Author: prestonrentz

Ageing Backwards

Ageing Backwards

In the 2008 film; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the idea of ageing backwards was played out in a creative but fictional drama. Brad Pitt’s character was born as an old man. He ages backwards throughout his life until he eventually dies as an infant. This was the first time I remember contemplating the idea of actually ageing backwards.

The fitness industry also speaks of age-reversal through nutrition, supplements and strength training. But neither Hollywood or the fitness industry invented the concept of ageing backwards, God did. And for the Christian, this is real.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus from Mathew 18:3 (NRSV).

We were once children and now we’ve grown up. We’ve left childish things behind and have matured into productive adults. Why go back? What part of us must return to a child like state?

While the world concerns itself with physical age reversal or the avoidance of physical death all together, God’s concerns lies in the renewal of our spirit. As Paul of the New Testament states;

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

This is not mere theory or religious talk, it’s the power of God offered to those in Christ Jesus. A hint to age-reversal within our spirit. Because for those of us who are adults and don’t yet totally depend on God, he’s inviting us to age backwards; to return to a childlike state and rely on our God for everything, the way we used to rely on our parents or guardians when we were young.

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But I’ve had trouble deciphering just what Jesus meant here. If we’re to become childlike again, would not immaturity and fear go along with that?

The first thing I notice about children is how tender-hearted and innocent they are. But one crying fit or gross display of me-ism and it doesn’t take long to notice how corrupt they are in their spirit. Thus the need for redemption. As beautiful as children are, they are immature and easily misled. So we need to grow up, but not in the way the world would have us.

When the love of Christ gets a hold of us, it’s a tough ride at times. There’s both joy and pain along the way. Because while God is taking us forward, he’s also taking us back. This friction creates suffering. But the Lord reminds us;

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4 NIV

The world cannot create this kind of person who is mature but childlike.  A grown-up but happy and grateful. An adult who is filled with life and joy as if they didn’t have a care in the world. It’s a paradox to human reasoning. But this is the Christian fully alive.

God must have his way with us if we’re to know genuine redemption. Absolute renewal. A true re-birth. But it sometimes feels like nothing more than the drudgery of day-to-day struggle. We experience the trials and temptations as if all depends on our own success to survive. But it doesn’t. As the Word says;

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV

We have our part; The Word again reminds us;

“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7 NIV

This kind of life is crucial to one who would know the joy of ageing backwards. But what God is actually offering in this life is beyond mere age reversal, even of the spiritual kind. Listen to the words from Proverbs;

In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. Proverbs 12:28 NIV

We experience an age-reversal in spirit because we’re actually living from the immortal spirit of Christ Jesus. Yes, as God encourages us, delivers us from our troubles, strengthens us when we’re down in spirit and lifts us to his love and joy, we’re actually getting a taste of the real fountain of youth; the immortal spirit of our Savior Christ Jesus. What greater gift could one receive in this world? Don’t waste it!!

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Overcoming Fear by Trusting in God’s Love

Overcoming Fear by Trusting in God’s Love

Fear gets a bad rap. And it should. Fear has a way of stifling our efforts for a full life. Therefore, fear rarely gets good press. But fear actually plays a key role in a life that truly abounds in the grace of God.

Years ago I had to face a daunting fact; I feared just about everything except God. I feared the loss of income, that I wouldn’t find the right person to marry and that Hollywood would never again produce a film worth watching. You name it, I feared it. But my problem wasn’t that I had fear as much as I didn’t take those fears to God.

I eventually understood that the Word of God speaks to our fears. It seems to suggest that we don’t simply overcome fear, but that we redirect our fear to God personally.

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Fear plagues us humans. But to fear God is slightly different; it’s more like concerning ourselves primarily with what God thinks. What his will is. What he cares about. And trusting him with every need. EVERY NEED!

As we learn to turn to the God of love for every desire, fear and need, our lives will begin to abound in his amazing love. Really Abound. God responds best to those who put their complete trust in him.

“The fear of the Lord leads to life” Proverbs 19:23 NIV

As I learned to do this, all my petty fears began to wane. My life took on clarity, purpose, hope. Especially as I began to look more and more to the love of God. But don’t worry, as the reliable Word of God says; “perfect love drives out fear” 1 John 4:18 NIV.

With great generosity and kindness, God doesn’t insist that our fears disappear overnight. Or that we even abandon them up front. He just wants us to turn to him with those fears, and he’ll take it from there.

Yes, we began our walk by taking all our fears, cares and longings to God. Not by trying to overcome them on our own. And he’ll eventually turn those fears and concerns into a desire to completely trust in him and his love. And what a great desire that is.

As we grow in our love for the person of God as revealed through his son Christ Jesus, we’ll naturally leave fear behind. So don’t make “overcoming fear” your objective, focus rather on God’s love and give all to him. Fear simply can’t hold up under those circumstances. Fear in fact can’t exist in the presence of God.

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Overcoming the Racial Divide

Overcoming the Racial Divide

The airways have been riddled with race talk in recent months. It’s troubling to endure a dialog that’s more like arguing than constructive discussion. With the Trayvon Martin case demanding center stage and more recent cases in the news, I continue to be saddened by our lack of progress concerning race relations.

I was born in 1961, right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. I remember my grandfather using the N word with no shame. Thankfully his son, my dad, did not continue the disgusting habit. Even as a child I sensed its hateful nature and rejected its demeaning tone. I grew up liking African-Americans and have been acquainted with a few along the way. But when I look country-wide, I realize we have a ways to go.

In church on a recent Sunday, my wife and I attended the overflow room, which only holds about 125 people. As the praise music began and church goers poured in looking for seats, I noticed a larger number of African-Americans than usual coming in. One family had 8 members. One Black gentleman sat next to me and there were at least 3 other Black couples.

As we sat through the service, I couldn’t help but think of the History of the Black American, especially in the USA. How they’ve been treated in the past, ongoing challenges and the current debate that dominates the airways. My heart swelled with all kinds of emotions; sadness, compassion and even honor as we sat in church together.

When it came time for us to stand up and shake hands with those sitting around us, I shook the hands of a Black gentleman beside me and one in front with a vigor that was mutual. It was as if we both knew that we were there for a higher cause, a common cause that rose above the pettiness of racial conflict.

The room included many Hispanics as well as we seemed to exemplify the melting pot America was supposed to become for all people, all races. The color of our skin is not supposed to matter, and it didn’t matter, except to demonstrate the variety of God and his creation so wonderfully on display in that little room. The love, grace and power of God had simply settled the argument with his presence alone.

I walked out of church that day reminded that Christ Jesus is the answer to our prejudice, our discrimination of others and our immature love for only those who are just like ourselves.

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Coffee with a King

Coffee with a King

If you think the idea of sitting down with God and having a cup of coffee sounds trite, or insanely informal, you may be right. Many assume some level of formality is synonymous with respect for God. Or even being accepted by God.

The world Jesus came into had a similar view, except more extreme. The idea of a personal connection with God in times of antiquity was mocked and considered blasphemous. In fact, the Jews of history had a formal relationship with God to the degree that some would not even speak Gods name out loud, it was considered disrespectful, even contemptuous. Some would even leave one letter out when writing his name out of an extreme sense of reverence.

It was in this state of mind that Jesus found humanity, especially the religious. But Jesus’ interaction with people contradicted this god-view with nearly actions alone. And surprisingly, with no demand for respect. Profoundly contrary to what people were used to, and for the first time in history, folks were faced with the idea of God as a personal friend.

Jesus dined with Gentiles, touched the diseased without care for his own health and fraternized with woman, all of which were forbidden for a Jew, all the more a Rabbi. Perhaps Jesus ate “unclean” food and maybe even had a cup of coffee to top off the meal. Who knows?

His point wasn’t to merely encourage Jews to try to hang out with a good ole Gentile now and then. To the contrary; his aim seemed to be to challenge our view of the way God sees us, mere humans. And not just through the lens of religion.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 NIV

With Jesus’ unpredictable approach, God became familiar to the simple sinner, the non-religious, even the unclean gentile. Something us moderns take for granted. With no regard for societal rules, Jewish tradition, religious piety or ceremony; Jesus simply wanted to sit down and have a meal with his children, and maybe a cup of joe.

When I write about having a cup of coffee with God, I don’t mean that I brew an extra cup for Jesus, just in case you were wondering. But the imagery of having coffee with our Creator reminds me of the kind of friendship God wants with you and me; a real one. With our guard down and the gates of our hearts open.

This is what having a cup of coffee or tea with a friend has come to mean in our culture; opening up, being ourselves and connecting. This is fertile ground for any honest and healthy friendship.

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www.zazzle.com

But there’s an old saying; “familiarity breeds contempt”. So, it stirs the question; are we in danger of being contemptuous before God in such a familiar relationship? Well, yes. God has extended his hand of friendship from a holy place. So, the appropriate response needs to be understood.

A call to grace is a call into fellowship with our God. And that call into fellowship is a call to a holy life. We must seek to purify ourselves as we walk with Christ over time. Many treat grace as if it’s a license to frolic in our sin. “After all, grace will cover it” some might reason. While God loves and accepts us in our flawed state, he now begins the work of cleaning up our hearts. And to love God means to let him do this.

Maintaining both a common friendship and an appropriate respect for God is found in two veins; sharing the love with others that we know with God, and, maintaining a pure heart as we keep ourselves unstained from the world. In other words, humbly passing on the love and grace he’s given us, but also obeying God.

“This is love for God: to obey his commands.” 1 John 5:3 NIV

Therefore, we must make sure the life we live does not mock the very grace he calls us to. And this potential for contempt for God is expressed in a warning concerning the practice of communion;

“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 11:27 NIV

Verse 29 “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”

I’m no Theologian, but it’s my opinion that if we are living a life that is contrary to our call to grace and purity while seeking the presence and favor of God, we’ll bring judgment on ourselves. Our walk matters to God, even under the umbrella of grace. Or, should I say, all the more under the umbrella of grace.

So, if your intention is not to exploit the kindness of God, and you want a genuine connection with our generous and loving God, then relax and consider your time with God over a good cup of Jerusalem Java or Bethlehem Brew.

You must bring a sincere heart and enjoy a close and authentic relationship with your Savior, without the phony formality. And if you struggle with just how this very personal connection should go, think back to how easily he connected with people of his day; they just hung out, and ate, and drank. Remember what Christ said about himself;

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mathew 11:30 NIV

Next time you want to connect with God like an old friend, or you want to connect for the first time, act like you would if you were meeting a good friend for coffee. Open up, be yourself and let your heart flow. “Just spill it” as a friend used to say.

And if it helps to be clutching a hot cup of coffee or tea, I don’t think God will mind. If God didn’t mind the company of unscrupulous business men, the contagiously diseased and those who sell their bodies for money, I don’t think he’ll mind if you have an actual cup of coffee in tow. Just make sure it’s fresh brewed, you’re having coffee with a King.

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Will Judas Iscariot be Forgiven?

Will Judas Iscariot be Forgiven?

This question has come up many times over the three decades I’ve been involved in Christianity, and the answers aren’t easy. Some say that the grace of God will cover Judas’ actions because Jesus died for all sins. Others argue that because he helped bring about the death and resurrection of Christ, a role someone had to play, that he should be forgiven. But to get to the bottom of this mystery, we have to ask a different question; Did Judas Iscariot commit the unpardonable sin?

Jesus points out that there is a sin which will not be forgiven;

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Mathew 12:31-32 NKJV

I cannot judge whether Judas committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But if Jesus’ words about Judas are any indication of his destiny, it’s not encouraging;

“The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Mathew 26:24 NKJV

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That doesn’t sound to me like grace will be coming his way. But I hope I’m wrong. “But what if God changes his mind and gives him a break anyway?” I can hear some asking. But to answer this question, we have to understand something about the God of the Bible. While he is filled with love, grace and generosity; God will not be made a liar. In no way will his very own Word contradict him.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7 NKJV

So if Judas did, and that’s a big “if”, commit the unpardonable sin, I don’t believe God will compromise his very own spoken Word.

Some say that Judas expressed regret by returning the 30 pieces of silver and hanging himself. Problem here is that the Word speaks of two different types of regret or sorrow;

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 NKJV

Does this prove Judas knew what he was doing to the point that he committed the unpardonable sin? No! I’m just letting the Bible speak for itself. Which usually keeps me out of trouble.

My hope is that Judas is not guilty of the unpardonable sin, as I’m sure it’s yours. But all of this talk about forgiveness reminds me of something amazing about our God; the latitude of grace to which he extends. He’s willing to forgive just about everything man can throw at him except the unspeakable sin of blasphemy, of which I suppose most of us aren’t even capable.

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Jesus’ Name Still Has Power

Jesus’ Name Still Has Power

In February of 2010, a store owner in Frisco Texas was about to be robbed at gun-point by a hooded intruder. The owner pointed her finger at him and said; “In the name of Jesus, you get out of my store. I bind you by the power of the holy spirit.”

What moves me about this story is that the owner embraced courage over fear while under pressure of being held-up. She could have reached out to 911 or a shotgun behind the counter, but she invoked Jesus’ name instead. She could have caved to fear and dropped to her knees at the demands of fear personified. But the owner refused to partner with fear and insisted on tapping into the power of God by calling upon her Savior.

Her brave act also served as a witness to the thief. Maybe it will change him, maybe it won’t. But at least he’s been introduced to the power of God.

Most of us probably won’t have to rebuke a would be robber. Our biggest challenge may be just trusting God with our lives in general. Our addictions. Old habits that won’t die. People we just can’t seem to forgive, or the need to forgive ourselves. Whatever we’re dealing with, calling on the name of Christ Jesus still has all the power we need, especially as we call on him in faith. But for me, there remains a mild fear that I may find myself in the wrong convenient store at the wrong time.

A friend is considering getting a permit to carry a weapon. He is a long time Christian but feels compelled to protect himself and his family. We talked about what it means to trust God with every aspect of our lives. I can understand the temptation to want to look to the gun to protect those you love. But doesn’t our faith equip us with something much more powerful? And if we do carry a weapon, will we turn to God or the gun in a crisis?

There is a lively gun debate going on in our country right now, as you know, but this blog is not about that. I’m simply asking the question; Do we trust God completely with everything, including our personal safety?

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As believers, our destiny is in Christ. When or how we leave this world may not be in our hands. So, I’m not sure relying on a weapon or any other form of self protection will change our fate ultimately.

At the same time, I feel that protecting those we love is our job and part of our commitment to them. But where do we draw the line? I would like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

As for the hooded intruder, upon hearing the name of Jesus boldly spoken, the gun-toting assailant appeared stunned and then turned and walked out the door empty-handed, cursing, with his weapon at his side. Love confronted fear, and fear lost.

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A No-Limits Love

A No-Limits Love

In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey explains that his goal was not to merely to explain or dissect the meaning of grace, but to convey it. In regards to God’s love for us, I believe the story below accomplishes the same goal.

The story comes from Jim Cymbala, Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. In his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Cymbala tells the story of someone many might find tough to Love.

“ I shall never forget Easter Sunday 1992—the day that Roberta Langella gave her dramatic testimony, as I recounted in Chapter 3. A homeless man was standing in the back of the church listening intently.
At the end of the evening meeting, I sat down on the platform, exhausted, as others began to pray with those who had responded to Christ. The organist was playing quietly. I wanted to relax. I was just starting to unwind when I looked up to see this man, with shabby clothing and matted hair, standing in the center aisle about four rows back and waiting for permission to approach me.
I nodded and gave him a weak little wave of the hand. ‘Look how this Easter Sunday is going to end,’ I thought to myself. He’s going to hit me up for money. ‘That happens often in this church. I’m so tired ….’
When he came close, I saw that his two front teeth were missing. But more striking was his odor.—-the mixture of alcohol, sweat, urine and garbage took my breath away. I have been around many street people, but this was the strongest stench I have ever encountered. I instinctively had to turn my head sideways to inhale, then look back in his direction while breathing out.
I asked his name.
“David” he said softly.
“How long have you been homeless, David?”
“Six years.”
“Where did you sleep last night”?
“In an abandoned truck.”
I had heard enough and wanted to get this over quickly.
I reached for the money clip in my pocket.
At that moment David put his finger in front of my face and said “No, you don’t understand—I don’t want your money. I’m going to die out there. I want the Jesus that red-haired girl talked about.”
I hesitated, then closed my eyes. I felt soiled and cheap. Me, a minister of the gospel…I had wanted simply to get rid of him, when he was crying out for the help of Christ I had just preached about. I swallowed hard as God’s love flooded my soul.
David sensed the change in me. He moved toward me and fell on my chest, burying his grimy head against my white shirt and tie. Holding him close, I talked to him about Jesus’ love. These weren’t just words; I felt them. I felt love for this pitiful young man. And that smell…I don’t know how to explain it. It had almost made me sick, but now it became the most beautiful fragrance to me. I reveled in what had been repulsive a moment ago.
The Lord seem to say to me in that instant, Jim, if you and your wife have any value to me, if you have any purpose in my work—it has to do with this odor. This is the smell of the world I died for.”

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www.tillhecomes.org

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The Power of Outgoing Love

The Power of Outgoing Love

I never had so much fun remodeling a house. I usually did it for money, but not this time. I was able to set aside my greed and selfishness long enough to think about someone else. And it changed me.

This remodel was for Marcie, a woman who was working 3 jobs to provide for two daughters, one in college at the time. She wanted to pay for her older daughter’s education even though money was scarce. Her husband had abandoned the family and left her alone to provide. No complaints, no excuses. She had 3 jobs to do and she wasn’t going to let anything stop her, not even an estranged husband.

Some of the exterior walls in her house had holes in them. Portions of the house were falling apart. So our church decided to step in.

Remodeling homes is what I do for a living, and I didn’t exactly want to do more of it in my spare time. But I was involved for a different reason than making a profit. And that made all the difference. We had fun on the job. There was a spirit of joy and cooperation that I wasn’t used to on a construction job site. The crew, some professionals and some volunteers, worked to repair and improve the inside and outside of her house. The spirit over those few days was not laborious and the work didn’t seem tedious. For everyone there, it was an honor to make a difference for this admirable woman.

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For several years afterwards, I would run into Marcie in the most random places. The Eddie Bauer Store, Sam’s Club and a couple of other places. And she would always come up to me with a spirit of gratefulness that nearly moved me to tears. She would vigorously shake my hand with both her hands, as if we had just performed the work the day before. But something tells me that is wasn’t coincidence that we kept running into each other in a city of 1.2 million. It was as if God was reminding me where the real value in life is; in the place of serving others.

From the moment we’re born, we completely rely on others for our needs. We are unable to do anything for ourselves as others nudge us unto maturity. In a sense, we learn to be self focused by the very design of our upbringing. And many of our pursuits reflect this trend. But a transition must take place if we’re to live full lives.

Most of us value the love and attention that would come our way. But I’ve learned a strange thing about life; the love that we give has a lot more to do with the value in our lives than the love we receive.

I believe this is true because life in fact is lived outwardly, whether we want it to or not. “No man is an island” as the saying goes. And I think it’s true. We were not meant to live unto ourselves, and I don’t think it’s even possible. We are wired to love, give and express from our being, outwardly. Yes, we need incoming love. But I’m convinced that the person sending love our way benefits more than we do.

If we’re selfish and inward focused, we are merely projecting our self-centeredness onto others. In fact, the whole idea of living inward is really a farce. Whatever we do, our lives are an outward expression and a gift to those around us, for better or for worse. And this is why when I live selfishly I’m hurting those around me as I become a witness to fear and hatred. But the wise live and love outwardly for the benefit of others.

Jesus said “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Mathew 10:39 NIV

Slowly, I’m learning to lose my life to the cause of Christ and the needs of others. And the more I do, the more alive I feel and the more gets done for others. But the transition is slow.

Our selfish ways don’t hurt others because of what we hold back, it’s because of what we project; One way or another, our lives are a giant bill board advertising a message of true living or apathy.

What determines what we have to offer to others?

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45 NIV

If our heart is full of any kind of evil, then that is what we’ll project outwardly. But if love, humility and purity find their home in our hearts, this can’t help but come out in helpful actions towards others, kind speech and a desire to serve the interests of others. When I live this way, it is the closest thing to a full life I’ve ever known. And we could use more of that in our world.

But to live this way, we must settled one crucial issue; our faith in God’s incoming love for us. In fact, the more I trust and lean on God’s love for me, the more effectively I’m able to serve and love others. After all, it’s God’s love and joy we bring to others, not our own. And we’ll only have that love if we abide in him.

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A Sceptic Meets Hubble

A Sceptic Meets Hubble

Science and Technology have come a long way in recent years. Especially in Astronomy. The Hubble Telescope and the Gravity Wave Telescope for example are two of the most impressive instruments ever created by human hands. In fact, these two telescopes are said to be the most precisely tuned instruments ever made. The degree of specificity to which the Gravity Wave Telescope can be adjusted is 1 part in 10 to the 23. Or, the number 1 with 23 zero’s after it. If you’re like me and that kind of number doesn’t quite compute, suffice it to say that these telescopes can be adjusted up to approximately one trillionth of an inch. Beyond comprehension.

But the Creator of the Universe makes the best of our machines look like kids craft day at your local Home Depot. Our God has fine tuned the Universe to a degree of accuracy that is a trillion x trillion x trillion x trillion x trillion x trillion x trillion x trillion times more accurate than the Hubble Telescope or the Gravity Wave Telescope. Yes, that’s a trillion to the eighth power. If this insane level of fine tuning is off just slightly, our earth would not be fit for life.

This fine tuning data is terrible news to the sceptic, especially the Atheist, according to Dr. Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist from Glendora California; Ross explains in a speech given at Azusa Pacific University several years ago, that when the Space Energy Density Term (which is the result of recent scientific data about our universe) was confirmed by both believers and Atheists alike, a few of the Atheist Physicists expressed their disappointment with the following words;

Lawrence Krauss wrote “we are now forced to accept that we live in a universe with this space energy density term. This has profound negative implications.” Of course it’s only negative if you’re an Atheist.

Ross quoted the comments of 2 unnamed Jewish Atheists as was published in the British Journal Nature; “This type of universe requires a degree of fine tuning of the initial conditions that is an apparent conflict with common wisdom.” The common wisdom they’re referring to is Atheism.

A Swiss astrophysicist, also unnamed by Ross, was quoted as to having said; “We are now confronted with a disturbing cosmic coincidence problem.” Again, it’s only a problem if you’re an atheist.

For the first time in History perhaps, it has become impossible for an honest Atheist to deny an intentional creation by a divine hand. But for those of us who are believers, it’s a confirmation of what our faith has already allowed us to know.

Our God has lovingly fine tuned the universe in which our planet resides so that life is possible. And if God can fine tune the vast and complex cosmos to the degree he has, how much more is he capable of fine tuning every aspect of our lives down to the slightest detail. And what little we’re able to see of the universe has a way of speaking to that issue in a unique way.

After getting a glimpse of how our universe may have come together and just how accurate and deliberate its design is, I now view the stars from a different perspective. Astrophysicists tell us that if humanity had been created any earlier, we would not be able to see the stars. And if we had been created later in the timeline of creation the stars would be out of viewing range. Our path of view simply will become too narrow to see a single star as the universe expands over time. Humanity was created at the optimal time to see Gods vast array of lights scattered throughout the sky. And I would not suffer the suggestion of mere coincidence in the parallel existence of humanity and the stars.

I recently went star-gazing on a cold night as inspired by my research for this blog. All I could think about was God’s glory, his beauty and the level of excellence he’s capable of. The stars themselves seemed to evoke such quiet praise. And as I continued to meditate on his greatness, my mind would occasionally jump back to my current struggles, worries and wants. And they seemed petty compared to the expanse of the blanket of stars I was engaging.

As I continued to take in a small glimpse of our own galaxy, my spirit was elevated as if to the stars themselves. And all seemed in perspective, at least for a while. And I couldn’t help but ask; if God can create such a universe with the skill that makes the smartest among us scratch their head, shouldn’t I trust him with my life? And to think that this brilliant God is love at his core, is almost too much to take in. But I gladly took it in.

I walked away from star-gazing that night with something of profound value; that God simply is. And somehow that is enough. And the longer I pondered our God in the stillness that night, the more alive I felt. I knew in my heart that whatever we’re struggling with, it cannot affect us beyond God’s will. And his will is that ultimately we know his faithful love without a hint of doubt. That we bear fruit. That we prosper. Especially in the vein of trust, hope, peace, contentment and gratefulness. And that filled me with an overwhelming joy. My heart was settled. My fear again waned.

As the Psalmist wrote;

“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4 NIV

When God wanted to encourage Abraham and give him a vision for the promises he had made, he asked him to go outside and look up at the stars.

He will encourage you with the same stars that Abraham saw. So keep looking up, he made them for you.

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Greater to be Known

Greater to be Known

I guess it’s natural to be curious about our Creator. Who is he? What’s he like? Can he be trusted? For me, it’s been more than a curiosity. It’s been a life long journey of discovery. But in my pursuit to know the one true God, and in spite of the knowledge I’ve stored up in this regard, there remains a gaping hole in my spirit that has been somewhat of a mystery. At least until I understood an even deeper longing than to know God.

It started as a question in my spirit. Is it better to know God, or to be known by God? As rumors of a love story echo through the written Word and creation itself, I’m increasingly drawn in by the possibility that God really cares to know us, even me.

The single greatest thing about you and me is that we were known and created by a loving God. We may spend the rest of our lives trying to add to that fact or improve on this truth, but we can’t. God knew and created each of us, and this gives us purpose. We live because we simply are. Nothing else in this life can top that, though we try. Nothing matters more, though we easily think it does. And yet it has been my experience that the happiest and most fulfilled Christian is keenly aware of God’s awareness of them.

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” Psalm 31:7 NIV

I don’t know what all the writer of this Psalm knew about God, but he at least knew that God cared for him and knew him personally, and that clearly mattered most. Our focus on knowledge about God will stimulate us intellectually, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But a focus on his love and knowing of us sparks a connection on the heart level. A very different experience.

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“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:22-24 NIV

Jesus spoke these words to a group that seemed to be seeking God, had faith and were casting out demons. They had knowledge of God and may have even led some to Christ. But there was one problem; in all their seeking, they managed to keep God out of their own hearts. And the outcome was tragic.

I used to view Christianity as 90% knowledge about God and maybe 10% interaction with God. I now know it’s the opposite. As Paul writes;

“For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 ASV

We all see God askew, for now. Merely a foretaste of who he is perhaps. We could spend our whole lives seeking the depths of his being and still barely get a glimpse. Yet he see’s us completely for who we really are, just as he made us. And he always has. Yes, with all our flaws and potential for evil. He’s known that from the beginning. Yet he loves. So, while I appreciate the little I know of God, I absolutely celebrate the fact that he see’s and knows me as I am.

When we pour our heart out to God, I believe we’re letting him know us. When we confess our sin, we’re letting him in. But do our efforts really have much to do with him knowing us? I’m not so sure. Notice the words God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;… I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

I’m learning to put my trust in what he knows of me, not what I know of him. What he saw in me as an infant, not in my knowledge as an adult. I don’t even completely trust what I think of myself anymore, only what he thinks. And I’m finding a deep and profound peace in this truth.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to son-ship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesian 1:4-6 NIV

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