Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Seismic Activity: Signs of the Second Coming

In the past two weeks the world has witnessed some incredible seismic activity as fault lines buckled and mountains belched forth fiery plumes of destruction.  

On Wednesday, April 22, the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted for the first time in four decades. Quiet since 1972, it's blew its top twice, generating striking images and concerns over the effects of both the lava and a mammoth cloud of debris. The column of smoke and ash that was ejected from Calbuco measured nearly 7 miles into the atmosphere, so powerful that the blast generated its own lightning storms.[1]

In the wake of falling ash, entire towns have been buried in several feet of the noxious slag, turning them into grey deserts. Amazingly, one hiker captured on video the exact moment that Calbuco erupted the first time. The video (click here) couldn’t be a more stunning contrast of beauty and calamity, as the exploding mountain is captured in the background of a picturesque scene of gently falling waterfalls.[2]

If that wasn’t enough to threaten mankind’s fragile existence, nature wasn’t done yet. On Sunday, April 26, Nepal experienced its worst earthquake in eighty years—a magnitude 7.8 that took the lives of more than 3,800. At least 18 were killed and dozens more were injured on Mount Everest, where the quake launched an avalanche. Meanwhile, the capital of Nepal, Katmandu, lay in ruins with centuries-old Buddhist temples and towers toppled.[3] 

Disasters like this provide the Church with the opportunity to minister those who are hurting and displaced by the devastation. In fact, Samaritan’s Purse and other Christian relief organizations have already mobilized to make sure the people in Nepal have the basic necessities. Even though you and I may not be able to take a plane to ground zero we can donate our funds and prayers to help (click here to donate).

When the church responds to the physical needs of the hurting we become the hands and feet of Christ, which also opens the door to meet spiritual needs as well. And so, the Church ministers to broken bodies, while the Gospel ministers to broken souls.  

We can also use disasters like this to witness to the lost here on the home front. In Jesus’ private briefing to the disciples about His second coming, also known as the Olivet Discourse, He gave a list of signs correlating to the end-times scenario, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matt 24:6-8).

A careful study of the Olivet Discourse will show that Jesus was describing the events on earth during a seven-year period of judgment known as the Tribulation. These catastrophes will happen after the Church is raptured (1 Thess. 4:13-18) and the reins of power are handed over to the world’s final tyrant, the Antichrist (Rev. 13).

The days just prior to the return of Christ will be a time punctuated with an intensification of natural disasters, much like the two back-to-back seismic events we just witnessed. In fact, Jesus used the analogy of birth pangs. Just as a woman giving birth experiences more intense and more frequent contractions as the time of delivery draws near, so too the earth will experience the same build-up as the last days draw closer. The quakes and eruptions of late are merely previews of coming attractions.

It has been said that, “future events cast their shadows before their arrival.” A thunderstorm is signaled by a drop in barometric pressure and the budding flowers are evidence that winter is giving way to spring. There is no doubt we are in the last days because of the preponderance of signs emerging (Luke 21:24), but it’s impossible to know the day or the hour of Christ’s return (Mark 13:32).

This is why Jesus spoke of the coming tribulation with such clarity. He has graciously given us warning signs so that we might discern that we don’t have much time to find refuge. The worst possible thing to do is ignore the warnings signs because of unbelief. The only way to escape the coming tribulation is to know Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Are you ready? –DM     

[1] Bill Chappell, “Watch A Time-Lapse Video Of The Calbuco Volcano Erupting In Chile,” NPR: The Two Way, 23 April 2015  <http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/04/23/401682275/video-of-volcano-erupting-in-chile-is-amazing-in-time-lapse?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20150426&utm_ campaign =mostemailed&utm_term=nprnews>
[2] Avianne Tan, “Chile Volcano Eruption: Hiker Witnesses Exact Moment Calbuco Erupts,” ABC News, 24 April 2015
[3] Katharine Lackey, “5 Things to Know about the Nepal Earthquake,” USA Today, 27 April 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Magnifying God in Worship

On April 24, 1990 NASA launched one of the most expensive camera’s ever built into orbit around our planet. The Hubble Space telescope was the culmination of years of research, engineering and taxpayer dollars, coming in at a whopping $2.5 billion.

In the scientific community, expectations were high as astronomers were giddy over what they might discover once the ultra-sensitive lenses aboard Hubble peered into deep space. What made Hubble unique from any other telescope was its ability to escape Earth’s atmosphere. Beyond the confines of our clouds, Hubble could look directly toward distant galaxies and planets without the image being distorted by Earth’s atmosphere.  

Every 97 minutes, Hubble was to complete a spin around Earth, moving at the speed of about five miles per second—fast enough to travel across the United States in about 10 minutes. As it traveled, Hubble's instruments were supposed to capture unbelievable images from galaxies far, far away. 

However, almost immediately after Hubble went into orbit, it became clear that something was wrong. While the pictures were clearer than those of ground-based telescopes, they weren't the pristine images promised. They were blurry.  After months of investigation engineers finally located the problem. 

Hubble's primary mirror, polished so carefully and lovingly over the course of a full year, had a flaw called a “spherical aberration.” The lens was just slightly the wrong shape.  The tiny flaw — about 1/50th the thickness of a sheet of paper—was enough to distort the view.  Finally by 1993 NASA astronauts fixed the problem after a painstaking five day space-walk mission. 

When the new images were transmitted back from Hubble, astronomers were astounded at the unknown beauty lying in the far reaches of our universe just waiting to be discovered. One of the first stunning images that came back in 1995 was dubbed “the Pillars of Creation.” which shows a part of the Eagle Nebula where new stars are forming. The tallest pillar of gas and dust is around 4 light-years high!  

Just as there is a principle of magnification in optics there is also one in worship. What makes the Hubble telescope so special is its ability to focus in on a majestic celestial body and magnify it so that all the intricate details can be seen. Worship is ultimately about magnifying Christ. It’s about focusing on Him—His power, his love, His grace.

In Psalm 34:1-3 we read, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” John the Baptist also had this frame of mind when he said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

When we worship biblically God becomes larger and larger in our hearts. True worship is that which begins and ends in God. Over time as our affection and understanding of God continually grows then we are transformed from the inside out. Only God is big enough to fill the existential void in our hearts, and only God can be a perpetual novelty to us as we spend eternity learning more and more about Him. Don’t waste your worship on an idol that will not last beyond our finite existence. Worship the true and living God and you will not be let down by the disappointment of little gods. –DM 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Are You Using Your Spiritual Gift?

Whenever great violins are talked about, the name of Luigi Tarisio will arise at some point. Not a luthier himself, but a humble cabinet maker, he was nevertheless hugely influential in the history of the instrument, its appreciation and current high values. He was, according to most sources, the first violin collector.

In 1854 Tarisio was found dead one morning in his house without scarcely a comfort in the entire place. Having checked-out for many days, Tarisio was stiff as a board on his sofa, fully dressed, clutching two violins. Stashed away in Luigi’s house, get this, were 246 exquisite violins, which he had been collecting all his life and crammed into his attic. Friends could hardly take a step without hitting a violin, viola or cello, not to mention a magnificent Gaspar da Salo Double bass. Clerks also counted large amounts of cash in notes and gold coins in a mattress.

Oddly, Luigi Tarisio in his great devotion to the violin, had robbed the world of all of its music.  All the time he treasured the violins, the world never heard their song.  Others before him had done the same. Do you know that the greatest Stradivarius violin ever made was first played when it was 147 years old, because somebody stashed it away?[1] 

I wonder how many Christians are like ole’ Luigi Tarisio? We have many exquisite spiritual gifts, but we never share them and so the Church and the world is deprived of the song God might play through us. The Bible is clear that when it comes to spiritual gifts, none of His children are empty handed.

In fact, the New Testament tells us that everyone has at least one gift, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). Paul adds in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Did you catch that? Your gift is not for you, but others!  

There is the tendency in the church to think that unless you’re preacher or a soloist then God hasn't gifted you for ministry. This is simply not true. Don’t insult the Lord by saying you’re not gifted. Don't cop-out by saying you have nothing to offer. Chances are you have two or three spiritual gifts that you haven’t discovered or developed yet.

Do you like studying and reading? Chances are you have the knack of teaching. Are you musically-inclined? Then start singing for God’s glory. Do you have a mechanical mind that can fix anything? I can assure you the Church needs your workmanship. Do you get a thrill out of giving? Then you can bless people the way God has blessed you. Do you have a heart of compassion and mercy? Then find a hurting heart and starting ministering. Your spiritual gift is tailored to your passions, talents and desires.  

The reason why some people stay in the spiritual nursery all their Christian life is because they never take the time to develop their spiritual gift and put it into practice. They aren’t growing because they aren’t serving. A life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning. If you want to experience growth like none other and keep from spiritual stagnation then you have to put your gift to use. You can’t keep it locked up in a vault or the world will never be changed for the Gospel’s sake. -DM

[1] Skip Heitzig, The Daily God Book (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2010), September 12.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

More Evidence for a Global Flood

If you’ve ever read the classic Jules Verne science fiction story, Journey to the Center of the Earth, then you probably remember the part when Dr. Lindenbrock, explorer extraordinaire, reaches an unimaginably vast cavern. This underground world is lit by electrically charged gas at the ceiling, and is filled with a deep subterranean ocean, surrounded by a rocky coastline covered in petrified trees and giant mushrooms. The travelers build a raft and set sail on what the Professor names the Lidenbrock Sea.

Recently geologists made a stunning discovery which confirmed that maybe Jules Verne wasn’t that far off when he wrote about a vast underground hidden ocean. The Guardian newspaper reported, “After decades of theorizing and searching, scientists are reporting that they’ve finally found a massive reservoir of water in the Earth’s mantle—a reservoir so vast that could fill the Earth’s oceans three times over. This discovery suggests that Earth’s surface water actually came from within, as part of a “whole-Earth water cycle,” rather than the prevailing theory of icy comets striking Earth billions of years ago.”[1]

Geologists say that this huge amount of water is actually locked up in a rare mineral called ringwoodite, which acts like a sponge due to its crystal structure. Experiments with ringwoodite show that under incredible pressure, like the tectonic forces present in the Earth’s mantle, the mineral is able to attract hydrogen atoms and trap water.

As I pondered the significance of this new discovery I came to two conclusions. First, it confirms what the book of Genesis records about the global flood that Noah and his family survived. For years, skeptics have denied the possibility of a global flood as the Bible reports because they say there isn’t enough water on the planet to completely cover it and even if there were a global flood where would all that water go?  

In Genesis 7:11-12 we are told that the flood was caused from a deluge of water from above and below, “In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”      

It wasn’t until 370 days later that the flood waters subsided sufficiently that Noah was permitted by the Lord to leave the Ark. This recent discovery helps us understand that not only was there enough water locked up in the Earth’s mantle so that when it was released by God that it covered the whole earth, but that there was also a reservoir in place to store all the water when the flood began to drain and dry land reemerge. As Warren Wiersbe commented, “A God powerful enough to cover the earth with water is also wise enough to know how to dispose if it when its work is done.”[2]  

Secondly, this discovery made me think of God’s design and wisdom in creation. For hundreds of years, mankind was totally unaware what lay beneath his feet. Were it not for God designing a way to store a volume of water three times greater than our oceans I suspect our planet would look like another science fiction story—Waterworld.   

One scientist working on this project noted the significance of the trapped water by saying, “If the water wasn’t stored underground, then it would be on the surface of the Earth, and mountaintops would be the only land poking out.” In other words, this planet would be more like a continuous ocean and human life as we know it wouldn’t be possible. Maybe the next time the skeptic wants to rail against God for being unloving or aloof when an earthquake hits or a tsunami strikes they should hold their tongue and remember that they may not be here were it not for God’s silent blessing of keeping the water below our feet and not over our heads. -DM

[1] Melissa Davey, “Earth may have underground 'ocean' three times that on surface,” The Guardian, 12 June 2014
[2] Warren Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: Old Testament (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007), 42.