Our Dwelling Place

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” –A Prayer of Moses, Hebrew prophet, teacher and leader, 13th Century BC, found in Psalm 90
This morning I read a devotion that I want to share from a book titled, 31 Days of Encouragement as We Grow Older,” by Ruth Myers (1928-2010), who was a missionary with The Navigators, a popular conference speaker, and author. Before I go any further, you don’t have to be “older” to benefit from this devotion, although the audience that this particular devotional book was written for is, well, let’s just say, in their senior years (60+). But don’t let that stop you from reading it and the rest of the blog post if you are younger or even much younger then 60. 

The devotion I read is found on “Day 7” (pp. 37-40) and it is titled, “Everlasting”:

God is eternally God, “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2).

Try stepping into His timelessness and pause there–resting there from the constant pressures of time. Gain perspective as you meditate on how brief and momentary life is.

The Lord is not impressed by how much we squeeze into our days. In the end, He won’t reward is for how busy and pressured we were–for how many items we’ve checked off our list, whether paper or mental. He’ll judge is for how much we loved Him… by how much we trusted Him… and by how much we obeyed Him, including His commands to trust, to rest, to be still, to look above and beyond the demands of the visible world.

The Lord has been “our dwelling place in all generations” (Psalm 90:1). He was the dwelling place of all who have gone before us, who by faith were through financial depressions, wars, traumatic natural disasters, dark valleys, multiplied dangers. By faith we can see Him above and beyond all else, as Moses did, “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).

In the pressures we continually face, we can depend on our everlasting God and Father to help us adopt the Jesus-focused perspective Paul had:

We are hard pressed on every side, but it crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NIV).

We’re to fix our eyes on Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Psalm 90 is a good psalm of repentance for older people whose years have been marked by the failure to give priority to the everlasting God–not believing Him, not seeking Him, not depending on Him, not glorifying Him. Please take a moment to read through the psalm today.

In God’s sight a thousand years is as a day–and a day is as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). It’s never too late to put goodness and mercy and glory for God into one’s final season of Life–Not it a day or a decade or half a century. His view of time is vastly different from ours.

It’s never too late to turn our lives over to Him “from now on.” Moses’s prayer in Psalm 90:14-17 (ESV) can guide us in this commitment:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,

    and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Whatever else life may or may not bring; the Lord, the everlasting God, gives permanence in a transient world.

“Lord, our days as human beings are like grass. As a flower of the field, so we flourish for a time, until the wind passes over and it is gone, and its place remembers it no longer. But Your mercy is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear You (see Psalm 103:14-17).

“How I praise You, Lord, that Your “favor is for a lifetime” (Psalm 30:5)–and for the endless ages of eternity.” (Quote source: “31 Days of Encouragement,” pp. 37-40.)

As I read that devotion, knowing that I was raised in the church from the time I was born several decades ago, I realized that some of my readers might not know exactly what the Christian life is supposed to be like. There are a lot of “external” things we might notice, like church attendance, but what does it really means to live a Christian life?

GotQuestion.org provides an answer to that question:

The Christian life is supposed to be a life lived by faith. It is by faith that we enter into the Christian life, and it is by faith that we live it out. When we begin the Christian life by coming to Christ for forgiveness of sin, we understand that what we seek cannot be obtained by any other means than by faith. We cannot work our way to heaven, because nothing we could ever do would be sufficient. Those who believe they can attain eternal life by keeping rules and regulations—a list of do’s and don’ts—deny what the Bible clearly teaches. “But that no one is justified by the Law in the sight of God is clear, for, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Galatians 3:11). The Pharisees of Jesus’ day rejected Christ because He told them this very truth, that all their righteous deeds were worthless and that only faith in their Messiah would save them.

In Romans 1, Paul says that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power that saves us, the gospel being the good news that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. When we enter into the Christian life by faith in this good news, we see our faith grow as we come to know more and more about the God who saved us. The gospel of Christ actually reveals God to us as we live to grow closer to Him each day. Romans 1:17 says, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” So part of the Christian life is diligent reading and study of the Word, accompanied by prayer for understanding and wisdom and for a closer, more intimate relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.

The Christian life is also supposed to be one of death to self in order to live a life by faith. Paul told the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Being crucified with Christ means that we consider our old nature as having been nailed to the cross and we choose to live in the new nature, which is Christ’s (2 Corinthians 5:17). He who loved us and died for us now lives in us, and the life we live is by faith in Him. Living the Christian life means sacrificing our own desires, ambitions, and glories and replacing them with those of Christ. We can only do this by His power through the faith that He gives us by His grace. Part of the Christian life is praying to that end.

The Christian life is also supposed to persevere to the end. Hebrews 10:38-39 addresses this issue by quoting from the Old Testament prophet Habukkuk: “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” God is not pleased with one who “draws back” from Him after making a commitment, but those who live by faith will never draw back, because they are kept by the Holy Spirit who assures us that we will continue with Christ until the end (Ephesians 1:13-14). The writer of Hebrews goes on to verify this truth in verse 39: “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” The true believer is one who believes to the end.

So the Christian life is one lived by faith in the God who saved us, empowers us, seals us for heaven, and by whose power we are kept forever. The day-to-day life of faith is one that grows and strengthens as we seek God in His Word and through prayer and as we unite with other Christians whose goal of Christlikeness is similar to our own. (Quote source here.)

Of course, this leads to the question, “What does it mean to live by faith?” Again, GotQuestions.org provides the answer:

The book of Galatians was a corrective letter written by Paul to the people within the region of Galatia. The Christians there were being convinced that the law of Moses must be followed even though such legalistic demands are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:213:1–5). The people of Galatia were “deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6, NASB). Ultimately, this “different gospel” taught that, while Christ may have declared the Christian righteous at the point of belief, one was still required to live a life under the burden of the Mosaic Law. The people of Galatia were living according to the works of the law, not by faith, and Paul sets for them the example of how to “live by faith” (Galatians 2:20).

Whenever someone believes the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3–5), that person is identified with Christ in the past (being positionally declared righteous), present (growing into righteousness), and future (being presented as perfectly righteous). Both the past and present aspects are seen in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul contrasts living by faith with dying to the law: “through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God” (verse 19). This truth is further expounded in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (NASB). The implied answer is “no!” It is by faith, apart from the law, that one is presently being perfected.

Paul utilizes the concept of beingin Christ(or “in the Lord”) 13 times in the book of Galatians. Instances of this point to the position of the Christian church (Galatians 1:22); the freedom the Christian has because of Christ (Galatians 2:4); the justification one receives through Christ (verse 17); the means by which one should live (verse 20); etc. (for all instances, see Galatians 1:163:141926285:6106:14).

The idea that we live by faith focuses on the present aspect of the Christian’s identity in Christ. In Galatians 2:20, Paul utilizes the phrase “in the body,” pointing specifically to the physical life of the Christian, as lived “now.” Living by faith is an act that takes place while the Christian is alive on the earth. This idea of presently being “in Christ” is critical to living by faith.

What is the object of the faith by which one should live? Paul continues in Galatians 2:20, “and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (NASB, emphasis added). The object of the belief, trust, or faith by which the Christian is to live is Jesus Christ! To live by faith is to live trusting Jesus, who loved us to the point of dying in our place (John 3:16), purchasing our salvation. This trust should be a constant throughout the life of the believer.

The Galatians were being told to live by works, ultimately placing the power in themselves. The gospel tells us that Jesus accomplished the necessary work; Jesus paid the price, and it is through Jesus that the Christian has freedom and power to live as he or she ought. The Christian is justified by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:10–14Romans 4:3Titus 3:5), progressively made holy by faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:20Titus 2:11–15), and glorified because of faith in Jesus (Romans 8:128–30). All praise, honor, and glory are given to Jesus Christ, the savior of the world (1 John 2:1–2). (Quote source here.)

As we can see, this applies to everyone of any age as 2 Peter 3:9 states:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

And that’s very good news. I’ll end this post with the words from Jesus in Matthew 11:28Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…

And I . . .

Will give you . . .

Rest . . . .

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

 

God of Wonders Beyond Our Galaxy

“God of wonders beyond our galaxy, You are Holy, Holy; the universe declares Your Majesty and You are Holy, Holy” –lyrics by Steve Hindalong & Marc Byrd of the alternative Christian Rock group The Choir
Now there’s a journey for you–going beyond our galaxy. Yesterday I published a blog post on my other blog titled, Technology and Our Relationship with God,” that explores our relationship with God and technology. Cyberspace is the ultimate “galaxy” out there for most of us as we can’t actually touch it (other then touching our keyboards or our screens and interacting with whatever show up on the screen), but there is a real galaxy out there, too, every time we look up into the sky, and it’s vastness is beyond human comprehension.

In 2014, a NASA Space Telescope photographed a high-energy x-ray view of what they nicknamed the Hand of God, which is actually a pulsar wind nebula. “It’s powered by the leftover, dense core of a star that blew up in a supernova explosion… One of the big mysteries of this object is whether the pulsar particles are interacting with the material in a specific way to make it look like a hand, or if the material is in fact shaped like a hand.” (Quote source here.)

In a January 9, 2014 article titled, “‘Hand of God’ Spotted by NASA Space Telescope,” by Tanya Lewis, staff writer at Science.com, she writes:

The Hand of God nebula photographed by NASA

Religion and astronomy may not overlap often, but a new NASA X-ray image captures a celestial object that resembles the “Hand of God.”

The cosmic “Hand of God” photo was produced when a star exploded and ejected an enormous cloud of material, which NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, glimpsed in high-energy X-rays, shown in blue in the photo. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory had imaged the green and red parts previously, using lower-energy X-rays.

“NuSTAR’s unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light,” NuSTAR telescope principal investigator Fiona Harrison, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement….

The Hand of God is an example of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of perceiving familiar shapes in random or vague images. Other common forms of pareidolia include seeing animals or faces in clouds, or the man in the moon. Despite its supernatural appearance, the Hand of God was produced by natural astrophysical phenomena. (Quote source here.)

In our day-to-day interactions with our world, rarely do we think beyond the obvious that we see and experience. Stop for a moment and think about the last time you thought about the universe “out there.” If you’re like me, it is rare, unless you watch or read a lot of science fiction. We get caught up in what is going on in our own lives, and we act accordingly. And even with our technological wonders and devices that can take us to every corner of our world, the vastness of the universe is far beyond our reach or even our thoughts unless we work at places like NASA or Science.com that remind us daily of how infinitesimally tiny and finite we are compared to the universe.

For the non-religious among us, the Big Bang Theory of the universe is the most commonly held theory of how the universe was formed. In an article titled, What is the Big Bang Theory?” by Elizabeth Howell, Canadian journalist and contributor at Science.com, she writes:

The Big Bang Theory is the leading explanation about how the universe began. At its simplest, it says the universe as we know it started with a small singularity, then inflated over the next 13.8 billion years to the cosmos that we know today.

Because current instruments don’t allow astronomers to peer back at the universe’s birth, much of what we understand about the Big Bang Theory comes from mathematical formulas and models. Astronomers can, however, see the “echo” of the expansion through a phenomenon known as the cosmic microwave background.

While the majority of the astronomical community accepts the theory, there are some theorists who have alternative explanations besides the Big Bangsuch as eternal inflation or an oscillating universe.

The phrase “Big Bang Theory” has been popular among astrophysicists for decades, but it hit the mainstream in 2007 when a comedy show with the same name premiered on CBS. The show follows the home and academic life of several researchers (including an astrophysicist). (Quote source and complete article available at this link.)

The alternative explanations besides the Big Bang theory are summed up in this article titled, Alternative to the Big Bang Theory Explained,” by Karl Tate, infographics artist at Science.com:

One alternative theory is the Steady State universe. An early rival to the Big Bang theory, Steady State posits continuous creation of matter throughout the universe to explain its apparent expansion. This type of universe would be infinite, with no beginning or end. However, a mountain of evidence found since the mid-1960s indicates that this theory is not correct.

Another alternative is the Eternal Inflation theory. After the Big Bang, the universe expanded rapidly during a brief period called inflation. The Eternal Inflation theory posits that inflation never stopped, and has been going on for an infinite length of time. Somewhere, even now, new universes are coming into existence in a vast complex called the multiverse. Those many universes could have different physical laws.

The Oscillating model of the universe involved an endless series of Big Bangs, followed by Big Crunches that restarted the cycle, endlessly. The modern cyclic model involves colliding “branes” (a “membrane” within a higher-dimensional volume called the “bulk”).

Implications found in quantum gravity and string theory tantalizingly suggest a universe that is in reality nothing like how it appears to human observers. It may actually be a flat hologram projected onto the surface of a sphere, for example. Or it could be a completely digital simulation running in a vast computer. (Quote source here.)

Now before I lose some of you, the “science” theories behind the creation of the universe is only one side of a two-sided issue. I believe in presenting both sides of any story when possible for clarification, so for those of us who believe God is behind the creation of the universe (known as Creationism), I present the other side of this issue.

Creationism is defined as follows (source: Britannica.com):

Creationism is the belief that the universe and the various forms of life were created by God out of nothing (ex nihilo). It is a response to modern evolutionary theory, which explains the emergence and diversity of life without recourse to the doctrine of God or any other divine power. Mainstream scientists generally reject creationism.

Biblical creationists believe that the story told in Genesis of God’s six-day creation of all things is literally correct. Others, such as old-Earth creationists, believe that a creator made all that exists, but they may not hold that the Genesis story is a literal history of that creation. Both types of creationists, however, believe that changes in organisms may involve changes within a species (often understood as the “kind” mentioned in Genesis 1:24) or downward changes such as negative mutations, but they do not believe that any of these changes can lead to the evolution of a lower or simpler species into a higher or more-complex species. Thus, the theory of biological evolution is disputed by all creationists….

Beginning in the late 20th century, many creationists advocated a view known as intelligent design. This view, which claimed to draw from modern science, was a contemporary interpretation of the argument from design for the existence of God as set forth by the Anglican clergyman William Paley (1743–1805). Intelligent design is not accepted by all creationists, however, because many of its proponents leave open the identity and nature of the “intelligent designer” of the universe, rather than equating it with the God of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Today most creationists in the United States favor the elimination of evolution from the public school curriculum or at least the teaching of creationism alongside evolution as an equally legitimate scientific theory. (Quote source and more information is available here.)

As stated above, many scientists do not believe in Creationism; however, there is a large number of scientists both past and present who do believe in Creationism, and some of them are listed on Creation.com which represents Creation Ministries International (CMI), a worldwide ministry “that exists to support the effective proclamation of the Gospel by providing credible answers that affirm the reliability of the Bible, in particular its Genesis history.” They also publish Creation Magazine, the world’s most widely read magazine on the creation/evolution controversy, as well as the Journal of Creation. (Quote source here.)

The Institute for Creation Research,” established in 1970, is also a leader in scientific research within the context of biblical creation. Founded by Dr. Henry Morris in 1970, the institute exists to conduct scientific research within the realms of origins and Earth history, and then to educate the public both formally and informally through graduate and professional training programs, through conferences and seminars around the country, and through books, magazines, and media presentations” (Quote course here.)

The other area mentioned above is known as Intelligent Design,” and it “refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection” (quote source here.) Intelligent Design differs from Creationism as stated below:

The theory of intelligent design is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism typically starts with a religious text and tries to see how the findings of science can be reconciled to it. Intelligent design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural. (Quote source here.)

Here is one more link to a website titled, Reasons to Believe,” and their mission statement reads as follows:

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. (Quote source here.)

Regarding Creation, they state the following:

We believe that the physical universe, the realm of nature, is the visible creation of God. It declares God’s existence and gives a trustworthy revelation of God’s character and purpose. In Scripture, God declares that through His creation all humanity recognizes His existence, power, glory, and wisdom. An honest study of nature – its physical, biological, and social aspects – can prove useful in a person’s search for truth. Properly understood, God’s Word (Scripture) and God’s world (nature), as two revelations (one verbal, one physical) from the same God, will never contradict each other. (Quote source here).

For those of us who believe that God is the Creator of the Universe, GotQuestions.org answers the question, “What does it mean that God is the Creator?” as follows:

One of the foundational truths of the Bible is that God is the Creator of all that is. One of the many passages to proclaim God as Creator is Isaiah 40:28, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” All three Persons of the Trinity were involved in the creation of the universe (Genesis 1:2Acts 17:24Hebrews 1:2).

A creator is one who makes something new. People can “create” art projects, musical compositions, and physical structures; however, they always have something to work with. They begin with preexisting matter and form it in new ways. Even music and other intellectual creations have rhythms, rhymes, notes, instruments, and artistic mediums that provide structure and offer possibilities. What is commonly called “creativity” is more akin to synthesis. God had no such raw materials to work with. When we say that God is the Creator, we mean that He is truly creative, in a category all by Himself, because He started with nothing (Colossians 1:16).

Genesis 1:1 says that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That means that, before Genesis 1:1, there existed no heavens and no earth. God spoke them into being (Genesis 1:369). “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11; cf. Revelation 10:6). He is God. He is not limited by our understanding, nor by time, space, or matter. As the Creator, God is the all-wise originator and designer of all things: “How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all” (Psalm 104:24).

When God created the heavens and the earth, He did so by speaking it into existence. When He created the things that filled the earth and the sky, He spoke them into being (Genesis 1:11–16). But when He created human beings, He did something different. He took some clay that He had already made and formed a man. Then He breathed His own life into that man, and “man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). When He created the first woman, Eve, He also used that which He had already made. He caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and took a rib from his side and formed a woman (Genesis 2:21).

God is the Designer and Craftsman of everything in the universe, and He created human beings a step above all the rest. By breathing His own life into that man, He created the man and woman “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). That means that human beings are more like God than any other created thing. We have an eternal spirit, just as God has. We can reason, choose good or evil, and love. We have emotions, intellect, and the power and desire to create things ourselves. God desires to have fellowship with us (Genesis 3:8–9Jeremiah 29:12). He does not seek fellowship with dogs, dolphins, or trees. They have life, but not God’s life. And when He came to earth to save us, He came in the form of a man (Philippians 2:5–8Luke 1:35).

When we say that God is the Creator, we mean that no one created Him and that God alone is THE Creator. Satan cannot create; he can only pervert what God creates. People cannot truly create, because we must start with something that has already been created. Everything originated from God (Jeremiah 10:16James 1:17Revelation 10:6). Because He created everything, everything is His (Exodus 19:5Psalm 50:12). As human beings, we are also His, and He has the right to rule over us. He gives us freedom to choose Him or reject Him, but consequences come with either choice. The wise person bows before the Creator and willingly submits himself or herself to the only One who truly knows how we are made (Psalm 78:39103:14Romans 9:20). (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Colossians 1:16-17For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things . . .

And in Him . . .

All things . . .

Hold together . . . .

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here (photo by NASA)
Photo #3 credit here