Saturday, December 29, 2012

Chronological New Testament Bible Reading Plan in 92 Days

OK - so I know many of my friends haven't read 'the entire Bible" - well now's your chance to read at least the New Testament - and in Chronological order - I'm starting Jan 1, so read it with me! This year, I want to encourage everyone to read the New Testament first, then maybe tackle the Old Testament later. This plan will keep you in the Word every day, and will give you a goal - to read the the entire New Testament - in 92 days.

The neat thing about reading the New Testament in Chronological Order is that it groups the books and chapters in historical order. For example, in reading about the life of Jesus, instead of reading Matthew, then Mark, then Luke, then John - a Chronological reading plan will mix up the chapters from all four Gospels and place them in order corresponding to the events in the life of Christ.

Another example would be reading through the books of Acts, which is basically the history book of the early church. Instead of reading all the chapters of Acts in order, a Chronological plan will insert parts of the Epistles (letters to Christians or Christian churches) that correspond with the events in Acts, in between some of the chapters in Acts.

Now understand that this reading plan isn't in perfect Chronological order, otherwise it would mix up actual verses from different chapters in the Bible. It's more general - more by chapters than by verses. But it will give you a feel of historical order in which events are taking place.

Realize that it is better if you do this with a partner or a group, to keep you accountable. Even if you get behind a couple of days, try to make it up to keep on track. And if you don't complete it in 92 days that's fine too, as long as you keep at it, even if it's at your own pace.

May you be blessed by reading the Word - I know you will.





Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Sparkle Of Christmas

The word sparkle is a fascinating word for me. It brings several images to mind. For instance, I still remember as a boy, going outside one Christmas Eve after a fresh snowfall, and seeing the surface of the snow sparkle in the reflection of our porch light. Growing up in upstate New York brought plenty of white Christmases. I remember the sparkle of all the Christmas lights that were on the bushes outside our house, as they glimmered across the surface of the white snow. Christmas was and still is, a special time of year for me.

To me, Christmas is about family. It’s a time when most people want to be together with the ones they love. Remember the song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas?” There’s a line in the song that says something like, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” It’s such a high priority for most people to be with family that the Christmas season is one of the most busiest travel times of the year. “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.”

Many have what they call family traditions on Christmas. A family tradition is a particular way of doing things that is repeated each year. You probably are involved in one yourself. My family has a tradition of making homemade gifts. We started in 2005. Each person must make a gift for each person in the family. It’s turned into so much fun, mainly because we usually aren’t very good at it. Before we open our gifts, there is usually a disclaimer - sometimes the gift is unfinished, or didn’t turn out right, and is a flop. Regardless, we laugh and have such a good time opening our gifts. I suppose the sparkle of Christmas can be seen in my family’s eyes as we share such good times together. And if you look really close, you’ll see a sparkle in my eyes, as I reflect on such wonderful, fond memories.

Yes, Christmas is about family, and just as we as parents are fond of our family, God the Father is fond of His family. He sees us as His children, His family. That’s because God chose to adopt us! He chose to adopt us as His very own children. Here’s a great Christmas verse, even though it’s not in the Christmas story, that teaches what God has done......

Galatians 4:4-7
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”

According to this verse, when the right time came (Christmas), God sent His Son (Jesus), born of a woman (Mary). He sent Him to buy freedom for us (redemption) - so that He could adopt us as His “very own children”, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”  This word “Abba” is an Aramaic word. Aramaic was the common language of the day for Jews, and Abba is an intimate, affection expression for Father. It’s like saying Daddy. It’s the type of relationship God wants with us - a father/child relationship. And He is the perfect father.

So I suppose the real sparkle of Christmas is the sparkle that is in God’s eyes when He looks at His family, His children. Just as the Sparkle is in a mother’s eyes when she first sees her new born child, or the Sparkle is in a couple’s eyes as they are reciting their marriage vows, there is a Sparkle in God’s eyes as he looks upon us as His children, Yes, God’s eyes glisten when He looks upon us, His children, His family. We are the “apple of His eye.” In His sight, we are to Him, most highly valued, most cherished, most treasured, and most loved.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

Our Father looks upon us with a gleam in His eye - that’s because He loves His family. Nobody loves his family more than God loves His. Nobody loves his children more than God loves His. And our Father shows His love by His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness, and His salvation.

And He is such a gift-giver! “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17). He gives us Grace.......“Because of the overflowing grace God has given to you, thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Cor 9:14-15).

He gives us Peace........“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27).

And ultimately, He gives us Eternal Life........“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

So why is God such a gift-giver? The answer: LOVE. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10). 

God's most precious gift to us is His Son. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

There’s a common saying for Christians around this time of year. It’s this: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s very true, but I want to take that one step further. Looking at the big picture, the real reason for the season is.... YOU!  For you are the reason that God sent His son to earth. You are the reason for Christmas. God wants to adopt you as His son, so He can be your Father - your Abba Father, and it took Jesus to come to earth to do it. In the world’s eyes, Christmas is about a lot of different things, but in God’s eyes, you are what Christmas is all about. You are the reason Jesus came to earth, therefore, “You are the reason for the season”. And if you are one of His, when God looks at you, there is a sparkle in His eye. That’s the sparkle of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Don’t Tell Me The Star Was Just A Star!

So what exactly was the “star” that the Magi saw? Was it a star? Was it Jupiter? Was it a particular constellation? Was it a comet? Was it the northern lights? Was it an optical illusion? There has been all kinds of speculation regarding the star because the Bible does not give us much detail. Only 12 verses in the entire Bible are devoted to the story of the Wise Men. (Matthew 2:1-12)

Three separate people in the past week approached me, asking if I’ve heard how it’s been proven that the star which the Magi followed was a natural occurrence. What really drives me crazy is how man always tries to rely on human reasoning in an attempt to explain things that are inexplicable. Man goes through great lengths to give a scientific explanation to a miraculous event. However, scientific explanations are impossible because a miraculous event cannot be explained! According to scientific reasoning, a miracle is impossible. A miracle is an event that alters or defies the laws of nature and the laws of science. Science says that it’s impossible for a bush to burn without burning up. Science says it’s impossible that a flood covered the entire earth. Science says that it’s impossible to walk on water. Science says that it’s impossible to immediately heal someone born blind, or deaf, or deformed. Science says it’s impossible to bring someone back from the dead. According to science, there is some natural explanation to all this.

Using human reasoning and scientific theory to explain a miraculous event ultimately results in one thing - removing God from the picture. This can be seen most clearly in the evolution verses creation debate. Similarly, I’ve heard of scientists explaining, with all seriousness, how the Jordan River was parted by Joshua (Joshua 3:13) - that is was not by a miracle, but by a combination of wind and water levels. Once I heard a radio show which focused on the power of prayer. Yes, they admitted there is power in prayer. But do you know why they said prayer worked? It was simply because of the power of the mind and not the power of God at all. Their explanation was that the power of prayer had nothing to do with the spiritual, but the mental instead. You see, they took God out of the picture. Don’t fall for it. Don’t be persuaded by some smooth talking, intelligent sounding, self-proclaimed expert.

So every Christmas, I hear of someone falling for a scientist who claims that after extensive research, he can prove without a doubt that the star of Bethlehem was a naturally occurring celestial event. Don’t believe it! Don’t be deceived by fine sounding arguments. God shall not be mocked. Regardless of the books impressively written, the smoothly produced TV shows, and the extensive internet sites saying otherwise, the Christmas story was totally a God-thing. His hand is all over it. Nine times in the Christmas story, angels are involved. Several Old Testament prophecies come to fulfillment in the Christmas story. Providence is demonstrated throughout the timeline of the birth of Jesus.

For all the scientific explanations saying that the star was some natural phenomena, there are mysteries still not sufficiently answered by science. Could it be that most of those who give scientific explanations don’t seem to know their Bible facts? According to the Bible, the star led the Magi twice, in different directions, and at separate times (see my earlier posts). How can a natural star first lead the Magi in a westerly direction toward Jerusalem. Then later, weeks or perhaps months, or maybe even a year later, appear again to lead them in another direction, from Jerusalem toward Bethlehem?  And get this - how can a natural star move ahead of them and then stop? - stopping right over the house Jesus was staying, acting as a beacon for the Wise Men? (Matthew 2:9)

So was the star of Bethlehem just a star? The answer.....NO! The two sightings of the star by the Magi were both miraculous events - in each case, a sign from heaven - a supernatural beacon. Don’t even try to persuade me otherwise! I’m done listening to all these natural explanations. That’s because I believe that there is a spiritual reality, that God is real, that He intervenes, that His providence is real, that His Word is true, and that miracles really happen.  And I’m sticking with it!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Celebrating Christmas In The Midst Of Tragedy

A Fox News alert came on my cell phone at 12:51pm today, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. Here's what it said, "A gunman opened fire Friday inside a Connecticut elementary school, and multiple people -- including the shooter -- are dead, according to officials. Reports also said children were shot but it remains unclear whether any were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown."

I was just pulling out of Wawa after getting gas. I can't fully describe what I felt. Shock, disbelief, sickening horror. I felt like crying. As a matter of fact, I don't mind admitting that Francie and I shed some tears over this. What is this world, our country, coming to? I thought of my family - Sarah, who works in a middle school in Missouri, DeRonte who works in a Bible College in Missouri, Loree who works at an after-school program in Silver Spring, MD. All involved in learning institutions. Then I thought about my missionary son Chris who lives in Tanzania, Africa with his wife Emily - is the society they live in actually more civilized than ours?

Of course, Facebook was immediately lit up. Many asking for prayer, many expressing shock and sadness. I'm sure all those friends of mine that have small children agree with what President Obama said - that every parent is going to hug their children a little more tightly tonight. But more than that, as fellow human beings, whether we have children or not, compassion for our fellow man is sparked by this tragedy. And even more terrible is that it happened so close to Christmas.

I'm reminded that the Christmas story itself has tragedy linked with it. In Matthew chapter two, we are told that just after the Magi visited Jesus, they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, but to return to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:12-13)

Now this is where the tragedy happens: When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious. Hoping to kill Jesus in the process, he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. (Matthew 2:16)

Jesus entered a nasty world - a world back then that was just as bad as it is now. He came at a time when every kind of evil existed. He came at a time when a wooden cross was used to torture people to death. He knew His ultimate fate, or should I say, ultimate mission. You think the world is bad now? If He didn't come, we would not have an ounce of hope.

Doesn't it seem like we live in a world dominated by evil and darkness? But thankfully, God rescued us by sending His Son. "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." (Colossians 1:13)

So even though this Christmas season is marred with tragedy, it is time to celebrate. Celebrate His birth - that He came. Celebrate because only through the birth of our Savior and His ultimate sacrifice for our sins, can we find peace in a world that is full of chaos. Only through Him can we find joy in a season of sadness. And only through Christ can we attain salvation into a heaven where the dwelling of God is with men - where we will live forever with Him.  And He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:3-4)

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Angel Gabriel - Christmas Messenger

"I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God"  Whoa!!! That is clout. "I stand in the presence of God!" If this particular angel stands in the presence of God, and he has a message to deliver, we listen. And for an angel to have a name? That doesn't happen often. In the entire Bible, we find only 2 angels that have names - one is Gabriel, the other is Michael the Archangel (Jude 1:9). We find Gabriel appearing in Luke 1:19, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news." His announcement initiates the Christmas story. I imagine that Gabriel, standing in the presence of God, received instructions that the time was right to begin the process of sending God's Son to earth (Galatians 4:4-5, "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.") So God sent not just an ordinary angel, if there is such a thing, but the angel Gabriel to Zechariah, a Jewish priest, to announce that his wife Elizabeth would bear his son, who would become John the Baptist, forerunner of Christ. 

Six months later, God sends the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 2:26-37)

This interaction between Gabriel and Mary is the last we hear of Gabriel. His mission is accomplished. But this isn't the last we hear of angels being used as messengers in the Christmas story. The next instance we find an angel involved in the Christmas story is with Joseph. As you can imagine, when Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant and he knows that he isn't the father, there is some major turmoil going on! God decides to intervene to calm things down. An angel is sent to Joseph with a message before it's too late and he divorces Mary. So an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and says, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:20-25)

The next time God sends angels as messengers comes on the night Jesus is born in Bethlehem. There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:8-12)

As soon as that angel is done speaking with the shepherds, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:13-15)

The next time a messenger angel is sent by God, as far as the Christmas story is concerned, involves the Wise Men. Although it's not specifically mentioned that it's an angel who is involved, when the Wise Men were warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem after they had visited Jesus and worshiped Him, it's logical to assume this warning was delivered by an angel. ( "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." - Matthew 2:11-12)

As soon as the Wise Men are gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt." (Matthew 2:13-14)

The next time an angel appears comes after quite some time - after Herod died. An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:19-20)

The last time a messenger angel is used in the Christmas story, or at least we can assume it was an angel, was in Joseph's dream. When Joseph left Egypt with Mary and Jesus, and headed back to the land of Israel and heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. (Matthew 2:22-23)

So as you can see, angels were used in the Christmas story nine times! To Zechariah, to Mary, to Joseph, twice with the Shepherds, to the Wise Men, to Joseph three more times.

Angels were certainly active in the Christmas story. Angels are used frequently throughout the entire Bible. If you search the word 'angel' in the NIV, you will find it used in one form or another 294 times. It makes you wonder... are angels active today? Do we forget that angels exist? Does God still use angels? Just because angels are invisible, do we disregard their reality? Consider this verse, a rhetorical question about angels....."Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14)

A rhetorical question is a question that requires no answer, but is done for effect. The answer is obvious. For example, a rhetorical question would be, "Is the Pope Catholic?" So in the case of Hebrews 1:14, what this verse is saying is this:  Angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. Christians, that's us! Maybe you don't realize it, but angels minister to us, sent by God. It may not be always obvious or evident, but as you look back on your life, maybe you can see it. Do you know what it makes me realize? God is an interactive God who can intervene in our lives, real-time. God is all knowing and all powerful, and He loves those who are His. And when necessary, he may not send a visible angel, but He surely is able to send 'ministering spirits' to serve us somehow, someway. That's our God! Hallelujah for His providence.






Monday, December 3, 2012

The Wise Men - Teach Us About Worship

The role of the Wise Men adds an almost mystical dimension to the Christmas story. Their identity as magicians, astrologers, and astronomers adds mystery. No one knows exactly where they are from. There is certainly not nearly enough Bible detail as we would like regarding their long journey through dangerous desert, or how many were in the caravan, or what motivated them, as non-Jews, to make such pilgrimage.

We do know one thing: if the story of the Wise Men is in the Bible, it is of extreme importance. And even though there is limited information, there is a lot we can learn from them - in this case, worship. That's good because it seems today, many don't even know what worship is. So here are four observations from the story of the Wise Men that can help us to become better worshipers.

OBSERVATION #1 - The Wise Men were Seekers
It doesn't matter if you've been a Christian for decades, or if you are just beginning a quest to find out who this Jesus is, Jesus draws us to Him, and the closer we get, the closer we want to be. Jesus said, "I will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32). There was something powerfully compelling about the Wise Men's decision to find this new King. Obviously there was a supernatural beacon, some call a star, (see my last post), that got their attention. But I'm astonished by their undaunted determination to find Him. They were drawn to Him. They were deliberate in their pursuit. They were relentless in their expedition. Nothing seemed to deter them. The long and treacherous journey, their life circumstances and distractions, their unanswered questions - it didn't matter, they went all-out to find Jesus. Each morning, each day, that was their mission. As worshipers, we must do the same - constantly seek Him on a daily basis. Be deliberate in your pursuit of Him - go all-out in finding out more of who this Jesus is. Desire to have an encounter with Him - a worship encounter.  
LESSON #1: Worship is Intentional. We worship on purpose.

OBSERVATION #2 - The Wise Men desired to be in His Presence
I love that the Wise Men approached King Herod, who was arrogant, powerful, and terrible, with boldness, asking him, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?" To even mention that there was another "king" in the area no doubt infuriated Herod deeply, even though he didn't show it. How dare they ask such a question? Herod knew right on the spot what he would do - use the Wise Men to lead him to Jesus so he could kill Him. But the Wise Men were so focused and so convinced of a new King, they weren't hiding the fact they were trying to find Him so they could worship Him. Some scholars believe the Wise Men were actually kings themselves. If that's true, it adds even more amazement to the fact that they left their respective kingdoms behind, risked their lives and the lives of those traveling with them, in order to be in the presence of Jesus. They were determined, against all odds, to personally meet and worship the King. After all, they could have sent representatives. They could have sent ambassadors. But instead, they sought to find Jesus themselves. 
LESSON #2: Worship is Spiritual. In John 4:24, Jesus said that "God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." When we worship, it is a spiritual encounter. It's when we come into God's presence. Worship is spiritual, and our worship is based on the truth of who God is, and who Christ is, based on scripture.


OBSERVATION #3 - The Wise Men had the right Attitude
Just think of the moment when they first encountered Jesus - their admiration and their awe. Filled with wonder, they must have marveled at the Christ child. The Bible gives us very little detail about this initial encounter. It doesn't tell us what they said. It does, however, tell us what the Wise Men did - they "bowed down and worshiped." (Matthew 2:11). Unlike Herod, the Wise Men were sincere in their desire to worship Jesus. They had an attitude of reverence and humility. They were men of high regard themselves, highly respected, yet the Bible says they bowed down. In a sense, they laid down their crowns in that moment of worship.
LESSON #3: Worship is Emotional. It's emotional in a sense that it's about the heart. Real worship is from the heart, and our heart needs to be right.  Our worship moments must be similar to theirs - full of wonder and awe - full of admiration and reverence. God is full of glory and splendor. We should approach Him in that fashion. Our worship should include an expression of sincere praise, awe, wonder, humility, and thanksgiving. Certainly we can't be in sin and expect our worship to be acceptable. After all, if we are just going through the motions and our heart is not right, our worship is worthless. When He spoke about people whose hearts weren't sincere, Jesus said, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me," (Matthew 15:8).

OBSERVATION #4 - The Wise Men gave Gifts.
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." (Matthew 2:11-12). Look at the order of their actions. They didn't present Him gifts first, and then worship Him second. The scripture says they worshiped Him first, "then" they presented Him with gifts. This is a good model for us to follow because true worshipers will naturally become givers, not only of their treasures, but of their services. Serving God, living for Him, is a natural by-product of worshiping Him. Jesus said, "Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only." (Luke 4:8). 
LESSON #4: Worshipers Give. They give of their treasures. They give of their lives to God. True worshipers live for God. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:15, "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

CONCLUSIONS
The Wise Men demonstrate several critical components of worship. They teach us that worship is intentional, spiritual, and emotional. When all three of those components are engaged, we are truly worshiping God. Another way to describe those three components of worship are 1. the mind (worship is intentional), 2. the heart (worship is emotional), and 3. the soul (worship is spiritual). In other words, when we engage the heart, the mind, and the soul in worship, we are, what I call, "worshiping in the zone." All three of these components must be engaged to be "worshiping in the zone" - the heart, the mind, and the soul. This is the true form of worship. It can happen anywhere, at anytime. It can happen in a brief moment or an extended time period. It can be prompted by a song, or a sunset, or a sermon, or anything that reminds us of God. When we are worshiping, we are demonstrating or expressing something to the Lord: like praise, thanksgiving, or adoration. This expression can be done through words, through prayer, or through action, as long as our heart is right, we are intentional about it, and we are spiritually connecting with God.


ONE SENTENCE DEFINITION OF WORSHIP
Here is my simplified one sentence definition of worship: "Worship is a deliberate moment when we spiritually bow down before the Lord and express our sincere praise, thanksgiving and adoration."

In this one-sentence definition, the heart ("sincere praise....."), the mind ("deliberate moment...."), and the soul ("spiritually bow down....") are engaged. One more thing: worship leads to serving God. Worshipers give - of themselves and of their treasures. These are the types of worshipers God seeks.
John 4:23-24: "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”





Monday, November 26, 2012

The Wise Men - How It Really Went Down

The only place in the Bible that tells us about the wise men's journey to find Jesus is found in Matthew chapter 2. There are tons of misinformation about this story - about the star - about the wise men. But if you look closely at the scriptures, you will find the real facts. And you will be able to discern between fact and fable. For example, the wise men never visited the manger. And I submit that the star was not a natural, astronomical event but 2 separate supernatural episodes. I'll explain later. Below is a true chronological account of the wise men's role in the Christmas story based on scripture.


THE TIMELINE:


Scene 1 (The Shepherds) Luke Chapter 2: Near Bethlehem, during the night that Jesus was born, shepherds tending to their sheep in the fields were startled when "suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified!" (Luke 2:9). It's important to note the term "the radiance of the Lord's glory". This should not be down-played or overlooked. It was an extreme, miraculous illumination and must have been very powerful. If it was 'of the Lord's glory', it must have been incredibly bright. The angel announced to the shepherds that a Savior was born that same day in a manger in Bethlehem. Look what happens next....."Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God.." (Luke 2:13). I doubt that this great company of the heavenly host appeared in the dark. On the contrary, they must have appeared in this spotlight called the 'radiance of the Lord's glory'. Some translations call the great company of the heavenly host a multitude, or a vast, heavenly army. To totally illuminate this vast, heavenly army, the radiance of brilliant light must have extended up into the heavens, with an enormous diameter - sort of a pillar of light. And you thought lasers were powerful! Such an array of brilliance in the night time sky would have been visible for miles - possibly hundreds of miles. No one knows how long it lasted, but at some point, the angels vanished, went back to heaven, and the darkness quickly returned. The scene in the field reverted back to what it was before: the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem on a quiet, still, dark night. After such an amazing experience, the shepherds did what they never do - they left their sheep in the fields and quickly ran off - to find Jesus.


Scene 2 (The Wise Men) Matthew Chapter 2: The Wise Men (also referred to as Magi), located in far away Persia or Babylon, were star-watchers. They saw this very same miraculous illumination off in the distance on that particular night. Perhaps hundreds of people from many different countries saw it in the night time sky before it went out. However, the Wise Men reacted to it. They knew it was supernatural - that this was a sign of something of huge importance. It's possible that they were familiar with ancient prophecies, such as recorded in Isaiah and Numbers, that dealt with a coming star or bright light. Regardless, the Wise Men, who were experts regarding the stars, concluded that this supernatural beam of light was in the direction of distant holy city of Jerusalem, and that it must have signified the birth of a powerful and important new King of the Jews. They were convinced that it was a once in a lifetime event, and that they must make a journey to make homage to this newly born King. Based on the location and direction of this strange light they had seen in the sky, which was no longer visible, they prepared to head to Jerusalem, where they assumed had been the focal point of the light - where this new King must be. It would take a lot of preparation. They would need to get a caravan together, which included supplies, food, animals, and people. Their journey could take weeks or even months. Tradition says there were 3 wise men. The Bible never numbers them.


Scene 3 (Baby Jesus Brought To Jerusalem) Luke Chapter 2: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living in a house in Bethlehem. After all, remember that the shepherds ran off to tell everyone about the birth of Jesus, so possibly even that very night of his birth, someone could have taken them in once they found out the news. After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary wanted to bring Jesus in the Temple there to consecrate him to the Lord. After Mary's days of purification were over, forty days as defined by the Law (Leviticus 12:1-8), they brought Jesus into the Temple, right under Herod's nose. She was ceremonially unclean from delivering a baby boy, was to go in front of a priest to offer a sacrifice. Because she offered a sacrifice that was representative of those who were poor (Luke 2:24), it confirms that Wise Men had not arrived yet with their valuable riches which included gold.


Scene 4 (Jesus Back To Bethlehem) Matthew Chapter 2: The Wise Men are well into their long journey to Jerusalem. By this time, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were back in the house in Bethlehem. Finally, the Wise Men arrive in Jerusalem. Not knowing where this new-born King was, since there was still no guiding beacon at this point, they did the most logical thing - ask the current king, Herod, for details. Of course, Herod pretended to go along with the Wise Men, but inwardly, he was furious. After all, he was the king and no one was going to take his throne. He summoned the chief priests and the scribes for answers regarding the location of Jesus. The chief priests and scribes were Jews who knew the Old Testament scriptures well, and based on Micah 5:2, they knew the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. So Herod sent the Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem, but not before asking them the exact date that they had seen this "star" they had told him about. It was so he could calculate how old Jesus was, assuming the Wise Men saw the 'star' on the night Jesus was born.


Scene 5 (Wise Men Arrive In Jerusalem) Matthew Chapter 2: As the Wise Men headed toward Bethlehem, something fantastic happened: another miraculous event. A supernatural light in the sky, appeared to the Wise Men. They were overjoyed. It had been a long time since they saw that brilliant sign in the sky back on the night Jesus was born. This time, they knew that this light was a guiding beacon for them. It turns out that it would lead them not just to Bethlehem, but it would stop right over the exact house where Jesus was staying (Matthew 2:11).


Scene 6 (Wise Men Arrive in Bethlehem) Matthew Chapter 2: The Wise Men entered the house, bowed down before Jesus, and worshiped Him. Then they presented Him with gifts - gifts that were fitting for a King. Their mission was accomplished. Their quest to find the newly born King was over.


Scene 7: (Wise Men, and Joseph, Mary & Jesus Scatter) Matthew Chapter 2: Divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, the Wise Men departed for their own country another way. Likewise, during that very night, Joseph was also warned in a dream to take Jesus and His mother, flee to Egypt for safety, and stay there until further notice. So Joseph, Mary and Jesus quickly took off during the night before Herod could decide on a plan, and before his thugs could take action, because they probably followed behind and saw the house where the Wise Men entered.


Because Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, and that by now he was unsure where Jesus was, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi, hoping to have a wide enough safety margin to include Jesus in the process (by now Jesus could have been several months, possibly even a year old). A terrible slaughter occurred, but Joseph, Mary and Jesus safely made it to Egypt, where they lived until Herod died. Through God's providence, the valuable gifts from the Magi were God's provision to provide travel and living expenses for Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Is Worship Becoming Watered Down? - Part 4

As shown in the last post, it’s plain to see that some translators have been much more broad minded than others in equating original root words (Hebrew or Greek) with the English word ‘worship’. It's dangerous because when the word worship is used too liberally, it clouds any distinction between worship and service, and leads to a philosophy of watered down worship. It takes away from worship.

I believe one of the characteristics of real worship is that it is intentional. Real worship must be deliberate. When you worship God, you are aware of it. It's a moment when you are spiritually engaged. If worship is simply living for God, that means that you could be worshiping God and not even realize it! Common sense tells us that can't be right. Yet it's a common philosophy today.

Worship and Service Are Different
Worship leads to service but is not service in itself. If we truly are worshipers, then we will be motivated to serve God. Service is a byproduct of worship. In this sense, they go together but they are not the same. Sure, it is possible to worship and serve at the same time, but it is also possible to serve God without being in the spirit of worship.  Our act of worship must be much more focused and intentional than simply living a Christian lifestyle.
 
Actually, there are many scriptures that clearly distinguish between worship and service. One is found in the book of Matthew where Satan tried to get Jesus to worship him. Matthew 4:10 (NIV),  “Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."'"

The word ‘worship’ in this verse is derived from the original Greek word ‘proskuneo’ which means to bow down. The word ‘serve’ in this verse is derived from the original Greek word ‘latreuo’ which means to serve or to do God’s work. It is to be in God’s service. In this verse, there is a clear distinction that we should worship God and that we should serve God. We should devote time to bow to him, and we should devote time to serve him.

I personally feel the word 'proskuneo' is the most accurate portrayal of worship. This word essentially means to bow down. The physical orientation of one bowing down signifies that nothing is more important, more cherished, and more honored than the one being worshiped. Bowing is a personal admission of personal submission. It is a physical demonstration that the one falling down is inferior and the one being worshiped is superior. It is in a sense an official recognition of who is King and who is the obedient, loyal and loving servant. 

This is the reason Satan wanted Jesus to fall down at his feet. "All this I will give you," Satan said, "if you will bow down and worship me." (Matthew 4:9). If Jesus would have done that, he would have exalted Satan and put himself in an inferior position. It would have been a proclamation of who was the superior one. It would have showed that Satan was above all things, including Jesus.
 
 Regardless of whether our worship is planned or is spontaneous, it is done with a conscious effort. There is an awareness in worship; an awareness first of all that we are worshiping God, an awareness of God’s presence, and awareness of our expression to God. It is a spiritual experience, just as prayer is a spiritual experience (I will talk about this more in an upcoming post on John 4:24). Worship occurs in a specific, focused, purposeful moment.  It happens for a reason, and for a particular time period.


A Major Source Of Confusion - Romans 12:1
The fact that the different translations of the Bible apply the word 'worship' with varying frequency (see the table in the previous post), leads us to confusion when trying to define worship. Perhaps some versions of the Bible simply do not make the best use of English words when translating from the original Hebrew or Greek languages. One such example is found in Romans 12:1. I suspect that this one verse has contributed the most to today's erroneous philosophy that worship is simply our life style, instead of an intentional, spiritual encounter. Several bible translations of this particular verse, including the NIV, imply that worship is our whole life.

Romans 12:1 NIV:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.


If you are reading the NIV and take this verse at its face value, then you would conclude that this verse defines worship, that worship is living a righteous life is worship, that living for God = worship. It says it in the "Bible", right? However, is this really what Paul, the writer, intended this verse to mean?

The problem with the NIV version in this verse is that it implies that our service is a ‘spiritual act’. (I'm not against the NIV version - I use it all the time - it's just that I believe the translators did a poor job on this particular verse). This implication that service = spiritual act of worship is not based on the original language. In this verse the Greek words for the phrase 'spiritual act of worship' are ‘logikos’ (reason or logic) and ‘latreia’ (service or ministry that involves God’s work). Literally, this verse is talking about 'reasonable service' not 'spiritual worship'. It's interesting that the Greek word, pneuma, which means spirit, is not used at all in Romans 12:1. The phrase used by several Bible translations, “spiritual act”, is not founded on the original language. Remember the verse above "Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only" from Matthew 4:10? In that verse, it distinguishes between worshiping and serving (‘latreuo’).

Based on the Greek, the phrase "reasonable service" is a more accurate translation of Romans 12:1 than “spiritual act of worship”. It more clearly conveys the idea that it is reasonable for worshipers to serve or minister to others because of what he has done for us. It is reasonable to simply be available for whatever God needs us to do to advance his Kingdom. In other words, it is logical for worshipers who profess to live Godly lives to be the ones who do good deeds for him – who are devoted workers for him.

There are several Bible translations this give a more accurate wording of Romans 12:1. In this case, the New King James Version:

Romans 12:1 NKJV:  "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.



In conclusion, Romans 12:1 is about service or how we should give our lives to God, and is not a definition of spiritual worship. Worship and service are different. Let me repeat what I said in an earlier post:

True worshipers will be compelled to serve the Lord and be driven to live their lives for God. One who worships God will naturally serve Him. We need to serve, but it is not the same as true, intimate worship. We need to worship, but it is not the same as serving. We can’t simply be worshipers alone, and likewise, we can’t simply be servants alone. We must be worshipers. We must be servants. There is a time for worship and there is a time for service.


In the next post, I will start to focus more specifically on defining worship, and begin looking at the three conditions which must be in place for worship to be 'worship'. I'll reveal those three conditions next time.








Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is Worship Becoming Watered Down? - Part 3

In the last post, I talked about how the common philosophy of worship today is to define worship as a lifestyle - that we worship God by living for Him. Many authors and teachers today muddle worship and service (serving God), and mix them together. This dilutes true worship. Although living for Him is absolutely crucial, is that really what true worship is? In a quest to try to be better at worshiping God, I've come to a different conclusion over the years. In the next several posts, I will lay the foundation for my own philosophy and definition of real worship.

First, I think we need to understand some probable reasons why today's common philosophy of worship is so prevalent. I'm going to list one reason below.

In my desire to be a better worshiper, I found myself asking questions like, “What does the bible really say about worship?”, “Where can I find specific examples of people worshiping God in the scriptures?”, “Where is the word ‘worship’ used in the bible?” Questions like these made me put aside all the books on worship and go back to the bible for answers. I had read plenty of scriptures concerning the topic of worship but this time I wanted to go back and look at scriptures with the intention of coming up with my own definition of worship.

Unfortunately the bible doesn’t give a clear one sentence definition of worship. It doesn’t say, “Worship is .................... .” We can, however, find all the places in the bible where the word is used and then get an overall concept of what worship is through all the teachings and examples we find. So my first step was to do a word study on ‘worship‘.  I looked up everywhere in the bible where the word ‘worship’ was found.

I used the New International Version (1984) and discovered that there are 250 places in the bible where ‘worship’ is used (175 times in the Old Testament and 75 times in the New Testament). I began to look up each one. When combined, all the talk about worship would surely give a well rounded concept of worship. Then one day, I picked up another translation - the old King James. What I found was an eye-opener - instead of listing 250 places in the bible where ‘worship’ was used, like the NIV, the King James used the word worship only 188 times. So I checked the New Living Translation. Worship is found 495 times! The Message: 544 times!

Then something really hit me - I realized that anyone's concept and understanding of worship is directly dependent on which translation of the Bible they use! Yes, someone’s theology of worship can be contingent upon the translators of a particular Bible version. After all, the translators decide when and where to use the particular English word ‘worship’ to express a particular original language Hebrew or Greek word.

What this means is that someone who uses the Message or the New Living Translation will have a much more generalized view of worship compared to someone using the King James or New King James versions. These translations using the word 'worship' liberally have contributed to today's diluted philosophy of worship.

Below is a listing of how many times the word ‘worship’ is used (including any derivative such as worshiping, worshiped, worshiper, worships) in a sampling of different translations (reference: www.biblegateway.com);



The question becomes: who is right? Which translation more accurately defines what worship is? Is the Message translation too liberal in its use of the word 'worship'? Is the King James too restrictive? I wanted to be sure of one thing - my philosophy of worship was not based on a particular group of men who decided when and where to use the word worship. I needed to look at the original Greek and Hebrew words. Not only that, I needed to look at Biblical examples of worship as well, combined with the principles of worship, found in the Old and New Testaments.

A lesson to be learned here:  When doing a Bible word search - for any word, not just worship - be aware that the number of search results depends on what translation you use. For example, you can't simply say that the word worship is found 250 times in the Bible. You can only say, "The word worship is found 250 times in the NIV."

Next post: a look at some Greek and Hebrew words for worship. Then, in a later post, I will share what I believe is the one major contributing verse that has, in my opinion, erroneously led to today's common philosophy of watered-down worship: Romans 12:1.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is Worship Becoming Watered Down? - Part 2

  I'm working on a book project tentatively called "Worshiping In The Zone." A lot of what I'm writing in this blog is coming from that project. This post is part 2 of what will be a several part series. That's because I want to lay a foundation explaining how I came to establish my personal one-sentence definition of worship - which I will reveal in time.
  In the last entry I talked about how the philosophy of worship today seems to be watered down in the sense that most books on the subject are of the opinion that worship is a life style. I don't agree. Such a broad generalization of worship reduces worship to simply living righteously and serving God. Nothing wrong with that, but that's not worship.
The danger develops when the word worship is used so liberally that it clouds any distinction between worship and service - and there is a difference. When the concepts of worshiping God and serving God become the same then there is a problem. Worship and service are linked but not the same.
  Worship leads to service but is not service in itself. Of course, if we truly are worshipers, then we will be motivated to serve God. Service is a byproduct of worship. In this sense, they go together but they are not the same. Sure, it is possible to worship and serve at the same time, but it is also possible to serve God without worshiping Him.  Our act of worship must be more focused and intentional.
  If there is a distinction between worship and service, then what is service? Let’s define it by looking at who a servant is. One who serves is one who is living as a servant, always humbly and willfully available at the master’s every call. A servant is an obedient slave living under the master’s care. As a bond servant, one who serves God is ever obligated to live righteously and always ready and willing to do God’s work. That doesn’t mean they are constantly worshiping the master.
  In the last post, I talked about a seminar I went to where the instructor offered a definition of worship that was incredibly diluted. He said, “Worship is everything we do in life that is pleasing to God”. He even used the illustration of a husband serving his wife by doing the dishes, and called that an act of worshiping God. I couldn't believe my ears. 
  Certainly, a husband doing the dishes for his wife illustrates service. However, if the husband’s only devotion to his wife was to do the dishes and never give her focused attention, such as saying, “I love you” or show affection, the marriage wouldn’t last long would it? On the other hand, if the husband never did anything to serve or help his wife, the marriage would likewise be in trouble. Both are important but different.In the same way, we need to worship God and serve him also. They are both important, but both different.
  A true worshiper has a submissive attitude, and wants to live for Christ and love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. True Christians will surely become living sacrifices for Him, being available for whatever work advances the Kingdom, ministering to others and glorifying Him. Worshipers are servants!
  True worshipers will be compelled to serve the Lord and be driven to live their lives for God. The force that compels is love. God’s love drives worshipers to serve and minister – to take action. One who worships God will naturally serve Him.
  We need to serve, but it is not the same as true, intimate worship. We need to worship, but it is not the same as serving. We can’t simply be worshipers alone, and likewise, we can’t simply be servants alone. We must be worshipers. We must be servants. There is a time for worship and there is a time for service. Thus the very important verse: Matthew 4:10 (NIV),  “…….Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. "
  In the next post I will talk about how my Bible word search for "worship" gave me a revealing result that I wasn't expecting!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Is Worship Becoming Watered Down?

  My concept of worship has changed over the past ten years. As I look back on when I first became a full time worship leader, I admit, I didn’t have a very good concept of worship. I understood song leading, since I am a musician, but I didn’t grasp the concept of worship leading. I have come to realize that almost anyone who can sing can be a song leader in front of a congregation, but there is a big difference between a song leader and a worship leader. The key to being an effective worship leader is this - you need to be a worshiper first! And to be a worshiper you must understand what worship is. This is true for everyone - you must understand what worship is before you can worship God.
    You know what I found out? Most of the worship books of today seem to emphasize one thing in common - that worship is defined by how you live your life. The more I began to read, the more I realized how many authors equate worship to Christian lifestyle. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that there must be something more specific about the practice of worship than just living your life for God. Of course it is important to live your life for God, but is that truly worship? I began to question the common definition of worship found in today’s religious world.

I’ve read all kinds of definitions of worship from many different authors. Some say simply listening to a sermon is worship. Others say that any action we do that glorifies God is worship. I’ve read that teaching someone about Jesus is worship and serving other is worship. Here are more examples of what’s being taught today: preaching is worship, obedience is worship, giving money in the Sunday offering is worship, and giving our life for God’s use is worship. Obviously, all these are good and honor God, but are they really worship? I think not.

I'm convinced that there is a difference between serving God and worshiping God, but today people seem to mix them together. Likewise, there is a difference between giving God glory and worshiping Him, but many would question that. Serving God, living for Him, evangelizing, singing, witnessing, and being a Christian example to others are edifying to God, but should they be grouped into one broad definition of worship? Is it possible that we have watered down our worship, taking what should be a concentrated, focused effort and turning it into a thinned out and diluted concept?

I attended a Worship Leader seminar a few years ago in Austin, Texas. The event offered several workshops on all kinds of subjects pertaining to leading worship. There was one that caught my eye. The topic was worship theology. Sure enough, the instructor offered a definition of worship that was incredibly diluted. He said, “Worship is everything we do in life that is pleasing to God”. I thought to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Everything we do in life that is pleasing to God is worship? He even used the illustration of a husband serving his wife by doing the dishes, and called that an act of worshiping God. What?! Doing the dishes for your wife is an admirable thing to do, but is that really worshiping God?

Here's what I believe: worship and service are different. More to come on why that philosophy is popular today, and what the bible says about worship verses service.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Election Above All Elections

     Election season is crazy! To be honest, I’m tired of it all. I can’t wait for it to be over. And finally, tomorrow night it will be done - yay. I’m tired of all the commercials. I’m tired of all the yelling. I’m tired of how Republicans and Democrats seem to hate each other. Will this country ever be united again instead of divided? I’m tired of the news channels taking sides. Are you for Romney? Then the Fox News channel is for you. Are you for Obama? Then MSNBC is for you. Are there any news channels anymore? I don’t think so. I can’t find real news anywhere, only politics. Today’s news channels have been reduced to political commentary channels.
    Regardless of who wins, on Wednesday, the day after the election, we can be sure that life will still go on. And through the aftermath, I’m reminded of what my dad used to say, “It won’t make any difference, a hundred years from now.”
    There is, however, an election that will make a difference. It is the election that is above all elections. It’s an election that really matters. It is your election!
    That’s right - we, as Christians, have been elected by God to be his chosen people (1 Peter 2:9). Think of it this way - God voted for you!  He chose us (Ephesians 1:4). He is for us. And if He is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?
    Christians are God’s chosen people, and if we are his elect, then we need to work at living a life worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1).
     The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:10a, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.”
    So, yes, this presidential election is important, but not nearly important as yours.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Worship and Astronomy

I love looking at the sky. What an awesome display of God’s power. Whether it’s a beautiful sunset, a clear blue day, the sunrise over the ocean, or a full moon rising on a clear night, the sky is a work of art. Actually it’s the work of one wonderful artist, and that artist is the great Creator of all things.
The bible says that since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen so that man is without excuse when it comes to seeing that there is a God and that He created the universe (Romans 1:20).
Once my wife and I were vacationing in Chattanooga, Tennessee and decided to go up on Lookout Mountain. As I walked up to one of the railings that overlooked the beautiful valley I could see the river below and a fantastic panoramic scene with mountains off in the background. I happened to walk up next to a older man, maybe in his 80’s, standing by himself. As I came to the rail, he noticed me nearby but just kept staring out into the distance. Then, still looking straight ahead, he said, “How can anyone deny there is a God when you see this.” He was right. We have no excuse.
Some, however, exchange the truth for a lie, and worship the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Such is the argument of evolution verses creation. When I see God’s evidence though, I am compelled to worship Him, to express reverence and awe to Him. The skies demonstrate His handiwork. They proclaim the work of His hands and declare His glory (Psalm 19:1). Night after night the skies display God’s knowledge (Psalm 19:2). What a wonder it is to look up at the sky and see the dazzling array of stars that go on forever. Just gazing at the heavens makes you realize how majestic God is, and how amazing our universe is.
Day Four of creation was incredible. That is when God made the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 1:14-19). On the fourth day of creation, God put the heavenly bodies in place. All in one day!
There is so much amazement in the heavens above. First of all, there is the vast expanse of the universe. Have you ever just looked into the starry night, trying to see past the stars with wonder at how big the universe is? Where does it end? How far does it go? I have thought about that many times, but only to come to the frustrating conclusion that my brain is not able to comprehend it. If there is an end to the universe, what is on the other side? That, however, does not make any sense for if there is something on the other side, it is not really the end at all. On the other hand, if there is no end, my mind can’t grasp that either. Therefore, the universe is an unexplained marvel. If you think about it too long, your brain will hurt. That is because as humans, we simply do not have the mental capacity to understand it.
I believe there is a reason for the unexplained night-time sky. It is God’s physical demonstration of a spiritual concept. By displaying the endless stars, God is showing us the concept of eternity. We cannot figure out the universe or eternity, but must trust that God’s promise of eternal life is real. The universe is a marvelous example of endlessness, and another proof that God is the all knowing and powerful creator. We can only try to begin to grasp how vast the knowledge, understanding and creative power of God really is (Psalm 136:5). We can try to understand, but we will never comprehend it (Job 38:18).
Another amazing celestial body is the sun. When I look toward the sun, I’m reminded of God as the wonderful provider of heat and light. The sun is one way He faithfully sustains us. If the earth was just a bit closer or father away from the sun, life would not be sustained, but we are continuously on course. On Day Four the sun miraculously began to burn. That physical miracle is still burning. It is almost like the experience Moses had with the burning bush. It was burning but not consuming itself. The sun burns on.
The sun to me is also another physical reminder of a spiritual concept. We cannot look directly into the sun. The same is true with God. No one has actually seen Him face to face. However, by faith and by the evidence around us, we know He exists.
God is obviously a God of amazing order. The critical and precise orbit of the earth around the sun is another wonder. Life would be snuffed out in no time if the earth’s orbit was off, but it consistently remains on course. Speaking of the earth, what a concept! The only way man is physically confined would be to place him on a sphere, but that is impossible, or is it? I can still not totally grasp the idea that we live on a sphere. No wonder in Columbus’s day they thought the earth was flat. It is only logical (except to the point of trying to figure out where it ends – ouch!). It could only take God to come up with the round earth idea because our human minds couldn’t even imagine it. Why don’t we fall off? Oh, I know about gravity, but that is just another one of God’s incredible inventions. Did it happen by chance? – no way! Not only is the earth a sphere, but it is spinning as well! If it was spinning just slightly slower or faster, we couldn’t function as we do. Yet the glove continues to spin precisely at the right speed.
Not only is the earth round, but it is floating. How can something so heavy float? Again, through inspired writings of the bible, God has given mankind many hints about science. The oldest book in the bible, Job, talks about the earth being suspended over nothing (Job 26:7). So once again, man is without excuse in not only know that there is a God, but in gaining knowledge of how the earth was created.
I like how God puts a little artistic variety in His creation. For example, the moon rotates, but ever so slowly. It only turns once approximately every 30 days, but that happens to be the exact time that it takes to go around the earth one time. So to us, we never see it move. The moon is always showing its same side to us. You would think it would be off slightly over the years, but no! Our God is precise.
Another artistic creation of God, and maybe even a little humor, is the rotation of the planet Uranus. All the planets rotate like the earth, spinning on the horizontal axis, except Uranus. It spins on its vertical axis, like its rolling around the sun! I like to think God saying to us, “OK, you think you have it figured out, now take a look at this one!”
God gives us clues through His creation and through His word, the bible. If only Columbus would have read the bible, he would have known that the earth was round. The prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years before Christ was born, writes about the ‘circle of the earth’ (Isaiah 40:22).
Day four was spectacular also in the fact that the moon was created. “La bella luna!” (beautiful moon in Italian). I love the moon. I especially love moonrises over the ocean. I know that I am blessed to be able to live near the Atlantic Ocean. Years ago, I had a Jeep and owned a permit that allowed me to drive on the beach at night. One autumn night, I was on the beach alone except for my dog. It was a quiet night and very dark. I had gone down on Cape Henlopen beach to do some night surf fishing. As I parked, I noticed I was very secluded. There was nobody around as far as I could see in either direction! I had the beach to myself. Since it is a State Park, in that part of the beach there were no street lights or house lights around me either.
After I had been fishing a while, I noticed something strange very far out on the calm horizon. It looked like a distant ship was on fire! All I could see was an orange glow. In a few minutes, it was getting worse. Then as it grew bigger and brighter, I realized it was the moon rising up over the water! Totally unexpected, I witnesses this beautiful event until it was far up in the sky, with its reflection skimming over the water toward me. Ever since I have been hooked. Now I track the moonrise. More than once I have dragged my family off to the beach on a clear night to watch a moonrise. It is somewhat unique since conditions need to be right. The moonrise has to be at a reasonable hour when it is dark, the moon need to be full, and the sky clear. But when it happens, “la bella luna!”, it’s spectacular, and it always happens exactly on time. When we get to the beach knowing the time of the moonrise, we wait anxiously looking at our watches and sure enough, without fail, it shows up every time (except the time I was an hour off due to daylight savings time). You can be sure of one thing, each time I see a moonrise over the ocean, I take a moment to worship the God of the universe.
It always amazes me that when I get to the beach for a moonrise, some people could care less. Many times we will be on the boardwalk, and when it is almost time for the moonrise, I am anxious and excited, but as I look around me, most people are walking along without a clue. As a matter of fact, few people will pay attention to it. Isn’t that the truth when it comes to God in many people’s lives?
I say look up in the sky. Become a sky watcher. Gaze and marvel what God can do. Acknowledge Him and worship Him. Thank Him for His creation and for sustaining us. Each time you look in the sky, let it prompt you to worship God. Let it remind you of Him. See the wonder of God. His handiwork is all around us.


See also Job 26:7-8, Job 38:1-41, Psalm 19:1-6, Psalm 74:16-17, Psalm 89:11-12, Psalm 102:25, Psalm 136:1-9, Isaiah 40:22, Isaiah 55:10

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Thousand Year Old Man

Did man really once live to be nearly 1000 years old? The bible says in Genesis chapter 5 that Adam lived to be 930 years old. His son Seth lived to be 912 years old. His grandson Enosh: 905 - his great grandson Kenan: 910 - his great, great grandson Mahalelel: 895 - his great, great, great grandson Jared: 962 - his great, great, great, great grandson Enoch was an exception. He lived for 365 years but that’s only because God took him up into heaven before he actually died. Adam’s great, great, great, great, great grandson Methuselah lived to be the oldest of any recorded man - 969 years.
What’s amazing is that Adam lived so long that he actually was alive for 243 of the 969 years of his great, great, great, great, great grandson Methuselah’s life! With that being said, Methuselah could have learned of creation first hand from Adam and actually passed it on to Noah because Noah was Methuselah’ grandson and their lives overlapped by an incredible 600 years.
Now how could man actually live that long? Perhaps the pre-flood conditions such as a unique atmosphere and environment contributed to long life, or possibly the type of air or humidity made a difference. After all, we know that things were different before the flood because it never rained until the flood came. Or could it be that they lived that long because of their type of diet? Maybe their food was made up of nutrients that are not available in today’s world. What ever the case, exceptionally long life actually once existed, especially before the flood.
Why don’t we live that long now? Perhaps it’s because of this post-flood environment that we live in. Or could it be that sin and its consequences began taking a toll on human life, gradually reducing man’s life span? After Noah, who lived 950 years, we see man’s lifespan diminishing. In later times, Abraham lived to be 175 and later Moses lived to be 120.
Another possibility why we don’t live so long today may be due to the fact that God simply decided to ultimately reduce our life span because of our sin and our shortened life is not because of the flood at all! Genesis chapter six indicates that man’s wickedness caused God to not only wipe out almost all of mankind with the flood, but also to limit man’s lifespan to 120 years.
The extreme long life span exemplified by Adam and his immediate descendants is truly remarkable. To live nearly one thousand years is amazing. However, some contend that one thousand of their years was not the same as one thousand of ours. For example, what if one thousand years was really one hundred of our years? What if Methuselah’s 969 years was really 96.9 years? Sounds like a reasonable argument until you think of it this way: Mahalelel, Adam’s great, great grandson, had a son of his own at age 65 but then lived to be 895 years old. If one thousand years was one hundred of our years, then Mahalelel would have had his son at age 6.5! Impossible. Likewise, if Metheselah lived to 96.9 instead of 969, then Moses lived to only age 12 instead of 120.
Since their ancient years were basically the same length as our years, then their ancient days were basically the same length as our days - 24 hours. What does that say for the days of creation? Did God create everything in 6 twenty-four hour days and rest on the seventh? An evolutionist would say this is crazy. On the other hand, the creationist says it is not only possible, but probable.
Consider this section of scripture: Exodus 20:8-11. ["Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”]
In this passage, God is talking to Moses and tells him to ‘remember the Sabbath day’. He is referring to a 24 hour day. God again talks of a 24 hour day when he says, “six days you shall labor.....” and “...the seventh day is a Sabbath..” And here’s the kicker: God continues to use the same terminology when he says, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth......” In this whole passage of scripture God is using the term ‘day’ all in the same context. A day is a day is a day!
So yes, God is powerful enough to create everything in six days (or less if he wanted to). And man once lived to be almost 1000 years old. Wow.