Saturday, February 2, 2008

Book Review: More than Meets the Eye - Richard A. Swenson M.D.

My mother gave me this book to read some time ago. It's been a while since I've read it but thought I would share my thoughts (briefly).

If you're the kind of person who thinks that there's quite a bit about God to be perceived through observing the handiwork of the creator, this book is fuel for your thoughts.

The more I learn about physics, biology, string theory, astronomy, genetics, etc, the more my faith grows seeing how God's eternal attributes and power are displayed in these things (for those willing to see them).

Swenson includes detailed descriptions of all sorts of wonderful aspects of the universe within mankind and the cosmos without. He does so without too much scientific jargon and with a pretty zany sense of humor. Swenson stays pretty clear of theological dogma and pretty much shares his observations on science and biology from his MD/PHD, yet biblical point of view.

This book is really intended for the believer more than the critic, however most open-minded people would still profit from the read.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Living and Dying in the G.O.E - Part 1

I've been doing some thinking about the creation account from Genesis 1-4. Specifically about the Garden of Eden (G.O.E). I've always been curious about some of the details about the story that are often passed over too quickly.

This post will be first in a series of posts regarding some observations and questions I have about the G.O.E.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

God also said, "Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth-everything having the breath of life in it. [I have given] every green plant for food." And it was so. - Genesis 1:29-30

1. God says in the above that every tree bearing fruit with seeds is for food, and also the every green plant. Can we take this to mean that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (TOTKOGAE) was not green and did not bear fruit contain seed? One might exclaim 'who cares!?'. I do. If the TOTKOGAE didn't have seed, it would not reproduce and would have been the single source of that info. Also, it would NOT have been intended for food if it were not green, etc. There might be implications in these statements? Don't know - still thinking about it.

2. Why did God plant this tree in the G.O.E. to begin with? If it was not for Adam & Eve, why put it there? Was it for someone/something else? Was it planted by God?

3. What is the fruit? Not biologically, but more "what is it's purpose"?
I am not inclined to think it's a metaphor, so I am curious to know if the fruit indeed contained the knowledge (in some capacity), or if the knowledge of Good and Evil was realized upon the disobedient action of taking from the tree.

Some possible ideas about the fruit:
- What if Evil is the essence of the absence of God. How I see it, God's person demands that all things exist and are held together by Him. He's totally good, and without defect. Where God isn't, life isn't. If God weren't, what would be (nothing). Where God isn't life isn't. What if Evil is what happens when God isn't or doesn't. Could it be said that to be disconnected from God is Evil. Learning of Evil (after knowing God), would by default reveal to one the essence of Good.

Dinner time - more to come!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

**DISCLAIMER** - I don't claim to be right on this matter. These are just some of my thoughts.

Who of us hasn't wondered or said "why does God allow these things to happen?". More often that not, we preface that with "If God is so _________...". Where do these thoughts come from? Are they reasonable thoughts and questions? While we might think that they come from our hearts and minds, I think they are often from the influence of Satan.

It's not God's fault. While Satan would have us believe that God is to blame, it's him who is to blame. If anyone else could share in that blame, it would be Adam! One of my favorite sections of scripture on this topic is the 5th chapter of Romans where the Paul explains that through Adam's single sinful action, sin entered the world and effected all people, then death through sin, and therefore, death comes to all people because all people sin.

Sin is in our DNA (quite literally I believe).

Paul then goes on to contrast Adam with Jesus (the second/last Adam). He tells us that in the same way that Adam's single trespass caused sin and death to come to all mankind, that through one righteous act of Jesus, God's righteousness would come to many. Just like Adam got us into this mess by one action, Jesus got us out through one action! If you think about that for a minute, the greatest conflict/resolution in the history of, well... history itself, boils down to the single actions and resulting consequences of two men. (this is where I imagine most feminists would get really disturbed ;-) )

Sure, God is able to technically "fix" things so that no one gets sick, and never dies. But it's the fact that he is sooooo good that causes these things to exist in the first place. Sickness and death exist because God's nature could not tolerate evil, so he kicked our greatGrandDaddy1000 out of the G.O.E. where out of his nature, he reproduced evil and death.

God could have just wiped everything away when Adam first sinned against him. Then what? Keep starting over and over again until Adam #X obeyed? That's not that point. Instead, God in his LOVE dictated that Adam must leave the G.O.E. Had he remained there, he would have had access to the tree of life which would have allowed him to have eternal life with his newly darkened heart, dying body, and sinful nature. If you think things are bad now, they would really suck if you had to endure then forever.

Although God loved Adam and Eve, they were now impure. Since God is pure, he could not tolerate them in his presence. No more walks together in the G.O.E!

God's edict to Adam had been that if he ate of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, that he would surely die. If he accepted Adam despite his failure, then God would be going against his own word. We usually ascribe negative words to people who do that. God cannot be pure, light, just, and totally good if he tolerates the opposites of those things in his presence.

Therefore, if God fixed every effect of sin this instant, (or at any instant), that means that he would have to tolerate (overlook) the fact that it was unrighteousness (sin) that caused these evil things to happen. By ignoring the sin, God would be circumventing his own edicts, violating his own laws, and basically asserting that sin itself is no big deal, making one of his positions on sin (the former or the latter) a mistake or a lie. See the dilemma now?

God acting against his own word would diminish his own character, make him a liar, and make him the source of evil as well. This amounts to a "can God make a rock too big for him to lift?" situation. The answer is yes! God can be (and is) constrained by his own nature at times. He cannot violate one of his attributes in an attempt to establish another.

I personally believe that evil just might be the literal absence of God, therefore God allowing evil is like God trying to ignore that fact that he exists. You try that yourself sometime ;-).

God cannot be who/what he is - and what we want, need, and expect him to be and still make any accommodations for things that violate his own nature. Since God is the source of all righteousness, all righteousness would cease were God to do such a thing.

Now, God (the trinity) was totally alone as the only righteous entity in the universe. What would they do? Man was now unrighteous and they were not, yet they wanted fellowship with man...

God instituted a plan. The trinity understood that only they could satisfy themselves. Only God is good enough for God. If man was going to be restored to God, he would have to have God's own righteousness. !Even in his purity and our impurity, God's love for us was so strong. He had a plan for redeeming mankind so that people could once again endure his presence and relationship.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21

Wow, God himself would give us his own righteousness! What a plan! But it would take blood! The blood had to be innocent blood. Problem is, who's innocent?

Long story short, God came as a man, through a virgin (so not to inherit the sinful nature), and lived a sinless life, offered himself as the perfect sacrifice (meeting all the demands of God's own law) paying the sin-debt we incurred through Adam. That debt was the death we're obligated to pay since we inherited it from Great Grandpa Adam.

God accepted Jesus' payment of that debt in our behalf. When Jesus died, we died with him, when he rose, we rose with him, this defeating death (spiritual death) and receiving God's very own righteousness. This is a once and done event!

I've often wondered, why physical death didn't stop as soon as Christ's sacrifice for us was complete. Then it hit me. God is so dang perfect and righteous, and consistent. Unlike me (who dishes out edicts of punishment, then lets the kids off the hook), when God says something, he means it, sticks to it, and it happens. God had promised Adam that if Adam sinned against him, that he would surely die. That's exactly what happened. Adam did die. He experienced physical and spiritual death. He produced generation after generation that continues to die.

God's word is revealed as true every moment of the day as people continue to die. Sin and death is in man's physical nature as well as spiritual. We need rebirth, both physical and spiritual (just as Jesus told Nicodemus). When we come to faith in Jesus' payment of our sin debt, we experience spiritual rebirth. We also receive the promise of future physical rebirth. If we received both instantly, we would experience physical death the moment we placed our trust in Christ. Could you imagine what that would do to the average altar call ;-)? Who would remain to tell the rest of the world about God's provision for our sin/death problem?

We have to die physically, despite God's sacrifice. It's not a punishment that we have to do this, it's grace. Without it, we could not fully experience what God secured for us through Jesus sacrifice. Our bodies were born as impure, into a impure world. They cannot endure eternity. If God fixed things so that we'd never die (physically), we'd be tied to these old bag o' bones for ever and never experience the full magnitude of our new birth.

God's plan is perfect resulting in 100% life, both spiritual and physical. We get the heart change now, and the rest later. He's not responsible for the bad things that happen. He allows them because he's perfect. They day he stops enforcing the effects of sin is the day God ceases to be God and all that we know ceases to exist. It cannot, and will not ever happen. However, we will one day see all things under subjection to God. He will recreate the physical world just as he has recreated us spiritually. Then a new dawn wil arise when death will cease to exist. Until then, Hosanna Maranatha.

Death, Pain & Sadness

Tonight, my wife and I attended a service for a baby girl whom the world had never met. She passed away at the age of 36 weeks before being born.

I can not think of anything else in life that I would find so painful as seeing the joyful expectations of pregnancy turn so rapidly into horror, despair, grief and sadness as one coming realize that their unborn child has died, or will be dying soon.

Even as a stranger to this child and her family, standing there, looking at the smallest casket I've ever seen, I found myself wanting to open it up, grab the tiny body, and hold it tight. Why Lord? It just seems so unjust.

It's times like these that I find being a believer the hardest. It's in times like this where Satan seems to increase the persistent challenges to the goodness and righteousness of God's character by whispering things like "If God is so ______ (you fill it in), why does he allow bad things like this to happen?" (I'll save my response to that for another post). However, this time, I find myself not shaking my head in agreement to that question, but blaming the one asking instead.

If I could slap him, I would. Lying, murderous sack of shit that he is! Can I say that word? Sure, what words are more fitting for such a horrible creature who would inflict so much pain and suffering on mankind? I am done buying into this lie. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. None! He's a good, loving, and merciful God. No matter how hard it gets, we must continue to hold fast to that truth.

This tiny life we witnessed tonight will never see a sun rise. That's a very painful thing to think about. However, this young baby is experiencing true life because the Son did Rise! And because He rose we will too - even those whom never saw the light of day. Lord I pray that I might hold on to that truth!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Book Review : The Heavenly Man

I recently ordered and read this book after seeing it on Amazon while searching for "Chasing the Dragon". I was excited to find out about it and like Chasing the Dragon, could not wait for it to arrive. I just had a sense that it was going to be life-changing.

I think I read this book in about 5-6 days. I just could not put it down. It was like reading the book of Acts, only these Acts of the Holy Spirit just happened in the last 20-30 years. I was so encouraged to read this story of God's faithfulness, mercy, and grace. Furthermore, I was deeply challenged in my walk with the Lord - challenged to live a life of laying aside the unimportant, for the prize of knowing Jesus and the power of his resurrection.

Brother Yun did not seem to use the opportunity of telling his life's story to exalt himself, but humbly encouraged the reader to take their walk with the Lord seriously. This is a constant theme coming from Chinese Christians and a very good one at that. Persecution and the threat of death, imprisonment, etc, really makes you take a look at how you live your life!

If you want to be challenged in your walk with the Lord, or need to see that the Lord is still doing great and mighty things in our day and age, read this book!

Friday, June 15, 2007


Occasionally I struggle with wondering if I really know the Lord or not. When I read verses in the gospels about those whom the Lord says "depart from me... I never knew you", or others in 1 John about believers not sinning, sometimes it derails me a little bit. I start to wonder "am I one of those people?" If I am, then I am in big trouble. My sins are still on me. Now, don't get me wrong, I understand these bouts to be subtle attempts by the enemy of my soul to get me to focus on my righteousness rather than Jesus'. Nevertheless, sometimes these struggles are really tough.

I've been experiencing just that sort of struggle for about a month. At the same time, I've really wanted to see the Lord work and move in my life. I am reading a book by Terry Virgo called "The Tide is Turning". In it, Terry speaks of the life of Joseph and how the Lord gave him dreams. He also frequently quotes from the prophet Joel where the scripture speaks of "sons and daughters prophesying" and people having dreams and visions.

I love dreams and am thankful for even the bad ones. I frequently ask the Lord to reveal himself to me through my dreams. So, last night as I was going to sleep, I asked the Lord to do so. "Give me some dreams Lord".

He answered my request!

Just before I awoke this morning, I had the most unusual dream. Let me give some context...

When I was a young dork, I used to scratch things into my arms, write stuff on them (you know, like fake tattoos, etc), write people's phone numbers, crass comments, etc, etc. Sometimes (as intended) the scratching left scars resembling what I had scratched into my arms. Girl's names and initials, "SKINHEAD", swastikas, etc. these are all things I had scratched into my arms at one time or another.

Well, in my dream this AM, I had developed some sort of strange medical problem whereby all my old scars were resurfacing, even the things I wrote on my arms with ink were visible, kind of like when you erase stuff that's been on a dry-erase board for too long. It was all there, perfectly legible. It was very unsettling, and very painful. I felt like my arms were experiencing all the pain they'd ever experienced all at once. Along with the old scars and marks, were some new ones that were very obvious, painful, etc.

In my dream I called the doctor and was arranging to come in and see him and then suddenly really felt stupid in my dream because I was seeking medical attention for something so strange. Then I woke up.

"What a strange dream! What was that about Lord?"

"Look at your arms" came the Lord's reply into my mind.

"You see any marks? Any scars?"

"No" I reply.

"Neither do I" responded that quiet inner voice of the spirit.

Ahhh, I see the connection!

So I got to pondering about my whole wrestling with whether or not my sins were still on my head. The old ones, even the new ones. It was very clear to me that the Lord was letting me know that they were not. My arms were just fine. Normal as normal can be.

So I got to thinking some more about some of this scar stuff...

You know, if I keep whacking/beating my arms till they turn beet red, sometimes I can see the remnants of some of those scars and scratchings (not the ink though). When I don't beat my arms, I cannot see them. I think sin is the same way. When we beat ourselves up, we can usually see some remaining scars from what the Lord has healed. When we leave ourselves alone and rest in Him, we cannot see them.

Thank you Lord for dreams and clean arms!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Elders, Overseers, and Bishops, Oh My!

Some really great things are happening with the group of believers we worship with. The Holy Spirit seems to be moving us towards being governed not by a single pastor, but by a group of elders (aka. overseers, pastors, etc.). As we're walking into this, we're really seeing some neat things happen. As we're starting to recognize that God's plan for the body of Christ (aka. the church) is for EVERY believer to be involved, we're not only seeing more leaders take part, but more people exercise their gifts.

It's really neat to see everyone contribute to the edification and well-being of everyone else. We're experiencing a freedom and sense of expectation that I've never seen experienced within the four walls of a church building.

Many, many people are against the notion of no single pastor. My challenge to those persons... Let the Word of God judge our ideas about what Church is. Do the same for your ideas too. You'll have a hard time finding a scriptural basis for a single-leader!

I hope to share what's happening in our midst as things unfold!

Hosanna Maranatha!