1563) In the Image of God

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The Creation of Adam, 1512, Michaelangelo,

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What Does it Mean to Be Made in the Image of God?

By journalist and author, Lee Strobel

     That humans are made in the image of God is one of the most important Biblical revelations for Christians — and it is also one that has been viciously attacked by those outside the faith.  It’s true that the endless murders, rapes, assaults, genocides and other forms of violence and cruelty in our world seem to taunt us:  How could humans be created in the image of God when we commit such evil acts?  How do we explain wars and abuse if we share the same characteristics as God himself?  Some people even claim that while we may be more sophisticated and advanced than the rest of the animal kingdom, our ultimate value is no greater than that of any creature, since we’ve all evolved naturalistically and without any divine imprint.

     Imago Dei means “the image of God.”  Ultimately, this phrase refers to two things:  the characteristics of the human spirit and our ability to know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.

     Our human spirit provides evidence that God’s traits — his love, justice and freedom — are alive in us.  Human nature is utterly without peer on earth.  As Dr. Ian Tattersall says, “Homo sapiens is not simply an improved version of its ancestors — it’s a new concept.”  At the most basic level of this nature is our self-realization, grounded in our self-consciousness, our ability to reason, and our emotions, such as anger and love.  Our consciousness enables us to see that we have inherent value apart from our utility or function.

     Another quality we share with God is the moral ability to recognize good and evil, which God exemplified through Adam and Eve.  We can therefore act freely in a morally good or evil way.  We can choose either to reflect the moral image of God or to reject it, but either way, the ability to make the choice reveals our underlying similarity to our Creator.

     It cannot be overstated just how different humans are from the rest of creation.  The vast chasms separating consciousness from unconsciousness and morality from amorality speak to the strong evidence that we are indeed made in the image of God.

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Genesis 1:27  —  God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:15-17  —   The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 3:22  —  And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

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PSALM 8:1a…3-9:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!…

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

1524) Irreconcilable Differences? (part two of two)

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     On the other hand, those in the scientific world also do their share of interpreting the facts, they often disagree, and, they often-times make claims that go far beyond any facts they have discovered.

     Much of this depends, of course, on our starting point.  How did everything get here in the first place?  Well, I start with the opening verse of the Bible:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  With that fact firmly in mind, I don’t care what the scientists discover about how old the earth is, where the dinosaurs fit in, or how life developed.  In whatever way that all worked out over time, it all got here in the first place because God created everything out of nothing, and has either directed or set in motion everything that has gone on since.  Bill Bryson tells a fascinating story of what has been discovered about that whole process, and I don’t feel the need to argue with him on every page.  But it seems incredible to me that he does not, in 478 pages, even mention the possibility of a Creator.

     Now of course, many scientists do believe in God, and I am certainly not opposed to science.  What I object to is the impression that is so often given that science deals only in facts, and religion deals only in blind faith.  Not true!  Several years ago, the popular science television series “Cosmos” began with Carl Sagan (1934-1996) saying the complete opposite of Genesis.  He spoke of “the cosmos” as, “all that is or ever was or ever will be.”  That was a deliberate, unnecessary, and unscientific put-down of religious faith.  But how did Carl Sagan know that?  How did he determine, scientifically, that nowhere in or beyond this vast universe is there a greater power?  There is no way anyone can know that.  That was a statement of 100% pure blind faith, masquerading as science.  And that is not only how that program began, that is also how the whole scientific method begins; not with a fact, but with a HUGE statement of faith.  There are only two possibilities; either the universe got here all by itself, or, someone put it here; and there is no way to test or prove either belief.  The Bible begins with a statement of faith, and so does the entire scientific method.  Don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise.  It might be hard to believe that God made everything out of nothing.  But it takes a lot more faith to believe that NOTHING turned itself into EVERYTHING.  Science itself will tell you that is not how it works.  No observable, empirical, scientific experiment has ever been devised in any laboratory anywhere that has been able to create something out of nothing, nor has that ever been observed in all the universe.

     Now, it must be said that in order for the scientists to do much of their work, and for scientific method to work at all, it does have to be done without reference to God.  For example, if I am sick and go to the doctor, I don’t want him to read me Bible verses about how suffering produces character, how God afflicts us for our own good, and how we should turn to God in our time of tribulation.  I know all that, I believe in all that, that might even be the main reason why I am sick, and if it is God’s will that I not ever get better, there are promises in the Bible to give me hope and spiritual strength to face such a time.  But there are always two levels to these things, and I expect my doctor to deal with the physical, scientific level, and with what he can see– be it germs, broken bones, or a tumor.  That’s the only way the scientific method can work.  But this method has its limits, and we must not let anyone give us the impression that science can tell us more than it can ever know.

     Bill Bryson’s book, like most scientific books today, makes no reference to God or any sort of creator.  Bryson did use the word miracle twice to describe the miracle of how we are even here– how our planet earth is perfectly suited for life, how life itself began in all its complexity, and how life has developed into ever more complex forms right on up to the miracle of human intelligence.  Byrson also admits that science is not getting any closer to understanding the origins of matter and energy, the universe, or life.  He says, in fact, that the more we learn, the more we find out how complex everything is, and the farther away we get from thinking we will ever get it all figured out.

     For example, the chance of even one DNA molecule coming together on its own is impossibly small.  Bryson says that.  In fact he goes to great lengths to describe the odds against that happening.  And what are the odds?  When all factors are considered, the odds are not one in a million, or one in a billion, or even one in a trillion.  The odds against life coming together by itself, says Bryson, are one in ten to the 270th power.  In case you don’t remember from math class what that is, that is one with 270 zeros behind it.  A trillion has only 12 zeros, and that is an almost incomprehensible number.  Ten to the 270th power, says Bryson himself, is a number perhaps great than the number of atoms in the entire universe!  And yet, he is still able to say cheerfully, “Well, we are here, so it must have happened somehow.”  That’s not good enough for me, and it is not good enough for an increasing number of scientists who are saying there must be an intelligent designer of some sort behind the creation of the universe and life.

     C.S. Lewis was not a scientist, but for many years, he was an atheist.  After becoming a Christian he said, “I felt in my bones that this universe cannot explain itself.”  The natural laws we see and observe prohibit the belief that all this could come from nothing, and science has no tools to investigate beyond the observable, natural world

     Steven Hawking is still an atheist, or at least an agnostic (one who says we can’t know if there is a God).  For decades Hawking has been considered the Einstein of today.  Yet, in a rare moment of candor, when for once he was not ridiculing religious belief, he said:  “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of nothing are enormous.  I think there are clear religious implications whenever you start to discuss the origins of the universe.  There must be religious overtones.  But I think most scientists prefer to shy away from the religious side of it.”

     As Christians, we must not claim to know more than we know.  But we also must not be intimidated by those who are claim to know more than they know, and many scientists do not shy away from that.  We are on solid ground with the first verse of the Bible:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” 

     No scientist has ever come up with anything nearly as believable as Genesis 1:1 to explain how we got here.

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Hebrews 11:3  —  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Romans 1:20  —  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Psalm 19:1-2  —  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

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Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens.  

–Psalm 8:1

1523) Irreconcilable Differences? (part one of two)

          The book A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a fascinating overview of what scientists have learned about our earth and the whole universe.  It covers everything, from the very beginnings 14.5 billion years ago (give or take a couple months) right on up to the present time.  Bryson describes what scientists believe about the origins of the universe, about the birth and the death of stars, and about the vast number of far-flung galaxies.  Bryson then turns his attention to planet earth and how it began, how we got our moon, how the seas and dry land were formed, and how, over immense periods of time, the continents have been moving around on the face of the earth like rubber ducks in a bathtub.  He also describes how perfectly our world had to be placed and fine-tuned in order to allow for even the possibility of life.  Then he describes current theories on the origins and evolution of life, in all its beauty and order and complexity.  Bryson even has a few chapters on that little sliver of time we would call the entire history of the human race.  Bill Bryson writes well, gives a wonderful account of what science has discovered about all these things, and adds a delightful human touch by telling amusing stories of the scientists who made these discoveries, and their odd quirks and eccentricities.  And he does this all in less than five hundred pages.

            Genesis chapter one could also be called ‘a short history of nearly everything.’  It also describes the beginnings of the universe and our planet earth, the origins and diversity of life, and the dawn of the human race. 

            But Bill Bryson and the first chapter of Genesis seem to tell two very different stories.  So, now what?

            This looks like a clear case of irreconcilable differences, and the last several hundred years has certainly been filled with plenty of nastiness by those on both sides of this great divide between science and faith.  What side are you on?  Christians do believe Genesis to be God’s inspired and Holy Word.  But we know scientists are really smart people, and they have come up with some pretty amazing gadgets to make our modern lives easier.  Could they be so very wrong about so many things?  What are we to think?

            This is what I think.  I believe that the Bible is God’s Word from cover to cover, and if anything any scientist says goes against the Bible, I say forget the scientist, I am sticking with the Word of God. 

            However, this all depends on interpreting what the Bible really is saying, and it all depends on what scientists have really discovered.  Good, solid, Bible believing Christians can and do disagree all the time on precise meanings of specific texts.  And scientists, all the time, come to vastly different conclusions based on the very same evidence.

          What does Genesis chapter one say?  Well, there are three basic foundational truths there that set the stage for the whole rest of the Biblical story, and which are essential to understanding your life and where you come from and where you are going.  I believe these three truths with my whole heart.  First of all, it says God created the world.  Second, it says God created it good.  Third, it says God created mankind in HIS image.  We are not just a more ‘fully evolved’ form of life, even if we share 96% of the same DNA as an earthworm.  And just because a chicken can be taught to plink out ‘America the Beautiful’ on a miniature piano for a television program last week, and chimpanzees can be taught to understand a few words, that doesn’t mean we are the same except for being just a little bit smarter.  We are different, we are special, we are spiritual, we are made in God’s image, and God created the world for us and us for Him, says Genesis.  All Christians believe these three things, and that sets us apart from many people in today’s world.  But we Christians can and do disagree on the rest of the details of the creation account. 

            In 1654, James Ussher, an Irish Archbishop using the Bible alone, calculated the creation of the world to have occurred on October 22, 4004 B. C. at 6:00 p.m., or, a little over six thousand years ago.  There are Christians today who, while not insisting on that exact date and time, do however believe the world to be less than 10,000 years old.  This is not my view, and I think it is very difficult to argue scientifically for such a timetable.  I believe in the Bible from cover to cover, but these people are interpreting the Bible to say far more than what it was intended to say.

            In my view, if Bill Bryson says the universe came to be over a period of 14.5 billion years, and the Bible says seven 24 hour days, we do not necessarily have a problem.  I don’t know how scientists come up with 14.5 billion years, but I do know that the Bible uses different types of literature, including poetry, to proclaim the truths God wants us to know.  And poetic imagery, while still telling the absolute truth, may tell it not with literal scientific facts, but with images and metaphors. 

            When in John chapter 10 Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the gate,” Peter doesn’t jump up and say, ‘Don’t try to fool us, Jesus, we don’t see any hinges or latches on you.”  No, they knew, and we know, Jesus was using a gate as an image of the way to salvation; as Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever enters through me will be saved.”

            But how about Genesis one and its seven 24 hour days; morning and evening of the first day, second day, third day, and so on?  It does seem simple and clear enough.  Morning is when the sun rises in the East, and evening is when the sun sets in the West.  Sun up, sun down, seven days– and not 14.5 billion years.

           But when we look closer at the text, we see that there are three days of mornings and evenings before the sun is even created on the fourth day.  How did that work?  No matter what your view of the Bible is, you are going to have to do some interpreting there.  Some will stick with the seven 24 hour days, saying that is what is implied in the rest of the text.  Others will say, no, it looks as if the seven day format is more like poetic imagery.  And this is not disrespecting the text, or undermining the authority of the Scripture.  It is still seeing the same solid Biblical truth of God’s Word, but simply seeing this as a different type of literary device to portray that truth.  And Bible believing Christians can come to different conclusions on this question.

            My faith in the truth of the Bible is not threatened if Jesus isn’t really a gate with hinges and a latch, nor is my faith challenged if scientists come up a different timetable than the poetic imagery of Genesis chapter one.  That doesn’t mean Genesis is wrong in any way.  God created the heavens and the earth, He created it all good, and He created mankind in His image.  Period.  But there is room here for Christians to disagree and come to different conclusions on precisely how that was done and what kind of literature this is in the Bible’s first chapter.  We must not say, “Well, I think I’ll believe this part of the Bible, but not that part;” and there is far too much of that today.  But we can disagree on how some parts should be read, and there is certainly room for differences of opinion on the creation account.  On the religious side of this question, as Christians we must not insist too much on our own particular interpretations, and thus forcing the Bible to say more than it means to say.  (continued…)

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Genesis 1:1  —  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:27a  —  God created mankind in his own image.

Genesis 1:31a  —  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

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I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

–Apostle’s Creed, Article one

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 Earth seen rising above the moon on December 24, 1968.  As Apollo 8 orbited the moon that day, in their broadcast back to earth the astronauts took turns reading from the first chapter of Genesis.

1503) Creatio Ex Nihilo

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Creatio Ex Nihilo (Latin) = “Creation Out of Nothing.”

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I Believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

–First Article of the Apostle’s Creed

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Nothing can be made from nothing; once we see that’s so,
Already we are on the way to what we want to know.

–Lucretis, Roman poet and philosopher (First century, B. C.)

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“You may find it hard to believe that God made everything out of nothing, but it takes a lot more faith to believe that nothing turned itself into everything.”

–Mark Cahill

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“I felt in my bones that this universe does not explain itself.”  

–C. S. Lewis

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There is nothing in observable natural law that can explain the creation of matter and energy out of nothing.  There have been many wild speculations by scientists, all of which require far more faith to believe in than Genesis 1:1.  And just because it is a scientist doing the guessing, does not mean that such guesses or speculations can be even tested by the scientific method, much less verified.  Many people have therefore concluded that there must be a God above and beyond what science can observe, measure, and test.  

Then again, as children often ask, “But who made God?”  That is an interesting question, but not one a Christian is required to answer.  It is the atheist whose explanation of the universe must be limited to the observable laws of nature.  Christians believe there is more to reality than can ever be explained.  Christians believe in a God who we cannot see, whose power is unlimited, who is not bound by any natural laws we have observed, and whose kingdom is bigger than the universe that we observe, test, and measure.  With such a God and that view of reality, anything is possible.  We will know something about that God only if He chooses to reveal Himself, and then confirms such revelations by miracles that defy natural explanation– such as a man rising from the dead.

Christians will readily admit we do not have the observable facts or the tools to explain the universe.  We confess our faith in a God beyond our knowing, who is eternal and “not made” (Nicene Creed) by anyone or anything else, and who is beyond the necessary ’cause and effect’ chain of events of our universe.  Our small minds cannot even imagine the fullness of God; just as we will never be able to explain this universe and its origin without reference to the God above it.  And the more we learn about the universe, the laws of nature, and the complexity of life, the more difficult it becomes to explain it all without reference to a power beyond what we see. 

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From a scientist (considered by many to be the Einstien of today) who does not believe in God and has done a bit of such speculating about the origins of the universe:

“The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the big bang are enormous,” he told me.  “I think there are clearly religious implications whenever you start to discuss the origins of the universe.  There must be religious overtones.  But I think most scientists prefer to shy away from the religious side of it.”

–Theoretical Physicist and Author Stephen W. Hawking, quoted in  Stephen Hawking’s Universe, by John Boslough, page 109.

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Genesis 1:1  —  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Psalm 33:6…9  —  By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth…  For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Isaiah 40:28  —  Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Hebrews 11:3  —  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Romans 1:20  —  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

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Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens.  (Psalm 8:1)

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.  (Psalm 19:1-2)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  (Psalm 19:14)

1478) Marveling

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     Georgia preacher Fred Craddock describes how his ancestors used to go out walking, usually on a Sunday afternoon back when the stores were closed that day; and they called it “going marveling.”  Marveling.  They would look for unusual rocks, pretty little wild flowers, shells, four-leafed clovers, brightly colored bird feathers, maybe even a funny looking bug– marvelous things.  They would collect them, bring them back to the house, and show off the marvelous things they had found.  Or they would stop and look at a pretty cloud formation, the sunset, a doe with her fawn, or a hawk circling above.  Then later they would sit with a glass of lemonade and talk about the marvels of God’s creation.  It sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It almost makes one wish the stores would still all stay closed on Sundays so we would once again have the time to do that.

     Anyone could probably do this, anywhere.  My mother is confined to a wheelchair and cannot go for walks in the woods.  But she has several bird feeders outside her kitchen window and she spends many hours watching the different kinds of birds and noticing their habits.  She is “marveling.”  And she will tell anyone who has the time to listen what birds come when, what they like to eat, which ones are the toughest, and which ones have to come around only when all the other birds are done eating.  

     God has given us a marvelous world.  Take some time today to do a little ‘marveling.’

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Psalm 71:17-18  —  Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.  Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Psalm 98:1a  —  O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.

Job 5:9  —  (God) does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.

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Praise and thanksgiving, Father, we offer
for all things living, created good:
harvest of sown fields, fruits of the orchard,
hay from the mown fields, blossom and wood.

–Albert F. Baily  (1970)

1393) Earth: A Prison or a Home?

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Two readings by Alvin Rogness:

     When, during the French revolution, the prison doors of the Bastille were battered down, the prisoners were free to leave.  Many, long imprisoned and accustomed to the routine of their cells, were afraid to leave.
     This is the plight of humanity.  In the imagery of the Bible people had been imprisoned by the Enemy, brainwashed to love darkness more than light, and had become accustomed to a life in the shadows.  In the vagaries of the prison, they pursue money that could buy everything but happiness, and power that could control everything but their own desires and appetites.  Differences between good and evil, right and wrong, were lost in the dimness of the prison.
     The great good news of the Gospel is that Jesus came to overcome the Enemy, to shatter the doors of the prison, and to fling wide open the doors of the Father’s house— and open the way to freedom.  Huddled in their cells, people often refuse to believe that the doors are really open.  Or believing, they lack the courage to part with the strange security of the prison, to accept freedom, and to embark on a life of responsibility and accountability.
     The warden of this spiritual prison is a cunning foe.  His public relations officers do an admirable job of deluding the prisoners that they are free– free to indulge their appetites, free to pursue their selfish ends, free to crush their rivals, free to amass phony wealth, and free to swagger in the pride of power.  There is but one absolute restriction:  they are not to see the light.  In the light, they would discover that freedom is freedom to turn from the anarchy of their selfish ways to embrace the ways of God, to accept responsibility for the care of the earth, and for one another.  This is a gigantic and terrifying turn-about.
     On the cross our Lord engaged the Enemy in a last-ditch stand and overcame him.  The great deceiver, the devil, the prince of liars, the cruel warden, is stripped of his power, and his prison has lost its doors.  We are free to leave.
     Nor does our Lord leave the matter there.  Through the quiet work of his Spirit, he lures people in to the light and goes on to groom and guide them into new lives of real freedom.  —The Word for Every Day

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     Our universe is like a big house.  We enter by birth, without having chosen to enter.  We live our short years within the walls of time and space.  The great questions– where did we come from? why are we here? and upon leaving where do we go?– all beg for an answer.  The answers are not easy to come by.
     The Bible tells us that this is a good house, owned and managed by an infinitely good Landlord.  Those who inhabit the house are far from perfect.  In blind self-concern, they break out into brawls and disorder.  Wars, revolutions and famine torment them.  At times the whole of life seems no better than a madhouse.  But because the Owner and Manager is good, the house itself is a good house.
     God has disclosed his goodness not only in providing the house.  He has done, and continues to do, vastly more.  He does not leave his tenants to their brawling.  He has entered the affairs of his people.  Long ago he came visibly in person, in Jesus Christ.  He did not leave the people to wonder whether he was good.  He came to die for them, because he loved them so.  In his death and resurrection God made it possible for us to be forgiven our sins and to be organized again into a family that centered their lives in him.
     If by faith we are able to grasp the full impact of this wonderful self-disclosure of God, and if we are able to rest back into his love, then the very walls of the house take on a warmth and a glow that otherwise would escape us.  For we live in the certainty of faith that God sent his Son into the world that it might be saved through him.  –Touch of His Love.

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Genesis 1:31  —  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning— the sixth day.

Romans 7:21-23  —  I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

John 8:12  —  When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

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Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,

Lead Thou me on;

The night is dark and I am far from home,

Lead Thou me on;

Keep Thou my feet: I do not ask to see

The distant scene; one step’s enough for me.

–Cardinal John Henry Newman  (1801-1890)

1387) This is Your Life (before you were born)

“LIFE IN THE WOMB  (nine months in four minutes)”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7kaw40pPYw&feature=youtu.be&t=14s

Also:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD1gW88Lm-Y

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PSALM 139:1-6…13-18…23-24:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain…

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you…

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

1118) The Burden of Proof

     Many people have the mistaken notion that all the facts point to ‘no God,’ and only by mustering up all sorts of blind faith can we believe in a God who we do not see and whose existence we cannot prove.  But it would be no less logical to ask the question of God’s existence in an entirely different way.  Instead of beginning our questioning with the God we do not see, we can look rather at what we do see– this whole universe with all of its richness and complexity– and ask how did it get here?  This is not a new question.  What is new (in the last 150 years) is the widely accepted notion that everything was able to get here all by itself, without any outside energy or intelligence.  

     Lawyers talk much about the ‘burden of proof.’  In this case, on whom should the burden of proof be placed?  Who should be required to prove their case?

     Two friends are hiking through a mountain area that has never been explored.  They come to a clearing in the woods.  Ahead of them, they see huge faces carved in stone, 50 feet high.  It is not four presidents, like on Mt. Rushmore, but three other faces that they recognize.  It is the Three Stooges, Larry, Moe and Curly, carved in stone with magnificent detail.  

     Immediately, the two friends get into an argument.  One says (logically enough), “I wonder who carved this?”  

     But the other one objects, saying, “What do you mean, ‘Who carved this?’ I don’t see anyone around here, so how can you believe anyone made it?  Those faces must have been made by the purely natural means of wind and erosion.”  He further points out that we have a photographic record to prove that Mt. Rushmore was carved by humans.  But here there was no such proof, and no ‘maker’ is visible.

     Whose side would you be on?  Who would you want most to ‘prove’ his point:  the one who logically assumes someone sculpted the faces, even though he can no longer see the sculptor; or, the one who insists, because there is no sculptor in sight, that the stone was naturally eroded into the perfect likeness of the Three Stooges?  It is certainly far more logical to assume an absent sculptor, than to attempt to argue that erosion carved the faces of Larry, Moe, and Curly in solid stone.

     In the same way, who should be required to prove their point– the Christian who says that the real, live, talking, moving Three Stooges had a Creator; or the atheist who argues that such complex living beings arose out of nothing, without a designer or maker?

     I have not yet seen the Designer, but I think it takes far more faith to believe that everything I see got here without such an Intelligent Designer.

The Three Stooges

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Psalm 19:1  —  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Job 38:1-4  —  Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.  He said:  “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.  Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand.”

Peter 1:16  —  We did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

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I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

–First article of the Apostles’ Creed

1073) “Long As I Remember, the Rain Been Coming Down”– Why?

For the fun of it, start with Who’ll Stop the Rain by John Fogerty, recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1970; (even though this song isn’t really about rain, it’s a really good song, and it does mention rain):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIPan-rEQJA

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By John Piper, A Godward Life, Book Two, 1999, Multnomah Press, pages 28-30.

     Job 5:9-10 says, “God does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number.  He gives rain on the earth.”  In Job’s mind rain really is one of the great, unsearchable wonders that God does.  When I read this a few weeks ago, I decided to have a conversation with myself (which is what I mean by meditation).

     Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God?  Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream.  A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water.  But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come from another source on the fields.  From where?

     Well, the sky.  The sky?  Water will come out of the clear blue sky?  Well, not exactly.  Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea over several hundred miles, and then be poured out on the fields from the sky.  Carried?  How much does it weigh?  Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 27,878,400 cubic feet of water, which is 206,300,160 gallons, which is 1,650,501,280 pounds of water.

     That’s heavy.  So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it’s so heavy?  Well, it gets up there by evaporation.  Really?  That’s a nice word.  What’s it mean?  It means that the water stops being liquid for a while so it can go up and not down.  I see.  Then how does it get down?  Well, condensation happens.  What’s that?  The water starts becoming liquid again by gathering around little dust particles between .00001 and .0001 centimeters wide.  That’s small.

     What about the salt?  Salt?  Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water.  That would kill the crops.  What about the salt?  Well, the salt has to be taken out.  Oh.  So the sky picks up a billion pounds of water from the sea, takes out the salt, carries the water (or whatever it is, when it is not liquid water) for three hundred miles, and then dumps it (now turned into liquid again) on the farm?

     Well, it doesn’t dump it.  If it dumped a billion pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed.  So the sky dribbles the billion pounds of water down in little drops.  And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.

     How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh a billion pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that’s the way to ask the question)?  Well, it’s called coalescence.  What’s that?  It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger, and when they are big enough, they fall.  Just like that?  Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up if there were no electric field present.  What?  Never mind.  Take my word for it.

     I think, instead, I will just take Job’s word for it.  I still don’t see why drops ever get to the ground, because if they start falling as soon as they are heavier than air, they would be too small not to evaporate on the way down.  But if they wait to come down, what holds them up till they are big enough not to evaporate?  Yes, I am sure there’s a name for that too.  But I am satisfied for now that, by any name, this is a great and unsearchable thing that God has done.  I think I should be thankful— lots more thankful than I am.

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Job 5:9-10  —  (God) performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.  He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside.

Leviticus 26:4  —  (God says), “I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit.”

Zechariah 10:1  —  Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.  He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone.

Matthew 5:45  —  (Jesus said) “Your Father in heaven causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

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All good gifts around us

Are sent from heaven above; 

So thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,

For all his love.

–Matthias Claudius, German poet  (1740-1815)

1069) It Looks Like We’re All Alone

Astronomers have long searched the sky for evidence that we’re not alone.  But new research is suggesting we may be one of a kind, says John Stonestreet in his March 11, 2016 blog at:

 www.breakpoint.org

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     There’s an old joke about Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Watson.

     “Let’s go camping,” Holmes says to Watson one day.  “Jolly good!” replies Watson.  So the two pack up their gear, head into the woods, set up their tent and by nightfall, are sound asleep.  Hours later, Watson is awakened by a nudge from Holmes.

     “Watson!” says the detective, “Look up! What do you see?”  “I see the sky, full of stars,” says Watson, a little annoyed.  “And what do you deduce from that?” asks Holmes.  Watson thinks for a moment, and replies, “Well, given the thousands of stars, it’s improbable that ours is the only planet capable of sustaining life.  Therefore, other beings like ourselves are likely out there somewhere, looking back at us.  Is that what it means?”

     “No, you nincompoop,” replies Holmes. “It means someone has stolen our tent!”

     Well, Watson may have missed an obvious clue, but scientists have long shared his conclusion about the stars.  According to the famous Drake equation, a probabilistic argument designed by SETI pioneer, Frank Drake (in 1961), there could be as many as 100 million thriving, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy— many of them more advanced than our own.

     Astronomer Carl Sagan helped popularize this idea in his 1980 miniseries, “Cosmos.”  “With 400 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone,” Sagan reasoned, “could ours be the only one with an inhabited planet?  How much more likely it is that the galaxy is throbbing and humming with advanced societies!”

     But decades later, scientists no longer share Sagan’s confidence.  As one astrophysicist argues in a forthcoming paper, the old estimates vastly inflated the number of potential alien civilizations.  Eric Zackrisson at Sweden’s Uppsala University suggests that modern research points not to a galaxy “throbbing and humming” with life, but to one in which Earth-like planets are exceedingly rare.

     It turns out that Drake’s equation failed to take into account factors that we now know to be essential to life.  For example, scientists once believed that planets orbiting a certain distance from their host stars in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” were prime real estate for creatures like us.

     But not anymore.  It turns out that the size and chemical composition of the host stars matter just as much as planetary orbits.  And according to Zackrisson, most planets in the universe likely orbit stars that bear little resemblance to our sun.  These stars are either much bigger, much smaller, or just made of the wrong stuff.

     And in light of the fruitless fifty-year search for extraterrestrial radio signals, predictions of a sky buzzing with activity are sounding less like science and more like science fiction.  Increasingly, it looks as if we are alone in the universe.

     And just how alone?  Zackrisson estimates that given all the factors that make Earth what it is, our planet may be one in 700 quintillion to host intelligent life.  That’s one out of seven followed by twenty zeros, or the estimated number of planets in the entire universe.

     Nathaniel Scharping at Discover Magazine writes with a straight face that Earth appears to have been dealt “a fairly lucky hand.”  He makes up for this understatement later, concluding that, “from a purely statistical standpoint, Earth perhaps shouldn’t exist.”

     And yet, here we are!

     Intelligent Design theorists have long pointed out how improbably unique our little blue planet is.  And findings like this only deepen the problem for materialists.  Because if thinking creatures emerged here and nowhere else, it makes us look less like accidents and more like— dare I say it— miracles.

     Of course, for those who believe in the God Who, as Isaiah wrote, “spreads [the heavens] like a tent,” it’s no surprise.  In fact you might say it’s “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

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Psalm 104:1-2  —  Praise the Lord, my soul.  Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.  The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent.

Isaiah 40:10a…12…21-22…25-26  —  See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm…  Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?  Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?…  Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood since the earth was founded?  He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.  He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in…  “To whom will you compare me?  Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?  He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.  Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

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Psalm 8:1, 3-5, 9:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens…

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor…

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!