Genius and Insanity

One of the most fascinating movies I saw in 2019 was The Professor and the Madman, a biographical drama colored by mystery and murder . . . but most of all—pathos.

This moving drama records the appointment and passion of James Murray, who was hired to finish compiling and editing the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, known today as The Oxford English Dictionary. Professor James Murray, a brilliant, self-taught linguist who spoke six languages and had a working understanding of at least fourteen more, became obsessed with the project, which burgeoned into a phenomenally difficult (and practically speaking, virtually impossible) job.

The project was begun in 1857; Murray was hired for ten years starting in 1879; but, in reality, the dictionary was not printed in its complete form until 1928, more than seventy years after the project was first envisioned!

First, I want to share a few “fun facts” about languages I’ve learned through studying, and then I want to share a few thoughts about the movie. There are more than 6,500 languages spoken throughout the world, but almost half the world’s people speak primarily 10 of them: English, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, French, Standard Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, and Indonesian. Among these languages, English is the most spoken language in the world, and it’s also the Number One trade language around the world, so it’s worth learning! English is “the language of the sky,” and every pilot must be able to identify themselves and communicate in English.

Jennifer Ehle as Mrs. Ada Murray, Dr. Murray’s wife

Interestingly enough, English is also considered by many to be the language with the most words/meanings, although that’s hard to define. English has over a million words if you count the various meanings of each given word. For instance, the newest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary takes 60,000 words to define the 430 various usages of “set.” Also, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) defines 616,500 words, but there are hundreds of thousands of words that are not included, many scientific or borrowed from other languages but not in common enough use to be considered uniquely English, various forms of slang, compound words, and on and on! If you count tenses, plurals, etc, the list goes on seemingly ad infinitum (or at least ad nauseam).

Hope you didn’t mind that rabbit trail, but all this to highlight both the importance and the difficulty of the task assigned to Professor James Murray!

As another side light, the movie had an exceptionally gifted cast, including Mel Gibson and Sean Penn, and the film was done with painstaking care to detailing the truth (except concerning the madman’s romance), stunning cinematography, artistic sensitivity while retaining historical integrity, and a deeply moving theme of seeking redemption.

The movie was the brainchild of Mel Gibson, and he took more than twenty years in research and development, but it ended as a painful disappointment to him, which seems tragic but almost fitting, since Professor Murray never saw the completion of his beloved dictionary.

I don’t want to spoil the story and suspense, but the underlying pathos of the movie concerns the brilliant help that Professor Murray receives from Dr. William Minor, a retired American army surgeon who helped with the completion of over 10,000 entries but was in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum and considered criminally insane. Among other provocative themes, The Professor and the Madman has stirred me to even greater compassion for the mentally ill.

The “Madman” is haunted by the need to somehow redeem himself and find forgiveness for sins. What he does in the movie is beautiful, and I loved learning the story, but there was also a deep sadness that I don’t think God intends. Sin is terrible, and terribly wrong, but there is no sin beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. Although we have to live with the regrets and scars from our sins, God invites us to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. When it comes to giving and receiving forgiveness, we can extend forgiveness to those who’ve hurt us, but we can only humbly accept forgiveness from those we’ve hurt. Most of the time, no amount of effort can take away the pain and loss (although we should do everything we can to restore and make right the wrongs we’ve committed).

In the final analysis, our sins can only be atoned for by the blood of Christ, who died to pay the penalty of death we deserve. By accepting his sacrificial death in our place, we receive eternal life through Him. That will not “settle the score” between ourselves and those we’ve hurt in this life, but that will grant us forgiveness and eternal life in Christ. It should also make us humble and able to forgive those who sin against us . . . passing forward the gift of mercy and forgiveness to others.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God
is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

There is a Redeemer
—Keith Green

There is a redeemer
Jesus, God’s own Son
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

Jesus my redeemer
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Oh, for sinners slain

Thank you, oh my father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
‘Til the work on Earth is done

When I stand in Glory
I will see His face
And there I’ll serve my King forever
In that Holy Place

Thank you, oh my father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
‘Til the work on Earth is done

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (64): Give and Receive~ Expiration and Inspiration

Do you find yourself struggling to balance giving and receiving? In a perfect world, it seems like giving out should be as natural as breathing out and receiving should be as natural as breathing in, but I (at least) find at times that it’s hard to give—because it’s “giving away” something I want. And, sometimes I struggle with receiving because I fear indebtedness to the one who has given me something. What if I have nothing left for myself? What if I can never repay the giver?

It occurred to me that the breathing analogy works in understanding these quandaries too. “Breathing out” could become an issue if I am afraid I’ll not have enough oxygen for my next breath, and “breathing in” could seem suspect if I’m not sure of the purity of the air I’m receiving from the other person. What if I run out of air and die by giving out everything? What if I contract some terrible disease from breathing in “germy” air?

After a rather pain-staking search of the 1392 instances of “give” being used in the Bible (at least in the KJV version), I’ve come to some pretty reassuring and wonderful conclusions. First, the great majority of verses have to do with all the amazing gifts God offers us. I’ll give you a list at the end if you’re interested, but it pretty much includes more than anything we could ever want, including abundant provisions for both physical and spiritual life.

God promises us sufficient “air” to breathe in, so we don’t have to worry where our next breath is coming from—and we can be assured that it will be good for us! We can also share our air, knowing that we’re not going to suffocate!

In light of the overwhelming graces and kindnesses of God, He asks us to give out of our abundance to meet the needs of those who are lacking. (See verses on giving “alms”—which are provisions freely given to relieve the needs of the poor, such as Luke 11:41, “But rather give alms of such things as ye have.”) God doesn’t normally want anyone to give away everything they own. (That only happened once, when Jesus was trying to teach the rich young ruler that he was making an idol out of his money). The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working hard and saving to provide for those under our care . . . and warns against laziness: Proverbs 6:6-11; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” However, He also wants us to help those who are “weak”: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak” (Acts 20:35).

I think the important distinction is this: Those who are capable and lazy should not be supported; those who are disabled and unable (“weak”) should be.

That being said, there is always room for compassion. The Good Samaritan helped the wounded man without knowing anything about the man’s worthiness or character. (At least, we as readers are told nothing.) Love sees need and tries to help. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9); “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” (Proverbs 28:27).

The bottom line as I understand it is that God wants us to work hard and provide for our own as well as being charitable and generous toward those in genuine need. God doesn’t “need” anything from us, but we can express our love for God by loving others and helping meet their needs. However, we can give God ourselves (Romans 12:1-2); we can give God glory (Revelation 14:7); and most of all, God wants us to give him thanks for all the wonderful blessings he pours out on us! “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Text for meditation: Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Appendix on Gifts God gives: If you’re feeling down and depressed, or you’re struggling to think of anything to give thanks for, here’s a small sampling of God’s blessings, many given to all mankind, and all offered to all of mankind who will receive them!

Life and breath and all things (we see in this present world): “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:25-26).

Difficulties to bring us to God: Ecclesiastes 1:13And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.”

All that we need for this life: Romans 8:32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

All things we need to live a life of godliness: 2 Peter 1:3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”

The ability to recognize God’s good gifts to us: 1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

The prospering of our efforts: 1 Corinthians 3:7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”

The holy scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

Wisdom Proverbs 2:6For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Ephesians 1:17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

Life via wisdom: Ecclesiastes 7:12For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.”

Understanding: 2 Timothy 2:7Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” 1 John 5:20And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”

Counsel and restraints: Psalm 16:7I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.”

Protection: Psalm 18:35Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.”

Help from trouble: Psalm 60:11Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.”

Strength, power, and peace: Psalm 29:11The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.Psalm 68:35 O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.”

Deliverance: Psalm 18:50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.”

The spirit of power, love, and a sound mind: 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Promises to help us partake of God’s divine nature: 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Grace: Proverbs 3:34Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” Ephesians 4:7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.1 Corinthians 3:10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Good doctrine: Proverbs 4:2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.”

Instruction: Proverbs 9:9Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”

The oracles of God: Acts 7:38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.

Favor: Proverbs 13:15Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.

Mercy: Acts 13:34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.”

Fruit: Proverbs 31:31Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Knowledge and joy: Ecclesiastes 2:26For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

The ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor: Ecclesiastes 5:18 “Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.”

Riches and wealth: Ecclesiastes 5:19Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”

Knowledge of salvation: Luke 1:77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.

Understanding of the person and work of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:3Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Light to find the way of peace: Luke 1:79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 2 Corinthians 4:6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:14Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.Revelation 22:5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”

The promise of salvation by faith: Galatians 3:22But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

Treasure in heaven: Matthew 19:21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Spiritually abundant life here on earth: 1 Timothy 6:17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.

A physical body for each of us: 1 Corinthians 15:38But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

Jesus’s life as a ransom: Matthew 20:28Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.Mark 10:45For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

A good shepherd to lead us to heaven and give his life for us: John 10:11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Jesus’s body as a sacrifice for us: Luke 22:19And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.Ephesians 5:2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Everlasting life through the blood and flesh of Christ: John 6:51I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.John 10:28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” 1 John 5:11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God: Mark 4:11And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.Luke 8:10And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.”

Rewards for our giving: Mark 9:41For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

Words to speak when we are on trial: Luke 21:15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.1 Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Power for ministry: 1 Peter 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

The ministry of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Grace and spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.”

Whatever we truly need: Luke 11:9And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

The kingdom of God: Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Grace and truth: John 1:17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.James 4:6But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

The water of life: John 4:14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.Revelation 21:6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Spiritual meat: John 6:27Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

Spiritual bread: John 6:32Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.”

Spiritual life: John 6:33For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

An example for how to live: John 13:15For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

A new commandment: John 13:34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (I notice that Jesus says repeatedly that the law came by Moses, or that Moses “gave” them the law.)

A comforter: John 14:16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”

Peace and His presence to relieve fear: John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

The words of God: John 17:8For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.John 17:14I have given them thy word.”

The glory which God gave Jesus: John 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”

Commandments to follow: Acts 1:2Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.” (I was so impressed by this verse two years ago that it has inspired me to study the “commandments” that Jesus gave us.)

The authority to help others “rise up and walk” (if not physically today, for sure spiritually!) through the powerful name of Jesus: Acts 3:6Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

Authority to build others up: 2 Corinthians 10:8For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed.”

Faith that results in soundness: Acts 3:16And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

The name of Jesus, which is the only name by which the world can be saved: Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus: Acts 5:31Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.2 Timothy 2:25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (If you have a loved one you wish would come to faith, don’t argue! Teach them whenever they’re willing to listen, but also pray for them, recognizing that God is the one who will bring them to repentance and faith.)

The Holy Ghost: Acts 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

The Spirit: 2 Corinthians 1:22 “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” 2 Corinthians 5:5Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.1 Thessalonians 4:8He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.1 John 3:24And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” 1 John 4:13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”

The Spirit, who gives us life: 2 Corinthians 3:6Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

The Spirit, who gives us many gifts for building up the body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:7-9 (and on) “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit . . .”

Assurance of Christ’s resurrection (given to all men to either accept or reject): Acts 17:30-31And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

An inheritance among the brethren: Acts 20:32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Psalm 61:5For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.”

Suffering: Philippians 1:29For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

Hope and consolation: 2 Thessalonians 2:16 and 17 “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”

Victory over death: 1 Corinthians 15:57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Creation with Apparent Age

Is the world really 6024± years old (as Young Earth Creationist Christians believe), or 6000± years old (as estimated by many Muslims), or 5780 years old (according to Jewish calculations), or 4.5 billion (±50 million years old according to current scientific theory)? No matter how people put the evidence together, no one can definitively establish the exact “when” or “how” the earth was created, but I heard a message last Sunday at church which made so much sense to me that I want to share it with you. (If you have time to hear the entire message [“Creation” presented on January 5, 2020], it can be found here: https://calvarygr.org/).

Pastor Jim used the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine to illustrate several things about creation. In John 2:7-8, Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots with water and take them to the master of ceremonies of the wedding dinner. Within moments, the water had turned into such excellent wine that the M.C. thought it was better than anything else he’d tasted. When did the water turn into wine? Nobody really knows, but it was obviously a miracle, and somehow Jesus accomplished it. Also, the wine was only minutes old, but it appeared to be properly aged (which Jim said in those days would have been between one-two years). Likewise, God could have created the earth with the appearance of age no matter how old it actually is.

Jim also pointed out that the servants didn’t get in a fight with the M.C. over how old the wine was or try to prove anything to him. They recognized the miracle, along with Mary and perhaps a few others, but most of the people at the dinner party—including the man responsible for providing the feast—probably had no idea where the wine came from. If a team of scientists had been summoned to study the situation, they would have concluded that the wine must have been produced over the course of the past several years, because that’s what the evidence would indicate. Humility and prayer—not arrogance and arguments—should characterize Christians.

The age of the earth is not worth fighting about, and those of us who believe that God created the earth are never going to be able to “prove” God created the earth any more than scientists can “prove” that it began with a big bang 13.7 billion years ago. The origin of the universe has been revealed to us as a spiritual truth in the Bible, but God has chosen to leave some of the specifics as a mystery, just as Jesus did not explain how he turned the water into wine. What we can trust as reliable is the Genesis record concerning the process of creation. This can be beautifully harmonized with what scientists are discovering and theorizing about the origins of the universe. (If you’re interested, check out this post on Francis Collins, the head of America’s National Institute of Health: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2019/01/29/do-you-know-the-language-of-god/ ).

As Christians, our job is to believe what the Bible teaches, humbly recognizing that we (I—you—any of us) probably do not have a perfect understanding of what it says today. Let’s not fight about it! When we get to heaven, we will know the Truth completely, but until then, we each have a part of the truth and some blind spots and errors in our thinking. God calls us to peace and grace!

I have no trouble believing the world could have been made in six 24-hour days, but I also know God created light and dark before the sun and moon, and “nights” and “days” were counted before there was a sun to count off 24 hours. So, the “day” and “night” could also indicate the beginning and ending of a period of time, such as “the Day of the Lord” as mentioned in Zacheriah 14:1, which is obviously a time of judgment, not a 24-hour period.

Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” 1511. Public Domain

Imagine if you were God, trying to communicate the origins of the universe to people. How would you explain it? To me, God speaking the world into existence is completely compatible with the “Big Bang,” and the creation of life on various “days” can be perfectly harmonized with the idea of eras of evolutionary development. In Hebrews 11:3 we learn that “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The deeper science delves into trying to understand what this world is made of, the more it appears that it’s made out of energy—something that is invisible! “All things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17). God, the self-existent one, created and sustains the universe, and nothing scientists find contradicts this fact, although neither can science prove this fact. God is God; we are his beloved creations, and He has ordained that rather than “prove” our way into knowing God, we are to believe, trust, and love our way into knowing God.

Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are all rooted in faith. Faith takes humility. Faith requires us to surrender our hearts to God, accepting the mysterious and trusting Him to enlighten us in His time and way. I hope as we move forward into 2020, we will keep our eyes focused on God . . . looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our created universe, each one of us, and of our faith. Rather than worry about the whens and hows, may we accept the beauty of mystery and put our trust in the everlasting arms of God, so that with the Apostle Paul, we can know “the unsearchable riches of Christ . . . the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:8-9).

Earth, as seen from Apollo 17, 1972. Public Domain

How Great Thou Art
(Carl Boberg, translated into English and added to by Stuart K. Hine)

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the *worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the *rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Refrain:
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Refrain

And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Refrain

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, My God, how great thou art!

How Great Thou Art, sung by Carrie Underwood

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (63): Forgive and Be Forgiven

As 2019 draws to a close, I can’t think of any commandment more appropriate than Jesus’s teaching on giving and seeking forgiveness: “Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). What a perfect way to end the year! Some people never reconcile with those who have offended them; some wait until they’re on their deathbed or at the funeral of a mutually beloved family member. But, what a waste! Why not offer and receive forgiveness before the year dies rather than waiting until WE die?!!

There are many diverse opinions out there on what it actually means to forgive, but I believe the one from Wikipedia is right on: “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as resentment and vengeance (however justified it might be), and with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted for an acknowledges offense by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).”

Here are some wise insights from William P. Young’s The Shack: “Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established………Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation.”

If you wonder whether or not you’ve really forgiven someone, test yourself with these questions: Do I still erupt in anger when I remember the event(s)? Do I truly hope the offender will recover and become a trustworthy person, or am I more focused on wanting the person to be exposed, brought to justice, and punished? Am I willing to accept their confession and request for forgiveness, or do I refuse to believe they’re sincere?

If you’re struggling to forgive anyone, please understand that God tells us to forgive—not on the basis of the offender’s worthiness or repentance—but based on God’s willingness to forgive us for our sins: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Jesus instructs us to forgive, not only for the sake of the offender but also for our own emotional health and healing. It’s not just the Judeo/Christian heritage that promotes the value of forgiving others either; it’s a part of every major religion! Even among the non-religious, there are literally thousands of quotes about forgiveness, In fact, there are 3012 quotes on Goodreads alone! (Here’s one of my favorites: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”― Mark Twain. Talk about a good, challenging resolution for the New Year!! 🙂 )

Below, I’m sharing seventeen of my favorite quotes on forgiveness. I hope you’ll take time to pray your way through, asking the Lord to help you forgive anyone against whom you are still holding a grudge. Before this year ends, may we all be free from the bondage of unforgiving hearts!

(Photo credit for first photo: “I Will Give You Rest,” by Yongsung Kim, used by permission of Havenlight.com .)

If You Think It's Not Supposed to Be This Way . . .

You’re not the only one! In fact, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered—by Lysa TerKeurst—has become a New York Times bestseller because it speaks so eloquently to broken hearts. Why? Because Lysa shares transparently from her own life-shattering experiences, opening her heart to expose both the pain and the healing she found during her struggle to survive and eventually overcome the unthinkable that happened to her.

For a starter, have you ever heard the old saying that God will never give us more than we can handle? Lysa reminds us that this in not true! God sometimes does give us more than we can handle so we’ll stop trying to do everything on our own. He isn’t being unfair or unkind; rather, He’s at work transforming us into the image of Christ. That may be something you’re resisting, or it may seem impossible to you, but what you now think of as a terrible tragedy may actually be intended by God for your good. Sound unbelievable? Are you willing to surrender to God and see what happens?

Potter working on a wheel made from an old rubber tire in India

Lysa is an artful story teller, and her book is full of fresh insights into the age-old problem of dealing with pain and heartbreak. One of my favorites has to do with the story from Jeremiah 18 of a visit to the potter’s house, where the Lord reminds Jeremiah that we humans are like pottery being crafted by the Master Potter. When Alan and I were in India, we watched with fascination as a potter formed vessels on his wheel, and so the idea of the clay protesting about how it’s being formed made perfect sense. No, we are not mindless clay; God has given us a will, so we can either submit to the will of the potter or try to manage things on our own. But, if we resist the Potter, we will never be as exquisitely beautiful as we can become if we allow God to mold us, paint us, and fire us.

Something I’d never heard before is that broken vessels can be ground up into dust-sized particles that—when added to the clay as “grout”—will actually make a new vessel even stronger and more able to withstand pressure without breaking. Lysa likens us to being intentionally ground to dust sometimes in order to become something new, stronger, and better. I know none of us like pain, but God’s promise to make beauty out of ashes if we’ll let him is very comforting to me.

If you, or anyone you love, is feeling like your world is upside down these days—or completely burned to ashes—consider reading It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. If you live in Grand Rapids, you can buy the book tomorrow at the Kregel’s Parable store (Rivertown Mall) for $5!! (Otherwise, you can always buy it online.) Speaking of great books for Christmas, if you’re on Face Book, the “Kregel Parable Christian Stores” Face Book Page provides many helpful ideas and opportunities for spiritual growth. If you’re not on FB, their catalogues are hosted at www.kregel.com/catalogs. I’ve also subscribed to their mailing list from their homepage (https://www.kregel.com/) so I know ASAP what they’re offering! (No, I’m not on their payroll, but I am prejudiced! 🙂 This particular book is published by Thomas Nelson, but Kregel has the best deal tomorrow!)

But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter;
and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

Thanksgiving Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father . . . Oh Lord, my Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!

Thank you for creating this indescribably majestic world as a home for people—for all people—every person who has ever lived, the ones born thousands of years ago, those who live today, and those who will be born in the future. People I know and love, and the billions I’ll never meet on this earth. Thank you for creating us to need each other. Thank you for telling us to love each other and take care of one another. Help me to be kind and learn how to love the way you love.

Thank you for the beauty of this earth. Thank you for creating the seas—awesome! Powerful. Mesmerizing. Throbbing with power. Teeming with life. Thank you for water in all its forms—warm, moist breezes in the spring and frozen stars of ice falling from heaven as winter sets in. For clouds and rain, for streams and rivers, for our tiny lake, and for lakes so huge they look like oceans. For brooks that gurgle, waterfalls that roar, and waves that pound and lull. I feel like I could sit forever beside the sea, just drinking in the scents and sights and sounds. Thank you for water. Water is life to me. Thank you for the Water of Life, too—Jesus . . . that fountain of eternal life you’ve caused to spring up within me.

Thank you for forming the dry land . . . the unending display of beauty in nature seen in the trees and flowers, and the unending parade of curious creatures. Thank you for the astounding variations in topography, the rocks and rifts. Mountains so remote most of us will never stand beneath their shadow. Trenches so deep we could never withstand the pressure of descending into them. Lava flows that would incinerate us instantly should we attempt to walk on them. Icy polar winds that would freeze us solid in minutes if we dared to face them unprotected. Lord, as frail humans, we can only stand in awe of your creation, and of You, the One who has created such splendor and power for us to contemplate, but who is infinitely greater than everything we can see in the world around us.

Thank you for the seemingly infinite sea of stars above us, too. I look up into the night sky and marvel. Finger play? With your fingers you made the moon and the stars? What must heaven be like? By day, we can see the sun, without which we would all die within hours. How like your Son, through whom all things consist and without which nothing would exist. He is the energy that holds all things together and keeps all things from collapsing! The sun: We can see it, and we can’t live without it, but we can’t look at it, because it’s so brilliant we will become blind if we dare to stare at it. How like You! The glory of your radiance makes it impossible to see You! And yet, you have given us Jesus, the express image of your person for us to behold. God in the flesh for us to have and to hold. God become man, who purged our sins by his own blood so that we could be reconciled to God.

Thank you for salvation—that whosoever will may come and receive eternal life as a free gift from your hand. Thank You for giving us your Word, the Word of God—a lamp to our feet and a light to our path to guide us through this life. Thank you for your Holy Spirit to brood over us and rebirth our spirits into new life so that we can see your kingdom, sense your presence, and experience your fellowship. Thank you for your Church and the communion of the saints. May your love flow through us to all those around us. May your kingdom come and your will be done all around the world, even as it is in heaven.

I love you, Lord! Thank you for life. Thank you for allowing me to enter your gates with thanksgiving and come into your courts with praise. May I bless your name and be thankful unto you for as long as I live, and into eternity—forever and ever! Amen.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

“Love Heals; Hate Hurts”

Two nights ago, Grand Rapids enjoyed the great privilege of being addressed by Martin Lowenberg, a ninety-one-year-old survivor of the Holocaust who has taken up the mantle of trying to be an agent for spreading love and peace. I arrived fifteen minutes early, which was way too late to actually be admitted into the overflowing hall. After winding slowly through the stop-and-go traffic (all of whom were looking everywhere for parking, just like me), I found my way to a nearby church lot. But alas, the venue was dangerously overcrowded and the leadership made the decision to turn away all remaining wanna-hearers.

However, I noticed that the hour and a half presentation was recorded and is available on the Kent District Library Face Book page (Lowenberg starts at about minute 8):

The powers that be are trying to find a time to bring him back to speak at a larger venue, but meanwhile, I wanted to simply report the heart of his message, particularly in light of the reactivity of at least one of my blog followers, who disagreed with the church sign I posted yesterday, encouraging people to “Just love everyone. I’ll sort “em out later. —God”

Of the 179 times the word “hate” is used in the Bible (KJV), the overwhelming preponderance has to do with people hating God or one another. There are about twenty times it mentions things that the Lord hates, such as wickedness (Psalm 45:7), evil (Psalm 97:10), pride, lying, murder, discord (Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven sins the Lord hates), etc. I think Amos 5:15 sums it up: “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate.” God clearly hates evil, and he also wants us to hate evil, love good, and establish justice. What are we doing to “establish justice”?

Certainly, justice isn’t established by hating people!! Hating evil is not the same thing as hating people. Jesus specifically commands us to love people, even those who are cruel and hurt us: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

This is also the message of Martin Lowenberg, who is Jewish and suffered terribly—in five different concentration camps during World War 2. His message? Love others. Be kind, because love heals and hate hurts. Lowenberg’s life demonstrates the ability of the human spirit to overcome tragedy and be happy. In the Q&A afterward, he mentioned that we can all learn to be happy and understand that life doesn’t have to be serious and sad all the time.

On the other hand, this sweet, bent-with-age, very elderly gentleman is clearly not just resting at home! He’s on the road sharing his story, not for the sake of making people feel sorry for what he endured, or to make himself famous, but to help people learn that hatred hurts others. “We all want to live as long as we can in happiness and harmony with our families.” So, he advised those who asked for advice to “Be good people, help others, be with others, and show them what you would like to see . . . stand up against evil. It’s very difficult to speak against evil, but we need to do it all the time.”

Hebrews 1:9, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” God anoints those who love righteousness and hate evil with joy, and I think this is the message Martin Lowenberg was sharing . . . and demonstrating in his life.