Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holy? Yes! Emmanuel? Yes!

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that your hearts are gearing up for a joyous, Christ-filled Christmas! We were able to spend part of Thanksgiving with my folks and take our traditional three-generation Christmas season picture at the Carmel bakery/coffee shop we have been taking it at for six years now. Many of you will remember it from previous years (some are here and here), and I'll share this year's for those who might enjoy seeing it . . .

Sunday I concluded a sub-series I began on holiness back in May. It is part of a larger "Rumble Strips" series I have been doing which found its heart in Ephesians 4:11–12 where it says pastors are called to equip the church for the work of ministry (which I take to mean, not just fill their heads with knowledge and no insight into its application in our daily lives and work). In this series, after I teach on a basic tenet of our faith—some statement of faith most Christians would readily agree on and even declare to others—I then develop some "Rumble Strip" questions that help us detect if we are staying centered on that path, or starting to veer toward the shoulder ("rumble strips" are the intentional marks in asphalts along the shoulder or in advance of cautions that make a sound warning drivers they are hitting them).

This Sunday the first part of the basic faith statement I concluded teaching on and developing questions for was, "God is holy" Pretty basic, pretty Biblical. As we unpacked "holy" we saw at the core of the word is much more than simply He "does good" or He "doesn't do bad." Rather, at its core, "holy" means separate, set apart. God is holy—the Old and New Testaments reveal the cry around the throne is, "holy, holy, holy." His other character traits find their majesty in His holiness. Time finds its origin in Him. Right and wrong find their definition in Him. He doesn't run parallel to anything else that equally co-exists, all things find their beginning in Him. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is holy . . . set apart . . . separate. In Him is light and there is no darkness at all.

Yellowstone National Park.
How holy is God? Ask David who, even in his "religious" effort to bring the ark to Jerusalem got casual with God's directions and did it his own way and saw a man die because he made common (profane) a holy God by doing it man's way and not God's. Ask Herod who was consumed by worms because He allowed a glory to rest on Him that should have been on God. Ask those who will experience the judgment of God when His wrath is tread out some time in the future.

In God's holiness is the very core of the gospel. Why is there a gap between God and man that is too vast for us to cross with any self effort or "goodness" or religious deeds of our own? Because God is holy, separate, set apart . . . and between Him and us is a gap so wide that we can not fathom it because we hold onto some semblance of belief that we are good on our own, and in doing so reveal we understand little about what it truly means that God is holy (I include myself it this). Throughout the Bible when men got a glimpse of God revealed—God's holiness—they cried out as lost, fell down as if dead, cried for Him to leave them, or were killed. If we hold any hope or idea that we can cross the gap between a holy God and ourselves by our own effort we don't understand holy.

And yet, in that, we find the awe—the absolute stunning awe—of Christmas. Because only in God could the two words, "holy" and "Emmanuel," be used of the same person. Holy, which means set apart and separate. Emmanuel which means God with us. Have you ever thought of what a mind blowing contradiction those two words are? Yet, in God, they are both true! The holy God became one of us, to make a way across the gap for us, so that we could be reconciled with Him and joined with Him as His sons and daughters, in love, for all of eternity. "Behold . . . I bring you good news of great joy . . ."

One of the final Rumble Strip questions I asked believers about the truth that God is holy was whether in our understanding of God's nature, love, and relationship with us we are too Emmanuel or too holy. The temptation is to go too far to one side or the other.

1. Too Emmanuel. I recently read a western novel in which it portrayed a preacher at a funeral talking about hell to a crowd pretty clearly unrepentant and not Christ followers. Albeit the preacher was created by the author to be very insensitive and wrathful in his delivery, the irony was that while the author made him out to be a jerk later in the story there was a "good guys go to heaven" funeral, and as Christmas fell he gave pages to telling the Christmas story and people commenting how much a better message that all was then the first preacher. I found myself thinking, "Isn't that so common? We love the God with us part, the Savior part, the baby in the manger part, but don't want to hear or tell about the whole reason for it—that eternal separation from God is real and that God is holy and in Him is no darkness and we are separated from Him, and that God makes it clear that man is without excuse!" I love that God loves me. I love that He'll never leave me. I love His promises for me. But if I get too cozy with that and then casual with my life choices and priorities I make common, or profane, His holy name and nature, and I mock the cross that displays His holiness and His love for me.

2. Too Holy. We can be so aware of God's holiness, and afraid of God, that we see Him as this stern and ferocious being separated up above and just waiting for us to mess up so He can hurl lightning bolts of wrath and hell upon us. We can see Him as holding our every mistake, and be terrified to approach Him or unable to believe He could love us or be with us or be a "Abba, Father" to us. Yes, He is holy, but He is also Emmanuel, and if we don't realize that we miss the whole point of the Gospel—to reconcile us to Him, to remove our alienation, to adopt us as His beloved children, and to never be separated from us again.

Holy? Yes! Emmanuel? Yes! And doesn't Christmas take on stunning joy and awe in light of those two truths that could only find their meeting place in Jesus? I hope you have an amazing Christmas season reflecting on, and sharing with others, the love of God found in His Son—the holy One who came to us because we could not go to Him.   —Erick

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Few More Pictures . . .

Abigail photographing in the John Day area of Oregon.
Here are some more (see yesterday's post) pictures of the girls taking pictures. Maybe only a father or mother of the girls in the pictures could love pictures like these of them, but they are treasures to me. For you who know them (and maybe some of you who don't), I thought they might bless you. It is such a joy to share God with our girls and to see their hearts discover Him and His Creation. May you enjoy these, or skip over them, it's your call. Thanks for sharing in my life.   —Erick

Bethany at the head of Upper Falls in the Grand
Canyon of Yellowstone.
Abigail photographing in Yellowstone.

Abigail at Yellowstone Lake.

The girls at the Museum of the Rockies in Montana.

The girls on a road along the western
edge of Glacier National Park, Montana.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Man's Joy

The girls photographing Trumpeter Swans in Yellowstone.
Psalm 111:2  Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.
I want to share two things about the trip I recently took which brought me tremendous joy. This doesn't take away from the joy of just being with my bride through this—away from phones, email, the fire department pager, etc. She is my best friend and my pal and she knows in complete security how much I treasured that time hanging out with her, and she understands what I am about to say (and rejoices with me in them)!

Abigail capturing a Yellowstone Geyser.
The first thing was to be able to see this land with the scales removed from my eyes. The last time I saw most of the land we traveled through I probably gave a nominal nod to God having created it, but I certainly didn't believe the Bible's account of how He did . . . and I found myself struggling to fully understand the land with the explanations given of evolution, millions of years of slow change, etc. I accepted it because "science" said it was true, but while the land was beautiful, I missed the most glorious part of it. This time, though, I was able to travel the land with a whole different pair of glasses. Instead of the old earth, uniformitarianism view of slow change at the rate of change we see today, I was able to see the land through the eyes of the Bible and (wow!) it changed everything!

Bethany photographing the
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
In preparation for what we call our "Creation Trip" I was privileged to talk with different people—some with degrees in geology, one with a Masters degree in atmospheric science, another with a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology—scientists and lay people with degrees who used to be old earth evolutionists and are now young earth Creationists. They were able to talk to me about the land we'd be traveling through and tell me what we should make a point to see and how we could see Biblical evidence in it. We also were able to get different guidebooks and geology books written from a young earth Creationist scientist perspective and read them as we traveled.

Abigail in the Tetons.
I can't tell you how amazing that was, and how the land I traveled through finally made sense! When you know what to look for and see it through the lens of a young earth, spoken Creation with age; followed by the curse of sin and a catastrophic global flood and the scaring of receding waters; followed by rupturing inland bodies of water; followed by a singular ice age; suddenly the land around you reads like a book. All of a sudden the scales were falling off and I could see clearly, and it was stunning. I was in awe of what I saw, in awe picturing the land through its different phases, and in frequent prayer and lifting of praises to the One to whom it all is attributed. It was an incredible joy and privilege, and I'll never be the same for it.

Abigail posing Mom by a T-Rex (I believe)
at the Museum of the Rockies.
The second thing that brought me tremendous joy that I want to share was to travel the land as a father and to simply take pictures of my girls taking pictures! Yes, I took pictures of scenery for pleasure and some times for maybe using later in teachings, but the most fun was watching them and capturing them seeing the land through their eyes. We had spent quite a bit of time teaching them photography as part of homeschool before the trip so they could make the most of it, and to see them using those skills and processing God's Creation was a father's joy. It was simply incredible to see their faces the first time they saw a grizzly, or a geyser, or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, or found their first fossil, or . . .

Bethany photographing in the
John Day fossil area of Oregon.
I am reminded of Hebrews 11—God's New Testament Hall of Fame of faith. In it He lists praise after praise of His children who stood in faith. If we read the Old Testament each of them had faults and shortcomings, but on the other side of the cross He has washed those away and He simply delights in bragging on His kids. I thought of that as I stared at this incredible scenery . . . and found the greatest joy taking pictures of my girls taking pictures of it. It was truly a father's joy to share this with them and to see their eyes being opened to God, His Creation, His Creativity, and His evidence.
Hebrews 11:3 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.
I'll post a few more pictures of my girls taking pictures tomorrow for those who might enjoy them. Thanks for reading, sharing in my life, and caring. Blessings to all of you.   —Erick

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Cliff and a Cross

Chapel of  the Transfiguration
In the Grand Tetons National Park there is a little church in a place called Moose. It is a log building with a mighty glass window behind the altar. If you look out the window you see, past the cross in front of it, the rugged Tetons upthrust as a jagged knife against the sky. Psalm 104 tells us how near the end of the flood the mountains rose up and the valleys sank down when it says:
He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. (Psalm 104:5–9)
As I stood at the altar and saw the cross silhouetted against the mountains I was struck by the beauty and power of it. There, in the distance, were mountains which rose up through the waters of judgment. Jagged reminders of a time when God judged the world and His wrath against sin was poured out against it and man. God's Word tells us that there is another judgment coming, and 2 Peter 3 tells us that the same ones who doubt the Flood are the ones who will doubt the coming judgment as well. 

Judgment and the Cross—as seen from the window
behind the altar.
But there, in front of those mountains, stood the cross—the work of God on my behalf that saves me from the coming judgment. It was a powerful reminder that while I was immersed in scenery that left me in awe, my awe was to be toward the one who created Creation, and who died for me. 

It was a timely reminded because I had become so excited by the stunning things we had seen that I realized I was at times more excited about them then the One who made them. The cross and the cliff—mountains of judgment in the back fronted by the cross that my Savior carried up His own hill to die, so that I would not have to . . . Thank You, Lord. May I or my generations until You return never doubt You or Your Word, and may we never be more in awe of Creation than we are of the Creator.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Perfect End, The Completed Circle

Yellowstone. Yes. That's falling snow!
Our family has just returned from what we call our "Creation Trip"—a trip Mary Ann and I have talked about, prayed about, hoped for, and saved up for, for over a year (but which we just told the girls about in early August after we committed to it). We left for a little over two weeks and took the girls on a 4,044 mile homeschool road trip to different sites that demonstrated the truth of the Genesis Creation account, and the effects of a global flood and subsequent singular ice age on the topography and geology of the earth. We were blessed to talk to multiple Creation Scientists and to get different Creation literature and guidebooks to help us get the most out of our trip. I'll probably post a lot more about the trip and share pictures and insights from it in subsequent posts—but in a nutshell we:
Traveled from Central California through northern Nevada, into Idaho, and camped for five nights in Yellowstone (including two mornings where we woke up to snow on our tent, and one night where 60 mph gusts pushed the sides of our tent in to touch Abigail's nose in her sleeping bag!). While there we saw tremendous demonstrations of thermal activity, flood sculpturing, wildlife (including moose and grizzly), visited the Tetons, and a lot more.

Going daily journals by our Yellowstone campsite.
We continued from there and saw the Museum of the Rockies' amazing dinosaur exhibit (though we differ in our interpretations of the fossil evidence), visited friends, and then traveled around the southern edges of Glacier National Park examining Ice Age evidence (the government shutdown occurred between our visits to Yellowstone and Glacier, and from Yellowstone on all national parks, monuments, etc., were closed).

Leaving the Glacier area we headed south and then cut into Idaho and fossil hunted in Oregon and then spent our last road night in Northern California. And now I'll share why that was the completed circle, the perfect end . . .

Morning snow on our van and tent. Yellowstone.
In the town in Northern California we visited our last night and day of the trip is a church that walks heavily in the miraculous. I am not saying I agree with all of their theology, but I don't have theology perfect either. What is undeniable is the atmosphere they create of love and worship for the Lord, and great faith in Him to demonstrate through us the things He promises in His Word He will do through us. You can't be there for more than a few hours and not feel the faith building increase of being immersed in a place where worship and faith and trust and great expectancy are emphasized. The testimonies of healing that have come out of this church are tremendous, and I attribute to them the encouragement years back that prompted Mary Ann and I to trust God for, and go after, many of the miracles we have seen in our lives and people we have prayed for.
Snow and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The culture that is created at this church is one in which hundreds of young people, late teens and twenties, head to the streets and pray for people and share the love and power of Jesus with them. As we sat at the coffee shop at the church just soaking up the love for Jesus that fills the place, we were surrounded by dozens of these youth coming out of classes and just talking around us. It was amazing to just listen like a fly on a wall as they shared amazing moments they'd had with Jesus, about times of worship with Jesus, and prayed for one another.You didn't hear inappropriate words, see anyone hitting on anyone, or any of the things you see in a normal, secular coffee shop.

A real log cabin, with no water or bathroom inside, in the
national forest in Montana a friend owns where we stayed.
You bring in water from a spring outside, cook over a wood-
burning stove, and heat by fireplace and propane. No
electricity. The girls were calling each other Laura and Mary—
and we were Ma and Pa—within 5 minutes of our arrival!
It was in this town that we saw the circle that began the first day of the trip completed. I'll explain in a moment, but let me first say that we can all surround ourselves in Christian circles. In those circles it is “safe” to talk about Him, pray for one another, worship, etc.—and Jesus, too, spent time alone with the Father or with just His disciples—but, Jesus ultimately took it to the streets and went to where the lost were who needed to know the Good News of the Kingdom of God. That is the completed circle. He came to serve, to love, to minister, to demonstrate, to destroy the works of the devil, and to reach the lost—from prestigious religious leaders like Nicodemus, to despised prostitutes and hard working common fishermen.

That last night of our trip, after securing a room for the night, as darkness settled in, we drove to dinner and while on the way we saw a young lady, maybe in her twenties, standing in a median at a major intersection with her bike held up by one hand and her other hand on the shoulder of a young man who was standing there hitchhiking. Her head was bowed and she was praying over him. As we sat at a red light and watched she must have prayed at least 30 second or more, and that was after we noticed her. There is no telling how long she'd been talking to him and praying for him before we saw her.
Finding leaf fossils in the national forest in Oregon.

After she then finished they exchanged a few more words, and she got on her bike and continued riding on her way down the street into the darkness. It was a very powerful moment to witness these two heads bowed and the tender touch of caring of this young woman as cars went past in all directions in this busy intersection. And, it was what it is all about. 

The reason we have invested so much in teaching our girls the truth of, and evidence for, the literal Creation account is not so they can become some arrogant intellectuals able to slice and dice on evolutionists, but so that they find their hearts so securely anchored in God's Word, and so deeply trusting it, that they trust the rest of the Bible and trust Jesus' words and promises. In the end what matters is love—the love of God shown through us to others—our faith, and our eternal destiny. 

Why can we surrender our lives to God and trust Him with it and let Him live His life through us? Because He is real and His Word is true, and He does what He says He will do. From the mighty demonstrations of God's spoken word seen in Creation, to the evidences which surround us of a massive flood in which He poured out His judgment on sin, to a deep love and worship of Jesus who died for our sin and the Father who so loved us He sent Him, to a young lady in a median of a busy intersection on a dark night praying for a young hitchhiker . . . the completed circle, the perfect end.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Two Good Reads

I will not be blogging for the next few weeks, but I wanted to share two links that I felt were worth reading.

1. A post by Randy Alcorn on hope, its power, and our hope as Christians.

2. An article on Global Warming that confirms much of what I've felt and even blogged on in the past (I recommend you read that post if you didn't when I made it). "Science" says "jump" and we jump—until they change their mind. Unfortunately, in regards to Genesis, that jump has undermined so many people's faith in God and His Word that by the time they change their mind it will have been devastating to so many people.

As a side note on the whole Global Warming issue—I am not even saying that the earth isn't warming up, but I am questioning man's role in that. If it is man that alters the earth's climate then what caused the earth to warm up and end the ice age in a day when man was not producing emissions? We know that the earth was much colder at an earlier time (for a season), and it was a time man couldn't have impacted that, so if the earth goes through temperature cycles on its own then why are we all of a sudden saying it is man's fault?

May God bless all of you richly with a deep sense of His love for you in the weeks ahead.   —Erick

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Good Insight from a Hard Path

Very recently I was driving into town to a Ministerial meeting and asking God a lot of questions on the way. Something that had seemed to be so clearly His leading was turning out not very good at all. We had made a decision based on what we felt were clear indications and leading from Him and yet we found ourselves in a position that was very hard for us. I was driving and asking God, a lot, "Why?" and starting to strongly question if I/we had heard His voice (my expression for sensing His leading in multiple ways), and if not, then if we'd actually heard His voice in other decisions we'd also made around the same time. I was really struggling, doubting myself, confused, hurt, and angry—all at the same time.

I felt suddenly, strongly, "Lean not on your own understanding" (most will recognize that as from Proverbs 3). It was a very clear thought. And suddenly I felt assured that the two were separate things—whether we had heard His voice a couple months ago, and what was happening now. I suddenly felt that it had been God's leading two months ago—the signs and path were so clear!—and that what was happening now did nothing to invalidate what happened then. For then it was, "Yes" and for now it was, "Lean not on your own understanding." While I was still hurting, struggling, etc., I can't describe the peace in realizing that I was not wrong two months ago, and that I could trust I'd heard His voice then and in other things. And, for now, while I couldn't (and can't) fathom what it was/is all about, and what He is doing, and why things are happening if He was leading, my call is to trust Him and not lean on my own understanding.

After the meeting I spent some time talking with a pastor who is also a good friend and he said something that really spoke to me in light of what I just shared. He said that he has learned that you have to separate results from hearing God's voice. He said that too often we can, hearing God's voice, then assume the results will match our plans and desires. Different results then we expected or wanted, he reminded me, don't mean that we didn't hear God's voice in the beginning. The words floated back to me, "Lean not on your own understanding . . ."

I realized in this that I had fallen into the trap he'd described, that I'd heard God's voice (sensed His leading) and then assumed I knew where that was supposed to go (based on where I hoped it would go). That isn't the case in this case and so I have a couple of choices—I can be angry at God, doubt I heard from Him and subsequently second guess and doubt all the other things I think I heard from Him . . . or I can realize I heard from Him*, but that His plans are not my plans and His ways are not my ways, and trust He who died on a cross from me out of a love for me that is deeper than any human love . . . trust even when I don't understand.

As I drove and processed that I was, again, reminded of why I feel so strongly about a literal, young earth interpretation of Genesis. It is because all other interpretations are forcing Genesis to match "science" and are already, at the door of the Bible, choosing to lean on our understanding instead of not on our own understanding. If we've already begun there in Genesis, and taught our kids to as well, then what precedent do we have for leaning not on our own understanding when other things in man's mind and our life don't match what we expect or are taught or experience?

*This isn't to say that there aren't times we haven't heard from Him and thought we had (maybe hoped we had and run ahead with our own wants and hope He'll follow blessing them), and that the Holy Spirit might not want to point that out to us, but I don't believe that this was one of those times as it was too clear and too strong and too unusual for not just myself but for Mary Ann as well.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Just Noticed Something . . .

I love when this happens! God and His Word are amazing . . .

I have for awhile believed that Psalm 104 is referencing the global flood of Noah* and giving us an amazing description of the topographic changes that occurred in this upheaval of judgment—giving us all the description we need to be confident in the flood as the defining element in explaining the geography around us. It says in verses 5–9:
He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.   ESV
Note that it says the mountains rose and the valleys sank down. It makes sense to me that the earth would have been created a lot more "mild" in terrain then we see it now as our command was to take dominion over it, so it needed to be accessible. But after the curse, and then the flood of judgment, it became far more harsh and inaccessible, and Creation groans awaiting redemption. I believe these verses give us a very real and literal description of a geographic season when the entire earth was transformed dramatically in a very short time, not in the long periods of time evolutionists require who don't believe in the flood or its ensuing changes.

But . . . I also believe that far more of the Old Testament then we probably realize is, while being true and literal, also a picture and foreshadow of Christ to come, and this morning in my reading through the Bible I saw something in a passage I'd never seen before. In Luke 3 it says of John the Baptist that he will preach ahead of Jesus and and fulfill the words of Isaiah. It says these words are:
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"   (Luke 3:4-6, ESV)
So, in the flood of judgement the mountains rose and the valleys sank down . . . and in Christ, the one who takes from us God's judgement, "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways."

Wow! This spiritual picture of what Christ did for us is amazing! God has become accessible, Christ has carried and become the curse, and the path to and for God is made! What man was cut off from is now available. Isn't that amazing!

God is so good, and what He has done in and for us so amazing, and His Word so rich and deep and valuable and inspired! Thanks, Lord, for all!

* Some people believe these verses describe Creation, but I don't think that's possible because it says of the waters, "You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth." and if that was Creation then it is a lie, because clearly they did in the global flood of Noah, but never again after that due to God's promise sealed in the rainbow. For other posts in which I've talked about Psalm 104 see this and this. As a note that meant something to me, I was really encouraged after reading different commentaries that ascribe Psalm 104 to Creation to read Michael Oard's books on Creation (he is an atmospheric scientist that defends a literal Genesis reading) and find that he agrees with me that the Psalm has to be talking about the flood.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Is it OK?

After God sets us apart unto Himself through our new birth there comes the call to be holy as He is holy. While we are set apart by Him, we have a choice to set ourselves apart for Him. The awesome and wonderful reality of this is that He has done so much for us and does so much through us to help us in this. We are set apart by Him, adopted by Him, indwelt by Him, eternally sealed by Him, forgiven by Him, and so much more! We are not who we used to be, we are no longer slaves to sin or under the law, we are positioned to live out the plans He made for us and that He works out Himself through us! The battle against sin takes on a whole new look when we stop thinking of ourselves as failures simply made up and prone to sin, and instead think of ourselves as God's children, set apart by God, with God in us, and with God's promise that no temptation is too much for us to resist! Does the ability to sin still remain? Yes. Is there still a devil trying to tempt us? Yes. But the equation is dramatically different when we realize who we are in Christ and what He is in us.

In our desire to live a life holy, set apart unto God, there comes the natural question of what is OK and what isn't. While the New Testament has lots of things in it we should or shouldn't do, there are many, many situations in our lives that come up that it doesn't specifically address. What follows are some questions (with the verses they are drawn out of) that can help us evaluate a choice or course. Some came from a book by Jerry Bridges on being holy, and others are ones I felt God led me to.

Nine Questions
#1: Psalm 119:11   I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Q: Does the Bible say something about it?

#2: Hebrews 1:3a   [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature . . .
Q: Is it consistent with God's nature as revealed through Jesus' life?

#3: 1 Corinthians 6:12a   "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. . . .
Q: Is it helpful (spiritually, physically, mentally)?

#4: 1 Corinthians 6:12b   . . . "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything.
Q: Does it bring me under its power?

#5: 1 Corinthians 8:13   Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Q: Does it hurt others or make them stumble?

#6: 1 Corinthians 10:31   So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Q: Does it glorify God? (At a minimum for things that may not glorify God, we need to make sure it doesn't disparage God's glory.)

#7: James 4:17   So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Q: Am I NOT doing something God is asking?

#8: Romans 8:14   For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Q: Are you following the Spirit's lead in action or inaction? (This is huge and actually ties into many others. For example, #9, about loving, only the Spirit can show us what form that love takes at that moment.)

#9: Matt 22:37b-40   [Jesus] said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is   like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
Q: In this action (or inaction) are you loving God and others above all else?

I hope that these help. Certainly we could add a lot more questions to this list, but in the interest of keeping it usable I kept it to this length. May God bless you this week with a deep awareness of His holiness, His love for you, and His presence with you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Two of the things in the Bible that I most often hear described as boring are the book of Leviticus and the genealogies. I'd like to share what God has done to change that in me (I used to feel that, too).

Leviticus: God has been opening my eyes to His holiness. He is set apart, holy, separate. We tend to make common (profane) His name and who He is. We tend to try and make Him and His Word match our opinions, our "science," our values, our desires, etc. When we do that we profane Him and His Word. Leviticus has become, for me, an amazing reminder of His holiness. It is filled with reminders of the fact that that which is for Him will be set apart, holy, not used for the common. That God has a way and it is His way or no way. That He is holy and I am not and that I must follow Him instead of expecting Him to follow me (a reminder David should have thought of before Uzzah died moving the ark, and not after . . .) Leviticus reminds me of how, though God is holy and a vast separation exists between us and Him, Jesus paid for our sin and now His Word says we as believers are a holy nation, His own special people, set apart unto Him, no longer of this world, no longer Satan's but now, instead, God's adopted children for all of eternity. It makes me so grateful! Leviticus is a constant, repeating reminder that God will not be profaned or made common. He is holy, and all that is for Him will be set apart as well. And so, now, I enjoy it. It reminds me. It blesses me. It encourages me to not become casual with God or to try and to things half way or my way and just assume He'll be OK with that. He is holy, holy, holy. He is God. It is His way, not mine.

Genealogies: I read them as history. Real history! Recorded history. Verified history. So much of our "understanding" of origins and history is based on a scrap of writing or a bunch of theories without evidence, but the genealogies gives us a person by person listing of history back to the first man. It is amazing! And, most important to me, the genealogies with the accompanying ages at births and deaths, give us the age of the earth. Yes, it is the genealogies that form the corm foundation of the young earth interpretation of Genesis, which I believe is one of the most critical views we will adopt in our walks. If the genealogies are true then we must interpret Genesis as literal and the world as very young. If they aren't, then the Bible is a fairy tale and we might as well throw it out along with all the revelation in it of God and of His promises to us. When I read the genealogies I realize I am reading an accurate, detailed listing of the line of men to Adam. It is my family tree. It is my history. And I am more and more convinced that God gave them to us in such detail that we could do exactly what I described—count them out and realize that Genesis must be interpreted and stood on as a young earth account, historical and detailed and accurate. When I read the genealogies I read with amazement, realizing God has given them to me to strengthen my faith in His Word and to give me the basis to stand with confidence on a literal reading of Genesis. Wow! Thanks, Lord!

Maybe these will bless you. Maybe not. But they bless me and I thought I'd share them. Thanks for reading. May you have an amazing week in the arms of the Father!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Is the Present the Key to the Past?

You can explain the earth's geology in one of two ways. Uniformitarian belief (which includes Christian compromise attempts to "make" Genesis match "science") says the present is the key to the past. Therefore, since the earth's surface changes very slowly today they conclude it must have been changing at the same rate all along (a "uniform" rate), therefore vast periods of time had to have passed to explain what we see today. People who reject God have no problem with this. Christians who believe this are forced to manipulate Genesis to say what it doesn't say, or to add to it things it doesn't support.

The other lens to view and interpret the earth around us through is that of a catastrophe that dramatically shaped the earth's surface in a very short period of time. This fits exactly with the young earth, eye-witness account of Creation and a global flood given in Genesis. (Eye-witness because God was there and He recorded what happened!) In this model the earth's surface was dramatically ruptured and uplifted and scarred during the global flood of Noah and the period following it.

I believe the earth was probably a lot gentler in contour prior to the flood. This makes sense to me since God gave us the earth for our use and to take dominion over, and we can't do either to parts of it we can't access or live in. Then, when God had had enough, He judged the world with a global flood. I have read that if the earth's land was flat the oceans would cover it by over 8,000 feet, so there is clearly enough water on the earth to cover the land even with some contour.

Genesis tells us the earth was flooded for an extended time, and at 8 lbs/gallon that weight alone would have tremendously impacted the earth's surface and plates. Add that the fountains of the deep opened up and you have splitting and rupturing below. Then add the effect of the runoff of water as it first sheeted, then, as mountains rose out of it, started to narrow (which would accelerate its flow), and you have tremendous gouging and cutting and sediment moving.

Then we have Psalm 104. Some people say this describes Creation but I don't think that is possible because it talks about the waters never again covering the earth. The Bible makes it clear the water covered the earth in Noah's flood, so it has to be talking about that flood. It gives us a tremendous window into what the earth endured in the flood and shortly after. The specific section of verses I am referencing say:
He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. (Psalm 104:5–9) ESV
Mountains rising, valleys sinking, flood waters receding. Could this explain what we see? Absolutely! And it is what God said happened and, when the presuppositional bias of science that there is no God is removed, it is what true science supports! No, the present is not the key to the past, and we don't need to buy the old earth view. It is completely incompatible with the Gospel, it destroys the words of Jesus and other New Testament books, and it erodes faith in the Bible as a whole. God formed the earth, then He judged the earth, and He provided an ark in which safety was found until He said "enough" and closed its door. Inside the ark it was safe, and outside it was death, as the ark rose and left the earth behind. Nothing has changed. Our ark is Jesus. And the door is open until God shuts it, but then it will be too late. The same Bible that tells us how the earth was formed is the same Bible that tells us that as well. May we believe it, live it, and trust it until that day comes!

I Didn't Say "Fun"

Recently I was talking with a youth about some choices and how much more deeply satisfying it will be in their core to choose to honor God and love and serve others than anything they could do for themselves. After some thought the youth said, "But it won't be as much fun." I pointed out that I hadn't used the word "fun" and that they were right, it wouldn't be as much "fun," but that I was talking about something much more satisfying and lasting than temporary fun.

The world is right. There are a lot of things more "fun" for a moment than surrendering to God in that moment and loving or serving another person instead of yourself. I can't argue that the alternatives are a lot more fun than helping out a parent, or submitting to what someone else wants to do instead of you want to do, or doing an unpleasant job that needs doing but others are walking around. But I didn't say, "fun."

What I did say is that there is nothing we can do for ourselves that will match, at a level of deep satisfaction and lasting joy, what comes to us by choosing to love another more than we love ourselves, and to express that love in tangible acts of selflessness. To walk in the plans prepared for us by the Star Breather Himself when He created us—what greater honor or deeper joy could there be? To make God smile and to open up a flow of relationship with Him instead of quenching or grieving His Spirit—what higher goal could there be than this? To invest in things eternal instead of things that moths eat and rust destroys and thieves steal—what could rank higher than that? To say to God, "I love you" through our life and not just our words and songs—what louder voice could there be than that? To be conformed closer to God's image—what higher desire could there be for ourselves than that? And what an adventure and promise of clarity of God's voice it is to explore, through our obedience, the amazing words of Jesus in John 7:17 when He says, "If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority."!

No, I didn't say "fun." Didn't mention the word. I can't argue against fun for the moment. Curl up with a good book, or help someone unclog a toilet—I won't even try and say that the toilet wins over the book for "fun." But this isn't about fleeting fun that in the end has no lasting value—it's about finding the deepest level of satisfaction possible in living in the plans we were created for and expressing our love for our Creator through our obedience to Him and our laying ourselves down for another . . . and experiencing the closeness with Him and intimacy and fellowship that seems to often spring forth from simple acts of love and obedience.

And, you know what? I've often found that when I have obeyed and loved, often I'll sense the Spirit release me to have "fun" and He often prepares the way and blesses me in it far more than I could ever do for myself on my own. And it feels so much better to know He's given me the fun, than that I took it when my Spirit was nudging me to something else I turned away from.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Worth Reading

In light of my recent post, "What Are You a Citizen Of?", this article by Todd Starnes called, "Christian Bakery Closes after LGBT Threats, Protests" is well worth reading . . . and pretty sobering for Christians attempting to stand up for what they believe. It talks not only about a bakery in Oregon and the cost one family paid, but it summarizes other recent decisions in the United States. We are not far behind Europe, Great Britain and Canada. I can not repeat it enough—Christian, you'd better have already made the decision whose laws you will honor, and what you are a citizen of, because the time is coming when you and I will have to choose between God and man at a much more public and costly level than we have been used to in the past. Another article about them, listing other similar things, can be found at: http://www.katu.com/news/local/Sweet-Cakes-responds-to--222094901.html

What Do You Call Me?

There's a lot of things people can, and probably do, call me. Some good, and maybe some not so good. They may depend on their relationship with me, their experiences with me, whether they attend the church I pastor or not, whether they know me in person or only online, etc. They may accurately reflect who I am, and they may not. They may be based on truth, or a misperception (my spell checker says that's not a word). But, there are only two people in the world who can call me "Daddy" and those are my two daughters.

Bethany and Abigail and Daddy getting ready to
make a horse feeder. Yes, a horse feeder, but
that's another story . . .
Well, in both Romans and Galatians God tells us that with His Spirit in us as the seal and sign of our adoption as God's children after we have trusted in Jesus for our salvation, we can call the Father, "Abba! Father!"
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:15-17
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
That, in and of itself, is stunning. That we would go, through God's gift and our faith, from alienated, hostile, pleasure-driven, world-enslaved sinners to sons and daughters of God, fellow heirs with Christ, able to call the Father, "Abba! Father!" But then, to read Jesus' words to the Father in the Garden recorded in Mark 14:36 is almost too much to absorb:
And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
Only two people in the world can call me, "Daddy"—and yet God has given us the right as His children to address Him with the same words Jesus Himself addresses Him in Jesus' most agonizing, powerful, intimate moment recorded on earth. Wow! Does that blow anyone else away? Thank You, Abba, Father, for having done so completely for me what I could have never done or afforded on my own, for having so completely reconciled and united me unto You that I can share in calling you, "Abba! Father!" Thank You!

Friday, August 30, 2013

. . . Suppress the Truth

A CNN online article says that they have discovered a massive canyon under Greenland's ice—a canyon that is half again as long as the Grand Canyon. And they say it must have been caused by an extensive river systems millions of years ago. Yet . . . they deny a global, Biblical flood and the erosion the receding waters would have caused.

Other news articles in recent years tell us scientists observing huge canyons on Mars speculate there was massive water erosion there long ago. Problem? Yes. There is no water found on Mars today! Yet, they will believe that, but on our earth which is around 70+% covered in water they can't believe in a global flood that is described in detail in the Bible which is being proven over and over to be an accurate record of history.

The flood of Noah is the defining force that explains the geology of the earth around us. Psalm 104 tells us:
He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. (Psalm 104:5–9) [Note: Some people believe this describes Creation, but it must describe the flood instead, because it ends with the line, ". . . so that they [waters] might not again cover the earth" and they clearly did, according to the same Bible, once after Creation in the flood.]
1. The flood would have put tremendous seismic pressure on the earth's plates at over 8 lbs/gallon.
2. The upheaval and sediment transfer would have been massive!
3. As the mountains rose and valleys sank down the receding water would have caused massive erosion and canyon carving!
4. Tremendous amounts of dead, fossilized creatures, including sea animals, would be found in massive graveyards all covered together, on top of high mountains, etc. . . . which is exactly what we find today!
5. Then entire earth would be reshaped within a few years.

Apart from the flood—which gives massive change in a rapid time frame—and God having created already with age (as He did with Adam) the only other explanation for what we see in the geology and topography around us is a form of uniformitarianism (slow change over long time periods as we observe today and many assume has been happening from the start). So, maybe that is why so many resist the flood of Noah's day so vehemently, because without it then evolution and long periods of time must be the answer and that destroys Genesis, which begins the slide of the entire Bible, and ultimately God.

Romans 1:17–22 tells us:
. . . "The righteous shall live by faith." For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools . . .
It is so hard to see how far people go to deny God, and the explanations they cling to that allow them to continue to deny Him. I know that described me for so many years, and even in my early Christian years I tried to embrace a Theistic Evolution until God revealed Himself to me in deeper ways. How far will we go to deny God? Read this quote attributed to Professor Dawkins:
"Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry, molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer."

Wow! But it shouldn't surprise us if we've read Romans 1 in even a cursory fashion. This is the world. But we are not of the world when we are born again as new creations in Christ. We have a new identity, a new citizenship, and the Spirit of God living in us. Praise God for that, and may we know in our hearts that God's written Word is true, from the first words to the last. The same Bible that tells us God spoke it forth in 6 days is the same Bible that tells us He will never leave us or forsake us. The same Jesus that promises us eternal life is the same Jesus that quotes from Genesis and refers to Noah as if they are true, and whose line is given back to Adam. Does our stand on Genesis matter? Absolutely!

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Are You a Citizen Of?

Albert Mohler posted a blog today (Monday, August 26) called, “It is the Price of Citizenship”?—An Elegy for Religious Liberty in America. It is a commentary on the New Mexico Supreme Court's decision last week against a Christian couple who run a photography business and were sued because they refused to photograph a same sex wedding. Mr. Mohler's post is longer than I can do justice to, and worth reading reflectively, but I want to pause on one aspect of it that should make Christians search deeply in their hearts. (All of the information I will use comes from Mr. Mohler's article, I have not independently verified it, but I trust him.)

Though at least one member of the court recognized the sincerity of the couple's belief and how the photographing and artistic capturing of the ceremony went against their beliefs, his opinion following that acknowledgement moves into the need for compromise, and he says compromise, “. . . is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the moving parts of us as a people.” He also writes, “In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.”

Far beyond the issue of gay marriage—which I believe the Bible is absolutely clear is wrong—there is a far bigger issue that has far more reaching effects which I think Christians in American need to start processing now. This is the issue of what happens when our two citizenships collide. We may be citizens, by law, of the United States (or whatever country you might be reading this from/in), but the Bible makes it clear that as Christians we have a different citizenship as well. Paul, writing to the believers in Philippi, says, "Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." (Philippians 3:17–21, ESV).

When we are born again, as new creations in Christ, we have a Father in Heaven, a King in Jesus, a new birth, a new nature, a new identity, a new citizenship. We are taken out of Satan's authority and rule and put into the Kingdom of Jesus—Jesus' domain, dominion, authority (Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,). We are told by the Bible to submit to our earthly leaders and authorities . . . but the Bible also gives us ample precedent for not submitting to them when it brings us into conflict with God's laws and heart—Hebrew midwives, Rahab, preaching despite authorities commands not to, plus the obvious reality that we, today, wouldn't abort a baby or murder an elderly person even if our government told us to, and we'd hopefully have hid Jews from the Nazis, etc., if we were in a position to.

Recently in California our governor signed a law allowing boys or girls who feel like they are the opposite sex from what their body says they are to be able to use the restroom or locker room of their feelings, not organs. Health care laws imposing things on Christian employers that violate their beliefs . . . gay marriage issues challenging churches and businesses . . . the list of laws that have been passed or struck down in the last few years which yank the foundations out of Christian values is accelerating at a mind numbing pace. Truly the time is coming, and has already come for some, when we will face the decision—which citizenship will rule in our allegiance and obedience?

If we are to truly follow God and honor His heart and his Word we will, inevitably, face this decision. We will have to choose between two citizenships, two authorities, two futures, as to which will weigh the most in our minds and choices. One offers "safety" and "comfort" and temporary reprieve here, now. The other offers eternal hope, but a promise of trials here. One serves this world and the other serves our King. The decisions won't be easy, and I can't imagine what our children and their children will face, but I know that God will never leave us and that something far bigger is at work. The lost are still lost and Jesus still died for them and we can show God's love, declare God's truth, rejoice in God's good news, model God's sacrifice, and serve others as Jesus did in times of hardship and trials maybe better than we even can in times of comfort. Right now it is still fairly easy in America to walk with one foot on each side of the fence—enjoying our Christian identity but remaining comfortable in the world and with the world . . . but I don't know that this option is going to be available much longer. I have a sense that the decisions will becoming closer and closer together when we will have to choose to stand on one side of the fence or the other, to declare and stand for truth at earthly cost, or to stand with the world and turn our back on the One who died for us. Praise God that our true citizenship, the one that trumps them all, is eternal and can never be taken from us, and that while this earth will pass away, our citizenship in Heaven is forever! May we have the strength to invest not in the cares of this world and its passing acceptance and pleasure which render us unfruitful, but to invest in the things of eternity, that transcend this fleeting moment we call life. And, may we do so with a joy and a hope and a love and a humility and a service and a confidence that draws everyone watching us past us and to the One in Whom our hope is anchored. God bless all of you. He reigns!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What to Expect?

Recently someone was expressing some disappointment in someone they knew who was unsaved not doing enough of something for them. This person they were irritated with was doing some kind acts, but not as many as the person would have hoped for (or, if I'm honest, as many as most of us would have hoped for in the same situation). As I talked with Mary Ann about this person's feelings I suddenly had a thought/question pop into my head, "Just how much should we expect (the key word) from an unsaved person?"

I started to think about some verses I had recently used in a teaching that describe our state/nature before we are born again in Christ. Some of them are:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

 Just in these two verses alone we see that the Bible says that people not born again with a new nature in Christ (and us in our prior nature) are (remember this is through God's eyes, the only eyes that ultimately matter):
1. alienated from God
2. hostile in mind toward God
3. doing evil deeds (remember that God alone is good)
4. spiritually dead in the sins and trespassed they are walking in
5. following the course of this world and its ways
6. following the prince of this world (Satan, whom is the only alternative to following God)
7. living in the passions and leadings of the flesh
8. carrying out the desires of their body and mind
9. by their very nature children of wrath

When we realize this (and look at our own pre-Christ nature) I thought, "Wow! Any love, kindness, etc. from someone unsaved is an amazing and awesome gift and a tremendous breaking out of the nature that rules the world and defines its ways! There should be no expectancy of anything, but tremendous gratitude at what is done or given, because it is not the nature of the world."

Then the sobering second half of it hit me.

Colossians 1:22 . . . he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

If all those things are true of the unsaved, then the following are, according to the Bible, true of the saved (those born again as new creations in Christ with God Himself living within them):
1. reconciled to God by the death of God Himself!
2. holy and blameless and above reproach in Christ
3. recognizing the love of God for us and the great gift He gave us
4. eternally and presently alive in Christ
5. saved
6. seated with Christ
7. recipients of His great gift
8. created for good works, to walk in them

So . . . if the expectation of goodness from the unsaved is based on what the Bible says about their nature, then what does our new nature say should be the expectation of goodness from us? It strikes me that a logical application of this approach makes a stunning statement of how we should shine as lights in the world and be salt in the earth. When I reflect on my new nature and what God has done for me I am awed, humbled, and challenged to realize the life that would truly bear out and reflect those realities and stand out from the world and its nature and ways.

I am still processing these two trains of thought, but I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have.The more I reflect on this the more I find deep gratitude in my heart to the unsaved in my life who express kindness to me, and the more I find myself challenging my own expressing of the love of Christ through me. I don't ever want to expect anything—Christ didn't trust Himself to men because He knew what was in men—I just want to be a person grateful for any kindness shown me, and one who loves others as I have been loved. The burden to not live as the world is definitely on the ones no longer of this world, not on the ones who are still of it. May we joyously show to others the love that has been first shown us. May our lives show Jesus to the world!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Signs, Seasons, Days, Years, Light . . .

Genesis 1:14-15   And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. (ESV)
One of the purposes of God creating the Sun and Moon and stars was for signs and season, days and years, and light upon the earth. In the last few centuries we've lost a lot of the "working" understanding of the heavens as a way to mark the passing of time (days, months, years) as it has been replaced with wall calendars, electronic calendars, clocks and watches. It strikes me that the less we pay attention to the heavens, the less we often connect with God as well, because another purpose of the heavens, according to God's Word, is to display His glory. I know that for me, spending time gazing upward and reflecting, puts things on earth back into perspective and returns me to a place of worship and awe.

We started homeschool with our girls this week and one of the things I am doing is teaching them Classical Astronomy from a wonderful book called Signs & Seasons by Jay Ryan which we got at a homeschool conference. (You can find the book and sign up for free Classical Astronomy newsletters at www.classicalastronomy.com.) Classical Astronomy is the study of the heavens (which includes the Sun, our most visible star!) without telescopes, but with the naked eye as they have been done since Creation. It is like learning to read a book written across the sky by God, and it is fascinating how easily you can determine directions, times, and seasons through what He has placed there. I have found in the study that what I used to look at and not even notice (does that make sense?) I am now noticing in far different ways (the length of shadows, etc.).
Pounding nails to mark the shadow every 10 minutes.

Our first "field" project has been building a compass in our backyard using the Sun. The principle is that when the sun is highest (high noon, not necessarily your watch's noon) shadows point North and the Sun is South. You can tell when it is at its highest when the shadows are shortest in the day. (Incidentally, that North/South line is called the meridian, or "middle of the day" and when the sun is before it it is "ante meridian," or "am," and when it is past it then it is "post meridian," or "pm." Cool, isn't it!)

Around 2:40 pm. We are ready to find the shortest!
So, we put a stake in the ground and the girls went out about every 10 minutes from around 11:30 am onward and drove a nail at the center, end of the shadow of the stake. Later we found which was the shortest shadow and drew a line through the stake to that nail and past it and we had our line North. We drove a spike in the ground about 80" out from the stake on that line and then carried the line back 80" to the other side of the stake and drove a spike, marking South. Then, using intersecting arcs drawn from each North/South stake we could find a point 90-degrees off the center in the East and West directions and we marked a line from the center spike 80" in each of those directions and put a spike. Now we have a compass 160" in diameter in our back yard! It points straight at the North Star!

Each of us standing at the cardinal points of our compass—
Bethany, North; Abigail, South; Mary Ann, East; myself,
West. We also have a spike in the center for future reference.
We are looking forward to moving further in the book and being drawn closer to our Creator as we marvel at the order and design He has woven into His Creation, and we worship Him as a family. Thanks, Jay and your family, for sharing your knowledge with us!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Doing Big, or Barely Doing . . .

Sometimes I find faith wants to do great things for God. There's a fire in the belly and a passion to win the world—or at least the region you've been placed in. I think that is great as long as God is leading it. To serve and love Him with all of our heart and soul and strength and mind, with a zeal that ignites fires—awesome! To step out into dramatic faith, desperately dependent on Him, doing what the world calls crazy and violates all of the world's "common sense"—inspiring!

But then . . . there's those times you simply barely hold on. Your faith is the thin, frayed line that you cling to in a sea of anguish and overwhelming obstacles and pain. Do big things for God? You are barely getting through the next hour . . . and yet, by faith, clinging to the most basic of God's promises, you take the next breath and the next step. That is crazy and awesome faith as well! It may not feel like it. It may feel self-centered. It may feel like you should be doing more. But when life crashes down and the pain you carry of your own and/or others is almost causing you to drown, to hold on and to step ahead and to keep the faith is a huge victory and a huge act of faith. And . . .

. . . I think God sees our heart, knows our condition, and is so OK with that! He loves us! His burden is easy, His yoke is light! He is a good Father who cares deeply for us. He sees our pain, and He carried pain on the cross. He wept when on earth. He understands.

I thought that this blog post captured that really well and I wanted to share it with you in case it blesses you also:


Blessings to you all. Thanks so much for reading, caring, and sharing in my life.   —Erick

Monday, July 15, 2013

Might Be a Great Deal

I haven't read this, but I just got the email about it from Christian Reader and the description is very intriguing and the price is amazing (and, no, I don't get anything for recommending this and they don't even know I am). Hardcover. Leather. Was $49.95 and now $9.95. Previously out of print.

Anyway, I ordered it but obviously won't have it for awhile, but I don't know how long the sale is so I wanted to share it. Again, I HAVEN'T read it, nor do I know anything about the author, so please don't think I am endorsing it.



A Great Reminder

This blog post by Randy Alcorn is well worth Christians reading, being reminded of, and checking ourselves against. I was made powerfully aware recently in a study of Jesus' parable of the seed along the road (Matthew 13:1–23, Mark 4:1–20, Luke 8:4–15) that we did in our men's group that:

1. The second seed didn't bear fruit because of the trials of our faith coming to bear on us. The Word was received with joy, but then under persecution and trouble they fell away.

2. The third seed grew, it just got choked out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this world, and it was unfruitful (or remained immature).

I believe Randy's article speaks to an antidote to both of these dangers in a powerful and concise way.


Friday, July 12, 2013


I am about half way through the non-fiction book The Big Story by Justin Buzzard. So far I am blessed by it and its reminder that, despite the sometimes overwhelming immediacy of stuff in our life, we are part of a story far bigger than us, that begins with God, and gives us meaning and purpose and hope and context for our life and the world around us. I have found that it is so easy to get lost in the daily grind that we forget the majesty and calling and breathtaking scope of the big picture we are a part of, and the incredible direction and perspective it gives us when facing the situations in front of us.

As I often do when beginning a non-fiction Christian book I try and learn more about the author and what they believe, etc., and in so doing I found a couple of blog posts by Justin that have also blessed me. The one about pastors I posted a link to yesterday, and there was also one called Sin, Not Sins that I found helping me with a subtle, but very powerful perspective shift. I'll summarize it here, along with some other thoughts on sin that have been helping me a lot. Some are from Justin's blog or book, others are thoughts I've had and things I've seen in God's Word that his book has helped me see more clearly.

In his blog post Justin points out how we often can think of our sins in that way, as sins—plural. Doing so can diminish the issue and encourage us to be "self-sufficient" (my words) in battling them. For example, if I see my problem as ______ and _______ and _______ (fill in your sins, or issues) then the temptation is to look to self effort, self improvement, and more willpower to solve them. "If I try harder at this" or "If I do that" or ??? Rather, he says, think of our problem not as sins (plural) but as Sin (singular) and suddenly we see that while the manifestation of Sin may take many forms, the real problem is Sin itself. I can "beat" this issue or that by trying hard enough, but Sin will still rise its ugly head in some other area or temptation or struggle.

When I realize my problem is not sins (individual issues) but Sin, then I realize the true depth and scope of this problem I face, and am immediately brought to the realization that God alone can help me. Helping others realize this as well will help them understand every man's need for God. I found this shift in seeing things he wrote about in his blog post match well with something he mentioned in the book, and that basically Adam and Eve's bite was a small bite, but it was about big rebellion. I thought, "How many times we fall into that trap and self justify ourselves by saying this or that sin is small, or not as bad as others, etc. when the real issue is not that sin choice, but the rebellion that made us make it." Suddenly, when we face it that way, we can't hide behind weighing our sins on some scale, but we are struck square in the face with realizing that rebellion is the root of our problems and it is huge for us all. Again, a tiny shift in thought can explode a new revelation or way of seeing things. We might say, "What's the big deal about biting a piece of fruit (or, add your own choices in here instead)?" That's not the big deal. The big deal is rebelling against God and deciding we can find our own pleasure, provision, and wisdom apart from God and His ways and Word. I know I've written about that a lot over the last few years, but it struck home in a fresh way through Justin's ways of wording it.

Another point that Justin made in his book that really struck me as true to life is how Satan causes us to focus on the few prohibitions in a sea of permissions. In a midst of a garden filled with blessings and permission stood one prohibition, and yet that is what Satan drew their attention to. How often I find in my own life and in the lives of people I work with that our eyes go to what we can't do, can't have, etc., and are drawn from the joyous reality of all we have and are in Christ. Then, when we "taste" of Satan's fruit (whatever we choose to pursue in rebellion and in the arrogance of thinking we can do it better our way than God's), we find the lemon isn't so sweet and we wonder why our life, our relationships, etc. have blown up and left collateral damage all around us. Surprise! Satan hates us, and Jesus has warned us Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.

Satan is the father of lies. I understand that. I spent many hours lying yesterday. I was a blatant, misrepresenting liar. I went fishing with a friend in our fellowship and spent hours trying to disguise this death bringing hook of entrapment in a way the fish would think it was the real deal and good food so they'd bite the disguise and find themselves embedded on the hook and soon on my plate. Fortunately for the fish I am not a good liar and I didn't catch any, but Satan is far better. As long as we continue to address individual sins and neglect the much larger umbrella issue of Sin and Rebellion that lie at the heart of them all, we will forever struggle in futility and a roller coaster life as we think we can be smarter than both Satan and God, by simply trying more and trying harder and being wiser. The fish in Lake San Antonio are safe for another day, but we won't be with that attitude.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I was recently talking with someone who is involved in helping multiple people who are in some rough spots. My friend was weary and carrying a heavy load as he felt the weight of the situations he was dealing with. I, too, recently have felt that way in many of the very hard situations in people's lives we've been a part of recently, and continue to be a part of.

As I was talking to him I was encouraging him with advice I was once given. That advice was to remember that the problems in others' lives are really God's problems and not mine. My friend who I had gone to was an associate pastor at another church and I was working with a couple in a very rough marriage. The advice he gave me was to say, "God, You have a problem in this marriage. What would you like me to do?" That advice really helped set me free to remember that it was really God's problem and He wanted their success even more than I, and my job was to be His ready and surrendered vessel available for Him to use and speak through.

As I shared that with my friend I believe God gave me an image to share with him as well, and I thought it might bless others so I decided to write it out. Basically it was of a faucet. Not that it matters, but it was a shiny, nice silver kitchen faucet. (Maybe this image resonated so well with me because our well pump went out last week and we spent time facing the situation of turning on faucets and having no water, and the uncertainty of how that water would come and how long we and our plants, etc., could go without it.) Anyway I felt led to suggest to my friend that he picture himself as a faucet. A faucet is not the water source, it is simply the means of delivering the water. Picture God as the water source, and the people he was involved with as the cup. The job of the faucet is to deliver the water to the cup. The water flows through the faucet and into the cup, and it is the water that revitalizes and refreshes and sustains life. The faucet simply is there, ready for the water to flow through it.

At any rate, that worked for me, and it worked for my friend, so I thought I'd share it with you. Blessings to you all, thanks for reading a being a part of my life. May God overwhelm you this week with a deep awareness of His love for you, presence with you, and of His star-breathing power and glory!


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