March 12, 2010 § 2 Comments
This is an illustrated story with a powerful message, and it explains why we each have our cross to bear, and why we need to keep going even when it seems too heavy. I got it via email a while ago and I don’t know who the author is. I’d love to give credit, so if anyone knows, please let me know in the comments below.
March 2, 2010 § 2 Comments
Akiane Kramarik, a self-taught 15-year old girl, started having vivid dreams of heaven at the age of 4, and soon started to paint what she saw in her mind. The results are amazing, and they’re even more remarkable given that her family were atheists and had never talked about God in their home. They reveal a world beyond our imagination, and a vibrant, growing talent.
She was featured on CNN at the age of 12, as you can see below, and she was interviewed by Oprah when she was 10. She has received numerous awards and prizes, and she will likely receive more, as her talent continues to improve with age.
April 11, 2009 § Leave a Comment
The byline for this psalm is “a psalm, a song for the Sabbath day”. It’s yet another mention (among countless in the Bible) of the Sabbath’s importance, and I’m not referring to the false Sabbath of Sunday, which many obstinate and misguided churches are lobbying for, but the true Sabbath, Saturday, which was sanctified by God from the creation of the Earth.
As a photographer, I couldn’t agree more with verse 5: “How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts!” The more time I spend in nature, seeking natural beauty, and the more I examine that beauty, the more I realize how great God’s work truly is, and how beautiful He made this Earth before we spoiled it. As for the second part of this verse, I don’t know if we’ll ever know how profound God’s thoughts can be. We are too limited to realize how He thinks, how much He loves us, and how He cares for us.
The rest of the psalm is eschatological, and includes clear references to the destruction of the wicked, and to everlasting life with God, in heaven and here on the renewed Earth:
“Though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.” (verse 7)
“For surely Your enemies, O LORD, surely Your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered.” (verse 9)
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (verses 12-14)
Verse 15 echoes the promises made in Daniel and the Revelation, that all will realize God’s perfect nature and goodness, and will proclaim it aloud, saying: “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
Not all of the promises made in this psalm are prophetic. Some are for the present. Verses 10 and 11 say:
“You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.”
My Bible’s footnotes indicate the term “horn” refers here to one’s strength. The original Hebrew version is likely even clearer on that meaning. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see that God sometimes blesses His faithful ones during their lifetimes, not just in heaven. He chooses the time and method, but when He pours out His blessings over them, there is no mistaking His hand. I can attest to this myself, and I’m sure many others can. When we’re in the direst of circumstances and things cannot possibly be solved by human means, He works something out miraculously and we are delivered in a way we could not have imagined if we hadn’t seen it.
Praise be to God!
February 10, 2008 § 1 Comment
This morning, I discovered a speech given by Barack Obama a couple of years ago. It’s entitled “Call to Renewal“, and was given here in Washington, DC, back on 6/28/06. In the video, Sen. Obama talks about religion and politics, and how to find common ground in a multi-religion society in order to address issues based on sound moral and ethical principles.
If you’ve doubted that a progressive like Obama can appeal to Christian voters, and that he is a Christian man, then I highly encourage you to watch the video, because you will be amazed.
I support Sen. Obama for president, and I encourage you to see the entire video (40 minutes). Find the time, you will not regret it. I wrote about my thoughts on Obama and this video in more detail on my personal site, should you be interested.
November 30, 2007 § 2 Comments
I was struck by the clear message of tolerance espoused in Romans 14 when I read it a few days ago. I can’t quote the entire chapter here, although all of it is relevant, but I do encourage you to read it from your Bibles. Again, I would recommend the New Jerusalem Bible, for its cogent translation.
The basis for the argument of tolerance here is simple: it’s all about free will. Should anyone say Christians are forced by God or their church to do anything, please point them to this chapter. Should your church force you to do anything, point it to this chapter.
Truly, this chapter sets the record straight when it comes to one’s relationship to God. There need be no intercessor. We can have a direct relationship to God, and what we do because of faith in Him, we do for Him. We are only responsible to Him for our beliefs. It is so important to realize this, because it takes the onus off the church or church members to “set someone straight” when it comes to their religious beliefs. Yes, people ought to be told what’s right, and it’s our duty as Christians to inform them, but everyone should and must make their own decisions when it comes to their own beliefs.
No one should ascribe blindly to a set of beliefs, just because… Again, it comes back to free will. If God gave us such an important privilege, should we waste it by saying we believe such and such a thing because our family or our church believes it? No, far from it! We should diligently search the scriptures to arrive at our own conclusion on the matter. Why? Because we are each personally responsible to God for what we do and what we believe. It is up to us to study for that divine “exam” — should we fail it, we all know where we’ll go.
Does this scare you a bit? Well, it should. Free will is a huge responsibility, with tremendous repercussions. When God chose to create us in His image and bestow upon us free will, He took a fantastic risk. He knew what would happen. He did it anyway, risking the destiny of one third of His angels and of the entire human race, because He wanted us to be able to choose for ourselves whom we should serve. He took that risk knowing full well that His Son, Jesus Christ, would have to pay with His life for our sins. The price is more than we can ever imagine, but He did it so we could have free will.
Knowing all of this, can you treat your own free will lightly? Can you treat the Bible and its laws and principles lightly? I think not. It would be a grievous sin if you should do that.
But do you know where you should tread lightly? In your relationships with others, particularly those who share some of your Christian beliefs. Romans chapter 14 says just that. Why? Because of free will. We need to worry about our actions, our deeds, our beliefs and our faith, and let others do the same. This chapter is a cautionary note to those of us who would act like busy old ladies, gabbing away all day about what we should or shouldn’t do instead of tending to our own spiritual needs.
The following points are made in this chapter:
- Do not argue about religion with new believers (verse 1)
- Do not argue about clean or unclean foods (verses 2, 3, 6, 14-17, 20, 21, 23)
- Do not argue about which day of the week to worship God (verses 5, 6)
- Do not judge one another (verses 3, 4, 10-13, 17)
- God alone decides who is right and who is wrong in their beliefs (verses 4, 9, 10, 11, 12)
- Let us each be fully convinced of what we believe (verses 5, 22)
- What you do, do to honor the Lord (verse 6)
- We all belong to God (verses 7-9)
- We will each be judged by God (verses 4, 10-12)
- Do not discourage or place obstacles in the path of your fellow believers (verses 13, 15, 20, 21)
- You commit sin when you do something that conflicts with your own faith and beliefs (verses 14, 15, 23)
- Do not put yourself above your brothers in faith (verse 10)
- Serve God by showing His saving justice, peace and joy to others, not by showing them how to eat and drink (verses 17, 18)
- Seek peace between Christians and ways in which you can support one another (verse 19)
- Worry about your own behavior, and let not your words condemn you (verse 22)
Given this list, tell me, do you think it gives you free rein to eat, drink, be merry and worship God on whatever day of the week you please? I think only a very superficial person, or one with ulterior motives, would think that after reading through Romans 14. After all, verse 21 says the following: “It is best to abstain from eating any meat, or drinking any wine, or from any other activity which might cause a brother to fall away, or to be scandalized, or to weaken.” Again, it is your own responsibility to find out what these foods, drinks and activities are for you, and to stay away from them of your own accord.
What Romans 14 seeks to do is to free us from bickering with each other, and to spur us to search the Bible for ourselves and find out where we stand with God. Seriously. Do it now, for tomorrow you may die. No joke. None of us knows how much longer we’ll live.
What Romans 14 also does NOT do is to give churches free rein to enforce certain days of the week, as the Catholic church has tried to do for entire centuries, and as certain Protestant churches or foolish Christians have also tried to do since the 1800s. During the Middle Ages, also known as the Dark Ages, the church persecuted those whom it considered had strayed from the church’s beliefs. And in the 1800s and early 1900s, there was a strong movement toward establishing Sunday laws here in America and in other countries, when there is no Biblical support for Sunday as God’s Holy Day whatsoever. As a matter of fact, the weight of the evidence is clearly in favor of Saturday, also known as the Sabbath. Besides, Romans 14 clearly condemns any sort of movement that would force people to worship on a certain day. We are each responsible for our own beliefs, and will answer to God for them. Again, it is our responsibility to search the scriptures and to find out which day of the week to consider Holy.
I know there is a LOT of advice in this chapter, and I don’t want you to read this post and be confused. Therefore, let me repeat that the general message of the chapter can be summed up by the following verses found in it:
“For none of us lives for himself and none of us dies for himself; while we are alive, we are living for the Lord, and when we die, we die for the Lord: and so, alive or dead, we belong to the Lord.”
“Let us each stop passing judgment, therefore, on one another and decide instead that none of us will place obstacles in any brother’s way, or anything that can bring him down.”
“Blessed is the person whose principles do not condemn his practice… Every action which does not spring from faith is sin.”
I tell you, this chapter is shockingly candid about what we should do as Christians. It left me speechless when I read it, and although I’d read it and even transcribed it by hand before, the message didn’t sink in. I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty as charged. I’ve been judging others left and right, and I shouldn’t have done it. I’ve been an obstacle to others in the past. I should have been more tolerant. I will do my best to be more tolerant in the future.
We really need to become more accepting of one another as Christians. As long as we believe in the Bible and pray to the same God, we should try to live together peacefully, in harmony, and help one another grow in our faith. In the end, we are each responsible only for our own actions to God. And if we stick close to Him, I’m sure He will reveal His truth to us and guide us lovingly on the path to salvation and heaven. Mahatma Gandhi said it best when he said Christianity has wonderful principles, but we as Christians don’t live up to them. What a wonderful world this would be if we did!
April 17, 2007 § Leave a Comment
It’s not often that my entire post is made up of a quote, but I really wanted to post this. The author is Joe Crews. You may or may not have heard of him. He was a good Christian man, a prolific writer, and the founder of Amazing Facts. Here’s what he wrote about our Lord Jesus Christ:
“I invite you to consider with me a Man — the most incredible Man who ever lived. The facts of His life are enough to arrest the attention of anyone to give it careful consideration.
This incredible Man was born without a human father; in a nameless, lower-class family during a housing shortage; under a set of emergency circumstances that made a cowshed His place of birth. This Man grew up on the dirt floor of a tiny, over-crowded home, in an obscure village in Palestine. And young people, He never rode a bike, nor swam in a pool, nor watched TV, nor talked into a telephone, nor listened to a radio! But when this unique person became thirty years of age, He spent just three years in carving out a destiny that will never be forgotten and around which millions have clustered. He had no formal education. He wrote no books. He received no worldly honors. He held no office. He owned no home and frankly stated that even though the “foxes have their holes and the birds of the air have their nests, the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.”
He never accepted a penny for His services. He espoused the underdog to the disgust of the ruling class. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place of His birth. He dared to expose wickedness in the face of terrific Roman ruthlessness, Jewish hatred, and the incendiary political situation of Palestine that was destined to crush Him. He was executed as a criminal after helping and healing and blessing countless thousands of people as no organization of His day could possibly do. They gambled for the only piece of property He owned, a seamless outer garment. Neither He nor His family owned a cemetery plot, or a grave, and so His closest friends borrowed a cave in which to lay His body.
In the ensuing years millions upon millions have come to worship Him, and many have laid down their lives for Him because of Who He was. This Man loved as no man has ever loved. As we look at His unique character, it is so vast that it is like the starry heavens. When you gaze you look deeper and deeper, and it becomes more wonderful all the time. We stand and admire. We look. We esteem, and we are startled as was the Centurion, who was responsible for His crucifixion, when he exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
We turn to Matthew 21:10, and we see there that Jerusalem did not know its Lord, but when Jesus came riding into the city on a colt, the people turned out by the multitudes and said, “Who is this?”
“Who is this?” Many today are asking the same question. “Who is this Man, this incredible Man, the Lord Jesus Christ?” In reality, this is not just a man. This is an incredible God who because of love left heaven and came to this earth and inherited the degradation and terror that sin had wrought for 4,000 years and took upon Himself a body and died on the cross for our sins.
This Man has changed the world by His ability to change the human heart. Because of this, Jesus has the ability to change the world. An unknown author wrote these interesting words: “I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected life on earth as powerfully as this one solitary life, the life of Jesus Christ.
Jesus changed the world because He can change human life beyond recognition. There are many religions in the world. There are the cults of the Orient with all of their pathways to some “Nirvana.” There are the African voodoo worshipers. There are spiritist revelations, and the psychologic cults for those who are more sophisticated. Take your pick. But no religion in the world has claimed to do what this incredible Man has! This incomparable Christ does today, exactly what He did in April of A.D. 29. He takes a man and cleanses him of his guilt and sin. He transforms his life. He puts within that life His Spirit so that a man becomes a “new creation.” And then, He gives him a sense of self-worth and guarantees a hope of resurrection and eternal life. What religion in the world claims to do this?
In John 9 there was a man healed by Jesus who was blind from birth. The Pharisees got hold of this story and seized the man. They interrogated him and asked him all sorts of questions about Jesus. He became so shaken by it that, finally, he said, “I don’t know anything about this man; but one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” Isn’t this enough, dear friends? Any Christian will say the same thing. Thank God for the wonderful revelation in Jesus Christ.
If Christ were a mere man, this would pose no problem. We could dispense with Him as the psychologist often does. Philosophize Him away if you wish. Do what you will with this historical person if He is not divine. If He is a great teacher, destroy His books; but if He is more than a great teacher, look out!
If Jesus is what He said He was, then, my friend, be careful! If Jesus did come from heaven, you are treading on sacred ground. Your entire destiny is wrapped up with who Jesus really was. If Jesus is divine, then there rests in the hands of every human being an entire destiny that rises or falls on our relationship to this incredible Man. It is the world’s grandest opportunity if you accept it. It is a most fearful responsibility.”
January 7, 2007 § Leave a Comment
I got this gem by email from my mom. It’s a wonderful table listing God’s answers to our usual negative thoughts. It also quotes Bible verses right next to each entry, so you know the answers are real. It’s wonderfully inspiring! Download: God has a positive answer.
November 9, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm is a marked improvement on the prayer in psalm 70. It’s interesting to find pretty much the same phrases in verse 13 of this psalm as in verses 2 and 3 of psalm 70. Having encountered them in other psalms, I can venture to say they’re probably formulaic.
It appears that this psalm is the prayer of an old man who finds himself persecuted. Or, as the NJB footnotes suggest, there are certain references in the text, like in verse 18, that could suggest the subject of the psalm is the nation of Israel itself. If the latter is the case, I find the language hypocritical. The author of the psalm states that he’s been completely faithful since his birth (see verse 6), and the entire psalm is littered with such references to his steadfast faith, but we know that wasn’t the case with the nation of Israel. Verse 18 is also a sham. Although Israel was supposed to proclaim God to the nations around themselves, they did not. Rather, they were an example of unfaithfulness to God during most times in their history, jealously guarded their faith, did not spread the Word of God, and their rabbis put undue burdens (through ridiculous rules made up about everything) not only on the Israelites themselves, but also on those who wished to convert from other faiths. If you don’t believe me, read the Bible, from cover to cover. It’s full of evidence that points out the nature of the nation of Israel, in both the Old and the New Testament.
In order to avoid negative interpretations, this psalm is better looked at literally, as the prayer of an old man who believes he’s been faithful to God all his life (with no evidence to the contrary presented here). If we do that, this psalm becomes a bitter-sweet celebration of faith in spite of adversities. It becomes inspirational, Job-like. Personally, I think this is the more plausible interpretation, not the alternate one presented in the paragraph above. Here’s this man, who’s had a hard life but has stuck by God and trusted in Him for deliverance. Although God has allowed him to suffer, and his suffering caused surprise to others given the man’s faith, God has delivered him and brought him this far, so there’s no reason to think He won’t carry the man through this time as well.
Of course, we can’t help asking why this man suffers, but we don’t know and can’t speculate. God often allows things that don’t make sense to us. Perhaps we’re meant to be examples for others, like Job was. Also left to ponder is the possibility that “misery” and “hardship” mean different things to different people. Some have a higher tolerance for them, and yet others complain at the first sign of trouble. Since we don’t know the specific circumstances under which this psalm was written, it’s hard to comment on the relative nature of this man’s troubles. For all we know, they may have been big. Whatever the case may be, the fact that he chooses to praise God and what’s more, to thank Him for a deliverance that’s yet to come (see verse 23) makes this psalm all the more worthwhile to read and ponder. This is a right attitude with God, like the one Paul had while in prison, as I mentioned in Psalm 70. It’s important to do this, because it’s the right thing to do. We don’t know God’s plan for our lives. We don’t know why we find ourselves in trouble. But we do know that others are watching, and they’ll be watching more closely when we’re in trouble. If we don’t choose to praise God when it really matters, what’s the point of calling ourselves Christians?
August 10, 2006 § Leave a Comment
This psalm unfurls like a little play. It’s different from other psalms, because the narrative thread is continuous. The author begins with a plea for protection, then describes the reason for it: wicked people are seeking his destruction, and hurting him in secret by spreading evil words. I love the way he describes them: “They search out iniquities; they accomplish a dilligent search.” In other words, they looked thoroughly for a way to make trouble, and they found it.
But the author trusts in God’s deliverance: “God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.” Deus ex machina may be a less common plot mechanism in worldly tales, but in the Bible, it’s the norm.
I can just see the imagery of verse 8: “So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away.” Can you picture it? A huge tongue, blackened with deceit and wickedness, which they’ve been wagging about, turns upon them, and crushes them. I’ll say one thing about the author of this psalm: he’s got imagination! (Yes, I know, he was only using a figure of speech…)
The story ends wonderfully, of course. “And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of His doing.” In other words, everyone realizes it doesn’t pay to be wicked and starts playing nice. And, this also serves to strengthen the righteous, who’ve been rooting for the good guy and for God all along, and have now been justified in their beliefs: “The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in Him.”
Although the tone of this post was a little tongue-in-cheek, the message still comes through: those who are steadfast in their devotion to God will not be let down. It may not happen during their lifetime, but the evil shall get it, and boy, they’ll get it good! I’m talking about the final judgment, when the righteous get their day in court and the sentence is pronounced upon the wicked. It’s coming. “And all the upright in heart shall glory.”
August 9, 2006 § Leave a Comment
There are some powerful phrases in this psalm, which not only serve to illustrate beautifully the point of the author, but also serve as reminders of how one’s faith in and desire for God should manifest. (I’m going to ignore verses 9 and 10, since I’ve already said plenty of times that it’s wrong to wish for revenge.)
For example, let’s look at verse 1: “my heart thirsts for you, my body longs for you, as a land parched, dreary and waterless.” Have you ever felt that way? Jesus said He was the water of Life, and by knowing Him, we would never be thirsty again. Have you ever had such a strong desire to be close to God? It should be natural. We shouldn’t shy away from it. He is our Creator, and we should want to be with Him.
How about verse 3: “better Your faithful love than life itself.” How true! Yet how many of us cling to this earthly life, so full of disappointments, of lies and deceit, and of decrepit old age and vanity… How can this be more precious than eternal life with God? I’m not saying we should forsake our earthly life, but we should live our days here on earth in preparation for an eternity with God, not sinning and going after fleeting pleasures that only remove us from Him.
Have you ever had an epiphany like the one described in verses 6, 7 and 8? Have you ever realized that God has always been there for you through the tough times? Have you realized how His hand has supported you through the toughest and most forbidding of circumstances, and carried you out unscathed? I have, and it’s a powerful reminder of His power to me.
I invite you to get to know God, to discover how wonderful it is to rest in Him, safe in the knowledge that He will take care of you, of even your smallest desires and wishes, and will welcome you to an eternity with Him after a life well-lived, observing His loving commandments.