Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Real Reason The Earth Is Tilted

The real reason the earth is tilted is's tilted because God wanted it exactly that way. It turns' out that not every planet is tilted the same as the earth. Our planet is tilted approximately 23.5 degrees. Some are similar to ours, such as Mars (24 degrees), Saturn (26.7 degrees), and Neptune (29.9 degrees). However, Mercury isn't tilted at all. And Jupiter is barely tilted (3 degrees). But get this, Uranus is tilted so much (97.9 degrees), it's basically rolling around the sun on its side! Wow!

The tilt of the earth, its distance from the sun, and its orbit around the sun is perfectly positioned to sustain human life! Hmmm. I wonder why? I'll tell you why. It's because there is a Creator God who put it all in place! The degree of tilt is just right. More of a tilt would cause too much of an extreme of winter and summer temperatures. 

Some "scientists" speculate that a Mars-size object randomly crashed into the earth some billions of years ago and caused the earth to tilt on its axis. If that happened, then it wasn't random. It was God hurling it into earth to purposely tilt it. However, couldn't God just tilt it right right from the start? I think so.

For all the scientists who think they have it all figured out, listen to what God sarcastically said to Job. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?" (Job 38:4-5) 

God placed the earth exactly how He wanted it placed. And He tilted it exactly how He wanted it tilted. By tilting the earth, God could spread out the population of mankind. If the earth had no tilt, humans would no doubt populate the earth only near the equator because most of the northern and southern hemispheres would be in a very cold winter all the time. The tilt, along with the orbit of the earth, was the way God could help disperse the ever-increasing population around the most of the land mass of the globe. Genius.

And of course, if the earth wasn't tilted, there would be no seasons. Because of the tilt, the northern hemisphere experiences summer when it's tilted toward the sun, and then when its tilted away from the sun on the opposite side of its orbit, winter occurs. The same is true for the southern hemisphere. Seasons are really important because without seasons, there would be adverse affects on agriculture in most of the world. The majority of crops need seasons of planting, of growing, and of harvesting, It's all part of God's design to sustain human existence.  

When you think about it, the brilliant architecture of the solar system proclaims God's glory. It's another reminder of God and His incredible design of the universe. 

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

So many people try to take God out of the picture - try to make a stand against a Creator. For me, even a well crafted TV show with incredible graphics, music, and a persuasive commentator cannot sway me from the truth that there is a Creator God. 

The vast expanse of the universe, and the amazing balance of the solar system, keeps reminding me of God's hand in all things. Gazing into the night time sky prompts me to take a moment to worship an all powerful, magnificent God. So, take time to look up and be in awe of God. 

"The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy." (Psalm 65:8)

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Great Providence Of Almighty God

I believe in the Providence of God. What is "providence" anyway? I suppose a great way to describe it is this......the divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things in heaven and on earth by God. In other words, God is able to intervene, alter, and arrange things at will. Things of nature and things in our lives.

The way I look at it is that when it comes to God intervening, a lot depends on "if He so chooses". In other words, God either allows things to happen, or He makes things happen. Things may happen in this life that are bad, but that is the result of the fall of man, not by an act of God. The sin and corruption that entered this world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and the influence of Satan, has consequences. God is not going to fix every disease, every disaster, and make perfect peace rule. That is, not until Jesus returns. 

Can we convince God to act? The answer is without a doubt...yes! However, there are conditions. God, who is sovereign and has all authority, has to choose to act, or choose not to. It's up to Him. In either case, it demonstrates His authority and sovereignty.

What's difficult for me is understanding why He chooses not to act or intervene sometimes. I guess none of us will ever know. Maybe no action on His part is for a bigger purpose that we cannot see. Or maybe no action is simply God saying that it doesn't matter to Him either way in the big-picture scheme of things.

I'm OK with God not answering my prayers as long as I know that He at least hears and considers my requests. That's good enough for me. I'll leave it up to Him to decide the outcome. However, one thing is certain - He wants us to ask. 

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6)

One thing about the providence of God that I really like is this....He is able to interact with us on a real-time basis. God is truly an interactive God. He is alive and well, and ever-present. And what is so comforting is the fact that, if we are His, He ultimately works everything in our favor, for our good. He is the perfect Father. 

Yes, I believe in the providence of God - that He has the power and authority to control all things. And I believe that His motivation to interact with us is this....Love. That's why He works things in our favor, and that's why He sent Jesus to save us. So, I'll conclude by echoing the words of King David:

 "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all." (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The One Who Can Do The Impossible

"That's impossible!"  Did you ever hear that statement? I have. Many times. By many different people. Sometimes I even say it myself when someone declares they have a plan that is unrealistic. Sometimes I say it when I see something happen that's extraordinary. 

One time I had a front row seat to watch a magician perform. I was within a few feet of him. He did some card tricks that I could only conclude, "That's impossible!"  Of course, he must have used a very well practiced slight-of-hand. Still, I couldn't figure out how he did those tricks.

Illusionists can really be fascinating. They use trickery that plays on our visual perception. An illusion is something that appears to be real but it is not. Like an optical illusion. Illusionists present tricks which appear impossible. 

In reality, what is really impossible are actions that defy or contradict the natural laws of nature and physics. For example, bringing a dead person back to life. That's impossible. Or calming a wild, raging sea by simply telling it to stop. Impossible. Or walking on water. Impossible. Someone floating weightlessly and ascending into the clouds. Impossible. Except for God.

A miracle is a deliberate action that defies the natural laws of nature and physics, and is caused solely by the power of God. Only by Divine intervention can a true miracle be carried out. Jesus, God in the flesh, performed countless miracles while He was on earth. He did things that were "impossible". In the Old Testament, God performed dozens of miracles directly or through people such as the prophets. Even today, God can intervene and perform miracles if He so chooses. Prayer can play a huge part in Divine intervention. I love it when doctors are baffled by someone who is terminally ill returns unexpectedly to full health through prayer. 

On a lesser scale, sometimes we deal in situations in which the solutions seem impossible. It may be struggles with relationships, or finances, or circumstances. The so called miracles that we hope for are not in the scope of defying physics or nature, but are simply solutions that we personally can't seem to make happen. We need God's intervention. But here's the good news. He can do it. 

Jesus said,  “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)  In other words, our struggles may look impossible to resolve, and perhaps they are if we try to solve them on our own. But with prayer, and faith in God's power and intervention, He is able to work things out in our favor. And you know something? As faithful Christians, as Christ-followers, God promises this. 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Sometimes it's good to reflect on what God has done in our lives. Looking back on things that God has worked out in our past makes us realize that God truly loves and cares for us. And in more cases than not, through His great power, He not only works things out, but He does it beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Gift Of Vision

I had taken time off from blogging for about 8 weeks for one major reason - I couldn't see well enough to read or write. That's because I had 2 major emergency eye surgeries on my right eye that were 3 weeks apart. The first was due to a detached retina. The surgeon basically tack-welded the inside lining of my eye with a laser. For the next 7 days I had to be face-down - sleeping, eating, sitting, etc.  Then, because of complications from the first surgery (bleeding behind the retina), I had to have another surgery. This time, I had to be on my left side for 7 days. No fun. 

Since then, my sight has slowly, but steadily, gotten better and better in my right eye. I'm still in the healing mode, but at least I can function fairly well. But for a while, I don't mind telling you, I was scared - scared that I would go blind in my right eye. But thankfully that didn't happen. 

I had dozens and dozens of people praying for me - family, friends, church family. I received so many cards, emails, texts, and calls that it was overwhelming. I learned many things during this time. Things like patience, the love and concern shared by family members, as well as friends. The value of a caring church family. And especially the power of prayer. 

I also learned there are many more people much worse off then me. This prompted me to write a song called "Somebody's Hurting Today". I am a worship leader and I wanted to remind our congregation that there are hurting people all around us. During the 7 weeks, I wrote 7 songs relating to my experience. I didn't plan to write any songs, let alone 7, but I guess the Lord had different plans. 

I realize more than ever that vision is so precious. I would rather loose a leg, or an arm, than lose an eye. It's hard for me to imagine being totally blind. There are so many people who are. As for me, I was fortunate to have access to great medical care, otherwise it would have taken a miracle to restore my vision. 

Speaking of miracles, from now on, because of the eye issues I have recently dealt with, I will look a little more intently at the miracles Jesus performed in giving sight to the blind. Can you imagine being totally blind and then immediately given the gift of vision? Wow. Jesus gave sight to the blind not just once, or a couple of times, but He gave sight to many, many blind people, as described throughout the Gospels. Just search for the word blind in the New Testament, and you will be amazed.  

Since the beginning of time, it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind (John 9:32). That is, until Jesus. No one before Him, not even Moses or Elijah, gave sight to a person born blind. There were all kinds of miracles by prophets but none involving the blind.  

One of my favorite miracles involves the story of Bartimaeus. He was a blind beggar who heard Jesus was coming by and called out to Him. Jesus stopped and asked Bartimaeus what he wanted. Bartimaeus said, "I want to see!" And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. (John 10:52).

These types of miracles involving the blind certainly reflect the compassion that Jesus had toward such people. There is, however, a much deeper spiritual symbolism here. Jesus giving sight to the blind points to the broader concept that Jesus gives sight to those who are spiritually blind. His miracles involving the blind illustrate the point that He came to bring people out of darkness into His light - that He is the light of the world.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12)

Yes, I am thankful that I can see, physically. But I am more thankful that I am able to see the glorious light of the Good News. 

"Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. " (2 Corinthians 4:4)

And as Christians, let's never forget that God has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How the Apostle Paul Got Zapped

It was sort of like a personal lightning strike. But it was much more than that - much more powerful in more ways than one, as you'll see. The light was so intense, so bright, that it actually blinded Saul as he fell to his knees. Not only was there a blinding light, there was a loud voice - a voice from Heaven!

Saul, who was later called Paul after he became an Apostle, was a fierce persecutor of Christians. “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities." (the words of the Apostle Paul in reflecting on who he once was - Acts 26:9-11)

It wasn't that Saul was an evil murderer or a madman. His intentions were actually good, at least that's what he thought. It's just that he was such a zealous Jew, an expert in Jewish law and customs, he thought he was honoring God and defending God's chosen people against those who were supposedly blaspheming God. Actually, Jesus thought Saul's qualifications were perfect  - perfect for the type of man Jesus had in mind for him to become. 

That's why Jesus stopped him in his tracks. As Saul was on the road to Damascus to find followers of Jesus and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains, he had an encounter with the King of kings. First, Jesus blinded him to get his attention. Then Jesus spoke directly to him, in Aramaic, in a loud audible voice. Jesus identified himself and told Saul that he was His chosen instrument to take His message to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. 

Saul's transformation was a total and perfect 180. He is the ultimate example of someone transformed by Jesus. For the remainder of his life, he was totally sold out, converted, committed, and devoted to the call that Christ gave him. "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." (Acts 20:24)

Paul's life as an Apostle, his perseverance and faithfulness, is proof of his loyalty to Jesus. "Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm." (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)

In addition to his amazing life-accomplishments as an Apostle, Paul has influenced an innumerable amount of people for nearly 2000 years by writing the majority of the New Testament letters. Incredible. 

Even though we, as Christians, are certainly not Apostles, we can correlate some important principles found in Paul's life that can serve as models for our own lives. 

Every human is born with some ability or talent - with a specific personality and passion. Paul's ability was in speech, in law, in debate, all with a zealous spirit. He fully developed his talents, although they weren't initially used for God's ultimate purpose. It reminds me of myself. Although in my early rock and roll days I wasn't using my talents to glorify God, it certainly equipped me to be the worship leader I am now. Of course, ideally, and what I hope for my children, is that people use their God-given abilities right from the start to glorify God - that's the correct way. Regardless, the Lord equips each of us with talents and abilities, desiring us to use them to glorify Him. 

We may not be zapped like Saul was. We may not hear the voice of the Lord, literally. We may not be blinded by a light from Heaven, but we are certainly called. I love the simple plea of Jesus, "Follow me." It's probably the most general and basic call, but perhaps the most powerful. We are also called once we hear the basic Gospel message. And we are called through the Word of God, the Bible, through the influence of the Holy Spirit. The question is, do we listen, and do we respond? It's up to us. It makes you the Lord choosing you to do specific things for Him? Small things? Lifelong things?

Just like Paul turned his life around 180 degrees, that's how it is with many who have become Christians. It's called repentance and reformation. The Lord is able to totally transform lives. That's what Christianity is all life, a transformed life, a resurrected life. And for those who were brought up in a Christian home, transformation may not be so dramatic as Paul's. Instead it's an ongoing process for all of life because, for Christians, we are continually transformed, becoming more spiritually mature, by the renewing of our minds through the Word. 

Paul had a special, specific commission - to preach to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. For us, we have a mission also. It's basically the same as Paul's, although maybe not on such a large scale. Our mission essentially is, In Paul's words, "the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace." All of us are ambassadors for Christ. Maybe even some are called to more specific tasks as well. If we sincerely follow Christ, such tasks will be revealed as we go. 

So...thank you Paul, for your teachings, for your example, and for your life.  May we echo your words when our time here is up, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Healed By The Touch Of His Robe!

"Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone." (Luke 6:19)

Jesus obviously had incredible miraculous powers. He healed without failure. And when He healed, the result was total healing, not partial healing, or temporary relief of an issue. When He made the blind see, you  can be sure they had 20-20 vision as a result. And when he made the lame walk, you can be sure they didn't walk with a limp once they were healed. And when He casted out a demon from someone, you can be sure that demon was long gone.

Early on in His ministry, when people got word of His healing power, great crowds gathered around Him. After all, wouldn't you? Some were just curiosity seekers. Others wanted to hear what He taught. And many came who were sick, or brought those who were sick, with the purpose of being healed. It all started soon after Jesus was baptized and went into the wilderness for 40 days, being tempted by Satan. But when He returned from that ordeal, right away He starting picking His disciples, and began to teach and perform healing miracles. 

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people."  (Matthew 4:23)

Of course, He used the miracles to His advantage. They helped to establish that He was sent from God (they didn't realize yet He was God in human form). Miracles gave credibility to His teachings. And teach He did. And miracles He did. As a matter of fact, the Bible gives us only a brief snapshot of the things Jesus did.

"Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25)

So many of His miracles are absolutely stunning, but there is one that really has always amazed me. It's the one where a sick woman has a belief and a plan that if she simply gets close enough to Jesus and is able to just touch His robe, she will be healed completely and permanently. Quite a plan. And probably a common plan since people often crowded around Him. "As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him." (Luke 8:42)

So she goes for it. She somehow works her way through the crowd, getting closer and closer to Jesus. If she can just get close enough to reach out and touch a piece of His garment, just the fabric itself, she is convinced she will be healed from a sickness, a bleeding that had not stopped for 12 years! And for 12 years, nobody was ever able to heal her. At least, no one until now. 

She managed to work her way up behind Jesus, and without Him even noticing, and without Him even seeing her, she reached out as far as she could, and for an instant, was able to make contact with the fringe of His robe. The fringe was most likely the hem, or the lower border of His robe. Could she have been stooping, or even crawling? 

In my mind, her fingertips just brushed against it. And guess what? Immediately the bleeding stopped! She was healed at that instant, completely and permanently, and without Jesus even seeing her or knowing she was there behind Him! That's power!  

"Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped." Luke 8:44)

Jesus knew something had happened though. He sensed it. He didn't know who it was that touched Him, but He knew this - He felt His healing power go out! Yes, Jesus not only had the same 5 senses we have, He had an additional one, and probably a few more. When He asked His disciples who touched him, everyone denied it, and then Peter responded in sort of a dry, matter-of-fact way, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” (Luke 8:45)  

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed." (Luke 8:46-47)

I love the response Jesus gave after hearing her explain her story, her sickness, and her belief in who He was, and her confidence that if she just touched Him, she would certainly be healed.

“Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Take The Narrow Road

Early on in His ministry, Jesus gave this crucial piece of advice, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV)

I've always loved the imagery in this passage - a narrow gate, a wide gate, a broad road, a narrow road. Jesus is the master of lessons by illustrations. There is no teacher greater, no professor smarter, and no lecturer with more skill or authority than the Lord. He can deliver a simple, brief lesson using everyday, common terms understood by all, but yet have a double meaning. Such is the nature of His many parables - short, simple stories describing a physical scenario but having a spiritual message. 

When we read the above passage, we visualize two contrasting gates, each the entryway to a path or road. Each gate is the same width as the road that follows, however, the two gates are very different. One is wide, and one is narrow. It's interesting how the one that is wide and spacious, and perhaps more inviting, is the one that leads to destruction. Yet, it is the road that more will choose. 

But isn't that the nature of Satan and his ploy? After all, sin is enticing at first. But then it leads to all kinds of consequences. It destroys. It ruins. So it is with those who choose sin and unrighteousness. 

On the other hand, the road that is narrow is the correct road to take. It may be more difficult to walk, it may be more challenging, it may be a more disciplined walk, and certainly it is less popular, but it's the destination in the end that counts. You've probably heard the term, "walk the straight and narrow." Most likely this is where it came from. It means to do what's right and honorable, and avoid what is evil and wrong. We must stay on course and not waver. "Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path." (Proverbs 4:26)

In both the wide road and the narrow road, the reward is not the journey, but what's at the end of the line. However, it is a journey, it is a road, and it is a path to an end. For those who choose the more attractive wide road, it may be short-sightedness that influences their decision. After all, the wide road appears easier and smoother. As for those who choose the narrow road, wisdom and Godly conviction prompts their decision. It's another story of instant gratification verses eternal reward. 

What's interesting about this particular teaching of Jesus is that it basically consists of one simple piece of advice, just five words that guide us, "Enter through the narrow gate." That's really it. Enter through the narrow gate! We may not know what's on the road ahead, and we may not know how long the journey takes or what it entails, but we know one thing for sure, we know it is the gate we are supposed to choose. And we know why. It leads to life. And you know what the opposite of life is. 

Unfortunately, the ratio of good to bad in His illustration is not good. Most people do not choose the road that leads to life. The majority head toward destruction. Less find life than those who find destruction. Since the words and truths that Jesus teaches will never change, this ratio will never change either. Sad.

The bottom line is this - we have a choice. We must choose which gate to enter - which course to take through life. The journey is up to each one of us. The good news is this - we are able to choose wisely because Jesus tells us which way to go. And He will guide us all the way. "The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8) And for those who don't know the way, who are lost, guess what? We need to guide them into the correct path.

The teaching that Jesus gives regarding the wide and narrow gates is surely an important and essential life lesson. And it's one we should take to heart. I'm always reminded of it every time I hear the words of the famous poet, Robert Frost, from his poem, "The Road Not Taken". He talks about two roads as well, and his concluding thought is one I fully share. 

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)     -  Amen!