The brightest Supernova in the sky

A few days ago astronomers released a study of a supernova first discovered in 2016 and declared it the brightest in the sky — five hundred times brighter than the average supernova. Most of you are probably aware that a supernova is the remains of an exploding star.

After seeing this news I read several articles on science websites, including Nasa Science’s. By definition a supernova has at least five times the mass of our own sun. Our “little” sun has room for 1.3 million earths inside. You can imagine a bit of just how large this supernova, designated SN2016aps, is.

Linda and I are listening to a great book by Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder. In chapter one he has this quote, “President Theodore Roosevelt had a routine habit, almost a ritual. Every now and then, along with the naturalist William Beebe, he would step outside at dark, look into the night sky, find the faint spot of light at the lower left-hand corner of Pegasus, and one of them would recite: “That is the Spiral Galaxy of Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It is seven hundred and fifty thousand light years away. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our own sun.” There would be a pause and then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we feel small enough! Let’s go to bed.”

Like Ravi, I’ll now encourage you to read these words from Psalm 8, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. . . . When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers . . . , what is man that you are mindful of him? . . . You made him ruler over the works of your hands” (verses 1, 3-4 and 6).

Indeed, look to the skies and feel true wonder at the hands of our God.

Imago Dei

Last week, our passage for our morning devotional was 1 Corinthians 15. Thursday, we looked at verse 39, “For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.” Until recently, I was always puzzled by this verse. How is our flesh different than the animals? I got that we are also spiritual beings but I did not understand that our flesh is actually much different than the animals.

Coincidentally, or maybe providentially, a few days earlier, I read the last of the fourth chapter in Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of Disciplines, a section called Imago Dei. Willard makes a point from creation in Genesis 1 — unlike the flesh of animals, man’s flesh was designed to receive the breath of life from God and thus made in God’s image.

I’ll let you read his words and then come back with some of my thoughts on it in Part 2.

“THE HUMAN BODY AS PART OF THE IMAGO DEI”
“But the Genesis account of our creation tells us more than just God’s intention for our place in nature. We are different than the rest of creation for another reason beyond our dominion over it. The manner of our creation was different from the rest of creation too. Before humankind, preexisting substance is simply commanded to bring forth a life form. In the case of humans, however, God imparts something of himself to an earthen form specially shaped to receive it. Genesis 2:7 states, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (ASV).
Our earthly form seems from this wording to have come “alive” only in conjunction with the giving of God’s “breath” or spirit to it. The term “living being” occurs in 1:24 and again in 2:19, referring to creatures with the power of movement in the air, waters, or earth. These earlier living beings had come forth from dust or water at God’s command. Now, in humans, the “living being” emerges from shaped dust as a result of the influx of God’s spirit.
Whatever the precise details of the process—and we must beware of filling them out in a manner that would be blasphemous of the nature of God—the human too becomes a “living being,” with an animal nature, but with a vast difference—we have a nature that is suitably adapted to be the vehicle of God’s likeness.
The two sides of the great human contradiction, dust and divinity, then, are set in place. Human creatures, like all living beings, have a life of their own. But though that life is mortal and short, it is still a life in
which we alone among living beings can stand in opposition”
“52 / The Spirit of the Disciplines”
“to God—in order that we may also choose to stand with God.
If it were not for this ability, we could not fill our part in Go”
“d’s plan, because we would just be puppets. And no puppet could bear his likeness or be his child. The human body itself then is part of the imago Dei, for it is the vehicle through which we can effectively ac- quire the limited self-subsistent power we must have to be truly in the image and likeness of God.
And herein lies the the pivotal concept about our nature we need to understand when we begin talk of redemption. Let us try to make this point as clear as possible since everything turns upon it in practical theology.
In creating human beings in his likeness so that we could govern in his manner, God gave us a measure of independent power. Without such power, we absolutely could not resemble God in the close manner he intended, nor could we be God’s coworkers. The locus or depository of this necessary power is the human body. This explains, in theological terms, why we have a body at all. That body is our primary
area of power, freedom, and—therefore—responsibility.”

Churches Embracing Sin

Someone posted an article on fb that reports a church deciding to accept pride, gossip, sorcery, covetousness, theft, and sexual immorality alongside their acceptance of homosexuality over a decade ago. The article was from the Babylon Bee. Now I know the Babylon Bee is satire, not real news. But honestly, can’t you see a day when some churches will accept most “modern” lifestyles? We are already beginning to have people claim that their involvement in beastiality is merely an alternative lifestyle and they want the right to marry their pet. The same is happening with pedophilia.

I am convinced most churches do not see many sins for what they  are – traps, burdens and heavy weights that ensnare us. All sin trips up our walk with the Lord. We are doing no one a favor by just accepting such in peoples lives. We want to truly love them — share  that these are not the way to happiness and God has the answer. We must also share our own struggles and encourage them with stories of deliverance.

False Trails In Meditation 1

As I am writing about meditation, I feel the need for a warning. I read one of the more popular books on the subject last year, Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. I took my time going through the book, taking a week or two on each chapter, rereading it a few times. I was appreciating the first third of the book. Then the main point of the book began to be how to empty yourself. Certainly we go through the process of dying to self. And we are to have the same attitude of Jesus, who emptied himself to become truly human.  When we emulate this attitude we are ready to serve others. But for Merton the attitude of emptying himself becomes the central point of his meditation. He moves into chapters on detachment, inward destitution, and renunciation. “If nothing that can be seen can either be God or represent Him to us as He is, then to find God we must pass beyond everything that can be seen and enter into darkness. Since nothing that can be heard is God, to find Him we must enter into silence. Since God cannot be imagined, anything our imagination tells us about Him is ultimately a lie and therefore we cannot know Him as He really is unless we pass beyond everything that can be imagined and enter into an obscurity without images and without the likeness of any created thing.” *

By the end of the book Merton indicates that if you seek this process of self emptying long enough, you will come to a place of complete darkness. “And it is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close to us for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure.” **

I thought, “How can this be getting closer to God, for ‘God is light and in him is no darkness at all’?” (1 John 1:5) Much of this clearly goes against scripture — the blood of Christ and the power of the resurrection are what make us pure. The Word and all of creation declare the Glory of God.  These are not lies. Though our understanding is quite incomplete, we can learn much and we are changed. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” The book simply has way too much focus on self. This did not fit the lessons I had already had on contemplation. I learned long ago in my struggle with lust that as long as I was focused on my sin and my weakness, I was stuck. It is only when I began to focus on God’s holiness and his strength that I began to be able to truly overcome. I began losing interest in the book as Merton’s teaching appeared to me to be more Buddhist than Christian and slowed down even more. I only reluctantly finished the book.

Providentially, about the time I began the book, I also started to occasionally look at what articles were being published by The New Yorker. Their take of politics is a good deal different than mine but they are famous for good writing. You can read a few articles a month without a subscription. To my surprise, they had an article entitled “Thomas Merton, the Monk Who Became a Prophet,” December 18th. Many encounters with Hindu and Buddhist monks are referred to. The article includes a quote from Merton’s biographer, Rowan Williams, on how Merton “could give almost equal veneration to Catholic and Buddhist traditions.” It is quite clear where Merton received his teachings on emptying yourself.

Though I enjoyed most of Firstlights by Sue Monk Kidd, I need to warn you that she is a fan of Thomas Merton and includes two references to Zen Buddhism. I wondered where to go next in my reading on contemplation. I was wanting to find more on contemplating the nature of God. I found a few wonderful tidbits in the sermons of Jonathan Edwards. But I was hoping for a book. In checking out a number of books on Amazon, I found some more which are referred to in either the description or the reviews as a marriage between Eastern and Western meditation. And many others who also seem to mainly emphasize emptying yourself. Evidently this theme goes back in Christian meditation literature to at least the 4th Century.

Our enemy, the Devil has long used the tactic of mixing other religions into the worship of Jehovah. Every time the Israelites gave into this it was to their great detriment. He continues to do this today.  Deepak Chopra has written a fiction entitled, Jesus, A Story of Enlightenment. In the book Jesus is guilty of joining a plot to commit murder and fulfilling his lust. He doesn’t really understand his life until he travels to mountains in the east to learn from a Guru. Chopra’s Jesus has nothing to do with the real one. His motives for creating him are clear on the front jacket, “I don’t want the Jesus in this book to be worshiped, much less to push him forward as definitive. The events of the tale are pure fiction. But at a deeper level, the Jesus in this book feels real because we’ve gotten a glimpse into his mind. One flash of insight answers many prayers.” This is pure deception, he simply wants Jesus to be mixed in with his own version of  “spirituality”.

Long we’ve been tempted to mix in a love for worldliness. Now we are tempted with many other religions including Wicca, New Age, fascination with aliens, even the worship of angels. Much of American and European society are currently offended by pure Christianity. The temptation is strong to compromise in this area as it would make us more acceptable to them. I urge you to take care, be sure to worship only the God of the Bible. And make the Father, Son and Holy Spirit the largest focus in your meditation. It will change your life, it certainly has mine.

* Thomas Merton “Seeds of Contemplation”, ch. 19 From Faith to Wisdom, p.102, Anthony Clarke, Wheathampsted, Hertfordshire, April 10, 1961

**Thomas Merton (April, 1961). “Seeds of Contemplation”, ch. 35 Renunciation, pp.200-201, Anthony Clarke, Wheathampsted, Hertfordshire, April 10, 1961

Come with me and rest

Sunday I had the opportunity to preach and spoke on Meditation. I decided yesterday to follow it up with some lessons on walking with God.

This morning I was reading a bit that fits right in this plan from Firstlights by Sue Monk Kidd. She talks of the need to stop in our day for a few moments and be present with God. She then brings up a passage I didn’t remember, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31 NIV) This verse is tucked in just before Jesus feeds the five thousand.  The disciples had come back from being sent off two by two to preach repentance, heal, and cast out demons. They no doubt were still pretty excited when they got back. But Jesus could tell they had not even had time to eat. He then invites them to come along with him to rest. They did not really get the chance as the crowd followed them. But they did have a pretty amazing meal.

Mrs. Kidd points out that the difference between nowhere and now here is a small space. We really need to take moments through our day to be truly present, not just rushing through our to do list. We take these moments to recognize God is with us. If we don’t the day will seem a blur. We may miss lessons of the day or God speaking to us in a small voice. God does remind us to “be still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

 

Jesus, light of the World

During the Christmas season I reflected on Jesus coming as the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). I thought of how many songs and decorations are associated with light. In all the darkness of the world, we need his light.

Today I read a thought connecting theology and science by Andy Walsh in a blog on Jesus Creed called “It Is All Relative”. He points out that there are many principles in science which are constant. One is the speed of light in a  vacuum, about 300 million meters per second. This is true regardless of the relative speed of the one seeing the light. The only objects which can actually move at the speed of light are things without mass, such as protons.

Much of our society today is preaching that all morals and truths are relative. They do not understand how Christians believe in absolutes. That is because they do no know Jesus. He is our absolute, our constant in goodness, truth and morals. Though he was tempted in the same ways we are, he remained sinless (Hebrews 4:15). This makes him the only one who, morally speaking moves at the speed of light (without the weight of sin). Our goal is to “walk in the light as he is in the light” 1 John 1:7.

The Lord is a Warrior

Ex. 15-3

We live in a time of the church being under constant attack. The religious war with Muslims seems to gain new footing every week. More Christians are being persecutioned than any time in history. The political upheaval, in our own country and abroad has us reeling — everything seems to be turning upside down. So many proponents of relativism, “alternative lifestyles”, athiesm, agnosticism and freedom from religion are pointing thier fingers at the church and saying we are the problem. We are loosing our young people at an astounding rate — more churches are closing than ever before — most of us can’t believe all of this is happening in our own time.

Add this to the “normal” strife in the church caused by gossip, backbiting, prideful leadership, unrepentant sin, and lack of respect for the scriptures — it seems the enemy is mostly winning and many are despairing.

But — remember, “The Lord is a warrior,  Yahweh, is his name.” Exodus 15:3 reminds us of of the plagues in Egypt and the Red Sea crashing down on the Egyption army. He has all power in his control, including myriads of angels, a single one of which killed 185,000 men in a single day in 2 Kings 19.

Do not fear! Jehovah will fight for us! Call on his name, seek his face, meditate on his eternal nature, read and remember the many, many examples in scripture of his overcoming overwhelming odds for his people and you will see — it is far from hopeless — not only do we need not despair, we can shout Hallelujah!

On No! What do I do, part 2

  1. Don't panicSit down daily to read the Bible, ask God to lead you to just the right passage for this moment. Sometimes, I have had the Bible fall open to that right passage. Other times I just start looking at the Psalms and find it. Most often, however, the Lord brings to mind just what I need from past reading or study.

 

As you read the passage, ask what it reveals about God’s nature and character.

 

Reflect on God, ask him to show you more of this.

 

Meditate on it. (Psalms 119:15) But, you may ask, how do you meditate

 

  1. Put away the cell phone, the laptop, anything that might distract you. They used to call meditation — musing and a muse was someone wise. Now these have been almost completely replaced with the opposite — amusement.
  2. Spend a significant time just reflecting, listening to what God may be telling you.
  3. If possible, engage your mind’s eye — your imagination
  4. Find pictures, songs, messages to further encourage this thinking. Put these reminders in your day.

 

Ask God if there is any action you need to take to demonstrate what you have learned — to take on his nature yourself. If so, act as soon as possible.  And follow up — see if you’ve been faithful to do God’s will for you in this.

 

Ask God if there is any action you need to take to demonstrate what you have learned — to take on his nature yourself. If so, act as soon as possible.  And follow up — see if you’ve been faithful to do God’s will for you in this.

Oh, No! What do I do?

home alone

 

Last time, we looked at the problem of responding to our concerns with anxiety and how this response does not reflect faith or lead to mental health. So what is the correct response?

 

  1. Realize Christians are not exempt from genuine concerns. Wars or rumors of war, other political concerns, worries over our children, concern for aging parents, health issues, work troubles and money troubles happen to us as well as unbelievers.
  2. Pray — this should always be our default setting, as Christians. Pray for all those involved in our concerns, even our enemies. (Matt. 5:44)

 

  1. Share your concerns with fellow Christians. We recently sang the old hymn, Tell It to Jesus in early morning prayers. The song recommends always going to Jesus with our troubles — which is good. But it also recommends we tell it to Jesus alone. But as Christians, we are also to follow Galatians 6:2. “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” We may think we are sparing someone our trouble, if we keep it to ourselves. But actually, we are robbing them of a privilege and an opportunity to show Christ’s love to us. Another thing our silence robs us of — wise counsel. Proverb seek Wise counsel.

 

  1. Pray for strength, courage, and faithfulness through whatever you are going through. (Joshua 1:9; Rev. 2:10) Voice of the Martyrs says this is usually the top prayer request from those facing serious persecution.

 

5. Continually pray for direction on how to handle every situation. This is a discipline that most of us need to learn — to insert quick prayers through out the day or night whenever our thought turn to a concern.

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