailed me thoughts on the question/dilemma I shared in Thursday's post, A Good Read & A Troubled Heart. I would really, really like to hear from more committed Christ followers about how they are looking at this issue. It is not, to me, so much the quiet vote for Romney that bothers me as much as the shoulder to shoulder publicity and enthusiasm and showcasing the Mormon faith is getting by Christians suddenly all jumping on the bandwagon in our fear of another Obama term. It is an issue I really don't have an answer to . . . the obvious horrible consequences of another Obama term, laid alongside the possible eternal consequences of evangelicals dropping their guard toward Mormonism or in any way contributing to an appearance that the faith doesn't bother us any more. Again, this is nothing at all to do with Mr. Romney or his family or the dedication and kindness of so many Mormons (might more Christians be like them!). Anyway, no need to repeat that post. If you are interested or would like to share your thoughts with me on it, it is linked to above.

Along the line of sharing thoughts, I am so frustrated trying to comment on other blogs and not being able to read those crazy words we are supposed to enter to prove we aren't a computer (and based on how many of you email me instead of commenting my guess is you are too!) that I have, I believe, disabled that part of commenting. Now when you post a comment you should, if I understand it right, be done. It will go to me for moderation. I would love for one or two of you to try it and let me know if that is correct and how the process works for you. I would also love for more people to share through commenting their thoughts, insights, God moments, etc. and to make this blog place a place where like-minded believers can encourage and build up one another. The body of Christ was never intended to be a separated collection of John Wayne Christians, but a living and interacting body that, together, fully expresses Christ's image and strengthens one another.

God bless. Have a wonderful weekend!   —Erick

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Good Read & A Troubled Heart

If you've read this blog any length of time you know that I firmly believe it is impossible to separate a person from their worldview (assuming they live faithfully to what they believe). While I do not believe there should be a religious test for office (as in someone has to believe certain things to run in America), I do believe that the flip side of that—to try and ignore a person's worldview—is ignorance. How can we possibly understand or predict how a person will decide major issues like values, the battle between good and evil, Israel, Islam, etc., if we don't understand the framework or lens through which they view the world? We don't have to agree with a person's worldview, or even vote for them, but to ignore it and think we understand the person is foolish.

Albert Mohler posted an excellent blog entry today titled, "The Great American Worldview Test—The 2012 Election." I highly recommend you read it. It is a very equipping understanding that while we may frame individual issues as if they stand alone, they are, in fact, truly inseparably tied into our worldview. He makes a great case that this coming election—and he seems to frame it as Democrat vs. Republican—is a test between two worldviews that are a vast distance apart . . . and that both party's platforms are deeply tied into the worldview they subscribe to.

As he says at the end of the post, "Americans will elect a president in November, but our vote will reveal far more than our political preference. The 2012 election is a worldview exercise of unprecedented contrasts — an unavoidable test of our most basic convictions. The electoral map will reveal more than an election winner. It will reveal who Americans really are and what we really believe."

I couldn't agree more with what he is saying in terms of our revealing what we truly believe by what we make our priorities in the upcoming election. With that said, however, I find myself in a deep dilemna. Please don't let what I am about to write take anything away from what I wrote above. Mr. Mohler's article is right on and a must read. However, it leads me to a point I am deeply bothered by and don't have an answer to. I would really love to hear from conservative, Bible-believing Christians on how they are dealing with what I am about to say. So, here goes.

I will never vote for President Obama. While I am sure he has a heart for the poor and some other things Christians should care about and do more about, I do not know how he can profess to be a Christian and show such utter disregard for the Bible and what it says. I don't have a clue what his basis for determining right and wrong is, but it clearly can't be God's written Word. In fact, not only does he just not embrace it as his source of truth, he actively works against what it stands for in many, many areas. I would choose to not vote before I would ever cast my vote for him. He has done more in four years to undermine America's stand for God's values than anyone I can ever remember. The scary thing to me (and, I am sure, exciting thing to some others) is that it appears a vast number of Americans embrace him and his policies and reject God's written Word as their standard of right and wrong and life.

That said, Mr. Romney is a Mormon. It wasn't that long ago, when Mr. Santorum and Gingrich and Perry and Ms. Bachmann were still in it, Evangelicals were freaking out about a Mormon and making sure everyone knew it was a cult and that people falling into it were not going to be saved. What has changed? Is our dislike for President Obama so strong that we will vote for anyone but him? Now it seems like everywhere I turn Evangelicals are singing Romney's praises and encouraging a vote for him.

Please don't read into this something that is not there. I have only deep respect for Mr. Romney and would love to sit and visit with him and his family. And, I can only wish more Christians showed the kindness and family values and commitment to, and sacrifice for, their faith Mormons do. But . . . if we truly believe that Mormonism is a path away from salvation, and a faith filled with many false foundations, then aren't we legitimatizing it by being so cozy with Mr. Romney and giving him so much of our support and such a vast platform to showcase the Mormon faith's strengths? Aren't we, in fact, separating ourselves from our worldview and letting issues and not a worldview of eternal life (or Hell) frame us? Or do we not really believe Mormonism is not a path to salvation?

My fear is that, in fighting against Obama and abortion and gay marriage and such we are, as Christians, in some way causing millions of people to soften their resistance to a faith we claim is dangerous and not a true saving faith. If so, for the sake of a few years (in light of eternity) are we not playing a part in maybe millions being separated from God for all of eternity?

I don't know the answer to this. The thought of Obama for another four years as a President not worried about re-election is very scary to me. But the thought of playing a part in maybe millions coming to a faith I have been told, all my Christian years, by Christian leaders, is not a true saving faith, is also very scary. I don't want to lose sight of eternity because I am looking at a few years, or even decades. I know that Mr. Romney far better reflects our values than President Obama or the Democrat's platform does, and that we aren't electing a pastor, but a President . . . but I can't help but believe that, as Mormons are more and more seen favorably through this, more and more people will find their resistance to it dropping and their defense against it faltering. And if that mattered to us so dogmatically just a few months ago, has any of its threat to people's eternity changed? Or, are we putting this life and this nation ahead of the Kingdom of God, maybe not remembering this is not our home and there is a bigger issue at work?

I truly am in a deep dilemma I keep thinking about but can't find answers to. Again, I would really value hearing from committed, Bible believing Christians who have wrestled through this as to what your thoughts are.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to School

It is a running joke in my family that if I do something once it becomes tradition. We'll, in that light, since I think I've posted our first day of school pictures for a couple (or three?) years now, I've got to continue. If you are new to this blog please know that it is not only a place I share things God is showing me, or thoughts on issues, but also a place I share slices of my life. I do so not arrogantly, thinking tons of people will care, but knowing that many of my readers are people who have come here knowing me and who have an interest in me and family. For you new readers, I welcome you to my life! I'd love to get to know more about yours!

With that said, today was our first classroom day of homeschool. Bethany is entering 6th-grade, and Abigail 2nd, and they are sure excited. We already have had some awesome instruction in matters of God at LIFE Camp as well as some other educational days, but this was the first in our classroom. I guess that is why, though we fall back into the word "homeschool," we find the expression "home education" a much more proper description of what we've chosen to do. The word "school" when attached to "home" implies to us (not everybody) that the learning/teaching stops when the "official" day is over, and it tends to subconsciously force us to try and compare to, or match, public school decisions about what is taught at what age, etc. It may seem like a small thing, but that shift in words was very freeing to us!

So, here's some pictures so you can share our day! Thanks for being interested! May you be deeply aware of God's love for you and nearness with you this long weekend, and may your "rest" in Him.   —Erick

Praying and then blowing the Shofar to start the year.

Excited girls . . . of course with a hot drink. It's tradition!

I am so blessed! Thanks, Lord!

Posing with their end of year presentations from last year. Abigail did volcanoes,
Bethany did Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

As For Me and My House . . .

Yesterday there was a CNN blog by Eric Marrapodi called “Bill Nye slams creationism.” According to the blog Mr. Nye is, “a mechanical engineer and television personality best known for his program, ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’.” In the blog the author quotes from an online video that Mr. Nye released for Big Think last Thursday and adds some thoughts of his own. Here are a few quotes from the article:
"Denial of evolution is unique to the United States," Nye begins . . .

Nye . . . said the United States has great capital in scientific knowledge and "when you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in it, it holds everyone back."

"Your world becomes fantastically complicated if you don't believe in evolution,"

"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, that's completely inconsistent with the world we observe, that's fine. But don't make your kids do it. Because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need engineers that can build stuff and solve problems," he said.

"In another couple centuries I'm sure that worldview won't even exist. There's no evidence for it. So . . ." Nye ends his video.
So, if Mr. Nye was your teacher, or your child’s teacher, or someone your neighbor listened to on TV or the internet, how would you respond?

In opposition to Mr. Nye’s “advice” or “plea” to grownups, Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” ESV

So, we face a choice. It is not unlike Joshua's challenge to Israel before his death, recorded in Joshua 24:15, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ESV

Making the decision to serve the Lord and teach of His wondrous works which confound the wisdom of the wise, are you equipped to answer your children’s questions? Are you confident in your own position and can you supply answers to the doubts the enemy wants to plant in you? Do you know why you, and your family, can stand with your head up, unashamed, declaring the Genesis account to be true? What is your reply to the claim that believing in Creation is not believing in science?

These are important questions, not just intellectual debates for fun. These questions cut straight through Genesis to the entirety of the Bible itself, which ultimately affects our faith in God, the Gospel, and our worldview. Words and beliefs like Mr. Nye’s are what you and your family and coworkers and neighbors are facing in increasing waves.

Do you know what you believe and why you believe it? The answer you will give is more critical than you can imagine.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Stark Contrast

Last week I was in a courtroom accompanying someone who'd asked me to be there with them, and what transpired in the two issues before theirs came up was truly both an amazing contrast and a picture of the two "realities" we are offered in this life, and eternity. I think you'll be blessed by the story . . . 

In the first case a man and woman came up with a boy and the issue before the judge was an adoption. I had heard about the amazing picture in adoptions of God's adoption of us when we are born again, but I had never seen one in person. It was incredible.

I gather that the man had married the woman and wanted to adopt her son. After the judge asking the boy some questions like, "Do you like this man?" and "Do you want him to be your father?" the judge asked the man something to the effect of, "Do you understand that by adopting Michael he receives all rights as a child, including inheritance?" After the man said he did the judge asked something like, "Do you understand that by adopting Michael you assume all responsibilities of a parent, as if he was your own child?" After the man said he did the judge verified with the mom that she wanted this as well and then asked what the boy's last name would be. They told the judge (I believe it was the new father's last name) who then asked if Michael had a middle name. They said he didn't and asked if they could give him one then. The judge smiled and said, "Now would be the time," after which they chose a middle name for Michael which the judge recorded. The judge then signed the papers and declared, "And now I've signed that and Michael is the child and Jorge is the father." And it was done, sealed, official. The line of natural, worldly descendance from a father to a son was broken and a son received a new father, and a father received a new son, all in a transaction that transcended and overrode the earthly blood line. The judge then gave the boy a teddy bear to remember the day by and the courtroom—filled with people focused on things ahead not nearly so pleasant—exploded in applause at this display of love and goodness and joy before them. It was as breath of fresh air in a thick cloud tension. It was a ray of sun streaming through a wall of dark clouds.

The case the followed was so starkly different it stunned me with the deceit and manipulation and lost desolation of two parties going at one another for over an hour over a landlord/tenant dispute. I found myself totally unclear over which party was more lost and wicked and deceitful and self focused, and just watching you started to feel slimy and dirty and enshrouded in darkness. It was a sea of pride driven by self with no interest in truth and right but simply in revenge and wounding and self profiting at any cost. The concept of doing what was right or noble or virtuous was completely absent (unless, of course, you believe we evolved and there is not God, which means there is not absolute right or wrong, which means focusing on self above all is, in fact, "right").

As I absorbed what transpired before me, and as I have reflected on it in the days since, I am still stunned by the contrast I saw between the two consecutive events, and the stark picture they offer of our two options or "realities" we have before us in this life and for eternity. On the one hand (in the landlord/tenant dispute) you have a world of which both parties were completely a part of and completely caught in. They were totally scratching and clawing through it for their own advance and motives and means. They were fully immersed in the world they were born into and it was their entire reality. In that reality they fought and schemed and maneuvered for themselves with no regard to anything higher or outside of themselves that they were accountable to. Born into this world they were subject to this world and fought within this world for all they could get out of this world. Only having themselves to depend on, they stooped to anything they could do in their own strength and resources to get for themselves what they could from this world, their reality.

In the adoption, on the other hand, you had a boy, born into this world and a certain reality, who was "born again" with a new name and a new father as a new man's son. He had a new reality and a complete new, fresh shift of who was his father and who took responsibility for him. As a result of this shift he had a completely new set of rights, including a new inheritance, not to mention an entirely new framework and lens through which to view his life and the world around him. On his own, without a father, Michael could only depend on what limited assets he had in his life. But now he had a father and a whole new place of protection and provision and security to depend on and rely on, and a whole new person to stand up for him and give his strength to him. What a picture of our adoption by God as His children when we are born again, with a Father from above, as His sons and daughters, in an official transaction that no earthly power can break, no longer of this world (though still in it), born from above, awaiting a new name the Father will give us.

I have long been aware of these two opposing options and realities every man and woman faces, but this was such a stark picture of them that it deeply affected me and I wanted to share it with you. May God bless you this week with a deep sense of His love for you and His presence with you.   —Erick

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monotheism and Gore Vidal

I have either written about, or alluded to, the arguments about moral relativism multiple times. Basically, either there are absolute truths and absolute rights and wrongs, or it is all relative and what is right for some is right for some, but not necessarily for others. This morning Albert Mohler published a very good blog on Gore Vidal and his war on monotheism called Gore Vidal and the Sky God. I would recommend reading it. You can see it by clicking here.

In his blog Mohler captures what Vidal realized—that the absolute of truth and right and wrong lies in monotheism. Apart from one god (I leave it lowercase because he is talking about multiple monotheistic religions) there is no case for absolute truth that says something is absolutely right and other things are absolutely wrong. I'll quote a few parts of the article below, but I recommend reading it and reflecting on it. I think this whole argument is also, probably, one of the reasons evolution is so appealing. If we take God out of the picture and deny His existence then we don't have to make our lives accountable to Him or to face the fact that what may seem right to us may, in fact, not be right to He who defines right and wrong.

In the blog Mohler writes:
In his essay, “Monotheism and its Discontents,” based on the lecture at Harvard, Vidal perceptively and blasphemously blamed the existence of a binding sexual morality on monotheism. "The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism,” Vidal asserted, “From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament three anti-human religions have evolved — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These are sky-god religions.”
And later he says:
Christians should pay close attention to Gore Vidal’s argument, but the mainstream media have almost uniformly ignored it. The obituaries have celebrated his literary gifts and noted his radical political ideas and rejection of Christianity, but not his call for “all-out war on the monotheists.” We should realize that Vidal’s rejection of monotheism, though blasphemous, was truly perceptive. He was certainly correct that a binding and objective morality requires a monotheistic God who both exists and reveals himself. He was also correct in pointing to the fact that a secularized Europe has largely abandoned a biblical morality when it comes, most specifically, to sexual behavior.

It is a truth we must realize to fully understand why the enemy attacks our faith so much—a faith that unashamedly declares itself to be the only way to truth. Because, if we are right, then everyone in the world is accountable to it, whether or not they like it or believe it. With that said, may you spend this week deeply aware of God's great love for you, and how mighty and powerful He is and how completely worthy He is of our standing for Him against all that comes our way. Thanks for reading!   —Erick

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Just sharing a neat blessing . . . yesterday our family took a town day for some personal errands and to buy stuff for youth group. We tried to make part of it a fun "summer" day for the girls, and included shooting over to Morro Bay to spend some time at the beach. Before we left Abigail asked if they could take their kites. We were running late getting out, and I wasn't sure where one kite was or the condition of the other, and I didn't know that we'd have a lot of time to fly them, so I said no and gave Abigail permission to bug me about the kites so that we'd do it another time this summer. They were cheerful about it and easy going.

So . . . we get to Morro Rock and the beach near it and walk out around the rock to show them the ocean on the other side of the breakwater. Then, coming back they picked the path down to the beach so they could wade and play. I get to where they were waiting for me (Dad had to stop and look at some of the rocks the sign claims are millions of years old) and I look to the left and there, laying on the sand with nobody around for probably 50 yards, is a brand new kite, still in its bag. We tried to see if we could see anyone whose it might be and couldn't. Before we left we even asked someone with a similar kite if it was theirs. No.

Needless to say . . . our girls flew a kite that day. One specially placed, I believe, just for them. Thanks God!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Heavens Declare — Part 5

Note: I debated about not posting this next part of this series today in light of the massacre in Colorado last night. But, as I reflected on it I thought that it is at times like these—at least for me, and maybe for others—that I actually need to be reminded of (and grounded in) how big God is. When the pain and horror and fear and evil that so many in the world are facing every day is brought more forcibly to our attention and closer to home—and when we face times of uncertainty, loss, and fear—it is then we most need to be reminded that God's love for us and our eternal life with Him as Christians is secure and bigger than the world's reach. It is at times like this that we must be reminded that God has defeated death and that nothing that happens to the body of a Christian can remove His eternal life. It is at times like this that we must be reminded that there is a hope for all men and women, and it resides in a God who spans the universe and who is not defeated by the presence of evil. It is at times like this that we must remember that God watched His Son die on the cross at the hands of evil and men, and He acutely knows the pain of loss and of watching loved ones suffer. If I misjudged and shouldn't have posted today, please forgive me. I was not trying to be insensitive.

Our Universe
There are an estimated hundreds of billions of GALAXIES (not just stars!) in the universe. One supercomputer estimates there might be 500 billion galaxies out there (all  diverse and unique)! The NASA web site says “Hubble observed a tiny patch of sky (one-tenth the diameter of the moon) . . . and found approximately 10,000 galaxies, of all sizes, shapes, and colors. From the ground, we see very little in this spot . . .” A large cD galaxy can be 10 times brighter than the Milky Way, and can have a diameter of 6 million light-years across—60 times larger than the Milky Way! (Remember from an earlier post that if our solar system was the size of a quarter the Milky Way would go from the east to west coast of the United States? Well, if I did the math right, a galaxy like this would wrap around the Earth about seven times using this same scale!)  IC 1101, the biggest galaxy we’ve found as of 2009, and is thought to have 100 trillion stars in it alone, and some astronomers are estimating there might be 300 sextillion stars in our universe (that’s a 3 with 23 zeroes after it)! Honestly, the numbers just keep getting bigger the better our telescopes get, which makes sense to me because since the Heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork, and God’s glory knows no end, it makes sense the heavens wouldn’t either! Astronomers don’t even know if our universe is finite (has an edge) or infinite, or if there are other universes, but one estimate puts our universe at 150 billion light-years in diameter—that’s 186,000 miles per second for 150 billion years to cross it!

God Thought #1: Hebrews 11:3 declares unequivocally that, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” By faith . . . not having seen it happen, we believe that God spoke and all the universe was. By faith, in times like these, we trust in His goodness, His power, His love, and His victory, though we don't always see it manifest around us—and at times it seems to be mocked by the world's circumstances. We also take heart that He did not require anything physical to make the universe from. His Word was all that was required. That means we don't need to see the physical building blocks for a solution to the problems we face. God can bring solutions forth from nothing!

God Thought #2: Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The stars remind us how big God is, and the Bible reminds us He is mindful of each of us even with the universe measured by the spans of His hand. Even when it doesn't feel like it He is mindful of each of us, and there is great comfort in that!

Thank you, Lord, for your love shown on the cross and your power over darkness shown in the empty tomb. Thank you that you are far bigger than this world and Creation itself, and yet you love us and are mindful of us. Please comfort the hurting, heal the wounded, and turn hearts towards You and the gift of Your Son, Jesus, on the cross.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Heavens Declare — Part 4

In this fourth part of this series, drawing from a handout I made for our fellowship, let's travel out from our solar system and take a quick look at our Milky Way Galaxy.

So, then how big is our Milky Way galaxy our solar system calls home? Well, take this approximately 1.5 mile walk you just took representing our solar system (see The Heavens Declare — Part 3), and condense it down to the size of a quarter—picture our whole solar system in that coin. If a quarter represents our solar system, then, according to some web sites I found, the next nearest star to our sun (and any stuff orbiting around that star) would be another quarter, about two soccer fields away . . . and the edges of our galaxy would be the east and west coasts of the United States! To travel across it? If you traveled at the speed of light it would take you 100,000 years to cross just our galaxy . . . which is estimated to have in it 200–400 billion stars alone!

God Thought: Isaiah 40:26 says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing”—He who guards the stars, also guards you. He who makes sure one isn’t missing, seeks you when you are lost. Read the entire chapter of Luke 15 for an amazing assurance of how precious you are to Him.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Heaven's Declare — Part 3

Continuing the series, and moving farther out from a few stunning facts about our earth and sun, the next part I shared about in my teaching (and the handout I later made that I am taking these from) is about our Solar System. Next post, our Milky Way galaxy. After that, our universe. 
   As with all these posts, I can't verify the facts, but I've tried to get them from web sites that seem to know what they are talking about (whatever that exactly means). Enjoy. Reflect. And be in awe. We have a mighty and awesome God, and the Heavens declare His glory. Don't forget the "God Thought" at the end of each post . . . He, and your faith and relationship with Him, is truly what this is all about, not just getting puffed up with some more knowledge. May He pour out revelation and a deep awareness of His love for you and His presence as you read this.   —Erick

Our Solar System
How big is the network of our sun and the planets orbiting it? Let’s use an example someone made up of a walk. Imagine each 3' step you take to represent 1,000,000 miles (yes, one million miles). Picture a football field and start at the back of one of the end zones and pretend you are where the sun is. Now walk forward, cross the end zone, past the 50 yard line, and continue in to your opponent’s side of the field. When you get to their 17 yard line you have reached the earth (remember, each step was 1 million miles!). Now, continue walking over 1.5 miles and you will get to Neptune, the farthest out planet if you don’t want to count poor Pluto (if you do you’ll need to walk over 2 miles from the back of the end zone where you started). The same site said that if you got on a jet and flew at 600 miles per hour from the Sun to Neptune, it would take 513 years. If you could drive the same distance, it would take 4,400 years.

Defining a Few Terms
Since we are starting from here out to get into some terms that represent some big numbers, here's a few simplified definitions and way of looking at things to help us try and grasp them.

Light Year: How far you would travel in one year if you traveled constantly at the speed of light, which is about 186,000 miles per second (or, around the world at the equator over seven times in a second).

Billion: If you typed the letter “a” on a sheet of paper 1,000 times, you’d need 1 million sheets to have a billion letter “a”s. Or, if you started counting now, it would take you 32 years to count a billion seconds.

Astronomical: We use this term to describe things really, really BIG! No wonder. It comes from the root “astro” pertaining to stars and celestial bodies.

God Thought: Ephesians 1:4 says that “. . . He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”—before He created one bit of this He already knew you, loved you, and had a plan to restore you to Him through Jesus’ death. You are truly precious! In fact, His entire creation of the universe was the opening act to His culmination . . . creating us!


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