Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Friday, September 29, 2006

God's Work vs. Man's Work

I saw these pictures released today and thought they were great.

In case you can't figure out what those little dots are, here's a closer view.

None other than the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station as they move across the sun.

It is astounding to me the magnitude of God's creation! I praise Him that in all this expansive universe, He, for some reason, shows an interest in you and me, even our mundane, everyday lives. Even the hairs on my head (may they grow no fewer) He is aware of.

Here again is an example that some of our most advanced creations pale in light of God's universe. Yet even as far back as the Tower of Babel, we had the arrogance to think that we could ever rival what He has done. Our accomplishments, while astounding, especially the advances of the last 100 years, will never rival what He has made in this universe.

Late some night, when the sky is clear, go outside and marvel at His universe, then marvel again that He is there, in His love, marveling over you.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sermon 9/24/06--New Creation Trials

New Creation Trials

Barbara Brown Taylor tells of spending a few days on a barrier island where loggerhead turtles were laying their eggs. On night when the tide was out, she watched a huge female turtle heave herself up on the beach to dig her nest and empty her eggs into the sand. Taylor didn’t want to disturb her, but the next day she returned to try to find the spot where the eggs were hidden. What she found instead were tracks leading in the wrong direction. Instead of heading back out to sea, she had wandered into the dunes, which were already as hot as asphalt in the morning sun.

A little ways inland, Taylor found the mother turtle, exhausted and all but baked. Her head and flippers were caked with dried sand. After pouring some water on her and covering her, Taylor fetched a park ranger, who returned with a jeep to rescue her.

Then from the turtle’s perspective, a bad situation got worse. The ranger arrived, flipped her onto her back, wrapped tire chains around her front legs, and hooked the chains to the trailer hitch. Then he took off, yanking her body forward so fast that her open mouth filled with sand.

At ocean’s edge, he unhooked her and turned her right side up again. She lay motionless in the surf as the water rolled over her, washing sand from her eyes and mouth. Then a large wave broke over her, and she lifted her head slightly, moving her back legs as she did. Every fresh wave brought her life back to her until one of them made her light enough to push off back into the water.

In this world, we often find ourselves feeling much the same way. We’re going along, and get disoriented, things begin happening and all the world seems to fall apart. This happens for Believers and Unbelievers alike. Then the help that comes, the cure, many times feels like it’s worse than the disease.

This world is full of trouble, trials and sorrows. It’s no wonder, Jesus promised that it would be this way.

1. We Will Have Trouble--John 16:33b—In This World You Will Have Trouble—“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.”—NLT
a. Jesus said many things during His ministry on earth. We know about His declarations about God’s love, we know His teachings on morality, we know His expectation of crucifixion and resurrection. The words of Jesus always ring true.

b. Few are played out everyday for all to see as this one. Watch the news tonight and you will hear of all the trials and sorrows that this world is enduring, that our friends and neighbors are enduring, that Believers in Christ are enduring.

c. Loved ones are lost or injured. Practically every week you can read accounts from around the world of Christians murdered for their faith, or churches burned.

d. In a world that is alienated from God, we should expect trial and trouble, especially for those fighting against the kingdom of darkness.

e. If you are a New Creation—you should expect more trouble. All of us are expected to tell everyone about “Peace on Earth and Good Will to all men”, yet we are warned by Jesus Himself that we should anticipate difficulty.

f. So where does the Trial and Trouble come from? The verse gives us the first clue. The World

2. The World In Opposition
a. This world does not operate the way it is supposed to. It has been corrupted, it experiences the effect of the fall. The rules and principles God set up to meet our needs in the Garden of Eden no longer work as effectively—in many ways they have been turned against us.

b. Now we must toil and labor, now it’s eat or be eaten. This is truly a Fallen World where Bad things happen—this isn’t a fallen world because of bad things happening, bad things happen because it is fallen. As I recently pointed out in a conversation—the greatest act of global & environmental destruction the human race has ever perpetuated on this planet is to introduce sin into it.

c. Believing this, I don’t believe there were tornados or hurricanes before the fall, No flu, or cancer, No blood sucking Mosquitoes or E-Coli Food Poisoning.

d. The World we live in is a source of our trials and struggles because it has been corrupted by our sin. Even now, Paul says in Romans 8 that the Creation itself is in bondage and in a state of decay and death. This state came after the choices of Adam and Eve—it damaged God’s provision and what He had carefully created for us.

e. When God gave us the freedom to choose to Love Him or to choose to Hate Him, He knew it would have consequences, but love is worth the risk.

f. The first recorded sin recorded just after the garden was the murder of Abel by his brother. God knew that people’s choices have the power to help people but also have the power to hurt. This is even more true for the People of God. Believers often endure Persecution in this world.

g. Persecution
i. Jesus reminded us in John 15:18--that if this World Hates you, know that it hated Him first. Every spring we enter a season that reminds us how the world treated Jesus.
ii. There are Christians around the world that are not faring much better solely based on their faith. In America today, the Christian community is being marginalized in the discussion of ideas because of our moral positions on abortion, homosexuality, and our views of the Bible and Jesus.

iii. But, as Paul said in Galatians 1:10—“ Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” We are not to live to please men, if we did, we would be compromising our loyalty, commitment and willingness to be servants of Christ.

iv. But when we make that pledge, that commitment to follow Christ, everyone here must know, that standing with your faith will have consequences from the world. The world will often take things out on you because it first rejected Jesus.

v. Another major source of our trials, troubles and sorrows is our Flesh or our Sin Nature.

3. The Flesh In Conflict—this is the nature that all human beings inherited at the Fall. The image of God was not lost, but it was tarnished, it has been damaged because of our sin. Now there is a gulf that separates us from God.
a. We have this tendency to be drawn to the perverse, to the dark, to the things we know are not from God. Our Desire often works against us. One theologian described sin as the “illegitimate or wrong expression of a legitimate or right desire”.

b. Our flesh wars against us, our minds wander to those that carry us away from God and it causes trouble and sorrow in our lives. We have addictions in this country to drugs, to alcohol, to pornography, to gambling that are destroying families and children. We are often hurting ourselves by our choices to indulge our imagination, to indulge our desires and not resist by the power of God.

c. James put it this way in 1:14—“each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”—CEV—“ We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. 15 Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.”

d. CEV—We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.”

e. Paul described a war in his mind in Romans 7—how he does not understand what he is doing when he is unspiritual, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”. He even has the desire to do good, but cannot always follow through.

f. Listen to how the NLT puts this passage—Romans 7:14-“The law is good, then. The trouble is not with the law but with me, because I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master. 15 I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. 16 I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 But I can’t help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things.
18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. 19 When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.
21 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?”

g. NIV—24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Even an apostle battled with his sin nature. Your mind, your heart, your desires, your needs will all try to pull you away from the provision, protection and path of God.

h. If the World and our Flesh is not enough, we face another that brings trials and sorrows into our lives.

4. The Devil Attacking
a. Temptation—Satan comes to us everyday just as he did Adam & Eve, he plays with our desires and our fears. He comes with the same tactics he used against Jesus in Luke 4—using basic needs like food, trust in God, and power.

b. When he does not succeed, he’s not gone, Luke 4:13--merely waiting for a more opportune time—“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him, until an opportune time”.

c. He knows how to manipulate the world for he is the Prince of this world, and he knows human behavior so well that he can push our buttons and target our weaknesses so that we will believe his lies.

d. Satan attacks us. He shoots fiery arrows at us to pierce through our defenses. And our defenses our own strength are not enough to defeat him. Satan is portrayed in 1 Peter 5 as a roaring lion, prowling around looking for someone to devour. The Living Bible says it this way—“Be careful—watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart. 9Stand firm when he attacks. Trust the Lord; and remember that other Christians all around the world are going through these sufferings too.”

e. We are attacked from the Outside, from the Inside with a ruthless Enemy who knows how to manipulate both.

f. With all this against us, is there any doubt how much we need God to intervene on our behalf? I cannot imagine how anyone goes through life, enduring all these trials and temptations without God! But we must take heart for…

5. Our Trials are not without Provision—
a. In dealing with the World, Jesus encouraged us in John 16:33—“But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

b. Christ’s Victory is a Christian Triumph! Never was there such a conqueror of the world as Christ was, and we ought to be encouraged by it, (1.) Because Christ has overcome the world we may look upon it as a conquered enemy (2.) He has conquered it for us, as the captain of our salvation. His victory on the Cross is our Victory. Believers have nothing to do but to pursue their victory, and divide the spoil; and this we do by faith, 1 Jn. 5:4. 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory.

c. The Flesh—When Paul cried out in Romans 7—“24 What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die?” he knew there was an answer—“25 Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me.”

d. When you face temptation you must know that 1 Corinthians 10:13--No Temptation has seized you except what is common to man—He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

e. What about The Devil?—Ephesians 6 tells us that one of the reasons for the full Armor of God is because our struggle is not against flesh and blood only. We face an adversary that is constantly throwing fiery darts that penetrate our defenses. So we need God’s armor so we may stand against his schemes and be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. James encourages us to Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. This is all possible b/c of the Holy Spirit living within all believers.

f. The Presence of the Holy Spirit--Jesus calls the Holy Spirit The Counselor, Advocate or Comforter in John 14 and that the Spirit would never leave them but guide them into all truth. In All of our temptations, all our attacks, all our difficulties, God Himself is in our hearts ministering to us, holding us close and giving us strength to carry on.

g. Jesus said—in me you will have peace—John 14:27—“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." Only in Christ is Peace in your life possible. And when Peace exists in your heart and your relationship with God, we become another source God uses to help us in our times of need.

h. People to Carry Burdens--The Church is also supposed to be a Comfort. The Spirit working in us will use our experiences and trials to help others.

i. 2CO 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

j. Priviledge and Power of Prayer—Philippians 4:6-7—“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

k. So in some way, that we don’t understand, there is even a
6. Benefit from our Trials—
a. In ways we cannot see or understand, God is able to use our struggles in life. Trouble can be an opportunity for God’s grace to shine through you. James 1:2—“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3 For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
5 If you need wisdom—(understanding) if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.”

b. Peter put it this way—1 Peter 4:12—“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed

c. The person who is able to persevere under trial will, “because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

d. We face trials, troubles and sorrows. I don’t have the wisdom, I don’t have God’s personal phone number, I can’t tell you why or how things will turn out.
But I can say with confidence that no matter the situation, no matter the sorrow, no matter the trouble you face in this world, there is a God who loves you. There is a God who Provides for you in your time of need.
There is a God who is in control and can give you strength, give you endurance, give you power, give you victory and even overturn any bad situation and use it for His glory.

e. South African pastor Andrew Murray once faced a terrible crisis. Gathering himself into his study, he sat a long while quietly, prayerfully, thoughtfully. His mind flew at last to Jesus, and picking up his pen wrote these words in his jrnl:
First, He brought me here, it is by His will that I am in this straight place: in that fact I will rest.
Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

f. Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.
Let me say I am here—By God’s Appointment—In His Keeping—Under His training—For His time.

g. “The more we trust the sovereignty of heaven, the less we fear the calamities of earth.”

h. Today the trials may be upon you. If not today, then tomorrow or the next, or next week. They are coming. But you are not alone. God has made a provision for you in Jesus, but only if you receive His gift of forgiveness. Without Him, you can do nothing to overcome your trials.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Great Flood Creates British Isles?

In light of recent discussions on this blog, and just in case you've laid awake at night trying to figure out just how the British Isles became separated from Europe, (I know I've had recurring nightmares on the subject) you might find this proposal interesting. Read about it in The Austrailian, here

The proposed mechanism has to be different, of course, but here are a few interesting exerpts:

"The finding has emerged from an advanced sonar survey of the sea bed of the English Channel that revealed huge scour marks, deep bowls and piles of rock that could have been created only by a giant torrent of water. If confirmed, it will force an important revision of British prehistory.

It had been thought the Channel had formed by slow erosion combined with rises in sea level that took place over millions of years, rather than by a sudden, biblical-style catastrophe.

"This could have been one of the most powerful flood events ever known on earth," said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. "It would have cut through the chalk hills joining Britain to Europe and created a Niagara-style waterfall 300ft (91.5m) to 400ft high."


"In places this huge, underwater valley is more than seven miles (11km) wide and 170ft deep, with vertical sides. Its nearest geological parallels are found not on earth but in the monumental flood terrains of the planet Mars," Dr Gupta said in an abstract published at an academic conference. "This suggests the valley was created by catastrophic flood-flows following the breaching of the Dover Strait and the sudden release of water from a giant lake to the north."

While the proposed causes may very well be be accurate, is another possible explanation being avoided? All the biblical references seem to be saying that the biblical flood concept seems to be in the back of everyone's mind. But that couldn't possibly be it could it?


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Veggie Tales Not Fit for TV per NBC

NBC has been negotiating to show Veggie Tales on Saturday mornings. But apparently, God is too offensive for little kids and quoting the Bible is bad. Read about it here

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Creation/Evolution II

From a recent post on evolution, I was asked a couple of questions that I wanted to talk about. My response got so long that I wanted to just make it a new post. I was asked about any plausible reasons why the data doesn't fit the model we are currently using. I mostly have observations and questions, particularly concerning assumptions, rather than groundbreaking data.

I'll explain my concerns this way. I'm not uncomfortable with a young earth, I'm not uncomfortable with an old earth (though maybe not as old as most accepted doctrine). My faith is not necessarily changed and it is valid in either scenario. But I do have concerns about the ever-increasing old age scenario.

One of the first things I wonder about is the accuracy of a very reasonable principle in geology. It's called the Principle of Uniformity. Basically, that processes that we see at work today--sedimentation rates, plate tectonics, radioactive decay, etc.--are consistent throughout time. From that principle, we can extrapolate time frames for certain observable phenomenon. It is a very reasonable principle and one that is good to work with because it allows scientists to extrapolate information and make certain predictions. The PoU is one of the most basic elements in the geologic field.

Again, it is a reasonable assumption. With that said, what if the PoU is wrong? What if the processes we observe today do not have a consistent rate throughout time?

A couple examples of possibles. Within the last few years, even months (sorry, I don't have links) several papers have been presented arguing that the rates of tectonic movement vary and can happen very rapidly, at locations such as the Mid-Atlantic Spread Zone.

More recently has been the observation from eastern Africa of the subsidence of segments of the Great Rift Valley with upwards of 100 ft (maybe meters) of drop in a matter of a couple months as a new spread section is being formed. As a crew landed on a helicopter, they felt small earthquakes and observed new fault lines and cracks under their feet. They didn't stay as long as they wanted to.

The Mid Atlantic is often used to give an estimate of current age given the "striping" of the magnetic filaments in the hardened magma. Using the size of each stripe, the rate of contemporary spread, and the frequency of polar magnetic shifts, scientists are able to extrapolate time frames. Again, that's reasonable.

However, I would ask, couldn't the conditions that cause a polar instability and fluctuation likewise cause a dramatic increase in activity at the mid-atlantic spread and other tectonic zones? I'm not aware of that question even being asked, but they would have significant implications to geologic time.

Another example would be the tests often done on zircon crystals. These crystals form deep in the earth’s mantle and often incorporate small particles of uranium and other radioactive material. The decay of these radioactive elements leave a “halo” in the surrounding crystal, the size of which, along with tests to determine the ratio of original element to it’s neutral breakdown, is used to determine how long the crystal has existed. Since we generally know the decay rates for elements it is a reasonable extrapolation. However, I believe it also has some assumptions which to my knowledge have never been tested. My big question is whether there are any conditions in which decay rates can be increased or the halo effect that alters surrounding crystalline structure likewise increases. Conditions under which these zircon crystals form are radically different from surface conditions. Does extreme pressure, extreme heat and the presence of large amounts of other radioactive materials in close proximity increase the decay rate and its effect? It could and should be tested because if demonstrated would cause a great revision of dates.

I realize that I am proposing hypotheticals for which I cannot test, and that if done, may not refute anything of the current theoretical models. These are just questions for which my mind would like clarity.

I fear we are making observations and drawing conclusions based on a world that was fundamentally altered and changed in some way by the fall (a theological objection that I realize science can't tackle). In which case our observations could be faulty.

Similarly, I believe in a literal world wide flood event. It's amazing to me that so many ancient cultures from all over the world have persevered a tradition of a catastrophic flood (obviously with different causes and conclusions--but often times the underlying event of mythology has a historical reference).

In the biblical account, the water did not just come from rain falling, but water came from the “springs of the great deep burst forth”. I realize there are various interpretations of this passage, but in my mind I see great movement of the earth and there’s no telling what was going on under the surface. In many ways, I believe the world and environment was again altered by the events of the flood—so it wasn’t the same as before, life wouldn’t be the same, even the ages of the people dramatically changed downward post-flood.

Science dismisses these accounts and their possible effects as unhistorical, largely due to the influence of 19th Century biblical criticism (Documentary Hypothesis) and the desire to remove the miraculous from consideration that dates back even further than Thomas Jefferson who created his own New Testament minus the miracles. I wouldn’t argue that science isn’t reasonable in not considering the miraculous, after all, we have no conclusive evidence, nor any kind of comparable contemporary experience, but then again, it comes back to assumptions (ex.--if the flood is unhistorical, why do I need to look for any evidence of it). That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and fundamentally change the world we are trying to observe today.

To dismiss the flood account as unhistorical; however, has theological implications. It essentially says the biblical account is not reliable, accurate or valid which calls into question its Inspiration—God communicating and revealing truth to us, and its Sufficiency—its trustworthiness to impart truth of our spiritual condition, its remedy and how we are to live in light of the revealed truth. To write the opening chapters of Genesis off as allegory undermines the foundation of who we are as human beings, our spiritual situation and the great steps of mercy God has taken to redeem us.

It presents us with a dilemma. Either contemporary theories are correct and the flood (or Fall) never happened, thereby undermining the accuracy, trustworthiness and authority of Scripture, or Scripture is accurate, and contemporary theories are missing some significant events and information for drawing conclusions, thus making the current conclusions inaccurate.

To chase a rabbit for a moment, a couple of years ago, the Discover Channel (or possibly History Channel—still looking for that link) had a program on human population and ancestry by analyzing mitochondrial DNA that is passed only through the mother. They found that at one point in human history (in their time frame 100,000 years ago), there was a large and diverse human population. Then something happened about 70,000 years ago that drastically reduced that population to probably less than 1000 people, from which the population then expanded back to it’s present size. It was obvious the team presenting this information were trying to avoid any parallels to a famous biblical account which basically claimed the same thing. They could not identify a cause but speculated disease or conflict.

I would argue that the flood did happen, but I could not say for sure when (realizing there is wide debate and understanding of the various genealogies)—to which this information was appropriate. And if the flood did happen, then what effect would it have had on the world that was, how was it altered and how does that effect what we are trying to look at and understand today. Again, I realize that science cannot or will not take it seriously, and therein lies an assumptive and foundational problem. The desire to know and search for truth is noble and good, so long as you don’t leave out or ignore a significant source of it.

I believe it makes the scientists’ job harder, but can also make it more dismissive and closed minded. We religious folks don’t have to worry about that though, right? Of course we do.

In any event, scientific theories have theological implications just like theological interpretations will have questions to raise and test in the scientific world. If only it wasn’t so hostile and exclusive of each other. Like has been said, a greater sense of humility by all of us would be welcome and warranted.

Pursuing Answers to Quesitons of Faith & Life,


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Baptism Sunday

This past Sunday we had a special service in that we had 4 people baptized. In the few months I have been at University Baptist Church, there have already been more baptisms than I experienced in 4.5 years at my previous pastorate. It has been a blessing to be a part of. I wish I could say these were due to my excellent preaching and ministry skills, but not a one of them was. Each of the people baptized had made a decision for Christ in the past and had delayed baptism for various reasons. Each of them could tell you that God had been working on their heart and that now was the time to do it. They each have unique spiritual journeys that led to the same action--following Christ in baptism.

I taught on Baptism, answering the basic questions--Who, What, When, Where, Why & How in relation to baptism and broke it up into 3 sections with baptism, and singing surrounding them all. It was a great day that I am priviledged to be a part of. I thanked each of them and God for allowing me to be a part of their Christian walk.

In my study and preparation for the service, I considered putting up some pictures of ancient baptistries. I noticed a couple features in some that I looked at that most churches don't do today.

You'll notice that many of the old baptistries dug into the ground have stairs on both sides. Today, when I see that, typicaly the minister comes in one side, the candidate in the other, or girls get ready on one side, boys on the other. However, that's not how they used to be. The candidate would go in one side, be baptized, and then walk up the steps on the other side--another visual image that they have crossed a threshhold of some kind. The Old Life was what they had when they went in, "dying", being buried in the water, and then raised to the New Life was what was waiting for them when they exited. It's another picture of the change that a decision for Christ makes--and the symbolic nature of baptism.

Why did we get away from this?

Pursuing Him,


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Although I am not particularly a fan of Ann Coulter (for many reasons), I was recently lent a book of hers to read a few chapeters. One line of hers sounded like an idea of mine (scary thought--though now that I have attempted to type it out, it's a lot longer than just one line!). I'll share both and ask what you think of either or both.

Coulter's, pg. 199-- "Although God believers don't need evolution to be false, athiests need evoultion to be true."

Agree/Disagree--Why is/is not this accurate?

Mine--pg. 1,347,856--"There is debate within Christianity whether the earth is young or old. Some insist our faith is dependent on a young earth and practically make this question a test of fellowship. I would argue that my faith is not dependent on the earth being-- 10-15,000 years old; 4.5 billion or somewhere in between. My faith could exist and be valid with either. However, the evolutionary position is dependent on an old earth and would be totally implausible unless the earth is at least 4.5 Billion yrs. old (with increases to come later as needed). Evolution could not have happened in a young earth."

Agree/Disagree--Why is/is not this accurate?

Could there be a tendency to only interpret data that gives us an old earth because of the philosophy that has been accepted? What other implications are there.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sermon-9/10/06--New Creation Hope

A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “18-0, we’re behind.”
“Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet your discouraged.”
“Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “WE haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”

There are times in life when the world is stacked against you. The greatest difference in your reaction will be whether you believe it’s the bottom of the 1st inning or the bottom of the 9th.

A major reason depression is so prevalent is because the pressures and mistakes of life are deemed unfixable or unforgivable. A major reason why the suicide rate is so high, among the young and increasing among Baby Boomers is that they have lost hope that life will get any better, that anyone will love them. A major reason marriage is so avoided, even in the church, is because whole generations have lost hope that love can last forever. So many have no hope that God can overcome anything or make any difference in their life.

But that is so untrue. Hope is a necessary thing, something especially needed in the world today. We as Believers in Christ truly have the market on what the world is looking for.
When we are trapped in the Old Life—nothing we can do can get us out of it. Left to ourselves we are hopeless. We must be born again, we must be made into New Creations.

What is hope? Is it a wishy washy maybe or a kind of unsure optimism? The modern idea of hope is “to wish for, to expect, but without certainty of the fulfillment; to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.”
In Scripture, according to the biblical usage, hope is an indication of certainty. “Hope” in Scripture means “a strong and confident expectation.” Though archaic today in modern terms, hope is akin to trust and a confident expectation.
By its very nature, hope stresses two things: (a) futurity, and (b) invisibility. It deals with things we can’t see or haven’t received or both .

That’s the promise of 1 Peter 1:3
1PE 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

The Mercy of God was the start of it all. It was His mercy, His love for us that drew Him to make a way for us to become New Creations. And when that happens, we are given a Living Hope. Not a hope that is dead, not a hope that is gone beyond recovery, but one that is living, one that is active, one that is moving and growing and is full of passion and expectation. As long as Christ lives, our hope is alive! We have a future waiting for us that doesn’t get worse with age.

When you’re late for dinner, it sits there and gets cold and it never quite tastes the same when you warm it up.
If it sits there for too long, you’re more inclined to throw it away than eat it because you can tell it’s not fresh anymore. A little time can ruin what was a perfectly good meal. But our inheritance, what we have waiting for us, the marriage feast of the lamb, doesn’t perish, spoil or fade. There will never be reason to look at it and question, “Is that still any good?”

This hope, according to Hebrews 6:19 is supposed to be “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Our hope comes through the resurrection of Christ that turned a moment of fear, defeat and death into a moment of Courage, Victory and Life.

We need hope to be able to survive in this world, in order for us to go on and continue to live and move forward in our service of our Lord. People all around us are walking around without hope. They’re stumbling through life trying to figure out what it’s all about, what is important. They’re filling their lives with distractions and entertainment so they don’t have to think about what’s important. If we did not have hope in Christ, we would be no different. Without Christ, we would give up.

John Maxwell tells about a small town in Maine that was proposed for the site of a great hydro-electric plant. A dam would built across the river and the town submerged. When the project was announced, the people were given many months to arrange their affairs and relocate.
During those months, a curious thing happened. All improvements ceased. No painting was done. No repairs were made on the buildings, roads, or sidewalks. Day by day the whole town got shabbier and shabbier. A long time before the waters came, the town looked uncared for and abandoned, even though the people had not yet moved away. One citizen explained: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” That town was cursed with hopelessness because it had no future.

In the OT past, the Prophets & saints looked forward to the hope we now have. In one encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus said that even Abraham was looking forward to His day. When Jesus picked up the scroll of Isaiah in Luke 4 and read about the good news to the poor, freedom for the captive, recovery of sight for the blind, release of the oppressed and proclaim the Year of the Lord’s Favor, Jesus was reading Isaiah’s hope for the future. Then Jesus had the audacity to say He was the fulfillment of that hope. Everything that Isaiah was looking forward to, Jesus fulfilled.

When the prophets spoke of the promised Messiah, they were hoping in the Almighty God what would fulfill His promise. They were inspired to write down the future that God was showing them. Hope from the Past comes through the pages of Scripture.

Look at Romans 15:4—
Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The OT saints looked forward to Jesus—they looked forward to seeing His day, like Abraham, God gave many of them a vision for the Messiah, the fulfillment of their hope.

What about today, what is our View From the Present?
The KJV in 1 Cor. 13:11 says that now we see through the glass darkly—

1 Cor. 13:11-12—“ Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Living Bible ---In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.”—

Right now, not everything makes sense to us. What we see of God’s plan is hazy, a poor reflection, hazy and blurred. So we wait in hopeful expectation, knowing just like the prophets did that God will fulfill His promises. So we cannot give up, even when things look bad.

We know more about God’s plan than they do, but we still do not know the day or the hour. We still cannot see or understand how God will use every situation, from wars or elections, to accidents or births.

We are all participating a role within the progression of time. We know time has a beginning and an end. We know God is moving history toward His Return.

We know that Christ’s return will right all wrongs, overturn all evil, and make right all sins and hurts. So no matter how things look from here and now, our hope and faith is able to carry us through.

We struggle with the “Already v. Not Yet”. We are eager to know about those who have fallen asleep in Christ, but we take comfort in our hope that they are with Him, in the presence of their Savior. We know that the world will one day be made right.

Look at
Romans 8:22—We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

The whole world, including you and me, are hoping for what we don’t yet have. We are waiting patiently for our final and complete redemption. CS Lewis—Hope—“a continual looking forward to the eternal world.” What’s amazing about this passage is the statement, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all”.
In other words, if we had all the answers, if we had it all charted and spelled out, then our hope would not just be weak, but non-existent.

If we knew without doubt the date of Christ’s return was going to be in 200 years, if we knew all the of the people God would save with our without us, then we would be like that town in Maine—then the temptation for us as the Body of Christ would be that there’s no point, there’s no use trying—b/c we’re not going to see it.
We could easily become complacent and unprepared, unwilling and unresponsive to the leadership of God.

So in a sense, it is vital, for our hope to remain strong that some things remain hidden.

HEB 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

We are here in this world waiting, waiting for what everyone, whether we realize it or not, is yearning for in our hearts. We should never be afraid of what tomorrow holds because we know where tomorrow is going. No matter how bad things get around us, Believers should have a Hope for the Future. “I don’t know what the Future holds, but I know Who holds the Future.”

Our Past is full of Hope—because we can look back with confidence on what Christ has done for us. We have the privilege of looking backward to Jesus and what He did for us

We have Hope for the Present--we struggle making sense of today and all of our struggles and trials. We have trouble making sense of the evils in the world, like tomorrow’s anniversary, but we have hope that the world today is in the Hands of an Almighty God who is moving our Present in a definitive direction—an outcome that He is fully aware of and in control of.

Hope of the Future—and since we know where this world is going, we we also have hope as New Creations in Christ as we look Forward to His Return.

If you’ve ever wondered, “where are we going”, “what in the world is God doing?”, the answer is the Second Coming, the Kingdom of God, a New Heaven and a New Earth, an Eternity in the Presence of God. It is the celebration of God’s complete and total reunion and restoration with His children. It will be like that moment with the Prodigal’s father—where God calls out, “My children are finally and forever home with me. Kill the fatted calf and let’s celebrate their return.”

God is inviting and calling each of us to faith so we can be a part of all of that. As we read in 1 Peter, God is giving us an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

God generously gives us hope because we desperately need it. It comes through our faith in Christ. We know that a future is prepared for us. Despite all of the difficulties in life and the struggles we face, Hope keeps us alive. John Bunyan—“Hope is never ill when faith is well”. Is your faith alive and well? It needs to be.

G.F. Watt has a famous painting entitled Hope. It pictures a poor woman against the world. Her eyes are bandaged so that she cannot see ahead. In her hands is a harp, but all the strings are broken save one. Those broken strings represent her shattered expectations, her bitter disappointments. That one last unbroken string is the string of hope. She strikes that string and a glorious melody floats out over the world; it fills her dark skies with stars. The artist painted a great truth: Even when all else is gone, you still can have hope.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Memories

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the Towers were hit?

I was asleep. I had driven into Mountain Home, AR the night before to help Vicky's grandmother celebrate her birthday. When Vicky came in to tell me a plane hit the tower, I thought, small, private plane, some inexperienced pilot, no big deal, I'm going back to sleep. Not long after that she came back in and woke me saying, "another plane hit the other tower, we're under attack!" I quickly jumped out of bed. The rest of the day was spent in front of the TV trying to figure out what had happened. Gabriel was not even a year old, but we didn't want him seeing all that.

Will you share your memories?


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Macomb Balloon Festival

Yesterday was the opening of the Macomb Balloon Festival. It was an impressive sight to watch all the balloons fill up and then take off. It was equally fun to watch my kids running around and playing. Gabriel found our neighbors' kids and ran more last night than any other time in his life! Moriah trekked around (with me chasing her)like crazy all over the place.

What's amazing is before we came, we told Gabriel we were going somewhere, but it was a surprise. Of course, he then didn't want to go, not sure of where we were going, he was a bit intimidated. Every time we do this, we're usually going somewhere fun, but he forgets. His trust that we have something good for him was stretched and because he wasn't sure, he tried to bring on such a bad attitude that we wouldn't go at all. But he had such a good time when we got there that he was glad we went.

That's so like us with God. So often He desires to take us somewhere and keep it a surprise--He has a great adventure for us--but our trust is such that we throw an attitude and don't want to go. But when we actually get to where He is taking us, we have a great time. If only we would trust Him completely and be truly willing to go wherever He leads and not have to be dragged kicking and screaming.

Where has God been leading you that you've been unwilling to go? Do you really trust Him? When have you learned this lesson?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Spiritual Legacy of 9/11???

In a recent update, George Barna, head of a polling group that focuses on spiritual issues, had this to say about 9/11's spiritual impact just a short 5 years ago. Read the article


What a sad statement, though not surprising. God has been put back up on the shelf after a momentary "need" or "crisis".

A similar equivalent from the life of the early church would be if 5 years after 70 AD and the destruction of the Jewish Temple, the Jewish people all went back to their lives as normal and never questioned their relationship with God at all.

Or 5 years after the deportation of the Exiles, life just continued on unaffected. If the latter was the case (the exiles), we wouldn't be talking about a Jewish people today, they would have assimilated into Babylon and we wouldn't know much of their existence.

But God didn't let this happen in them. There was a spiritual renewal that He desired to accomplish--an act of discipline that demanded an assessment of relationship. Despite the horrors of 9/11--God can accomplish good things from it, even on a national level.

What worries me is that if a nation, if a people do not allow something like 9/11 to affect their relationship with God, what will it take? Such calamaties are often used of God to remind us of our need of Him, but apparently, America is turning a deaf ear to His efforts.

My question is this... Has 9/11 in any way affected the way you live, or your spiritual life?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sermon 9/3/06-- Wiping the Slate Clean

This week begins a series entitled--"New Creation Living"

Wiping the Slate Clean—2 Cor. 5:17

My son Gabriel has a wonderful learning tool at home. It’s a chalkboard. On it, he can draw to his hearts content. He makes lines, he draws shapes, he scribbles characters. Many times, he asks me or Vicky to draw something for him, an animal, a veggie tale character. What’s sad is that I’m not a very good artist. I need to learn a thing or two from Stacy. I’ll be drawing along and realize that what I’m drawing looks absolutely horrible and nothing like what Gabriel asked for. Now, he doesn’t care, he just wants to play with me and see me do it. But my eyes don’t let me tolerate it.

Thankfully, there is an eraser. With a few wipes of the brush, my mistakes can be removed, I can plan what I want to do instead and there’s hope that the task I started will be satisfying to both Gabriel and myself. Not much hope for me, but hope remains.

Sometimes, I get to a point and want to wipe the whole board clean. I see so many old lines, so many past mistakes that the board needs to be totally cleansed. Isn’t it great to know that “wiping the slate clean” is just what God offers us in Christ? Paul reminds us in

2 Cor 5:17—“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

When we make a decision to be “IN Christ”, when we choose to accept His gift of forgiveness, we are completely changed. In essence, our slate has been wiped clean. It affects our past, our present and our future.

1. Forgotten Past—
a. Our old purposes and aims, our old weaknesses and faults, our old pride & conceit, our old hypocrisies and sins have been changed into something completely new. It springs forth from the power of Christ working in us. It is a new act of Creation on God’s part. One set of conditions and relationships had passed out of existence, another set has come to stay. The individual who comes to faith has experienced a renewal and a rebirth. The believer has been truly “born again”.

b. Think about that connection. The same type of creative power that was at work back in Genesis 1 when God said, “Let there be light” is at work in every believer to change them into a new creation—there is a total transformation—“Let them be made new!—Remade—remade the way I intended them to be!” No we don’t see that total transformation now, but it has happened in eternity, and what has happened there is assured for us here.

c. That’s what makes it a moment of change and an ongoing process of change. To accept Jesus as Lord and live in Him as Lord will make many familiar things, old habits and situations look old, shameful and unpleasant. If you are listening to the voice of Christ, more and more the sins of your past will no longer be appealing, you’ll want to stay away from the things, the situations, the people that were a part of marking up your slate in they eyes of God. You won’t want to be a part of it.

d. But when our slate has been cleansed, our past has been cleansed we have an assurance from the Word of God that our sins have been removed.

e. Psalm 103:12—“as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

f. Many of the early Christians could find themselves in a list that Paul expressed in
1 Cor. 6:9-10—“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

g. If we’re honest, most of us could find ourselves somewhere in that list at some point in our lives. But the joy, and the power of being a new creation is found in v. 11—“And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

h. In other words, those characteristics may have marked your previous life, but in Christ, He will change us—in some experiences instantaneously, in others over years of discipleship. Some can testify to immediate deliverance from addictions like alcohol, while others have years of struggle. God doesn’t do the same thing in every person. In either case, In Christ--we cannot continue to live defined by our old life.

i. And what’s wonderful to realize is that what we used to be, the mistakes we have made, cannot keep us from living and being used in the Kingdom of God when we have been washed in the Blood of Christ.
j. Your past has been wiped clean. When you are in Christ, you may experience continuing results of the past, but you cannot be bound by the past. God still loves you and wants to use you.
2. Present Guidance
a. A clean slate isn’t worth very much if you’re just going to mark it all up again. Now don’t get me wrong… every single one of us “In Christ” will continue to sin, we will continue to add blemishes to our record. That will not change until we have died or transformed at the Second Coming.

b. We need help today. We need assistance with living today. And because our slate has been cleaned, our past has been forgiven by the blood of Christ, we have hope to resist temptation today. We have the Holy Spirit living inside us, speaking to us, reminding us that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that all of us are priests and called to live a holy life.

c. The Holy Spirit is more than just a little Jimminy Cricket sitting on our shoulder pleading with us to do the right thing. He is even more active and authoritative than that. We have Present Guidance.

d. 1 Cor. 10:13—“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

e. Temptation is not in itself wrong—if that were so, Jesus would be guilty. God promises that for every temptation we face, He will provide a way out of temptation—He will give us Present Guidance.

f. Whenever we are tempted, it is an opportunity to do right as much as wrong.

g. You’re Christ-like character is strengthened when you are tempted to do the exact opposite of what He calls you to be.

You are called to be patient, Satan tempts you to be impatient.
You are called to be self-controlled; Satan tempts you to be self-indulgent.

h. No temptation is too much for us—God won’t allow that—it is as much an opportunity to strengthen your faith, an opportunity to Live for Him and Grow In Him as it is an opportunity to sin.

i. He wants to lead us to the Abundant Life that Jesus spoke about. The adventure of life that sees every moment, every encounter, every relationship as an opportunity to Honor and Give Glory to God. God’s present Guidance is there if only we will listen and recognize His voice.

j. Along with our past and our present, God is preparing a future for you as well.

3. Future Opportunity—
a. In Jeremiah, God says, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God is interested about our future. He wants to see us blessed, He wants to give us hope and a purpose for living.

b. But that is so hard to do if we don’t have something to work for, if we don’t have something to do. Retirement is often difficult or avoided b/c we don’t want to quit, don’t want to have something to do. Many who have nothing to do or are bored have given up on life. Thankfully, part of God’s plan includes things for us to do.

c. Ephesians 2:8-10—“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

d. We cannot earn or deserve God’s love and Grace—our works do nothing to contribute to our salvation, but we do have works to do AFTER we become believers. Works are not in order to be saved, but because we are saved, not saved by good works but saved for good works.

e. We are God’s Workmanship—the NLT says we are God’s “masterpiece”. We have been composed and constructed like an artist paints a painting or a poet writes a poem.

f. We are under continually under construction and God, who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion.

g. “Created anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things”—our new life in Christ has a purpose—so that we can become a blessing to others, so we may serve as God’s ambassadors on earth. Acts of kindness toward other believers and the unchurched in our communities make Christianity tangible to the unsaved world.

h. William Penn wrote: “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow-being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

i. “God prepared in advance for us to do—which he planned for us long ago—prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”
God prepared a future for us—He prepared good works for us to do. His eternal sovereignty planned out specific things, specific work that He desires for us to do.

j. –Jeremiah’s work was assigned to him before his birth
--Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb to take the Gospel to the Gentiles
--Every day in your life, in my life, according to Psalm 139, has been recorded by God before a single day had passed.

There are some things that God is planning that only you can fulfill.

The next semester, the next year should not be seen as something to endure, or something to look forward to ending, but as an opportunity. Thinking, what does God want to do in me or through me this year?

Our past has been forgiven, our present is being guided, our future has been prepared. All because you are a new creation in Jesus Christ, all b/c of faith.

Have you been changed? Have you become a new creation or are you still trudging around in the same old, bad habits and sins? He is saying to you, “come to me and be forever changed! Come into the future that I have planned for you, come into an eternity with me.”

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wiping the Slate Clean?

So, are we a blank slate or are we pre-determined?

Is there some preordained material with blank spaces to fill in with life?

What's more, if sin is like the lines on a chalkboard, how can we start over?

Sermon Hint for this Sunday!