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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Divine Perspective

My daughter, Jessica, is pursuing a Ph.D. in bio-chemistry at Auburn University in Alabama. I am very proud of who she is, the work she is doing, and how she reflects the love of Jesus in what she does. But sometimes when she begins to talk about her work, I am reminded she was blessed with her mother’s portion of brain power.

While on the phone with her the other day, I asked what she had done that week. She said, “Well, I conducted large scale expressions on bacteria to extract KatG protein, otherwise known as catalase-peroxidase protein, using sonification to lyse the cells to extract the proteins that were overexpressed. This was done with multiple varieties of chromatography protocols. Then I tested these proteins using UV-visible spectroscopy and an oxygen sensitive electrode.”

I said, “ummm…OK.” Then in an effort to sound intelligent, I asked, “Why did you do that? What did you hope to accomplish?”

She said, “I did that to determine the activity of a protein that enables tuberculosis to withstand attacks from its host.”

To that, I articulately said, “ummm….OK.” I gave up and simply told her, “It sounds like you had a great week!”

Since I had no idea what she just said, and in attempt to maintain my pride, I said, “Let’s pretend that I had absolutely no idea what you just said. Tell me what you just said in plain ol’ English.”

So, she told me she was analyzing some proteins to understand why tuberculosis sometimes sticks around when it should have been eradicated.

I said, “Oh! That sounds important and worthwhile. Why didn’t you just say that?”

The thing is, I know what she is doing is more complex and profound than what she told me. She just knows that if she gave me more, my mind would literally explode, so she gave me what she knew I could handle for now.

This was not the first time I had been in a conversation where the discussion had been way over my head. Actually, it seems like I am in many of those types of conversations. When I get in those situations, I know what the person is saying is important and I know it is worthwhile, but I also realize they are communicating on such a different level than me, I just have to try to keep up.

It is this way with God sometimes. Many times the core of our problems is our inability to know and understand God’s ways. The Lord said in Isaiah 55:9, “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (HCSB)

Because God works from the divine perspective, there are times we must simply trust His goodness and faithfulness and realize He will show us only what we can handle at the moment.

We make our plans and they go awry, and then we get frustrated and angry because things did not go as we planned. Perhaps, that was because God was working something different than we had imagined. We wonder if God is listening to our prayers because we have been asking repeatedly for Him to reveal His plan for us. When we encounter silence in our prayers, we may be tempted to think God does not care. It might just be that it is not time for Him to reveal His plan to us because it would be incomprehensible at that point in time.

God’s ways are not only higher they are bigger than our thoughts. His thoughts, His ways, and His plans are on another level than our thought process. Therefore, when He shows us a little bit of His plan which He thinks we can handle, it might surprise us. However, we must understand that if God is asking us to do something surprising, something difficult, something different, He is performing a work in our lives we might not even be able to imagine.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Million Dollar Highway

Here is a video of our recent trip to Durango. This section of the trip shows Ouray, Colorado to Silverton, Colorado on what is called "The Million Dollar Highway." This is one of the most spectacular drives in the country but in winter, it is a little tricky. This minute and a half video represents about an hour drive. It starts in Ouray at around 7,700 feet above sea level and finished in Silverton at about 9,300 feet above sea level and goes over Red Mountain Pass at 11,000 feet above sea level.

Note that there are few guard rails throughout the drive. It is hard to view the scenery in this video but try to glimpse the view throughout. Note also the condition of the road worsen as we get closer to Red Mountain Pass.

The image below is a graphic from a shirt I own that represents the same drive.

I love living in Colorado and living in this part of Colorado!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I am Not in Control

I received an iMessage the other day that may be common in the world we live in but one that no father wants to get from his daughter. “My school’s on lockdown. A convict is on the loose and has been seen on our campus.” My daughter goes to school over 500 miles away in that vast wilderness called “Texas.” Of course, there was nothing I could do to protect her, so I began to pray, but I was still trying to figure out what I could do. Maybe I could…no, that wouldn’t work…Maybe I should…no, that is impractical…Maybe I will…seriously, get ahold of yourself – if you are dad, you know how your emotions can spiral a bit out of control when it comes to protecting your children.

That is when God calmed my heart and reminded me of something He has been trying to teach me lately: I am not in control. This reminded me a passage of Scripture.
"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. [12] "Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. [13] "Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13, NASB)
Yes, I am not in control. Why is this idea such an astonishing concept for me to grasp? I am not in control – never have been; never will be. I cannot control whether my daughter will be harmed when she is 500 miles away from me and I cannot control if she will be harmed if she is living in the same town I live in. I am not in control.
In that moment of praying, God gently reminded me of all the things in which I am not in control. I have been at my current church for just over five months and have been to five funerals, three of which I have presided over. I have no control who dies and when. My wife had to have another back surgery this month. While I wish I could take the pain from her and heal her, I have no control over her pain or her healing. For me, the realization that I am not in control is not exactly what I wanted to hear but I am not even in control of what God wants to teach me! (Can you imagine!?)
God did not leave me there, though. In addition to reminding me that I am not in control, He reminded me that HE is – And He always has been! God being in control means that my daughter was not left in the hands of an escaped convict; she was in the hands of the Perfect Father, our Abba – and she always has been! God controlling all things means that my wife is not in left the hands of a fallible surgeon; She is in the hands of the Great Physician who never makes a mistake and uses our weakness for his strength (2 Cor. 12:10) – and she always has been! God being in control means that He will use what He wants to teach me what He wants at the exact time He wants to teach it to me. Frankly, it is humbling, but I could use some humbling on a regular basis to remind me I serve a Sovereign Father who loves me deeply by reminding me I am not in control.

My daughter was on lockdown for about five hours and then, when it was safe, all the students were released. So she and eleven of her friends went to get pizza – college students…always eating. She was safe and I praised God, not just because my daughter was safe, although that was a major praise, but I praised God because of who God is. The Sovereignty of our God means that He can do what He wants, teach me what He wants, use what He wants, to accomplish what He wants. Like 1 Chronicles 29:13 says, “Therefore”, because You are in COMPLETE control of ALL things, “we thank You and praise Your glorious name.” Thank You, Lord, that I am not in control.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Urim, Thummim, and the Danger of Misinterpretation

The mystical interpretations some pastors preach never ceases to amaze me.

I was tuned to a different radio station while running late for work one day this week. Because of the later time, I was able to hear a preacher I would not normally catch. I did not know who this preacher was but I was not really surprised that I heard some truly poor exposition that I felt I needed to address for two reasons: 1) to correct the poor handling of Scripture, and 2) to show how a mishandling of Scripture moves the preacher off the topic of Christ. When any teaching is the product of poor hermeneutics, the teaching becomes mystical and the preacher becomes a something of a preaching magician. While the congregation "ooos" and "ahhs" over his magical skills in interpretation they for forget that, like any magic show, it is all just an act.

The sermon I was listening to was being shared by Jon Courson, who I really do not know much about. In fact, I forced myself to listen to the whole program so I could find out who was preaching. I have heard his name but have never really heard him preach before. I am not attacking his person; I know nothing about this man. But I feel I must say something about this teaching. Much like Paul confronting Peter when Peter was wrong, I feel I should do the same (Galatians 2:11-21)

Jon was teaching on the urim and thummim mentioned in Scripture. I say "mentioned" because there are only seven verses in all of Scripture that refer to thummim and/or urim (Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8, Numbers 27:21, Deuteronomy 33:8, 1 Samuel 28:6, Ezra 2:63, Nehemiah 7:65). There is nothing in Scripture that tells us what the urim and thummim were or how they were used. Yet, Pastor Courson provided vivid detail on what these were and how God used them.

He indicated that they were stones on the breastplate of the priest (Exodus 28:30 tells us they were to placed in the breastplate but it does not indicate they were stones). He went on to teach that God would actually light up the stones on the breastplate of the priest as part of the use of the urim and thummim (you can read that at his website here as well). I assume he developed that theory from the literal translation of the names ("urim" means "lights" and "thummim" means "perfection."). The Scriptures says NOTHING about the breastplate of the priest lighting up like "Simon" game (I encourage the reader to take the time to read the seven verses above).

So far, there is no real theological problem with this teaching but there is a big hermeneutical problem. I am not sure why a person would want to invent information about anything in Scripture especially when there is absolutely no supporting evidence for it. The theological problem occurred when the poor hermeneutic produced a poor conclusion. Courson began saying something like this: "Just like the priest's breastplate lit up with lights when God was telling his people what to do, Jesus told us 'you are the light of the world' and therefore we are capable of giving others guidance." In short, I came away from the sermon feeling like he was reducing our ministry, and worse Jesus' ministry, to that of a magic 8-ball.

When Jesus told his followers they would be lights of the world (Matthew 5:14), he was not referring to the urim and thummim, and decision making. He was talking about the light of the gospel going into this dark world (Matthew 5:16). Jesus did not come to help us make better decisions or to help us know what we should do. He came to raise us from the dead and give us life. He came to rescue us from the darkness and transfer us into His Son's Kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14). He came to give His life as a ransom (Matthew 20:28). He came to redeem us and forgive us (Ephesians 1:7). But His purpose for coming was not so we could make better decisions.

Additionally, Jesus did not give believes the ministry of better decision making. He gave us the ministry of reconciling the lost world to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). He gave us the ministry of making disciples (Matthew 28:19). He gave us the ministry, as mentioned above, of being lights in the darkness. But the main ministry of believers is not making better decisions.

Yes, the Holy Spirit gives believers wisdom and guidance when making decisions (Galatians 5:25). Yes, Jesus uses other believers to help us when we have difficult choices (Proverbs 11:14). Yes, we all need to make better decisions as believers. But, using the urim and thummim to teach this truth smacks of attempting to impress people with magical hermeneutical skills and, in the end, conveys the wrong message about Jesus' ministry.

For this reason, we must be careful to say what the Bible says about an issue, and remain silent where the Bible is silent. I have no idea what the urim and thummim were or how the priest used them. That is because the Bible remains silent on the issue. A pastor should not have to take an obscure passage or item from the Old Testament to tantalize his congregation. The Word is powerful enough on its own (Isaiah 55:11, Hebrews 4:12).

For an interesting on the urim and thummim, this article gives a good balanced approach about this mysterious apparatus of the priests garments.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 7.28.2014

"Now, back in Fort Smith there's a 'sportin' lady' named Big Faye. She was shot twice with this thing. But....she dresses out at about two hundred and ninety so none of the bullets found their way to any of the vitals. But against ordinary people, this gives good service."
Rooster Cogburn, played by John Wayne, on Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne's second to last film) while talking about the Five-Barreled Ladies Companion gun.