Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Close your eyes...

Ever thought about what the phrase, "Walk by faith and not by sight," means? I particularly like the part about "not by sight." I like to think about that literally for my spiritual life. Sometimes I'm so ready to plan my own life and the steps I will take that I forget to trust God. I am not perfect. So, my choices, if I'm making them apart from God, won't be perfect. Therefore, my steps won't be perfect and I'll fall. But Christ is perfect. If I let Him guide my steps in the path of righteousness, my ways will be perfect.

Have any of you done a ropes course or trust exercise (sometimes known as "team-building activity")? Well, sometimes, people have to pick you up and put you through spaces in tires or guide you along a wooded trail without touching you. I don't know about you, but it's hard to trust someone to take your life and well-being into their hands.

When I think about my spiritual life, I see how sometimes I can say that I'm trusting God, but I'm still watching what else I could be doing, and even though I am letting God direct my steps, I trip over other things like pride, hurt, hatred, frustration, etc. I wouldn't call it "blind faith," but I think that making sure I'm not comparing what I'm doing to what I could be doing is like closing my eyes. I want to live for God and I want to walk in the steps of righteousness, but I've noticed that if I'm allowing myself to be distracted by all the sin and temptations around me, I trip up.

So now I pray that God would take His hand
And cover my eyes and make me rest in Him.
I pray that He will direct my steps
So I will not stumble
And make the temptations dim;
So all I can see is His glory
Etched in His crucified palm.
And I'll be forced to reflect on His glory
And dwell on the things of above.

"A man's heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hopeful's Conversion (from Pilgrim's Progress)

Chr. Then Christian began and said, I will ask you a question: How came
you to think at first of doing as you do now?

Hope. Do you mean, how came I at first to look after the good of my soul?

Chr. Yes, that is my meaning.

Hope. I continued a great while in the delight of those things which were
seen and sold at our Fair; things which I believe now would have (had I
continued in them still) drowned me in perdition and destruction.

Chr. What things were they?

Hope. All the Treasures and Riches of the World. Also I delighted much in
Rioting, Revelling, Drinking, Swearing, Lying, Uncleanness, Sabbath -
breaking, and what not, that tended to destroy the Soul. But I found at last,
by hearing and considering of things that are Divine, which indeed I heard of
you, as also of beloved Faithful, that was put to death for his faith and good
living in Vanity Fair, That the end of these things is death. And that for
these things' sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.

Chr. And did you presently fall under the power of this conviction?

Hope. No, I was not willing presently to know the evil of sin, nor the
damnation that follows upon the commission of it; but endeavoured, when my
mind at first began to be shaken with the Word, to shut mine eyes against the
light thereof.

Chr. But what was the cause of your carrying of it thus to the first
workings of God's blessed Spirit upon you?

Hope. The causes were, 1. I was ignorant that this was the work of God
upon me. I never thought that by awakenings for sin God at first begins the
conversion of a sinner. 2. Sin was yet very sweet to my flesh, and I was loth
to leave it. 3. I could not tell how to part with mine old Companions, their
presence and actions were so desirable unto me. 4. The hours in which
convictions were upon me, were such troublesome and such heart-affrighting
hours, that I could not bear, no not so much as the remembrance of them upon
my heart.

Chr. Then as it seems, sometimes you got rid of your trouble.

Hope. Yes verily, but it would come into my mind again, and then I should
be as bad, nay worse, than I was before.

Chr. Why, what was it that brought your sins to mind again?

Hope. Many things; as

1. If I did but meet a good man in the Streets; or,

2. If I have heard any read in the Bible; or,

3. If mine Head did begin to ake; or,

4. If I were told that some of my Neighbors were sick; or,

5. If I heard the Bell toll for some that were dead; or,

6. If I thought of Dying myself; or,

7. If I heard that sudden Death happened to others;

8. But especially, when I thought of myself, that I must quickly come to

Chr. And could you at any time with ease get off the guilt of sin, when
by any of these ways it came upon you?

Hope. No, not latterly, for then they got faster hold of my conscience;
and then, if I did but think of going back to sin, (though my mind was turned
against it) it would be double torment to me.

Chr. And how did you do then?

Hope. I thought I must endeavour to mend my life; for else, thought I, I
am sure to be damned.

Chr. And did you endeavour to mend?

Hope. Yes, and fled from not only my sins, but sinful Company too; and
betook me to religious duties, as Prayer, Reading, Weeping for Sin, speaking
Truth to my Neighbors, &c. These things did I, with many others, too much here
to relate.

Chr. And did you think yourself well then?

Hope. Yes, for a while; but at the last my trouble came tumbling upon me
again, and that over the neck of all my reformations.

Chr. How came that about, since you were now reformed?

Hope. There were several things brought it upon me, especially such
sayings as these: All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. By the works of
the Law no man shall be justified. When you have done all things, says, We are
unprofitable: with many more such like. From whence I began to reason with
myself thus: If all my righteousnesses are filthy rags, if by the deeds of the
Law, no man can be justified; and if, when we have done all, we are yet
unprofitable, then 'tis but a folly to think of Heaven by the Law. I further
thought thus: If a man runs i001. into the Shop-keeper's debt, and after
that shall pay for all that he shall fetch; yet his old debt stands still in
the Book uncrossed, for the which the Shop-keeper may sue him, and cast him
into Prison till he shall pay the debt.

Chr. Well, and how did you apply this to yourself?

Hope. Why, I thought thus with myself: I have by my sins run a great way
into God's Book, and that my now reforming will not pay off that score;
therefore I should think still under all my present amendments, But how shall
I be freed from that damnation that I have brought myself in danger of by my
former transgressions?

Chr. A very good application: but pray go on.

Hope. Another thing that hath troubled me, even since my late amendments,
is, that if I look narrowly into the best of what I do now, I still see sin,
new sin, mixing itself with the best of that I do; so that now I am forced to
conclude, that notwithstanding my former fond conceits of myself and duties, I
have committed sin enough in one duty to send me to Hell, though my former
life had been faultless.

Chr. And what did you do then?

Hope. Do! I could not tell what to do, till I brake my mind to Faithful,
for he and I were well acquainted. And he told me, that unless I could obtain
the righteousness of a man that never had sinned, neither mine own, nor all
the righteousness of the world could save me.

Chr. And did you think he spake true?

Hope. Had he told me so when I was pleased and satisfied with mine own
amendments, I had called him Fool for his pains: but now, since I see mine own
infirmity, and the sin that cleaves to my best performance, I have been forced
to be of his opinion.

Chr. But did you think, when at first he suggested it to you, that there
was such a man to be found, of whom it might justly be said. That he never
committed sin?

Hope. I must confess the words at first sounded strangely; but after a
little more talk and company with him, I had full conviction about it.

Chr. And did you ask him what man this was, and how you must be justified
by him?

Hope. Yes, and he told me it was the Lord Jesus, that dwelleth on the
right hand of the Most High. And thus, said he, you must be justified by him,
even by trusting to what he hath done by himself in the days of his flesh, and
suffered when he did hang on the Tree. I asked him further, How that man's
righteousness could be of that efficacy to justify another before God? And he
told me he was the mighty God, and did what he did, and died the death also,
not for himself, but for me; to whom his doings; and the worthiness of them
should be imputed, if I believed on him.

Chr. And what did you do then?

Hope. I made my objections against my believing, for that I thought he
was not willing to save me.

Chr. And what said Faithful to you then?

Hope. He bid me go to him and see: then I said it was presumption: but he
said, No, for I was invited to come. Then he gave me a Book of Jesus his
inditing, to encourage me the more freely to come; and he said concerning that
Book, that every jot and tittle thereof stood firmer than Heaven and Earth.
Then I asked him, What I must do when I came? and he told me, I must entreat
upon my knees with all my heart and soul, the Father to reveal him to me. Then
I asked him further, How I must make my supplication to him? And he said, Go,
and thou shalt find him upon a mercy-seat, where he sits all the year long,
to give pardon and forgiveness to them that come. I told him that I knew not
what to say when I came. And he bid me say to this effect: God be merciful to
me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see that
if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness.
I am utterly cast away: Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and
hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Saviour of the world;
and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon such a poor sinner as I
am, (and I am a sinner indeed) Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and
magnify thy grace in the Salvation of my soul, through thy Son Jesus Christ.

Chr. And did you do as you were bidden?

Hope. Yes, over and over and over.

Chr. And did the Father reveal his Son to you?

Hope. Not at the first, nor second, nor third, nor fourth, nor fifth, no
nor at the sixth time neither.

Chr. What did you do then?

Hope. What! why I could not tell what to do.

Chr. Had you not thought of leaving off praying?

Hope. Yes, an hundred times twice told.

Chr. And what was the reason you did not?

Hope. I believed that that was true which had been told me, to wit, that
without the righteousness of this Christ all the world could not save me; and
therefore thought I with myself, If I leave off, I die, and can but die at the
Throne of Grace. And withal, this came into my mind, If it tarry, wait for it,
because it will surely come, it will not tarry. So I continued praying until
the Father shewed me his Son.

Chr. And how was he revealed unto you?

Hope. I did not see him with my bodily eyes, but with the eyes of mine
understanding; and thus it was: One day I was very sad, I think sadder than at
any one time in my life, and this sadness was through a fresh sight of the
greatness and vileness of my sins: and as I was then looking for nothing but
Hell, and the everlasting damnation of my Soul, suddenly, as I thought, I saw
the Lord Jesus look down from Heaven upon me, and saying, Believe on the Lord
Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.

But I replied, Lord, I am a great, a very great sinner. And he answered
My grace is sufficient for thee. Then I said, But Lord, what is believing? And
then I saw from that saying, He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he
that believeth on me shall never thirst, that believing and coming was all
one; and that he that came, that, is, ran out in his heart and affections
after salvation by Christ, he indeed believed in Christ. Then the water stood
in mine eyes, and I asked further, But Lord, may such a great sinner as I am
be indeed accepted of thee, and be saved by thee? And I heard him say, And him
that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Then I said, But how, Lord, must
I consider of thee in my coming to thee, that my faith may be placed aright
upon thee? Then he said, Christ Jesus came into the World to save sinners. He
is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believes. He died
for our sins, and rose again for our justification. He loved us and washed us
from our sins in his own blood. He is Mediator between God and us. He ever
liveth to make intercession for us. From all which I gathered, that I must
look for Righteousness in his Person, and for Satisfaction for my sins by his
Blood; that what he did in obedience to his Father's Law, and in submitting to
the penalty thereof, was not for himself, but for him that will accept it for
his Salvation, and be thankful. And now was my heart full of joy, mine eyes
full of tears, and mine affections running over with love to the Name, People,
and Ways of Jesus Christ.

Chr. this was revelation of Christ to your soul indeed; but tell me
particularly what effect this had upon your spirit.

Hope. It made me see that all the World, notwithstanding all the
righteousness thereof, is in a state of condemnation. It made me see that God
the Father, though he be just, can justly justify the coming sinner. It made
me greatly ashamed of the vileness of my former life, and confounded me with
the sense of mine own ignorance; for there never came thought into my heart
before now, that shewed me so the beauty of Jesus Christ. It made me love a
holy life, and long to do something for the Honour and Glory of the Name of
the Lord Jesus yea, I thought that had I now a thousand gallons of blood in my
body, I could spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Bless me, Lord!"

"Lord, that you would bless me indeed,
And enlarge my territory;
That your hand would be with me.
And you would keep my heart from evil, Amen."

Last night, my youth group and I sang this song arranged by Paul Baloche together. I had heard it a few days before and dropped all other music options so that I could share this with them. It touched my heart and I loved it: the sounds of so many voices from many different lives, and in different situations all singing this one prayer, this prayer of Jabez.

Now, if you don't know who Jabez is, that's ok. He's tucked away in a lonely little chapter in 1 Chronicles. In a line of sons and fathers and "begats," there is an interruption for this man saying, "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers... call[ing] upon the God of Israel... And God granted what he asked." Why would there be this slightly random man in the middle of all of this genealogy? Like Tabitha from Acts (see previous posts), I think that although there are so few verses for this individual, their testimonies are the most important.

Jabez was just an average man; he was probably a farmer with herds of sheep and goats. He was probably a landowner with fields of grain or corn. Jabez called upon the name of the Lord and asked that He would bless him and enlarge his territory and keep him from evil. God did all these things for him.

Why would I choose this song for my youth group to sing? And how does it apply to our daily lives?

First, when Jabez asks God to bless him, he's not being selfish. The word "bless" in this context means supernatural favor. Jabez is asking for God's favor, not the "blessings" we think of as general pleasures. In the book, The Prayer of Jabez, by Bruce Wilkinson, he says, "When we seek God's blessing as the ultimate calue in life, we are throwing ourselves entirely into the river of His will and power and purposes for us." That's what Jabez was doing. He was throwing himself into the favor of God.

But why should we plead for "territory?" Here is a request of God to enlarge your life so that you can make a greater impact for Him. Every day, we need to ask for more opportunities to bring Him glory--whatever that may mean.

"That your hand would be with me." This is acknowledging that you are dependent upon God. "The second you're not feeling dependent is the sencond you've backed away from truly living by faith," said a Bible teacher to Wilkinson. It's true! We need God's hand upon us to sustain and continue the great things that God does in our lives.

"That you would keep my heart from evil," is the last part to this simple prayer. Jabez prays that God would protect him from Satan's proven power to make him gloat over blessing. So easily, we can become prideful when God blesses us-- sometimes He then takes those blessings away, but sometimes He leaves them with us. We need the grace and protection from that evil. Note that Jabez doesn't ask to not be tempted to evil. Why wouldn't he ask that? Well, if we are not being tempted to evil, then Satan is not really worried about us anymore. We're not engaging in the spiritual warfare that we should as Christians. Rather, we should pray for strength to endure the temptations and for victory over the attacks!

And God granted what Jabez asked for. Why? Because this is the prayer that God wants to hear. I would encourage all of you to get and read "The Prayer of Jabez." It's a small book and I think you can get them from CBD for about $1 each. If you don't get this, read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.

"How great is our God, sing with me, how great is our God; and all will see how great, how GREAT is our God."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Getting the full view...

I love reading Dr. Wile's blog ( and this post was just too good to pass up posting here. Thank you, Dr. Wile, for your great insight on this topic, among many others :)

Some Perspective on the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

The disaster at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was horrendous. Let’s make no mistake about that. Because not enough attention was paid to safety and environmental concerns before the explosion, an estimated total of 4.9 million barrels of oil (210 million gallons)1 were dumped into the ocean. The oil killed wildlife and will probably negatively affect parts of the environment for years to come. With that said, however, I want to look at the disaster from a scientific perspective. If nothing else, such a perspective will give you a deeper appreciation for the wonderful creation God has given us.

The first thing you need to realize is how much oil seeps into the Gulf of Mexico naturally. Probably the best estimate done to date was published by the National Academies Press. It indicates that about 140,000 tons of oil (about a million barrels) leak into the Gulf of Mexico each year due to natural oil seeps.2 So the Deepwater Horizon disaster dumped as much oil as 5 years’ worth of natural seepage.

Now, of course, there are some big differences between the way the Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled oil into the gulf and the way the natural seeps do it. First, the natural seeps release oil into the gulf much more slowly. Second, they release oil into the gulf over a wider area so it is not as concentrated. Third, since no one is trying to stop them, there isn’t all the pollution associated with engineers doing everything they can to stop a leak. As a result, the natural oil seeps do not produce the environmental devastation that the Deepwater Horizon disaster did.

However, because oil seeps naturally into the ocean, you would expect that the ocean has a way to deal with it, and indeed it does. What we have seen already as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster tells us just how well the oceans have been designed to deal with oil pollution.

A recent study published online by the journal Science3 examined the dispersed plume of oil that came from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and the authors note that the ocean’s “natural cleanup crew” is already working to reduce the effects of the disaster.

What is the ocean’s “natural cleanup crew?” Well, when it comes to oil, it is a host of bacteria that love to feed on oil. Remember, oil seeps into the ocean naturally, and that oil needs to be cleaned up. The Designer of this planet understood this, of course, so among the plethora of bacteria He created are those that can digest oil so that it doesn’t build up in the oceans.

When the scientists involved in this study looked at the oil plume, they found all sorts of these bacteria busy digesting away the oil. As the authors state in the abstract:

Here, we report that the dispersed hydrocarbon plume stimulated deep-sea indigenous γ-proteobacteria that are closely related to known petroleum-degraders.

So when they looked at the bacteria in the oil plume, they found ones that are very similar to other bacteria that are known to degrade petroleum. In the end, they say that the oil plume stimulated these bacteria. Of course, this makes sense. Give the bacteria more of what they want to eat, and their population will increase.

The details of the report are even more fascinating. They analyzed the genes of the bacteria found in different parts of the oil plume, and they found that those genes varied depending on the specific hydrocarbons that were in that area of the plume. Remember, oil is a mixture of chemicals that contain hydrogen and carbon (hydrocarbons), and the molecules range from very small to very large. Thus, you might worry that these bacteria are good at degrading specific hydrocarbons but will leave others untouched. That’s not what the researchers found. Instead, they found that different bacteria tend to be better at degrading different hydrocarbons, and each type is found where the hydrocarbons they are good at degrading can be found.

So the researchers conclude:

These results indicated that a variety of hydrocarbon-degrading populations exist in the deep-sea plume and that the microbial communities appear to be undergoing rapid dynamic adaptation in response to oil contamination.

So the “cleanup crew” that was designed to take care of the oceans seems to be doing its job and doing it very well. Indeed, it seems that the “cleanup crew” was even designed to adapt to the specific mixture of hydrocarbons they encounter, so that no matter what type of oil is spilled, it can be taken care of! The paper ends on a very hopeful note:

These results also imply that there exists a potential for intrinsic bioremediation of oil contaminants in the deep-sea, and that oil-degrading communities could play a significant role in controlling the ultimate fates of hydrocarbons in the Gulf.

So at least based on this study, there is a good chance that a large amount of the ecological damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster will be mitigated by the incredible design of the ocean and its inhabitants. Does that let BP off the hook? Of course not! Does that mean we shouldn’t work to keep this kind of disaster from ever happening again? Of course not!

What data like these tell us is that the oceans were made for us, and even when we mess up royally, there are safeguards in place that will mitigate the effects of our mistakes. Let’s be thankful that God has designed our world so well, and let’s do everything in our power to make sure we don’t have to “test” His awesome design again!

1. Campbell Robertson and Clifford Krauss, “Gulf Spill Is the Largest of Its Kind, Scientists Say,” New York Times, August 2, 2010. available online
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2. Committee on Oil in the Sea, Oil in the Sea III: Inputs, Fates, and Effects , National Academies Press, 2003, p. 70 available online
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3. Terry C. Hazen, et. al., “Deep-Sea Oil Plume Enriches Indigenous Oil-Degrading Bacteria,” Science DOI: 10.1126, 2010, available online with subscription
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