Thursday, April 24, 2014

HEARTS ON FIRE


Fire Rainbow, Jamestown, NC

There are a variety ways that we human beings can be jolted out of the ordinary and become inspired! There is that “aha!” creative moment like Archimedes experienced after he stepped into his bath and realized that he could measure the volume of irregular objects by immersing them and recording the displacement of water. He was so excited about his inspired discovery that he ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting “Eureka!” There’s artistic inspiration that is translated into great art such as Rembrandt’s painting depicting an angel whispering into The Evangelist Matthew’s ear as he writes his gospel. That is a very imaginative creation, but perhaps not a very realistic one. Martin Luther didn’t consider that Scripture was dictated, but that the knowledge of salvation prompted writers to express divine truth and knowledge of God in a form of human understanding. The Biblical inspiration of the Holy Spirit prompted fallible Christian followers like Matthew to draw inspiration from their own time and experience to write the books that are contained in today’s trustworthy Bible.

The apostle Luke records an account of sacred inspiration in chapter 24 about a couple walking along the road to Emmaus shortly after Jesus had been crucified. The travelers on that dusty road were grieving His death and its implications for themselves and their people. Then Jesus joined them and “interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.” After they invited Jesus to dinner and he broke bread with them, “they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Weren't our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?’"

There are many well-meaning folks out there who both deride and defend every written word in the Bible who unfortunately might just have to admit that they’ve never read all of the books it contains from cover to cover. I believe that every generation must read, decipher, understand and act on the relevant words for their time. There have been many disciples over time, but only we can be a disciple for our time. And as the couple on that dusty road to Emmaus found out, it is very enlightening to closely follow every step along The Way to ensure that God is revealing the message you need to hear in a “hearts on fire” moment!

Monday, April 21, 2014

WHO CHANGED?


Firelight, Jamestown, NC

Have you ever had the experience of standing around a blazing fire out in the great outdoors on a chilly late fall night? There’s a great lesson to be learned as you slowly walk toward the roaring fire. First of all, you find yourself becoming warmer. And secondly, the light slowly becomes brighter as you move out of the darkness into the welcoming brightness of the flickering firelight.

The Old Testament Scripture writers generally wrote about a rather severe and stern God who was seemingly frustrated with the creation of man and his constant turning away from Him. Even His chosen people of Israel were overrun by the Assyrians and Babylonians as God withdrew his protection from the unfaithful.

But we see a rather radical change in the writings of the New Testament authors who describe the character of God as revealed in His Son. This revelation shows a God of compassion and love for all His creation, culminating in His righteous self-sacrifice nailed onto a Roman cross to redeem His creation.

So, who changed? Was it our timeless and loving Creator whose eternal light shines in the darkness like a blazing fall bonfire? Or was it perhaps mankind himself who had progressed enough towards the warm light of knowing his Creator to finally understand and write about His true character?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

THE CROSS


Flint Hills Cross, Strong City, KS

Only God could transform a horrific cross of unspeakable suffering and death into a beautiful symbol of love and eternal life. And validate that the worst thing is never the last thing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

JUST THREE DAYS


Resurrection, Wrightsville Beach, NC

Lots of folks deny the existence of God and the availability of His priceless grace for all. Some have witnessed or been a victim of such abhorrent experiences that they absolutely cannot believe a greater power would allow it to happen. Man’s own inhumanity to man accounts for much of this. But there are examples of people who have decided to work with God to bring good out of a bad situation. And when they do that, the rest of us are doubly impressed with their faith and character. The grace-full reaction of the woman in Kansas this week who discovered the senseless hate murders of both her father and teenage son comes to mind.

During this Holy Week of Easter, we’re reminded of Luke’s account of Jesus’ false arrest on the Mount of Olives during the night. Two of his twelve disciples denied him to set the stage for his death and our redemption. Judas, the group’s treasurer, was seemingly disappointed that Jesus was not the Messiah warrior king he was expecting to help defeat the ruling Romans, so he sold out for thirty pieces of silver. Later, as Jesus was being falsely accused of the crimes that Barabbas had actually committed, Peter denied that he even knew him a total of three times.

After Jesus’ resurrection on that glorious sunlit Easter morning, Peter was locked in an upper room fearing for his life and Judas was dead. But later, Peter received the personal forgiveness of Jesus and went on with his life to become the rock of God’s church. His testimony provided even more weight and assurance for God’s priceless grace. And it pales in stark contrast to the extraordinary possibilities of the message of forgiveness and hope that Judas could have delivered to countless generations in desperate circumstances, if only he had waited for just three days.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE PERFECT DAY



Spring Harbinger, Jamestown, NC
Morning Camellia, Jamestown, NC

Have you ever stopped the music and contemplated how you would spend “the perfect day”? What would the perfect day look like? The prophet Isaiah envisioned the perfect day after the end times with the hope of both nature and mankind fully restored to God’s will. Micah saw a peaceful pastoral scene where “they shall sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid…nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. Peace, prosperity, justice and care for all would be the norm. A new heaven and a new earth would be created and the old world of suffering and tears would be no more.

Jesus also taught that we should strive for the Kingdom of God here on earth today. Individually, we may not be able to stop all warring nations and hurricanes or all the heartache in our world today, but with a little bit of effort, we can interface with the world and be vessels of grace that can make a difference in someone’s world. Perhaps we can also be more mindful of the peace and beauty that surrounds us right now to make a difference in our own lives. Life can only be played out in the present moment. And every moment spent ruminating about the past or fretful of the future is a moment squandered forever.

Admittedly, not every day of our lives can be characterized as anything close to perfect. But many days are lost to us because we’re not consciously making it so. We’re not looking up at the rising sun or wispy cirrus clouds overhead; not pausing to listen to the song of a spring robin or appreciate the bright red color of a cardinal perched outside our window; not venturing outside to be the first to welcome emerging blooms of daffodils and camellias; watching mindless television shows instead of experiencing the joy of reading a book that teaches us new life lessons; or perhaps passing up a candid conversation with our Creator or fellow journeymen that validates our relational image. So, how would I describe a perfect day? Well, today of course! And besides, it’s the only game in town.

Friday, March 28, 2014

THE CONSCIOUS UNIVERSE


Perception, Jamestown, NC
Waves, Jamestown, NC


Science has been making some very profound discoveries and observations lately. The March 18, 2014 issue of USA TODAY announced that the “smoking gun” needed to validate the inflation theory of the Big Bang has now been detected by a telescope in Antarctica. The team of U.S. scientists detected the tiny ripples in the cosmic microwave background that affected light created some 13.5 billion years ago. The universe was smaller than a marble just after the Big Bang when it expanded violently and instantaneously. The Bible is no science book and the narrative in Genesis simply states that our God, a conscious spiritual being, spoke the universe into existence. The three big things that astrophysicists are still looking for in the cosmos are dark matter, dark energy and extraterrestrial life. And science still does not have a good scientific answer for the creation of the universe.

Dr. Robert Lanza has been voted the third most important scientist alive by the NY Times. His initial background was in the biology field, but lately he has ventured into the world of physics, quantum mechanics and astrophysics. His biological perspective has enabled him to recently coin the term “biocentrism”, which postulates that life and consciousness are fundamental to the universe. In fact, he reasons that since the ultrafine-tuned laws, forces and constants of the universe sustain life, intelligence must have existed prior to matter. And it is consciousness that creates the material universe, not the common reverse theory. The mystery that is our consciousness can be defined as being mindful or aware of oneself as a thinking, feeling being. Our perception of our surroundings is limited to the brain’s interpretation of the stimuli received from our five senses. We humans have enough receptor cones in our eyes to see a rainbow of colors, but a dog cannot distinguish orange or red. “Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if no observer is present”? We perceive the “sound” when disturbed air waves reach our ear drum and electrical impulses are interpreted by our brain. But no sound exists without an observer! The same logic follows with our other senses. Space and time are merely tools for our animal understanding and our God transcends them both.

Folks naturally identify themselves with their body, as we are conscious mortal beings. Many believe that when the body perishes, that’s it. But Lanza agrees with other scientists that no physical laws exist which would prohibit the existence of multiple universes. And our consciousness and soul may have been created right along with everything else at the Big Bang. Our nervous system and brain could be the receptors of this consciousness and the primary sites of quantum processing until our body expires. And then this information with our consciousness merges into another dimension apart from the body. In an era that now routinely resuscitates human bodies from clinical death, especially heart failures, more and more folks are returning back to the living with extraordinary spiritual accounts that try our sensibilities. The spectacular colors some perceive can only be related to our earthly experience with rare jewels.

One of the fascinating and thought-provoking premises of biocentrism is that “the animal observer creates reality and not the other way around…without perception there can be no reality”. Quantum theory tells us that everything in nature has a particle nature and a wave nature. Lanza discusses the “act of observation” in a famous two-hole experiment which “goes straight to the core of quantum physics…if one watches a sub-atomic particle or a bit of light pass through slits in a barrier…it behaves like a particle…it logically passes through one or the other hole…But if the scientists do not observe the particle, then it exhibits the behavior of waves that retain the right to exhibit all possibilities, including somehow passing through both holes at the same time”. German physicist Max Born demonstrated back in 1926 that quantum waves are waves of probability, not waves of material. This phenomenon applies to small discrete particles like photons or electrons. Large objects like a bus have smaller wavelengths that are too close together to be measured. A subatomic particle has been defined as a set of relationships that reach out and interconnect, not with objects, but with other interconnections. Lanza concludes that “without consciousness, matter dwells in an undetermined state of probability. Any universe that could have preceded consciousness only existed in a probability state”. The Bible informs us that human beings were created for relationship with the reasoning power and free will to make the conscious decision to either accept or reject other human beings and even our Creator.

Bernard Haisch has proposed a mind bending theory about consciousness in his book, “The God Theory”. He contends that “ultimately it is consciousness that is the origin of matter, energy, and the laws of nature in this universe and all others that may exist. And the purpose is for God to experience his potential. God’s ideas and abilities become God’s experience in the life of every sentient being…God experiences the richness of his potential through us because we are the incarnations of him in the physical realm.” Many scientists are proponents of the universe of reductionism in which “everything can be reduced to the behavior of particles of matter and energy”, completely apart from any spiritual connection. As a learned astrophysicist Ph.D., he contends that our consciousness is the ultimate connection to God, the spiritual creative force in the universe and the source of all consciousness. While we are in our everyday state of consciousness, we remain aware of our surroundings through the filter of the physical world. But mystics who are conditioned to enter the unfiltered state of ultimate consciousness or nirvana experience a state of peace, love and bliss, something Haisch defines as “a concentration point within a single universal consciousness”. Haisch writes that “My inner life of thought and awareness utterly denies that my consciousness is nothing more than an inanimate, chemical creation. I know better, and so do you.”

Consciousness exists apart from the body and survives death. The temporary physical world was created for the development and evolution of conscious human beings. Our natural timeless home lies in the wider supernatural realm of our conscious spiritual Creator. We are not only IN this universe, but we are OF this universe. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians (4:4-5), "There is one body and one spirit...one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS



Heads Bowed, Jamestown, NC
Crucified, Jamestown, NC

The delicate blooms of a slender dogwood tree are not only a welcome sign of spring, but also a symbolic remembrance of the crucifixion of the Son of God. The blooms generally appear just above eye level and form a cross with nail rust and red stains on the outer edges. A crown of thorns in the center complete the image of a Savior’s blood sacrifice for the redemption of all mankind.

The apostle Luke records that there were an enlightened few bowing at the foot of Jesus’ cross who understood the meaning of this literally earth shattering event. This small gathering included his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene who Jesus had purged of seven demons and the beloved disciple John. Many others had deserted him for fear of their lives, but these few chose to support him and pray for him.

The Lenten Roses presently blooming under the dogwood trees in my backyard present a symbolic remembrance of those gathered at the foot of the wooden cross with reverent bowed heads. They seem to gather together in humble worship and you are drawn to bow with them as all nature morns the events leading up to God’s sacrifice on that Black Friday over two thousand years ago. But once you are drawn to their ground level countenance, the beautiful faces of these roses of Lent will open the eyes of your heart to the promised hope of Easter resurrection reflected in the symbolic form of the coming dogwood blooms! And wherever in the world today that Christians gather in a sanctuary of worship, you will find them with heads bowed at the foot of the cross.