Nothing is too Wonderful

Amen to this:

God has made wonderful promises to us, too. All the promises have their “Yes” in Christ (II Corinthians 1:20). But like Sarah the wait wears us down. Do you, like me, have prayers unanswered? Do you wonder if God hears? HE DOES. So let’s encourage and remind one another: “Nothing is too hard, nothing too wonderful for God to accomplish.”

Jean Fleming: Live the Mystery

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The story is familiar and moving. A couple longs for a child. They try and try again. Year after year. They pray. This prayer percolates up, bubbling to their vocal chords. The wife wakes with the prayer already in her mouth. Her prayer catches the rhythm as she kneads bread or stirs the pot. The prayer lies heavy on her chest before she falls asleep. Leaden. Futile? An exercise so well established that she can’t give it up. But hope ebbs. Too long hope is deferred. Prayer unanswered.

This is how I imagine Sarah, now old, past child-bearing, worn out by the wait.

God has promised a son. In fact, a nation. The promises God made lit up the sky and lay in the sand at their feet. Promises too great. Promises so expansive and glittering. Promises so wonderful—and impossible.

Time had run out for them. She was past child-bearing…

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Can God cause good to emerge from suffering?

This article is a short note I made while reading “The Case for Faith” by Lee Strobel, pages 72-73. I’ve included it here in the hope that others might find it edifying and comforting too. It certainly rang true to me. Here then are my notes:

Several years earlier, Marc had been shoveling snow on his driveway when his wife said she was going to move the car and asked him to watch their young daughter. As the car backed out, they were suddenly thrust into the worst nightmare that parents can imagine: their toddler was crushed beneath a wheel.

Like the African woman, Marc has known what it’s like to hold a dying child in his arms. While I wasn’t able to converse with that grieving mother, I could converse with him. So deep was Marc’s initial despair that he had to ask God to help him breathe, to help him eat, to help him function at the most fundamental level. Otherwise, he was paralyzed by the emotional pain. But he increasingly felt God’s presence, his grace, his warmth, his comfort, and very slowly, over time, his wounds began to heal.

Having experienced God at his point of greatest need, Marc would emerge from this crucible a changed person, abandoning his career in business to attend seminary. Through his suffering – though he never would have chosen it, though it was horribly painful, though it was life-shattering at the time – Marc has been transformed into someone who would devote the rest of life to bringing God’s compassion to others who are alone in their desperation.

In the pulpit for the first time, Marc was able to draw on his own experiences with God in the depths of sorrow. People were captivated because his own loss had given him special insights, empathy, and credibility. In the end, dozens of them responded by saying they too wanted to know this Jesus, this God of tears. Now other hearts were being healed because of Marc’s having been broken. From one couple’s despair emerges new hope for many.

“Sometimes skeptics scoff at the Bible saying that God can cause good to emerge from our pain if we run toward him instead of away from him,” Marc said. “But I’ve watched it happen in my own life. I’ve experienced God’s goodness through deep pain , and no skeptic can dispute that. The God who the skeptic denies is the same God who held our hands in the deep, dark places, who strengthened our marriage, who deepened our faith, who increased our reliance on him, who gave us two more children, and who infused our lives with new purpose and meaning so that we can make a difference to others.”

Now some scripture passages the Lord brought to mind concerning the above that I wanted to share with you:

Come, and let us return unto the Lord:
for he hath torn, and he will heal us;
he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
(Hosea 6:1)

God meets us in our broken places.

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart;
and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
(Psalm 34:18)

Love is the key:

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
(Galatians 5:6)

Note to young and old

A timely reminder for all who are lonely, hurting or depressed with the world and wondering where God is. Hold firm, keep the faith. If we all took Psalm 23 to heart we would be greatly comforted by Jesus:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

atimetoshare.me

 PROVERBS 2:29  “The glory of young men is their strength,
    but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.”

I’ve talked about how important it is for kids to know they have value.  The same is true for us old fogeys.  I think we forget that somewhere in middle age, because we’re so busy building a life – raising a family – making time for everything that has to be done.  When we’re on the outer edges of life (beginning and end) we tend to lose faith in our abilities.

I have a concern for our teens and their gnawing desire at times to end their existence because they just can’t take it anymore.  Life can be overwhelming when you’re going from one stage in life to another.  The same is true for us seniors as we see our lives melting away, our strength being sapped, our dependence on…

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What can we learn from the life of Mary of Bethany?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Supporter of Got Questions Ministries

Mary of Bethany is one of the most beautiful characters in all of Scripture, and we can learn valuable lessons from studying her life. Mary was the sister of Martha, and her brother was Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. We see Mary three different times in the Bible, beginning with the incident in the home of her sister, Martha (Luke 10:38-42), where Jesus, and presumably the disciples who travelled with Him, were being entertained. Martha was so distressed and “distracted with much serving” and frustrated that her sister wasn’t helping that she actually rebuked Jesus, accusing Him of not caring that Mary sat at His feet while she did all the work. Jesus’ response gives us our first insight into Mary of Bethany. Jesus commended her for “choosing the better,” meaning that Mary’s desire to be near her Lord and hang onto His every word was far more beneficial than running herself ragged with preparations for a meal. Jesus further said that choosing the better thing, learning of the Lord, would not be taken away from Mary.

By “choosing the better,” Jesus meant that those whose priority in life is Christ, the knowledge of Him, and nearness to Him have chosen what will last through eternity, such as the “gold, silver and costly stones” referred to in 1 Corinthians 3:11-12. From this incident, we learn that those who are distracted with the mundane and earthly are building upon the foundation which is Christ with “wood, hay and straw,” materials which will not stand the fires that come to us in times of testing, nor will they be remembered in eternity. Martha’s rebuke of Jesus gives us insight into her heart and mind as she tried to make everything perfect and was so distracted that she lost sight of whom she was speaking to. Mary’s silence, which we will see again in another incident, indicates a lack of concern for herself, especially for defending herself. When we focus on Christ, He becomes our greatest passion and our tendency to self-absorption dims and fades.

The second incident in which Mary and Martha appear occurs in John 11 with the raising of their brother, Lazarus, from the dead. When Mary hears that Jesus has come and is calling for her, she immediately leaves the assembly of mourners in her home and rushes to meet Jesus. So great is her love for Him and her desire to please and obey Him that she leaves those who had come to comfort her to place herself in the arms of the greatest Comforter mankind has ever known. Jesus sees her great sorrow and weeps along with her, even though He knows her sadness is going to be short-lived and that her brother will be restored to her momentarily. In the same way, when we sorrow and grieve, our greatest comfort is found in Jesus, whose compassion is boundless. When we place our hand in the nail-scarred hand, we find comfort, peace and security, and we learn the truth of Psalm 30:5b: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

The third and final time we see Mary of Bethany is just days before Christ’s crucifixion (Matthew 26:1-6; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8). A meal had been prepared at the home of Simon the leper, probably a leper who had been healed by Jesus and had become one of His followers. Martha was again serving while the resurrected Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus and the disciples. At some point, Mary broke open an alabaster jar, poured a pint of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head and feet, and wiped them with her hair. In spite of criticism from some of the disciples about the waste of the costly substance, Mary said nothing. Just as in the first incident, Mary allowed Jesus to defend her, which He does, saying that she has kept this perfume for His burial and has done a beautiful act of service to Him which would be memorialized down through the ages.

We see two amazing things about Mary here from which we can take our example. First, she seems to know that the time of Jesus’ death on the cross was at hand, a fact that had escaped the disciples in spite of Jesus’ clear declaration of this truth. No doubt Mary contented herself with listening to her Lord and meditating on His words, while the disciples bickered about who would be greatest among them in the kingdom. By doing so, they missed the important truths Jesus was teaching them about His upcoming death and resurrection (Mark 9:30-35). How often do we miss spiritual truths because we are self-focused and overly concerned for our rewards, our status and our reputation among men?

Second, we see in Mary a settled conviction and confidence in her Lord, so much so that she is not compelled to defend herself in the face of criticism. How often do we jump at the chance to justify ourselves in the eyes of others who criticize and mock us, particularly where our faith is concerned? But if we, like Mary, make sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him our priority, we will have her depth of understanding, her passion for Christ, and her complete faith in His plan for our lives. We may not have Jesus sitting in our living rooms in person, but we have His Word, the Bible, and from it we have all the knowledge and understanding we need to live a life of secure and confident faith like Mary of Bethany.

See http://www.gotquestions.org/life-Mary-Bethany.html

Inspiration from Creation – how engineers are copying GOD’s designs

This article is from notes I made while listening to Stuart Burgess’s DVD “Inspiration from Creation – how engineers are copying GOD’s designs.” I hope you find the concepts presented as encouraging and uplifting as I did. May the Lord Jesus bless you now and always.

Job 37:14-16 commands us to consider God’s perfect works in creation:

14 Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.
15 Dost thou know when God disposed them, and caused the light of his cloud to shine?
16 Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?

The natural world contains supreme design. It is very humbling to try to copy God’s designs. If evolution were true, engineers should not be copying nature because evolution has far more constraints (the process is step-by-step and changes must have a survival advantage). We can have no redundant beauty or elegance, nor irreducible complexity, in the process of evolution.

Bio-inspiration, on the other hand, confirms biblical creation. To take the example of the knee joint, a project I have been working on for over 20 years for the purposes of robotics and prosthetics, in terms of geometry and dimensions, in terms of concept, your knee joint is brilliantly designed. There is one caveat and that is that death and disease are due to the Fall. Bad joints are not due to bad design but to the curse.

Bio-inspiration is based on observational science, which some also call operational science. This is real science, real experiments, real wind tunnels, real dissection. In contrast, evolutionary theories are based on speculation. Beware of speculation.

Bio-inspiration shows the truth of design in nature. Nature contains irreducible designs for example the four-bar mechanism in dragonfly wings. You cannot evolve a four-bar mechanism step-by-step. You need all four bars, all four pins, together. You cannot evolve it. Four-bar mechanisms in nature are great evidence against evolution and for design – the knee joint has a four-bar mechanism, as do fish jaws and bird wings. Biologists such as Richard Dawkins don’t know what a four-bar mechanism is (a simple diagram is given below):

Diagram of a four-bar mechanism

Richard Dawkins is also not qualified in the science of design, though often he assumes the role of an expert. He is a biologist not an engineer.

The existence of a four-bar mechanism in nature gave me two big conclusions:

  1. God loves mechanical engineering
  2. There is a Creator because you cannot evolve a four-bar mechanism

The origins debate

Biblical worldview = science including God
Atheistic worldview = science excluding God

The message of bio-inspiration:

  • There is a Creator (Romans 1:20)

    “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse”

  • Creation contains wonders without number (Job 9:10), so there are endless brilliant designs in the natural world that engineers can copy

    “Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.”

  • Creation contains things we cannot comprehend (Job 37:5)

    “God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.”

  • God is perfect in knowledge (Job 37:16)

    “Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge?”

I don’t just believe in a Creator. I believe the Creator is the Lord Jesus Christ. All things were made through Him. I also believe that He came to this world to save sinners, to seek and save the lost, all those who will come to Him in true faith and repentance. And it is my hope and my prayer that everyone who sees this talk will not just come to believe in a Creator, but come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Thank you. Amen.

The DVD can be purchased very economically from creationsuperstore.com, costing just $12.99 when I last checked. It runs for approximately 65 minutes and is money very well spent because you will be blessed by it.

Bound but unchained – don’t confuse biblical slavery with the American version

by Peter Barnes, p7, “Australian Presbyterian”, Summer 2014/15

It is not uncommon to say that the Bible is a vicious book because God ordains slavery in the Old Testament, and the slavery of the American South, at least until the tragic Civil War of 1861-1865, showed how brutal and unjust slavery can be. Hence Sam Harris, a rabid atheist, declares that the books of the Bible are bursting with “obscene celebrations of violence” and they condone the practice of slavery whereas “the entire civilized world now agrees that slavery is an abomination.”

However, there is considerable difference between the God-ordained and regulated slavery of the Old Testament and that which prevailed in the Confederate States of North America in rather more recent times.

Chris Wright maintains that the Hebrew slave was more a bonded worker than a slave. In the first place, a Hebrew slave could normally obtain his freedom after six years: “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing” (Exodus 21:2; see Deut. 15:1-18). There were no life-long slaves unless the slave wished it in which case he went through a ceremony which bored his ear with an awl to signify his lifelong attachment to his master (Ex. 21:5-6). Otherwise, six years was the maximum. And if the Year of Jubilee rolled around, as it did every 50 years, it was further reduced (Lev. 25:39-41). Much later, Jeremiah was to denounce King Zedekiah of Judah for not releasing slaves when he had promised to do so (Jer. 34).

A slave whom the master injured in some way was to go free (Ex. 21:26-27). An escaped slave was to be well-treated:

“Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: 16 he shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.”
(Deut. 23:15-16)

This probably only referred to a slave who had escaped from another country rather than a Hebrew who had jumped the fence. In the Code of Hammurabi, anyone who harboured a slave or helped him to escape was to be put to death. Israel, on the other hand, was to be a place of refuge for a slave on the run.

Another significant difference is that Old Testament slavery was normally linked to punishment for stealing. The law was that “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.” (Ex. 22:1-3).

Under the law of Moses there were no jails. Instead, a system of restitution plus compensation was to operate in dealing with robberies. Most of the Hebrews who were slaves in the Old Testament period were debt slaves – they owed money and were paying it off, or they had stolen something and could not pay it back with the added compensation, so they worked it off. This is neither cruel nor an abomination, but eminently sensible.

Old Testament slavery did not consist of one nationality oppressing another nationality as in American slavery in the 19th century. Nor was it part of some arbitrary caste system. It was part of a very fair and effective system of justice when it was applied rightly.

One of the more startling differences between slavery in the Old Testament and that in the southern United States is that the Bible condemns kidnapping as a capital crime (Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7). Before the law of Moses was given, Joseph’s brothers trampled all over this principle, which was written on their hearts (see Gen. 37:25-28). It is instructive that the law against kidnapping is repeated in the New Testament (1 Tim. 1:8-11). The NIV has “slave traders”, the ESV has “enslavers”, and the NKJV has “kidnappers”, the King James has “menstealers”. Whichever translation is used, it would condemn the African slave trade and the existence of slavery in the southern states of the USA in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Perhaps something like 14.5 million Africans were brought to the New World in chains, but many others died on the way. Almost all of them were kidnapped from their homes in Africa. In 1787 John Newton condemned this as “a commerce so iniquitous, so cruel, so oppressive, so destructive”. It was a special horror to him: “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”

Olaudah Equiano was a former slave who obtained his freedom, became an evangelical Christian, married a well-to-do Englishwoman who bore him two children, and published his life story in 1789. He claimed that “Tortures, murder, and every other imaginable barbarity and iniquity, are practiced upon the poor slaves with impunity”.

(1 Timothy 1:8-11) would condemn the African slave trade and the existence of slavery in the southern states of the USA.

Far from seeing slavery as something that is natural, the God of the Old Testament commands the death penalty for kidnappers.

Finally, the Old Testament declares that all peoples, being in the image of God, are to be treated with fairness and compassion. In defending himself, Job declared:

“If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; what then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:13-15)

How do we understand all human beings on this earth, and our relationship with them? We are created in the womb by God. We share that commonality; we are all united in that sense. When John Newton wrote against the slave trade that he had once participated in, he cited the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12.

The church can easily descend into a kind of Pelagian racism. During the 19th century, one American Presbyterian preacher apparently proclaimed: “You slaves will go to heaven if you are good, but don’t ever think that you will be close to your mistress and master. No! There will be a wall between you; but there will be holes in it that will permit you to look out and see your mistress when she passes by.”

Against that kind of theology and practice, Calvin cited Isaiah 58:7 about not looking down upon our own flesh. He explained: “By that he means we cannot look upon another human being without having before us a living representation of our own selves, and if we deny him our help, it is as if we were refusing it to ourselves”. Indeed, he added that even the pagans have recognised “what is so difficult for us to get into our heads”, namely that there is “a universal kinship within the human race”.

The Old Testament has a temporary provision for slavery, usually for stealing; kidnapping was a capital crime; and Hebrews, because of their understanding of God as the creator of all mankind, were enjoined to treat all human beings with fairness and compassion. That is why Confederate slavery was so wrong.