Starry Night

So it’s 3:00 AM.  A noisy truck went by outside the window and I thought it was the trash truck doing its rounds.  It wasn’t, but we are overloaded with trash from Christmas and I realized I hadn’t put it out to the curb, so I had to get up and do that.  It’s a beautiful night, crispy cold and a bit hazy but with bright stars twinkling in the sky.  It reminded me that I had not posted the “next” part of my reminiscing.

* * *

In 1960, my family moved to Hutchinson, Minnesota, because 3M had transferred my Dad there to a new magnetic tape factory.  We moved before I started third grade that fall.  My parents had lived in the city of St. Paul their entire lives, but now we lived out in the country, albeit in town, not on a farm.  However, at the end of our street there was a big cornfield and there were a lot of woods to explore.  I specifically remember that in the spring there were enough frogs around that we could fill jars with them.  Little boys, what are you gonna do!

Anyway, at about this time of the year, probably in the early part of 1961 after Christmas break, my teacher finally figured out that I couldn’t see the blackboard and she told my parents.  So I got my first pair of glasses.  I was amazed at what the word looked like and how much there was to see!  I remember one cold night I was walking back home from my friend’s house across the street, and I looked up into the moonless sky.  I mentioned earlier that tonight there are some bright stars in the sky which are very pretty, but this is, after all, New Jersey, and there are only a few and with the air being what it is and the ambient light in these parts, you really can’t see too many.  But in Hutchinson, Minnesota, in the winter of 1961 you can see them all!  Here there are trees all around, but not so in the Midwestern plains.  There were stars right down to the ground!

I had never seen anything like it.  I had only recently turned eight years old, but I was profoundly affected.  Ever since I could remember I had been told about God and how He had made everything, and now I understood what that meant.  I knew then that He was real, and that He had made each one of those stars, and that He was amazing!  Later I learned the words from Psalm 8:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

That was my reaction.  This might seem like a lot for an eight-year-old to take in, but I believe that this was God’s intention all along.  In Romans 1:20 we read:

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:

Part of the reason for the work of creation is to reveal the nature of God to us.  And from that day on I don’t think I ever doubted that there was a God in Heaven and that He had created everything we see.  I didn’t know much about Him, but that would come later.

In a previous post I quoted the first verse of the hymn “How Great Thou Art” in reference to thunderstorms.  But it also mentions the stars:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

I love this hymn because it represents the simplicity of my youth, and it shows to me that God has made things so that even little children can begin to understand the majesty of God and all that He has done.  The last two verses are:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
To take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And there proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

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Where is God?

It has been a while since I have posted anything, but my wife posted the following to my Facebook and it made me realize that lately I have not been paying attention to God’s presence in my life.

God Whispers

It made me think of Elijah in the Old Testament and the despair that came upon him.

[1Ki 19:1-18]
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

So here’s Elijah, exhausted, hungry, pursued by his enemies, thinking his life is now worthless, and asking to die.  But God has other ideas.  He feeds his prophet miraculously for forty days and nights, so Elijah can gain his strength for the tasks that God has waiting for him.

But even then Elijah sounds a bit petulant.  When God asks what he’s doing there, Elijah gives a list of his grievances, as if he had rehearsed them in his mind over and over.  It is almost an accusation against God for the situation he finds himself in, as if God owes him an explanation, and not acknowledging in any way the recent care he has received without any of his own effort.  So God gets his attention, not with a tornado, not with an earthquake, not with a fire, but (as the Hebrew poet said) with a “whisper in the breeze.”

Elijah’s words are the same, but his demeanor is very different.  Now he is a supplicant, telling his God of his troubles, but now seemingly in anticipation of instructions. God gives him those instructions, showing him that his life is not over, that he has great plans for Elijah.  And not only that, but Elijah is also not alone.  There’s not just a handful of men ready to serve God like in the days of Gideon, but seven thousand men!

It is easy to let the circumstances of life become the focus of our energy.  Like Elijah, we look at what led us to where we are and what we think is going to happen next, and figure that there’s no use, that whatever we might do will not make any difference and we want to just give up.  But God is always right here, keeping track of everything.  Sometimes “the journey is too great for thee,” and you have to slow down and replenish, and maybe not much happens in your life that seems of any value.  But listen for the whisper in the breeze.  Listen for the plans that God has for you, and know that there are others around you who are waiting for the same whispering words.

[1Co 2:9 KJV] But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Sound Bites

As I noted in my first post, right after my twentieth birthday I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and I have been reading and studying the Bible ever since. Certain verses in the Bible have more significance to me than others and bring to my mind a wide range of thoughts and memories. It occurred to me that these verses are similar to “sound bites” that are used in our fast-paced news world to convey important events and to make the information “stick” in everyone’s mind. Over a period of time I went through the Bible and selected those passages that have the most meaning or are the most memorable to me personally. Here is the first post about these sound bites which I hope to present along with my observations and, of course, stories.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Let’s start at the very beginning (did I just hear Julie Andrews singing?). Everything I believe starts with God. I make no apologies for my belief in him and I write with the perspective that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God who loves each one of us individually with an everlasting love. That being said, let’s look at this verse.

It’s pretty straight-forward and simple. It says that God made everything. I remember from my earliest days in Catholic school that the very first question/answer in the Baltimore Catechism was: “Who made the world? God made the world.” And another one: “Why did God make me? God made me…” There was probably more to that last one, but that’s what stuck in my mind. Someone made me, and that seemed to imply that I had some responsibility to whoever that was. I suppose that impression never left me, and it shaped much of what I did throughout my life, both good and bad.

I am also a mathematical, science-oriented kind of guy, with particular interest in astronomy and cosmology on one end, and quantum mechanics on the other end. My faith in God and my agreement with Genesis 1 does not in any way conflict with my scientific view of the world. The universe exists because God made it. Not just the physical components of it, but all the laws that govern it. God is an orderly God, as indicated by a couple verses in 1 Corinthians:

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Cor 14:33)
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor 14:40)

So how do I reconcile the story of creation as told in Genesis with what I know to be true about the age and condition of the universe? To put it bluntly, I don’t. There are any number of theological, metaphysical, philosophical, and scientific books and websites that deal with this conundrum. My thought is this: science can only provide answers to things that are physical and observable. Many definitions of scientific reasoning require that a scientific hypothesis be falsifiable, i.e., it must be able to state conditions that would prove the hypothesis wrong. For example, many scientists maintain that string theory is not scientific but only philosophical, because its adherents are unable to state any feasible experiments that could show it to be false. So science is not capable of answering all questions.

But some fundamental questions are of the utmost importance. The first question is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Another is, “Why am I here, and what is my purpose (I guess that’s two questions)?” In Acts 16:30 a jailer asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” In other words, what can I do about my shortcomings (sin) and how do I answer to my Maker? So there are “big” questions about the universe, and there are very personal questions about individuals. The Bible has answers to many of these questions and I intend to stick mostly to the ones about individuals. So the first thing to know, the first answer, is presented in the very first verse: God made everything, including you.

There are some other interesting things about this verse and about all of Genesis. Genesis means “origin” and many of the ideas presented in the Bible’s first book are expanded upon in later chapters. The verses can also be contrasted with later verses. One of the origins described in this book is the existence of sin, “original” sin if you will. Although it begins with “In the beginning God,” Genesis ends “in a coffin in Egypt” (Gen 50:26). The Old Testament ends ominously with this:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. Mal 4:5-6

Pretty bleak.

But the New Testament begins with “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matt 1:1)
And it ends with

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen. (Rev 22:20-21)

The Bible starts with God in the beginning; it ends with a personal request for the Lord Himself to return, and a request that His grace be with you all. I always preferred the New Testament ending to the Old Testament ending – not a curse, but God’s grace, grace that is available to everyone, including you.

Bible Geek Trivia

A long time ago I was teaching myself to program in C. I needed to write a program that would interest me so this is what I came up with. Around that time I was having a conversation with Gene Higgins, a Gospel preacher that I know, about how God sometimes called people by using their name twice. For instance, “Samuel, Samuel,” and “Moses, Moses.” Since I didn’t know how often this happened, I figured that I would write a program to find out.

I used the Online Bible, sometimes called the Winterbourne Bible, since it was the King James Version, it normalized some of the names to be consistent, and it was free. As I started to test my results, I decided to expand my search to find not just names but any double words (“Unclean, unclean,” in Leviticus 13:45). Then there were some triple words (“Holy, holy, holy” in Isaiah 6:3), some “Double pairs” (“Babylon is fallen, is fallen.” in Isaiah 21:9), and some Double triples (“line upon line, line upon line” in Isaiah 28:10). So these were my final rules:
1. From the King James Version text.
2. All words were changed to lower case.
3. Punctuation and numbers were ignored.
4. Apostrophes were eliminated, as in Gen 8:16
….. “and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives”
….. This is a Double triple since the apostrophe is ignored.
5. The ends of sentences were ignored, so matches may span two sentences.
6. Double word is the same word twice in a row, as in 1 Sam 3:10
….. “Samuel, Samuel”
7. Triple word is the same word three times in a row, as in Isa 6:3
….. “Holy, holy, holy”
….. Note that this also shows up as two Double words
….. “Holy, holy, holy” and “Holy, holy, holy
8. Double pair is the same pair of words twice in a row, as in Rev 18:2
….. “is fallen, is fallen”
9. Double Triple is the same three words twice is a row, as in Isa 28:13
….. “line upon line, line upon line”
10. There are no Triple Pairs or Triple Triples

You can see the results here.

It turned out to be much longer than I thought it would be, and I was surprised when I saw what the first result was, because I never noticed it before:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)

It is the first Double Triple: “…and the earth. And the earth…”

Per Omnia Saecula Saeculorum

By the way, for some thoughts on Easter, see Some Easter Thoughts.

I remember as a small child going to the big St. Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota, with my grandmother. This was definitely in the “old days” when it was in Latin and you pretty much sat there and listened. But there were a few times when the priest would turn to the congregation and say something in Latin and we were expected to answer in Latin. The one I remember hearing first was “Dominus vobiscum,” to which the response sounded to me like “et cum spiri 2-2-0.” I kept looking in the missal for those numbers, but I couldn’t find them. Of course in English it is “The Lord be with you,” followed by “and also with you” or “and with your spirit,” the Latin being “et cum spirtu tuo.” So no numbers at all.

During a High Mass the priest would sing (chant, actually) some of the words, and the congregation would sing back. One expression I remember that the priest sang was “Per omnia saecula saeculorum,” to which the congregation would reply “Amen.” Later, when the Mass was set in the English vernacular, this became “for ever and ever, amen.” It is a Latin idiom that translates as “unto the ages of the ages” but simply means “for ever and ever.”

Which brings me to what I was thinking about. In John chapter three, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, one of the teachers in Israel. At one point Jesus says:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:14-17)

Why are there two different expressions, “eternal life” in verse 15 and “everlasting life” in verse 16? Are two different thoughts being expressed? Well it turns out that in Greek they are the same word. But after doing a little more research there are some subtleties in the usage of the word. It can mean “without beginning or end”, “without end”, or “without beginning”.

An example of the last usage is in 2 Tim 1:9:

Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2 Tim 1:9)

God’s purpose and grace existed without beginning, before the world was created. An example of something that never ends can be found in Hebrews:

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21)

Hey, there’s that “for ever and ever, amen!” Here we see that there is an everlasting covenant that will never end, which was sealed with the blood of Christ at Calvary. God Himself is, of course, an example of the other usage, having neither beginning nor ending. So is there a difference between “everlasting” and “eternal?” In the King James Version of the Bible it appears that the words are used interchangeably even though they sometimes have slightly different meanings. I thought of it this way: when everlasting life is being contrasted with perishing or death, it seems to have the meaning of “never-ending,” i.e., you won’t perish (end) but will live forever (everlasting). On the other hand, when it is mentioned in the context of the life of Christ, it seems to mean “no beginning or ending.” since Christ has no start or end. As an example of the first:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand. I and [my] Father are one. (John 10:27-30)

Once saved our life will never end, we will never perish, we will live forever. In contrast to that we have:

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; [and] he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:11-13)

Here we see that we have obtained an eternal life that in God’s Son, a life that is “eternal” in the sense that it has neither beginning nor end. So when God saved me, he gave me the life that is in His Son, not just to live forever, but having that eternal character that stretches into the infinite past and into the infinite future. This may seem like a difference without a distinction, but as a one-time math major I see a difference. I will live forever since God saved me. But I will always be able to tell exactly how long I have been saved (at least relative to time on Earth). Since I was saved on Feb 18, 1973, today on April 20, 2014, I have been saved 15,036 days (Excel is very useful). So even though the time ahead of me is infinite, my experience of that time always has a finite measurement. The last verse that is usually sung in the hymn “Amazing Grace” alludes to this:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

But we have more than that, we have the life that is in His Son, an eternal life without beginning or end, a truly infinite life:

And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:1-10)

On this Easter, know that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and through Him, His work on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead, God is able to save everyone.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4)

The choice is yours. Where will you be “for ever and ever?”

Some Easter Thoughts

Here are some thoughts about God’s character that you might consider during the Easter season.

Did you ever notice the first thing God did after He created Adam? Well, He rested:

Gen 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

But if you look further down in the passage, you find this:

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

After He made Adam, God planted a garden. God considered the effort of planting a garden not to be work, but part of his rest. I have known many people who didn’t think of gardening as work, but relaxation. As I have said elsewhere, my earliest memory is of a flower garden. God planted a garden and it was the perfect place for Adam and Eve to live, to grow, and to serve Him. So Adam became a gardener also, the first “job” in human history.

Gen 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

But when Adam and Eve sinned, God cast them out of the garden and death passed upon all men.

Gen 2:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Now, let’s look forward to the time of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is sharing His last Passover with His apostles (though they don’t know it), and Judas has left to betray Him. The meal is over and Jesus prays to His Father. These are the last words He spoke at the Last Supper:

John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

They leave the upper room and go into the night. But where do they go?

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

He went into a garden, the garden of Gesthemane. And here, leaving His disciples to sleep, He anticipates His final, perfect act of Redemption. While Jesus is in this agony, Judas, having collected his thirty pieces of silver, leads the mob to Jesus. But how does Judas know where He will be?

John 18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. 3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

Of course! Jesus must be in the garden, for He often went there with His disciples. It was a place that He loved to go, to rest, to pray. But this time He is taken by the soldiers, unjustly tried, mocked, scourged, and sent to Calvary, bearing His own cross. He is nailed to that cross and lifted up between heaven and earth (John 3:14-15). On the cross He enters into the darkness and completes the work of redemption, suffering the wrath of God that we deserved, so that we might be delivered from our sin and its consequences. But the darkness clears and the Savior remains! “Finished!” He cries. What happens next is fitting because in life the Lord Jesus had no place of His own, saying to the crowd at one point, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Matt 8:20)” But here at last He finds the only place to rest His head: His own breast.

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Jesus is dead. Where will He be buried?

John 19:41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

His body is laid in a new tomb which is, of course, in a garden.

Now we move ahead to Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and the women come to the garden to anoint the body of their beloved Lord. They came early, and one can only assume that the men are still sleeping. Who is there first?

John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

Peter and John run to the garden and enter the sepulchre, but they are baffled. They still do not understand that the Messiah, their crucified Lord, must rise from the dead. They leave, but Mary, completely distraught, remains behind.

John 20:10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. 11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Not recognizing the Lord through her tears, Mary nevertheless perceives someone asking her a question, and she assumes it is the gardener! God’s character has never changed since the days of creation and it never will.

The Song of Songs is the poem of the Bridegroom and the Bride. Our Bridegroom has ascended into glory. The daughters ask, “Where has He gone?”

Song 6:1 Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. 2 My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3 I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine! He is in His heavenly garden, and for now we are away from Him. But we know He will return for us, our Savior, our Bridegroom, our Beloved, our Gardener. We will hear His voice and be caught up to meet Him, and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1Th 4:13-17).

Song 2:8 The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. 9 My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice. 10 My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 11 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle [dove] is heard in our land; 13 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Rev 22:20

Why The Flood?

Why The Flood?

The movie “Noah” is now in the theaters. It is difficult to produce a movie based on a biblical story and make it appealing to a wide, secular audience, so I understand some cinematic liberties were taken. I guess some people are upset because it shows Noah getting drunk after the flood, but that really happened (Gen 9: 20-21). It happens to be the first time either vineyards or wine are mentioned in the Bible. I’ll probably take a pass on going to see it since my taste runs more to comedies and cartoons. The last movie I saw was the Lego Movie, and before that was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs II, not to mention Frozen.

But let’s answer a different question: why did God send the flood anyway? And what difference does it make today?

The story begins in Genesis chapter 6.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Gen 6:5-8)

Man’s wickedness was so great, that even his imaginations and thoughts were evil, ALL THE TIME! And notice that the reference is to the thoughts of the heart, not the mind (see “Your Heart“). All of man’s affections and desires were captivated by his own evil thoughts and imaginations. But Noah was different. It has been said that mercy withholds punishment that is deserved and grace provides blessing and happiness that is not deserved. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Unlike what the movie portrays, God actually spoke to Noah and gave him instructions, and when he does he provides more information about why he has come to this destructive decision:

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark … (Gen 6:11-14)

The earth was filled with violence. This was the main reason that God decided to destroy the earth. Man exhibited his violent nature right from the start. After Cain and Abel were born, Cain turned in rage on his brother and killed him. God said to Cain, “the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” It was the first human blood shed, but not the last, and now the earth is filled with blood and violence. So God tells Noah that he will destroy the earth.

Even with this depravity before him, God is merciful and patient. Noah spent a hundred years building the ark, and during that time was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5), telling all who would listen about the judgment that was coming. Noah’s grandfather was Methusaleh, the man who lived longer than anyone else. His name means “his death shall bring judgment” and if you add up the numbers in Genesis chapter 5 you will see that he died the same year as the flood. So 969 years before the flood, a child is born and given a name that predicts that God’s judgment is coming, but then God lets him live longer than anyone else. God is indeed gracious and merciful!

So what does this have to do with us today, other than maybe spending an afternoon at the movie theater to see a story loosely based on the scriptural account? Well, Jesus made a prediction that mentions Noah and his times.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is [in your midst]. And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see [it]. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after [them], nor follow [them]. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one [part] under heaven, shineth unto the other [part] under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed [them] all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two [men] in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two [women] shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two [men] shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body [is], thither will the eagles be gathered together.

“As it was in the days of Noah… so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” The days when the Lord shall come again will have the same character as there was in Noah’s day – a world full of violence. Now there have been many times in history that were particularly violent: the days of Genghis Khan, the “eastern front” in Russia in World War II, the concentrated violence of the nuclear weapons exploded in Japan, and the destructive nature of communism in the 20th century that led to the deaths of perhaps 100 million people. But I marvel at the nature of violence that currently surrounds us. Obviously there are places in the world that are suffering from war and revolutionary resistance, but here in our peaceful nation we are surrounded by it as a means of entertainment.

In the first place, we can watch all the contrived violence we want at the movies and on TV. Not like the “old days” when the bad guy was shot and he clutched his chest and fell over. Now we have exploding heads and disembowelled teenagers. Video games are becoming more realistically violent at the behest of those who play them; the more violent, the more successful they are. And one of the most popular memes on the internet is the “epic fail”, which tend to show people getting hurt or vehicles being destroyed in various ways. And this violence is not meant to shock or cause moral outrage, it is for entertainment!

The character of our age appears similar to that of the days of Noah. The judgment may well be upon us. So what is the solution, what can one do, where is God’s grace? Here’s more verses from Genesis.

And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation…
For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him…
And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights…
And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. (Gen 7:1,4-5,10-12,16)

When I read this passage in Sunday School, I ask the kids, “Where was God when he said this to Noah?” Obviously, he had to be in the ark or else he would have said “Go into the ark.” Deliverance from judgment is not obtained by our own efforts, but by responding to an invitation from God, an invitation to be with God. I don’t know what is portrayed in the Noah movie, but notice that Noah didn’t shut the door, God did. Noah and his family and the animals entered the ark, and the door still stood open. Anyone else could have joined them, but no one did, and God finally shut Noah and his family in. The way of deliverance was now closed, and everyone else who had refused the invitation perished.

Jesus Christ offered the same invitation when he was here:

“Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28)

He invites each and every person to come to him. When the door of the ark stood open, there was no more work to be done, Noah had finished it. It was as simple as walking through the door. The same is true today. Christ’s invitation rests on a work that is completed, his death on Calvary. And he also said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

Judgment is due. It may not be today or next week, but it is inevitable. There was only one door to the ark, and there is only one door to eternal life, the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the last verses in the Bible still offers the invitation to all:

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Rev 22:17)

The door is still open, will you come in?

Your Heart

English is a language that is full of nuance. The meaning or concept behind a statement can change depending on the tone in which it is spoken (for example, sarcastically), or on the emphasis that is given to different words. I’m not sure if other languages are like this, but it lends a versatility to English that can be very useful.

When my children were young, it was always difficult to get them to do what they were told. I know this is not unusual, but with my oldest daughter (you can find her here) every direction I gave was met with a “discussion”, i.e., an argument. I remember one day I had reached the end of my rope, so I said to her, “Clean your room. Clean your room. Clean your room. Clean your room.” I then explained what I meant by each of the ways I said the same sentence.

Clean your room. Of all the things you can do to your room, clean it.”
“Clean your room. Of all the rooms that can be cleaned, clean yours.”
“Clean your room. Of all the things you have that can be cleaned, clean your room.”

There is a statement in Proverbs 23:26 that can be stated in the same manner:
My child, give me your heart.

My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.

I am going to look at this from the point of view of a person who has accepted Christ as Savior, who is born again, and has been made a child of God.

My child, give me your heart.
To whom do we belong? Each of us is a child of our parents, but here is a reminder that each of us is God’s child as well. In fact, his claim on us takes precedence over earthly relationships. He sent his only Son to die for us, to pay the price of freedom, to redeem us out of our slavery to sin. 1 Cor 6:19-20 says, “ye are not your own… Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

My child, give me your heart.
What is my relationship to God? I am his child. I am not just a servant or a hired hand or a friend, but I am, in fact, his child. “But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13). We not only belong to God, we have been born again into a heavenly relationship with Him. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

My child, give me your heart.
We have a heart full of desires, and God wants it. How will he get it? Will he steal it from us without any input from us? Will he bribe us for it, buying our affection with gifts and promises? I suppose he could do those things or maybe others to gain our heart. But he won’t. He wants us to give it to him. Without any strings attached, he wants us to just hand it over to him. He wants us to give him all our affections, our desires, our longings, our love, without any thought from us that we will gain anything in return. Why would we do this? Because that’s what he did for us.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16.

He gave the greatest gift ever given to show his love for us. He sent his only son to become a man to win our hearts, and our response was to crucify him. Yet this was so he could create in us a new heart, one that would love him unconditionally (Ezek 36:26).

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
(Eph 2:4-7)

By the way, he doesn’t want us to lend it to him just for a while so we can have it back to turn our affections towards other things – he wants us to give it to him.

My child, give me your heart.
Of all the people and things we could give our heart to, he wants us to give it to him. Well, what does this even mean? It sounds kind of poetic and not very practical. How do I give my heart to anyone? Well, in a simple sense, what do you spend your time doing? You work to make a life for you and your family, to make sure they are well provided for, that you have time to enjoy the life you have built up. You have ambitions about what you will do with your life to be productive, to leave a positive mark on the world. There is nothing wrong with these things. God has left us here in order to be good stewards of the time and talents that he has given us (see Matt 25:14-29). But there is something else to consider.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(Matt 6:19-21)

Our heart will follow wherever our treasure is. If we value the things of God, if we view our life from an eternal, heavenly perspective, even the treasure we gain here on earth will only reflect the treasure we are gaining in heaven: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Cor 2:9)”

My child, give me your heart.
When all is said and done, it is still my heart to do with as I please. Even though he paid such a high price to make it possible for me to even have a clean heart, he has left it under my control. It is up to me to give it to him or not. We all have a tendency to keep track of those around us and evaluate their behavior according to our sense of right and wrong. We always have a lot of advice for other people to follow as to the best course of action for them to take, especially as it relates to important, essential things. In fact, I am doing that right now, telling you how you ought to relate to God and eternity. But let’s look at the verse. God wants my heart. Yes, I know he wants your heart, too, but he wants mine. So this section is for me. I need to reconsider where my heart is, bring it back from wherever I have given it, and give it God.

My child, give me your heart.
Of all the things I have to give, God wants my heart. I can give him my time, my treasure, my talents, but he wants my heart and the love that is in it. He wants it all directed towards him. Most people are familiar with the “love” chapter from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. It is commonly read at weddings to express the feelings of the bride and bridegroom for one another. But read it again as if it is the love in your heart that is being spoken of and then make sure you have given it to God.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, [and] is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these [is] love.

My. Child. Give. Me. Your. Heart.

O the bitter shame and sorrow
that a time could ever be,
when I let the Savior’s pity
plead in vain, and proudly answered:
All of self, and none of thee!

Yet he found me: I beheld him
bleeding on the accursèd tree,
heard him pray: Forgive them, Father;
and my wistful heart said faintly:
Some of self and some of thee!

Day by day his tender mercy,
healing, helping, full and free:
sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
brought me lower, while I whispered:
Less of self and more of thee!

Higher than the highest heaven,
deeper than the deepest sea;
Lord, thy love at last hath conquered;
grant me now my supplication:
None of self and all of thee!

Theodore Monod, 1874