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Newsletters

December Newsletter-Eyes

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I have either a relative, a friend, or perhaps just an acquaintance (I’ll keep that secret) that’s always fascinated me.  From my perspective I see the gifting of God in him, and at the same time I see him sometimes struggle to reason or evaluate whether God even exists.  Looking the other way serves him well for the most part in his corner of the world, but it hasn’t ‘bloomed’ or matured to all that I think God has prepared for him in his giftedness.  Looking the other way sometimes lets us walk right up to the edge of belief but stepping into the other side of that can be pretty difficult.  Because we all seemingly hold back something from that step, we miss many of the things that God has hoped for us in His Love.  It’s not God holding out on us, but rather us struggling to truly investigate what is only experienced by adding the wonder of God into our life equation.

Many times at Thanksgiving dinner I get around to staring into my dinner spoon. Maybe because it’s the only time I see a real silver spoon and maybe that’s what draws my attention. But anyway, I’m always trying to figure out why, if I look at one side of the spoon, I see my image upside-down and if I turn that spoon around, the image is right-side up.  That little maneuver makes me think of the miracle of the human eye. Now, if I could convince this mystery person to just think about one thing, some uninterrupted thinking for, let’s say, 3 days, contemplating the human eye (or for that matter any one of these: our heart- 86,000 beats a day, 3,363,840,000 in a lifetime, or DNA- 2.1 billion bits of information in one strand, 600,000 pages of information in just one fertilized ovum, 50 times the amount of information contained in the Encyclopedia Britannica) would present some of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God.  I many times feel if people would think about it for very long, believing the possibility of anything with the complexity of the human body evolving accidentally would be a very tough position to take.  That our eye evolved simply because of the advantage of time–that’s pretty tough for me to accept.  Now, I guess it’s common sometimes for us to wonder to ourselves: is this Gospel true; is there a Creator God?  Maybe on a weak day it’s ok, I know a few times in my life I’ve found a reason to at least bring the question up when I look around at all the bad stuff going on in this world.  When I do that, I come back to the human eye, the heart, the DNA, and I find it hard to deny that it takes more faith to doubt God as Creator than Faith to believe God as Creator.  I think I mentioned in another newsletter recently that atheists are not unbelievers; they’re simply believers who just believe in a different thing.  Being an atheist doesn’t make you simply an unbeliever in God, atheists and Christians both take positions of Faith, just opposite faiths. An atheist is just as much a believer in something as the Christian is a believer in Christ.

Let’s focus a bit on this eye thing.  The human eye is composed of more than 2 million working parts.  Eighty percent of our memories are determined by what we see.  On a flat surface with complete darkness the human eye has the capacity to see a candle flame burning 30 miles away.  The eye can distinguish 10 million colors.  Here’s an example of the complexity of the eye from the book, Does God Believe in Atheists? by John Blanchard: “Although accounting for just one fourth-thousandth of an adult’s weight, it is the medium which processes some 80% of the information received by its owner from the outside world. The tiny retina contains about 130 million rod-shaped cells, which detect light intensity and transmit impulses to the visual cortex of the brain by means of some one million nerve fibres, while nearly six million cone-shaped cells do the same job, but respond specifically to color variation. The eyes can handle 500,000 messages simultaneously, and are kept clear by ducts producing just the right amount of fluid with which the lids clean both eyes simultaneously in one five-thousandth of a second (page 313).”

I heard it said once that for the human body to be an ‘accident’, which is what you must believe to believe in evolution, it would be like taking the individual parts of a pocket watch, putting them in a clothes dryer and expect (after tumbling them for however long you wished) a watch to be produced in that dryer.  I’m going to grab another quote, and while there is so much more information, amazing stuff about the human eye, for the sake of space I’ll quote from Body By Design, written by Alan Gillen.

“The most amazing component of the eye is the ‘film,’ which is the retina. This light-sensitive layer at the back of the eyeball is thinner than a sheet of plastic wrap and is more sensitive to light than any man-made film. The best camera film can handle a ratio of 1000-to-1 photons in terms of light intensity. By comparison, human retinal cells can handle a ratio of 10 billion-to-1 over the dynamic range of light wavelengths of 380 to 750 nanometers. The human eye can sense as little as a single photon of light in the dark! In bright daylight, the retina can bleach out, turning its “volume control” way down so as not to overload. The light-sensitive cells of the retina are like an extremely complex high-gain amplifier that is able to magnify sounds more than one million times (pages 97-98).”

Back to my looking into that spoon.  I looked that up some time ago and learned that the image that’s created in our eye is actually created upside-down and miniaturized, our brains and components of the eye sense the color and redirect the image to right-side up in our brains.  Not only are the images produced upside-down, they are also left-right inverted as well.  That is, the left-side of our vision is received by the right-side of our eye and vise versa.  That means that the nerves in both eyes split up and cross each other in a way that the left halves of each eye is received by the right hemisphere of the brain and united into a seamless vision in our brains.  Strange?  And this: eyes wash themselves with their self-contained system of eye lashes, eye lids and glands.  Tears contain an anti-microbial agent that destroys bacteria, viruses, etc.  Blinking up to 6 times a minutes refreshes the lens.  The cornea acts like a watch face to protect the internals. A lens focuses the image, the iris and pupil adjust the amount of light, muscle groups move and adjust the angles of the light entering the eye.  On a single millimeter of the retina there are about 400,000 optical sensors.

That’s a lot of confusing stuff but then that’s whole the point.  Seems to me that a fair examination of the world around us leaves us with few excuses to not have a Faith in Father, Son and Spirit and the Breath that created all things.  And, while we may be excuseless, the human brain has found a way to easily do just that.  Reason alone should cause people at the very least to pause long enough to weigh and think about the probabilities.  We should at least have a conversation, but we do not.  I think the biggest obstacle is not our logic but our objection.  To me, there’re more people that won’t believe than there are people that can’t.

Here’s where I don’t get the accident thing:  I think I’m suppose to believe that ‘need’ was the driving force for evolution’s progressive theory.  That this something needed something better, just add a bit of time to that need, and poof: evolution proven!  So it must be that human eyes came about because we simply needed better eyes, and add a long time interval, and abracadabra- the complexity of our eyes.  If need were the driver, and a change did take place, what propelled the next stage, need again?  Seems the first need would be satisfied with the first change and set down and just relax.  If not need, where is the inertia for this progressive evolution. Seems to me if you take dirt and lets say protein from somewhere (I don’t know what all) put all that in a jar, if I sit and watched it 3 billion-trillion years, if I turned them, rolled them, heated them, chilled them, or talked to them, I’m guessing I would still have a jar of dirt, protein or whatever at the end of any length of time.  Without something planning the process, I just can’t get to where I need to believe in accidental life.  Without a start, a continuation, and a choosing taking place, an accident is just too much of a miracle for me, yet people buy it hook, line and sinker.  Just seems their religion (faith story) is a whole lot less likely than our Faith story.

I don’t know about you but I often get tired of being bombarded by the world’s constant pressure on our Faith in God.  Often when I feel that way, I simply retreat into the profound nature of the complexity of our eye, the heart and all that little DNA data.  Look, the only way to know God is through the spirit, not the mind– the only way!  But, using our brains once in awhile to observe Creation is encouraged in Scripture in such a way as to suggest ‘at the very least observe these miracles’!  The things that just make no sense in the hands of an atheist, those things establish a Peace in me!

November Newsletter- Debbie’s picture

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I was looking at a photograph the other day of Debbie’s grandchildren that acts as the desktop background on her office computer.  It’s a photograph of a very young brother and sister; he embracing her, the ‘her’ is pre-occupied or at least focused on a tree leaf she is holding in her hand.  One is holding the other and the second is well, many things: not responding, not aware, not paying attention, could care less, and probably a lot more.  Staring at it, it struck me that that picture is a pretty good representation of the Gospel and man’s response to it.  God reaches for his creation, embraces, protects, cares, hopes, displays great Love, but His creation seems focused on something else, perhaps a thousand other things, and is pretty much entirely indifferent to the much bigger picture that’s going on between them and Him.

I think it doesn’t help that we’ve drawn our own image of god, created in our imagination for the most part, rather than actually knowing the intimacy of His presence in and around us.  Too much of the time, we’ve painted a picture of God using religious brushes and colors, building from traditions rather than revelations.  We compare and contrast the Gospel to all the other world’s religions and argue about who’s right, who’s wrong. We think the argument itself can win over others of different faiths or people of no faith at all.  And that atheist thing– it’s not real.  There’s no such thing.  What there is are people of different beliefs, but everyone still believes something.  Atheists simply have faith in not believing.  To not believe in the God of Israel, the Christ of the New Testament or any god is based on possessing just as much faith in not believing as Christians have in believing.  There’re no proofs for atheists any more than Christians can force a proof in their belief.  They and we trust in the unseen, interpreting and trusting in things that are convincing to each other but not to one another.  The very statement of ‘I don’t believe’ is in effect saying I have faith in something else.

To me, I boil believing down to a simple conclusion about Jesus Christ.  Jesus did not come to establish an alternative religion, a new morality or some streamlined ethical system.  He came, very simply, to deliver us from our old, stale and distorted current definition of God.  Our definition over time had become narrowed, too complex and had more than not turned the Love of God that was first declared in the Garden of Eden, into a God who had become pre-occupied with a judge’s bench rather than a redeemer-rescuer of people.  Simply, our vision of God had become smaller and smaller.  In fact by the time Jesus came, the concept of the God of Israel had come down to this:  the whole of the Jewish Messiah’s purpose was to simply overthrow Rome, set up an earthly kingdom of Jewish believers and get on with it.  That’s what was so devastating to Jesus’ followers – their hope became a lost cause right before their very eyes.  Not only had their so called leader been tried and killed but the rebellion against Roman rule had died as well.  At that point their image of the God of Israel had bottomed out. They were left leaderless and without hope of ever establishing the long hoped for political rule over Jerusalem.  They didn’t know that their essence of Jesus’ death was fake news.

From the very beginning, Jesus, rather than seeking a political victory or establishing a new ruling religious leadership, in Matthew 11:25-30 reveals exactly why He came: to reveal Him who takes on our heavy burdens and sets an easy yoke and gives rest to the weary.  The old ways had resulted (these are Jesus’ words, John 5:37-39) in the leaders not seeing God’s shape or hearing His voice; did not see who He was or what He was saying.  And, even though they searched and quoted the scripture, they failed to find the essence of the Words of Jesus.  Even then, with Jesus standing right there in the midst of them, they would not yield to his instruction and never learned or accepted the Life of God shared in Jesus’ Word of Life.  Amazingly we know from Scripture that before the foundation of the world Jesus Christ ‘was’.  And, that Jesus’ incarnation was tucked away in Scripture and indeed present from Genesis to Revelation.  Jesus came to give the final word about God.   He alone was the one given authority to show us the complete revealing of God the Father, Son and Spirit.

In that revealing, we find that God’s (Father, Son and Spirit) nature is centered on being a blessing God.  The first thing that Adam knew of God, the first thing he learned of God, is that ‘God blessed’, giving Adam dominion over all the things of His hand.  Something very similar happened in the parable attributable to the prodigal son.  If you remember, the prodigal son remembered his father!  That’s a very big and important part of the story.  He remembered what was true about his father.  He remembered his life would be so much better off at home with a father that loved him.  The son knew his dad intimately the whole time, but when he remembered who he was, only that remembering changed everything.  Jesus stepped into our world to remind us of who Dad is.  In some way, moving us away from what we were saying about Him before.  For sure, he stepped in to provide a way for the broken relationship between God and man to be restored.  He was a sacrifice for us, but additionally stepped in to reveal a God that Loved so much that He provided the mechanism of rescue through Christ Jesus.  Knowing that Dad, knowing Who is True, was designed to also reveal what is true.  We start out in the pig pen, wrongheaded, hardhearted and self-centered.  Jesus came to help us remember Who our Father is and place a robe of Grace on our lives.

Debbie’s picture of those two grandchildren is a picture of how it is much of the time, but it’s not a picture of how it has to be.  It’s a very aggressive move for God to step into our world.  That alone is a huge, incredibly profound thought.  Imagine God being concerned enough about all people to come and do some pro-active pursuing of, well, you.  And, I might even go so far as to suggest that if that history is true, you would think it would be almost impossible to ignore or dispute.  But guess what, for the most part that’s exactly what the world does.  Oh, we’ll take the time to argue about right and wrong, we’ll evaluate spiritual versus secular, and scream politics and religion.  We’ll have those conversations.  But, did the Son actually take on flesh and live among us?  That discussion, for the most part is off limits.  We’re rapidly moving to where it might even, if not already, be illegal to have a debate about such a thing.  Imagine if there was just a mustard seed of, a hint of, this story being true.  Wouldn’t you think there would just a grain of hope in men’s response?  Logically, surely you would hope men would be looking for that to be true.  Logically, you would think they’d be overjoyed at the thought.  Can you imagine if only a glimmer of this got into the heart of people.   You’d think that they’d rush to it, even pray for it to be real.  But, they do not.   Actually, because of the Lie of the anti-Christ and the darkness of men’s hearts, many, and seemingly the majority, are rooting for this to be false.  Can we imagine that being man’s most common response to this story?

Jesus suffered the most unjust moment ever imposed on an innocent person. He did that for the world (people) amazingly, and especially the kind of imperfect, violent world you and I so very well know.  Some are uncomfortable even thinking that people, human life or simply any scoundrel’s life, could mean that much to God.  An amazing story isn’t it?  One to grab our attention for sure.  Yet, here we sit, for the most part contemplating that leaf from a sweet-gum tree, oblivious to the hold, the tug, the embrace of God’s Great Grace.

October Newsletter-Jesus Life

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

‘Christianity has been reduced to a set of mental beliefs and recitation of facts. So, we study about God, we study about Jesus, we study about salvation. We reduce everything to a formula: Ten steps to overcome temptation, you know five ways to…four ways to have healing. What are we dealing with? The heart of what we’re talking about is that the Jesus who rose from the dead, ascended to the right Hand of the Father and has poured out the presence, the person, the Holy Spirit, Who is among us. He’s not merely alive as a fact to be used to prove something. He’s not merely alive so that we can pass an exam on the Resurrection; He’s alive in that He’s here and He’s now and Christianity is the religion, if you can call it that, of persons who are intimately connected with God, and talk to Him and hear Him and behold Him and He works in them, through them and by them. That’s Christianity!’ …Malcolm Smith

Tammy and I were talking the other day about artists: the paintings kind and music kind.  I mentioned that, in my opinion, with painting it’s not the hand it’s the eye, in music it’s not the voice it’s the ear.  I could have added to the conversation, in the Gospel it’s not the brain it’s the heart.  As believers it’s common and actually expected that we’ll have questions about our Gospel experience.  Everywhere Jesus went there were questions.  I believe it’s necessary to ‘hunger and thirst’ for more of God in order to: one- keep our Peace, two- to increase in the intimate relationship with His Spirit. Having questions is healthy and hopefully provoked by our hearts.  However, sometimes we simply ask questions that only our brains have any interest in.  Just prior to Jesus’ ascension, the disciples asked when would they see the kingdom?  What they were really asking was when will we see Israel’s kingdom replace Rome’s rule, when will the ancient promise of God’s Kingdom finally establish itself in their land.  What they didn’t understand was that wasn’t the reason Jesus came to earth or even why he chose them to be His people.  It was in some sense an illegal question.  That question came from their mind and had little to do with the Kingdom that Jesus was establishing.  As it goes, Jesus didn’t directly answer that question.  In fact, Jesus often routinely refused to answer ‘illegal’ questions; he simply answered the ones that should have been asked by those following him.  Many questions had, and still do, have to do with our Adamic nature (flesh) and little to do with the new nature that Christ was introducing.  C.S. Lewis pointed out that our questions to Jesus so much of the time are like asking him ‘is yellow square or round’ or ‘how many hours are there in a mile’.  Jesus’ answer concerning their kingdom question was: it’s not for you to know the time of that.  A few years ago I remember reading a quote, I don’t remember who said it, but it went like this: ‘… be prepared to meet Him who knows how to ask questions.’  Someday, and hopefully before we die, we’ll come face to face in our own personal press conference with the Spirit of Christ.   When that happens, maybe we will put down our fleshy questions and began asking the profound.  At that time, we’ll have to embrace Faith and not try to overdose on unnecessary information about either the past or future.  In that moment, Christ will simply be our daily manna, meeting today’s needs and preparing us for any future by preparing us for the present.

Jesus came to enable us, to bridge the gap between earth and Heaven.  He didn’t come to prove He was God, simply, he came to rescue people.  His rescue not only provided an eternal way of living but also a way to experience God’s Kingdom right now.  His Kingdom was established to work within our every day toil, not blowing away the world physically but Heavenly.  His Kingdom is for this world but not from it, a gift to the world but the world for the most part rejects it.  This Kingdom of God is not about the world becoming perfect, it’s more about finding God in the middle of this imperfect one. The Spirit of God has specially come to rest upon our hearts and comfort us in all things.  Sometimes our Spiritual Life becomes like a visit to Graceland, an experience that charges us up for a few days but we almost immediately begin looking for another experience to respond to emotionally.  We become comfortable living from miracle to miracle with little of the true Comfort of God in our daily lives. Perhaps, we too easily refer to the blending of Heaven and earth as miracles rather than the natural meeting place between God and humanity.  I’m not saying we’re in error identifying events as miracles.  What I am saying is that we can expect those and even more, we can expect the subtle Comfort of God each day plus those miracle moments.  Only seeing Him in the glorious, in the spontaneous, I’m just not sure that’s the pattern of Life that Christ expected for us or provided for us.

The role of the Spirit is to guide us and, if we permit it, He can do that daily.  He’s a Lamp unto us every day not just some days.  If that’s not true seems to me we’re all in big trouble.  The church is designed to work with the Spirit not for the Spirit.  Many times I feel as though we think God gave us the gift of salvation and now expects us to go sell it to people.  But if you look at the life of Christ you see him following the Spirit, doing nothing apart from It.  Then and still today, it’s that relationship that’s powerful in people’s lives.  Jesus was in a relationship with the Spirit, with the Father, and that cooperation created the biblical results we see in His life and potentially in ours.  It can’t be that he was just simply God and walked around on earth doing ‘because I’m God’ things.  While he was fully earthly and fully Heavenly, Jesus still depended upon ‘seeing’ what the Father was doing in order to finish the task set before him.  Our lives can resemble that kind of dependency as well.   Many times I think we get in too big a hurry, become impatient, and simply set out on our own, doing things our way and then frantically calling for God’s blessing on our mess. (I did type that with a smile.  But there’s truth there I think.)

Our relationship with the Spirit has His watermark on it.  Some of our paper currency and in many antique postage stamps, if held up to the light, have a hidden watermark that can be seen.  It’s an image buried in the paper that identifies that item as real, authentic, not counterfeit.   It validates that money or stamp as official, authorized by a higher authority.  Believers are watermarked as well.  There’s an image hidden in us.  Something that authorizes and identifies our Faith.  That watermark’s revealed in the light of our purpose and deeds.  Historically, just prior to Jesus appearing in Earth, the Herod family took upon themselves the re-furbishing of the Jewish Temple for one reason and one reason only: to validate Herod’s claim to be the true king of the Jews.  After all, prophesy had promised for centuries that someday a King would come and restore Israel, establish the Jewish kingdom forever.  In Herod’s mind, by simply doing the things of the prophesy he would receive the reward of the prophesy, i.e. be king.  But there was no God there, no authority to be king.  No watermark to authenticate, only his fleshly activity to ‘show’ himself as king.  You can see why Jesus was a very real political threat to the Roman system because Jesus was the true Royal.  The Spirit of God rested upon his shoulders, guided him in all authority and watermarked him for us to see him as the one true Messiah.

On a trip to Colorado a few years back I was taking pictures inside an old gold mining shack.  The shack had one small glass window. As I was taking a picture of the mountain thru that window I noticed that when I moved closer to the window my vision of the landscape improve drastically.  By moving closer that red mountain took on the green of the cedars and the extraordinarily hue of blue sky.  Much the same, as we move closer to God’s purpose of rescuing us, His moving toward us to bless us, we begin to see even more of the His beauty; the full landscape of His Grace.  Simply, Christ came to be with us.  Stepped into our world to grab hands with us as we travel some 80-90 years.  The Bible gives us the story of our beginning, and also there, we can read of a precise end.  But the middle of our story is by invitation.  Will you come and step into His world as He once stepped into yours?  That’s the choice. We can wrestle with all this life’s experience seemingly alone (or at the best with a few companions) or we can step into a place provided for us by the Love of God, called the Kingdom of God, step into a place that eye has not seen nor have we ever imagined all that Father, Son and Spirit have prepared for us even now and in our future.