Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When Pain Cracks My Bubble

     I experienced pain this summer. Pain beyond what I have experienced before. A pain that shattered my whole world.
     My first year of Bible school has had it's ups and downs. I have enjoyed making new friends, learning more about the Bible and the truths God has spoken. I have benefited from so many people speaking into my life. This is something that I am sure that most (if not all) of my classmates could say the same thing about their experience here. However, there is something about my Bible school experience that is unique. Something, that I like to call the "bubble".
     The "bubble" is incredible. I live in one building, with 200 other people, (married couples, single students of all ages, young kids, grandparents, staff and students). Outside of that building there is a small campus, with more housing that is filled with more students and staff. Everyone knows everyone, everyone encourages, prays for and lives life with everyone. It is impossible to not know someone. If it is possible to not know someone, it is impossible to not know someone who knows that someone you don't know (have fun following that). Our lives all happen in this bubble. Which means, when something happens to anyone, everyone is impacted.
     Can you honestly think of a time in your life, where something happened, and everyone you interact with was personally impacted in some way? Besides major events like 9/11, I can't. Until now...
     My first semester I remember watching and praying as we watched one of my classmates crumble as his dad struggled to hold onto life, and ultimately passed away. We all hurt for him and with him. It brought many of us together, into a tight bond. Little did I know that was just the beginning of the hurt we would all go through.
     Two months ago I got the news that one of my classmates had died. My heart instantly sank into my stomach. Not only was Levi one of my friends, but he was best friends with my roommate, dorm brother to my best friend, roommates with one of my dearest guy friends, and son of my mentor/college mom. My heart broke, but not just for me and the loss of my friend, but for the loss of the people who were close to me. For my roomie, as this is the second close guy friend she has lost in a year and a half. For my friend, as he lost  his best friends. But most of all, for the woman who has spent hours pouring love into my life, who now has to figure out how to live life with the loss of her baby boy.
     I was asked by his mom to speak at his memorial service. It was one of the highest honors, and yet one of the hardest things I have ever done. As the day came around I remember crying out to God for the strength to be able to speak encouragement to those who loved Levi, and to be able to just honor the memory of Levi without bawling my eyes out in front of everyone. As I stood up to speak, I looked around and recognized so many faces. I saw so many people who were a part of my bubble. I looked into his parents and siblings eyes, and had to fight back the urge to collapse on the floor in a puddle. I looked, and saw that my bubble had been popped. Thankfully, God gave me the strength to say what I felt lead to share.
     After I finished speaking, I sat back down in my seat, and I completely fell apart. It all hit, and it all hit hard. I was beyond thankful that I was sitting next to my dear friend Sean, who fell apart with me. One other person got up to share after I finished, and then we all stood to sing a song. We sang the song "Great Are You Lord". To this day, I hear that song and I can't help but cry. I remember standing there, crying, struggling to even breath while I felt a pain deep to the bone. Meanwhile, I listened to the words of the song. "It's your breath, in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only." I realized i couldn't... I prayed from my heart, "Lord, it is your breath in my lungs, but I don't even have the strength to pour out praise to you with this breath."
     The one really cool thing about this pain is the bubble. I realized that as I was hurting, crying and praying, everyone who I have shared this bubble with was also hurting, crying and praying. As I look around at all the people who I am close with right now, 90% of them are going through pain, whether for their loss or seeing the pain of those around them, We are all hurting and we are all supporting each other. We are all banding together to surround his family in prayers, to support them how we can, and to love them.
     This fall, as many of us have returned to school, a piece of all of our hearts will be missing. And I know that have been shed and the tears shed now, will not be the only tears shed for our friend. Many more will be shed, many more prayers will be lifted up, and the pain will always remain. I am just thankful that our bubble can face it together.
     My bubble has been cracked, but it is still my bubble.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Logic of a Global Flood

There is some controversy on whether or not the flood was global and local. I have seen good cases for both, depending on how you interpret Genesis 6-8, but for me personally I believe that the flood was global rather than local. There are many reasons why I believe this, and I would like to point out a few of those reasons.

My question is simple, if God truly did only flood part of the earth, why did He not clearly say so? Why doesn’t the bible say, “and God wiped out all those in the land where Noah lived.”? Perhaps because it wasn’t local, it was global. My first thought is this; God said He would wipe out everything with the breath of life in it off the face of the whole earth. Here is an account from the flood as stated in Genesis 7.  

21Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.

(Genesis 7:21 NIV). Right here it is talking about every creature perishing that is on the earth, not just those that were in the area. As you continue reading the flood account, you can see many other passages that indicate it was a global flood (Genesis 6:7-8, 6:17, 7:4, 7:19, etc…) Over and over again it talks about God wiping away “all” of the creatures, not just “some” of them, off the face of the earth. Now, it is not specifically mentioned whether or not man and creatures had spread all the way around the world, in order that it would take flooding the whole earth to wipe them all out.  However, man had been given more than 1,000 years to spread out, (and I truly believe that is what they did).  So, if they had spread out, then in order to kill them all, there needed to be water that spreads all the way around the whole earth.
My next question is based purely on math and logic. In Genesis 6 it is recorded that from the time God told Noah he was going to flood the earth, to when he flooded it, was 120 years. The earth is approximately 24,900 miles around. If we cut that in half we have 12, 450 miles. Dividing that by 120 (years) and then by 365 (days in a year) we come to 0.28 miles. If Noah had started walking that day, and walked 0.28 miles a day, he would have been all the way on the other side of the world within 120 years. So, why did he waste his time in building an ark (and not just any ark, but an ark that was made to withstand a great storm) if he could have walked about a quarter of a mile a day in order to completely avoid the flood? It just doesn’t add up. It doesn’t add up, because the flood was not contained in one area, God truly did send a global flood that covered even the whole earth, (including the highest mountains) by over 15 cubits (20 feet).
My final question is about birds. In Genesis 7:21 & 23 it talks specifically of the birds dying. Now, if the flood was local, could the birds not have just flown to a different part of the world? I mean, they migrate north and south every year, why could they not have flown away and found an uninhabited part of the earth to fly to and reside in for the duration of the flood?  And why would Noah send the dove out the window in Genesis 8, when it could have flown a ways, and then found a place to land? But in Genesis 8:9 it notes,

The dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark.

Not only does it say that the dove couldn’t find a place to rest, it also clearly states that the whole earth was covered in water. So, how could I interpret this to be anything but global? Answer? I can’t.
For me, I take the word of God at face value. If it says, “For God so loved the world…” I believe God loved the world. If it says, “Water was over all the surface of the earth…” I believe water was over ALL the surface of the earth. Now, if one part of the bible can be taken at face value, then it all should be taken at face value. And so, by believing that God sent a global flood (as I understand it to mean in Genesis 6-8), I should also, and will also, believe that the rest of the bible is true. As such, I am going to try and live my life accordingly.

Why I trust the Bible

First, let me open by saying I cannot “prove” to you that the bible can be trusted. However, I am going to show you some evidence of why I believe the bible to be the true, inspired word of God, and why I trust it. I am going to start off with going over a little bit of the history and the transmission of the bible and how closely it has been copied over the years; then I will discuss the inspiration of the Bible from God, and lastly touch on the fact that the bible is historically accurate as far as what is mentioned in it. I will wrap all of this up by saying just how this collection of writings should impact our lives, if we believe it to be truth.

The Old Testament was written by 30 different men over a period of about 1,700 years (2100 BC – 400 BC). Now, we no longer have any of the original autographs from these men, but through looking at the old manuscript copies of these books, we can see the consistencies, and piece together what the originals most likely said.
Now, for many years the complete Old Testaments we had were based off of copies of manuscripts known as the Masoretic Texts, which were copied around A.D. 900. That means that the closest copies we had were separated by approximately 1,300 years, if not closer to 3,000 years! These manuscripts were the best witness we had of the OT until 1947 when a shepherd boy stumbled upon what we now call the Dead Sea Scrolls. Over the next 9 years the Dead Sea Scrolls were slowly discovered in 11 different caves near the Dead Sea. 200 manuscripts (in part and whole) of the Old Testament were discovered, and in those were parts of every book from the OT with the exception of Esther. The manuscripts from this discovery pushed the date of the earliest discovered manuscripts back by 1,000 years (A.D. 900-125 B.C.)! When someone compared a scroll of Isaiah for the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Masoretic Isaiah scroll (separated by a gap of 1,000 years), there was only found a 5% difference (which mostly consisted of spelling differences and clear slips of the pen). So, if manuscripts could be copied so perfectly over a 1,000 year period between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Masoretic texts, then it is probably fairly safe to assume that the Dead sea scrolls where fairly accurate copies of the originals.
So far I have only touched on the Old Testament, but now we will shift our attention to the New Testament. The New Testament was written by 10 men over about a 50 year time span (A.D. 40’s-90’s). The closest copies we have today of these 27 books have been dated to about 100-125 years after the originals were written. So, the opportunity for the copies to be messed up through years of copying is reduced tremendously by having such a small gap. In fact, some of the New Testament manuscripts copies we have may, in fact, be copies of copies of the originals! We have many more copies of the NT than we do of the OT. We currently have discovered about 5,746 manuscripts (fragments, portions, complete books and a few almost entire copies of the New Testament.  Whereas the Iliad, by Homer, only has about 643 copies, with a time gap of about 400 years.
I feel as though I have covered my first point fairly well, but what good does having accurate copies do, if the originals are not inspired by God? This then brings me to point number two: The inspiration of the Bible.
           Inspiration of the Bible means that God was responsible for overseeing the communication His Word to us, to make sure it wasn’t touched by man’s imperfections.  The Orthodox view of this is – The Bible IS the Word of God. Now, this does not apply to the copies, but rather ONLY to the originals. As for the copies, they are inspired only in as much as they perfectly mimic the originals. Many of the writers of the Bible claim the inspiration from God (2 Sam 23:2, Rev 22:18-19). “Thus says the Lord” is quoted by the Prophets over 400 times in the Old Testament alone! Not only do these men claim inspiration for themselves, but they also refer to each other’s words as “of God” (2 Peter 3:15, 1 Kings 2:3, Zech 7:12, John 10:34-35). Jesus even quotes the Old Testament as though it is from God (Matt 4:4 & 7, Acts 1:16, Matt 19:4-5, Acts 3:18 & 21, Matt 5:17-18). In 2 Peter 1:20 (NIV) it says, 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.” Peter understood that the words of the prophets were not merely their own interpretation of what God had said, but rather it was the actual Word of God.  Even Josephus, who was from Bible times and who was not inspired, saw that those who wrote the Bible was esteemed with authority,

It is true, our history has been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but
            Has not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers,
            because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time;

I don’t know about you, but personally if someone who lived shortly after the prophets saw that they had something different about them, then I am going to have to say that I agree.

           If I left us there, with the bible manuscripts we have today being fairly accurate to the original inspired Word of God, then what? What about physical evidence? Well, there is some of that. Historically the Bible has so much backing it up.
In Genesis 6, the Bible talks about God sending a flood on the earth, but the Bible is not the only thing that records a story of a flood. In almost every culture and country the world people have some version of a flood story. To name a few places, West Asia and Europe, Sumerian, Babylonian, Irish, Finnish, Africa, India, Central Asia/Turkestan, China, Korea, Malaysia, Australia, Polynesia, Hawaii, North America, Canari, Inca, Mapuche, and many more.
For many years people believed that the Hittites mentioned in the Bible (Gen 15:20, Exodus 3:8 & 17, Numbers 13:29…) were merely a made up people group. Yet, towards the end of the 19th century, many Hittite monuments were uncovered in Syria on the Euphrates river, proving the Bible right. 

             While working on a sewage-pipe break, some workers uncovered the Pool of  Siloam in Old Jerusalem. This is central to the account of Jesus healing a blind man from birth (John 9:1-7). And many more Archaeological finds like this have happened that    perfectly align with the Bible, making it one of the most historically accurate ancient collection of writings.

            All of these facts and evidence are merely just a portion of why I think the Bible is truth. None of these would completely convince me if it were not for the fact that God is a personal God who has given me the faith to believe that the Bible is truth. In believing the Bible is true, there are some things that I must apply to my life, and some things I must strive for.

             The first, and most obvious, is realizing that I am a sinner, and that God sent His perfect Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay for my sins, thus making him Lord of my life; which means dying to my selfish desires, the wants of this world that do not align with the desires of God. The two main principles that come to mind are found in Matthew 22:37-40, loving God first and foremost with all you are, and loving others as yourself. Now, to keep these two, easily summed up, commands can be way harder than one might   expect. Why? Because we are naturally selfish people. James 2:10 (NIV) says, “For whoever keeps the whole law yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” So, we see that if we put anything in our lives above God, we are breaking what God has told us to do. But that does not mean we should not try and keep that which we have been told to do. In Ephesians 4 we are told to “put off” our old self, and old way of doing things and to “put on” the new self, which is created to be like God in holiness and    righteousness. We are told all throughout scripture to love, for “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV). We are told to in Philippians 4:8 to think on “whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…”. Over and over we are told things we should practice in our lives, and if I believe that the Bible is true and is from God, I am going to try and live these principles out in my life. But, I know I cannot do any of this on my own, it is only through God that I can do anything right, and I constantly mess, up, but “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV).   

            So, in short, I believe the Bible to be true because it is historically accurate, it is the inspired Word of God, and we have more historical manuscripts of it than any other book. But ultimately, it is because God has given me the faith to believe it, and so I have chosen to accept what it says and apply it to my life.

The Habit of Prayer

             In 1 Thessalonians 5;16-18 we are told, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all
circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I am going to touch on the importance of that very small thought “pray continually”. When played out in our lives, it can be very powerful, but if we do not put it into practice we are setting ourselves up to crash and burn.
Being posed with the thought of how our habit becomes the daily battleground of our character, I began to wonder how this affected me in my life. I thought of many habits I had, some good and some bad, and just how those things defined me. Some of my habits, such as: Addressing those in authority over me with respect, holding doors for people who may be walking behind me, or reading my bible every night before bed seemed to very clearly define some of the good in my character. However, in opposition to those I have habits that I would say make up the bad in my character, such as: Interrupting people, coming up with excuses as to why I didn't do something, or grumbling about my mom when I don’t like something she told me to do.
Now I must ask, what do we do with those in between habits? The ones that are not inherently “bad”, but yet wouldn't be considered “good”.  The ones like checking Facebook on our phones in the mornings when we first wake up, not saying, “thank you” to your cashier at Wal-Mart, or neglecting to pray as much as you could/should . Although they may not be wrong, they may be hurting you more than you know.
The thing I wish to bring up is the need for constant prayer. I know I way too often catch myself telling people that I will pray for them, and then not giving their problems a second thought until I see them next, or they bring the topic up again; reading my bible, yet forgetting to pray; or forgetting to thank God for my food before every meal. Now, and seemingly insignificant as these things may seem, ultimately they are taking away an opportunity I have to talk to my Father. I miss out on fellowship, relationship, worship, and connection.
Now, let’s look at some numbers. There are approximately 650 prayers recorded in the bible, and approximately 450 recorded answers to prayers (about 2/3 of the recorded prayers). Prayer it’s self is mentioned 245 time in the KJV Old Testament, and 68 times in the KJV New Testament. It is mentioned in 5 different styles:
·         Sitting – 2 Samuel 7:18
·         Standing – Mark 11:25
·         Kneeling – Acts 9:40
·         With your face on the ground – Matthew 26:39
·         With hands lifted up – 1 Timothy 2:8
So, if prayer is mentioned so many times, answered so many times, and done in so many different ways, surely it must be very important. It is answered, so we know that God hears and cares about what we have to say, or what we need. It is mentioned, so we know it is not something that should be over looked. And it is mentioned in every position we may be in every day, so it can be done at any time. But how do we make prayer a habit?
            But how do we make prayer a habit? Well, like any habit, it won’t just happen overnight.  It takes a gradual change in what we do. It also can mean setting some sort of routine. In Daniel 6:10 it talks about how Daniel got on his knees 3 times a day to thank God. So, perhaps that means setting aside time every day for prayer. And if your schedule is “too full” to schedule time for prayer, perhaps you need to reevaluate what is important to you. However, I do understand that life can become distracting, and we can forget to set aside those times. So, maybe you should leave notes for yourself around your house to pray. But whatever it takes, remember to pray; to talk to your Father. Communication is important for any relationship, especially one with God, so don’t neglect it. And if we make prayer a habit our Character becomes one of unity with God.
           I will close with this one thought. C.S. Lewis once said, “I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping.” If our need flows out waking and sleeping, we should be taking that need to God, waking and sleeping.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas

   With my brother newly married in September, my mom decided that it was time for a Christmas family tradition of our own. So, we started planning. Now, my mom's family all lives in the area, and we all celebrate Christmas together on Christmas eve (due to the fact we are Scandinavia). My brother's in-laws' celebrate Christmas day, all day. So, when were we going to get together without conflicting with schedules? We decided on January 1st. So, for the first time in my life, while others were waking up early on Christmas day, I got to sleep in!
  After the hub of Christmas day was over, everyone was looking forward to the New Year. "What are you doing for New year's eve?", "Are you making any New Year's resolutions this year?", "What are your plans for this coming year?" These are the questions everyone was asking. Some of these questions bother me. Why do we wait till the new year to make resolutions? Why is it expected that we need to change now? Now, these aren't bad things; to want to change for the better. But why now? Why is it not our constant goal, every day. Do we forget that every day, is a new day? So, I challenge you. This year, and every year from now on, give up New Year's resolutions, and replace them with New Day resolutions.
  Now, for New Year's eve, I went to a friends house for a party. There were about two dozen of us, some of my good friends. We played games, ate snacks, watched a movie, counted down till the new year... twice, had some laughs and then I went home. Woo-hoo! What better way to start a new year, then by having fun with people I care about.
  Now, yesterday was the first, my families Christmas day. It started out with a bit of cleaning, cooking and setting up while we waited for my brother and sister in-law to get here. They finally got here a little after 2, then the fun began. We started out by opening up, not our stockings, but rather our very own Christmas hats (which we all had to wear later). We had a few little trinkets in there, a Pez dispenser, a chocolate Santa, a miniature lint roller and a small toy that my brothers and I all played with when we were little. After that it was on to games, every time you won a game, you  got a prize. First prize you got was a store gift card, the next was a food gift card, then after that you could win as many small (less that $5) prizes you wanted till they were all gone. We played Stick the Sticker to the Target, Nerts, Set, Monkey Ball Flight, Would You Rather, Boggle, Take Two, Pass the Pigs, and several other small games. Everyone had fun, and won prizes. A midst all the games we played, we took funny pictures, and ate food. After all the fun we had, we all sat around the living room while my dad read the story of Christ's birth in Luke. It is refreshing to take time to remember and reflect on Christ's birth, the true reason for this Holiday, although it is celebrated all year long.   It was an enjoyable day, full of family, laughter, fun and new memories. Something that I feel will be a great family tradition. Spending this day with my wonderful family, just reminds me of how blessed I am, no matter what I may be going through.
  As I look over this last year, I see just how much I have to be thankful for. And as I look forward to this year, I already see some rough patches and curves in my path, but I am excited anyways. To see what ways God is going to grow me, to see what surprises He has in store, and to see what awesome things He is going to do through me. Praised be the Lord for this new year!
  I suppose if I had a moral to go with this story, it would be this: Thank the Lord for each new day, and live it for His glory. Thank and bless Him for what He has done, and pray that He will prepare you for what He will do. Don't miss those small moments and things to be thankful for, because God didn't miss the chance to give them to you. Remember what is truly important, and think/act accordingly.
  May God bless you all, like He has blessed me. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The real things to be thankful for

 Now I know Thanksgiving has just passed, and I want to tell you about my Thanksgiving day.
 It started out with our morning, running around finishing our cooking, getting wood, and getting ready to head out to my grandparents house. We finished up all we needed to do in order to leave, and we climbed into our cars. I was in the car with my parents. My oldest brother, Calvin, drove his own car so he could head somewhere to black Friday shopping afterwards, and my littlest brother, Derek, rode with him. My second oldest brother, Justin, and his wife, Abigail, met us at my grandparents.
 When we got there, the house was full of greetings. Cousins, my Aunt and Uncle, My grandparents, and the two 'extras' we had this year. After all the greetings, we sat around and conversed while we waited for everyone else to show up. Once everyone else got there (my other Aunt and Uncle, my cousin, and two of their family members) we all sat down to eat.
 The meal was good, I was with the "younger kids", so there wasn't much conversation, but the company was pleasant. I hurried up and ate so I could sit by the "adult" table and listen in on the conversation. I don't remember much of the conversation, but I do remember it involved a lot of laughter.
 After everyone had finished eating, and had their dessert, people slowly started trickling off to different parts of the house. The dads went into the living room to watch the football game, the younger kids downstairs, the moms to the table to do a puzzle, and the older kids were at the table conversing with the moms, or out in the living room, talking. I was one of the ones in the living room.
 As the day went on, I kept hearing a lot of laughter out at the table, so I started listening in. They were all taking personality tests, I know, kind of weird and random, but weird and random is normal for our family.
 Each person would take the test, and then they would read off different famous people who had the same personalities, and read about their personality to the rest of the group. I decided it sounded like they were having enough fun, so I joined them.
 My Cousin Abby had the same as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Barca and a bunch of really smart and mean people. My mom has the same personality as Hitler, Winston Churchill, Darth Vader and sever other intelligent world dictators. My aunt, the same as Lady Gaga, Jesus, and people with caring hearts, that is, those who lived to adulthood without committing suicide. Several others did the test, and we were all having fun, making fun of each other.
 As the conversation slowly died down, Abby said, "You know, it's a really good thing that I am a Christian. Because if it was not for Christ in my life, I would be a selfish jerk, and I wouldn't care what people would say about me." Now, she has one of the most compassionate and serving hearts, and is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Then my mom said, "I would be too. I would boss people around, and do whatever I wanted, and not care about what others thought, if it wasn't for Christ in my life." Now, my mom can get along with almost anyone, she has so much grace in her. then my aunt chimed in, "I would probably have killed myself many years ago, if it weren't for God." my aunt has reached out and touched so many lives.
 All those people my cousin cares for, the strangers she has compassion for, the people who see her shining smile. What would they be like if she had given them the cold shoulder, or pushed them out of her way because she 'didn't have time for them'? Those people who my mom has shown patients towards, even when she didn't want to. Those friends she has, that she is constantly showing grace to, and helping through their struggles, even though it's not in her nature. What would they be like, if she had yelled at them in frustration? If she had left them alone in their times of struggle, saying, "it's their own problem they are in that mess, not mine.", rather than showing them grace? Those people, who's lives my aunt has touched, those strangers she has 'adopted' who call her mom. What would they be like if she had taken her own life rather than used it to reach others?
 All these people, who's lives have been changed, not by my cousin, my mom, or my aunt, but by the God who has changed their hearts. Shown them how to love. Given them purpose. Made them who they are rather than what they should be like.
This Thanksgiving, without even trying to think of something to be thankful for, we were all so thankful for the things we should be. A God that loves us so much, to changes our hearts, and makes us different, but not by our own deeds, but by His Love and Mercy.