Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Treasury of Snow

Image result for job 38:22

The past two weeks the folks of WNC have got a dose of winter with ice and snow storms that blanketed our landscape in white. This got me thinking about a man of science, and equally a man of God, that not many have encountered in their studies. His name was Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) and he was born on a farm in Jericho, Vermont. An ideal place for snow, because this area of the country receives an average annual snowfall of over 120 inches.

At an early age he showed an interest in science and also made a profession of faith in Christ before his teen years. A true experimentalist, Bentley meticulously collected large amounts of data on the weather, and completed a variety of pioneering experiments to understand raindrops, frost, solar wind, and moisture. While he was still a boy at age 14, his mother, a school teacher, gave him a microscope that he used to observe everything from flowers to snow—and snow especially fascinated him. One of his inspirations to study snow was the Bible verse in Job 38:22 in which God asks “Have you entered into the treasures of the snow?”

At age 15 he began drawing snowflakes while looking at them through his microscope—no easy task, because most of them melted before he could complete a drawing. At age 16 he learned about a camera that could be used with a microscope. His parents saved the money—and when Willie was 17 they bought him the camera. It took him over a year of failures before he finally achieved his goal—a photograph of a snowflake, the first one ever taken. Each year he was able to produce at least a few photos—but in some years he managed to make hundreds!

Bentley’s notoriety as a scientist and photographer grew and he was eventually given the name, “Snowflake Bentley.” He became the world’s leading authority on snowflakes, and was even selected to write the article in the Encyclopedia Britannica on snow. He would go on to capture more than 5,000 snowflake photos in his lifetime, no two alike. His snow crystal photomicrographs were acquired by colleges and universities throughout the world and he published many articles for magazines and journals including, Scientific American and National Geographic.

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Bentley experienced the glory of God through his work with the microscope. He wrote about the exquisite beauty of frozen world like this:

“The wonders of God’s handiwork are to be found in the tiniest details of all He has made. Snowflakes are miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design; and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind. I became possessed with a great desire to show people something of this wonderful loveliness, an ambition to become, in some measure, its preserver. God uses his creation to declare his glory to us.”[1]

Have you stopped recently to think about the lavish beauty that God has built into our world? From stars to snowflakes, God has made a universe with complexity and beauty that we cannot fully comprehend. Why does He do it? Because He is the fountainhead of beauty and He loves to give gifts that make us pause, wonder and take our breath away. God uses His creation—a magnificent rose, oceanic splendor, a vibrant sunset, a unique snowflake—to declare His existence in this fallen world. God’s glory fills the whole earth (Is. 6:3) and He upholds all things by the power of His word (Heb. 1:3).

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Yet, we must not just enjoy the gift of beauty without bowing in worship before the Giver of Beauty. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The books or music in which we thought beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire, but if they are mistaken for thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the things itself; they are the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”[2]

The beauty which grabs our attention and affection is merely a signpost pointing us in the direction of the source of all beauty—God. It is in Him that our deepest desires will be met when we can finally gaze upon His glory (Ecc. 3:11; 1 Cor. 2:9; Rev. 22:4).  

[1] Jerry Bergman, PhD., “Snowflake Bentley: Man of Science, Man of God,” Acts & Facts, vol. 40 (no. 12): pp. 12-14 <http://www.icr.org/article/snowflake-bentley-science-man-god/>
[2] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (San Francisco: Harper One, 1949), 30-31. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ISIS and the Example of Muhammad

On February 15, 2015 the world witnessed once again the savagery of ISIS militants when they uploaded a video on the internet showcasing the terrorist organization brutally beheading twenty-one Coptic Christians, who had been kidnapped and imprisoned in Libya since 2014.

The video was entitled, “A Message Signed With Blood, To The Nation of the Cross,” and it showed the martyrs dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, handcuffed and on their knees awaiting their end while a fiery spokesman delivered a radical message of hate, “All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore we will fight you all together. The seas you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”

In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected ignorance about the group, and certainly contributed to significant strategic errors. Nothing was done by the U.S. leadership to free Americans—Peter Kassig, James Foley and Kayla Mueller—who were captured and eventually murdered by ISIS, even though there was tactical intelligence which showed their location.[1]

In response to most recent massacre, Rev. Franklin Graham said in a Facebook post, “Can you imagine the outcry if 21 Muslims had been beheaded by Christians? Where is the universal condemnation by Muslim leaders around the world? As we mourn with the families of those 21 martyrs, we’d better take this warning seriously as these acts of terror will only spread throughout Europe and the United States...The storm is coming.”[2]

So much for political correctness, right? Many political pundits have skirted the ISIS issue and some have been hesitant to associate the terrorist group as Muslim-extremists. However, when you study the behavior of Muhammad and the actions of ISIS you’ll quickly learn that ISIS is a carbon copy of their seventh-century founder.

Historian William J. Federer and author of What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Quran, has compared the lives of Jesus and Muhammad. He points out that:

  • Jesus never killed anyone. Muhammad killed an estimated 3,000 people, including beheading 700 Jews of the Banu Qurayza tribe in Medina, A.D. 627.

  • Jesus never owned slaves. Muhammad received a fifth of the prisoners taken in battle, including women (Sura 8:41).

  • Following Jesus was voluntary, from the inside out. Following Muhammad could be coerced, from the outside in (Sura 9:29).

  • Jesus never married and treated women with dignity, while Muhammad had eleven wives in his harem.

  • Jesus taught to love your enemies (Matt. 5:44), but Muhammad taught to Make war on the infidels who dwell around you (Sura 9:123, 66:9).

  • In the first 300 years of Christianity, there were 10 major Roman persecutions, and Christians were fed to lions in the Colosseum. Never did Christians lead an armed resistance against those who attacked them. In the first 300 years of Islam, Muslim armies conquered Arabia, Persia, the Holy Land, North Africa, Spain, Southern France, Central Africa, and invaded vast areas of Asia and Asia Minor. Fighting is inconsistent with Jesus’ example but not Muhammad’s, as the Sirat Rasul Allah records Muhammad personally led 27 raids.”[3]

Federer has these final comments, “What motivates fundamental Muslims to violence? Where Jesus was a religious leader, Muhammad was a religious leader and a military leader, thus the effort to separate the militant aspect of Islam from the religious aspect is an attempt to split Muhammad. The closer one follows the example of Jesus, the more peaceful is one’s motivation. The closer one follows example of Muhammad, the more militant is one’s motivation.”

Make no mistake friends, Islam at is core is not “a religion of peace” as taught by the Quran or practiced by its founder. While millions of Muslims do not take “jihad” literally, it cannot be said that ISIS is a misrepresentation of Islam itself. ISIS is simply being consistent with both their understanding of the Quran and the model of their prophet.

As for our brothers and sisters who have suffered at the hands of ISIS we must remember the scene recorded in Revelation 6:9-11 when the yet-future Tribulation saints cry out for justice after dying at the hands of the Antichrist:
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

Justice will be meted out by the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming when he returns to take the earth for His Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 19:11-21). With “one little word” He will fell Satan and the evil forces who oppose Him. Even so, come quickly (Rev. 22:20).  

[1] Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015 <http://www.theatlantic.com/ features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/>
[2] Michael W. Chapman, “Rev. Graham: ‘Imagine the Outcry if 21 Muslims Had Been Beheaded by Christians? … The Storm is Coming’” CNS News, 16 February 2015 <http://cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/rev-graham-imagine-outcry-if-21-muslims-had-been-beheaded-christians>
[3] William Federer, “Jesus and Muhammad Compared,” World Net Daily, 29 February 2008 <http://www.wnd.com/2008/02/57615/>

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Are You Plugged In?

On February 10, 2013, a fire broke out in the engine room of the Carnival cruise ship, Triumph. The fire knocked out the ship's power, leaving the vessel drifting in the Gulf of Mexico, with more than 4,200 passengers and crew left in limbo. The power outage made it impossible to operate the flush toilets, keep cool in the un-shaded waters of the deep sea, or preserve and cook all the perishable food on board.

Passengers reported long lines for rations, foul smells from overflowing toilets, shortages of fresh water, illnesses, and widespread boredom. Many passengers slept in hallways or outside to escape the odors and heat below decks. News crews flying in helicopters followed the ship, and watched passengers beg for help. CNN and other media outlets later dubbed the disaster of the Triumph “the cruise ship from hell.”

The ship was finally pulled by tugboats into port safely on February 14, 2013. The ship's loss of power wasn't just a tragedy for the passengers. Carnival expected to lose hundreds of millions of dollars due to the incident. Apparently, Carnival learned their lesson because in June 2013 Triumph set sail once again, but this time it was outfitted with new emergency power capabilities. Carnival learned the hard way that when the power goes out, the party is over.[1]

A Christian who is disconnected from their power source—The Holy Spirit—is like a powerless, rudderless ship floating in the ocean. Instead of controlling his/her direction, they succumb to the fluctuating circumstance of life and things quickly deteriorate. The desire for the Word of God wanes. Prayer time becomes unfocused and infrequent until its non-existent all together. The sinful nature, no longer kept in check by the Spirit’s power, has free reign over the mind and passions. For a detailed description of what happens when we are controlled by the flesh check out Galatians 5:19-21 for a nasty list of all our sin nature is capable of. Trust me, you will not be flattered.   

As A.W. Tozer once said, “The problem is not how much of the Holy Spirit we have. No, every believer has the Holy Spirit. The problem is that the Holy Spirit does not have every believer.”[2] Much of the difficulty Christians face in life is due to this fact.

Prior to receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles were powerless to carry out Christ's unfinished work. So in Acts 1:8 Jesus promised, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Greek word translated “power” (dunamis) is the source of the English word “dynamite.” Every Christian is equipped with the Spirit’s power!

God can do great things through you. Ephesians 3:20 says He "is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” The power of the Holy Spirit—to resist sin, to pray effectively, to forgive others, to live supernaturally—happens when you yield every aspect of your life to the Spirit's control.

I am reminded of Robert Boyd Munger’s wonderful little book, My Heart, Christ’s Home, in which he compares the heart to a beautiful house with many rooms. Most of us have closets, basements and attics that we try to keep out of public view because they are messy or contain items we don’t want others to see.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. Many of us have welcomed the Spirit into a large part of our hearts. But there are areas of life where He is not welcome to enter. Usually there is some hidden sin that we have declared “Off Limits!”  

If you want to know the power of the Spirit, the price is simple but not easy to pay. You must open those hidden doors and allow the Holy Spirit to come in and make all things new. Will it be painful? Perhaps, but If you have the courage to let The Holy Spirit into every part of your life, He will come in and redecorate your life into something more beautiful than you ever imagined possible.

You can’t do it alone in this life, and the good news is you don’t have to. Jesus told His men, “I will ask the Father to give you another Helper, to be with you always” (John 14:16). You need more power than just willpower in your life. You need God’s power in your life. Are you plugged in or are you just plodding along?   -DM

[1] Tom Watkins and Michael Pearson, “Cruise Ship Investigation Underway,” CNN, 16 February 2013,  <http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/15/travel/cruise-ship-fire/>

[2] Ron Rhodes, 1001 Unforgettable Quotes about God, Faith and the Bible (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2011), 131.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What's the Call?

During a Monday night football game on September 24, 2012 between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers it call came down to a final play. There were only eight seconds left in regulation. The Seahawks were down 12-7, but they had the ball on the twenty-four yard line and one shot at the comeback win. 

Quarterback Russell Wilson released a high, arcing Hail Mary pass toward the end zone. Two Seattle Seahawks and four Green Bay Packers leaped to catch it. The mass of hulking athletes landed, the ball somewhere among them. One official signaled touchdown Seahawks. One official signaled interception Packers. Who was right? 

Everyone in the stadium was in mass hysteria and the millions of fans watching at home were no doubt yelling at their televisions. After a video review, the Seahawks were awarded the touchdown by the officials. The Seahawks were ecstatic, the Packers were irate. And the team of referees that botched the call by sending mixed signals came under heavy fire from fans and sports commentators. 

When I saw a replay (click here) of this controversial call I was reminded how much we need an authoritative standard in our lives. If getting the right call matters in an NFL game, then how much more does this rule apply in our spiritual lives? Even though those refs were supposed to be impartial judges, they each saw the play unfold differently. Their human limitations came out in a moment when we desperately wanted and needed the right call. 

For the Christian, the Bible is what makes the final and authoritative call on all matters. The term “sola Scriptura” or “the Bible alone” is a short phrase that was handed down during the Reformation which represents the simple truth that there is only one special revelation from God that man possesses today. And that is the 66 books of the Bible. 

In the very last commandment in the Bible God resolutely tells us not to add to nor take away from His Word (Rev. 22:18-19). Psalm 199:160 says, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Moreover, the Bible unapologetically says of itself that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16), unbreakable (John 10:35), indestructible (Is. 40:6-8) and inerrant (John 17:17).

For this reason, our study of the Bible cannot be treated simply as an academic exercise. Unless we are willing to obey God’s Word with a sincere heart, we will never learn the deepest truths it contains about eternal life. Moreover, the Bible never asks for our opinion on a specific matter that we would like to debate. It doesn't really matter what we think or if we accuse it of being outdated, wrong or unrealistic. Our obedience to God's word is not conditioned upon us understanding it exhaustively. As Mark Twain commented, "It ain't those parts of the Bible I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand." 

So what are you relying on to be your final authority in life? A self-styled prophet or guru? Tradition? Pop-culture? Yourself? When you boil it down there are really only two choices—man’s word vs. God’s word. According to Jesus, building a life on man’s word is about as foolish as erecting a skyscraper on quicksand, while relying on God’s Word results in a life that can endure the adverse storms (Matt. 7:24-27). -DM