Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Life-verse Number Three

Jeremiah 45:5 “‘But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,’ declares the Lord, ‘but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.’”

This verse requires a bit of context. The prophet Jeremiah had a secretary named Baruch. The technical, scholarly term is “amanuensis” - you can use it to impress your friends and neighbors, but it means, essentially, “secretary.” An amanuensis was one who would record what another said or dictated (think, court recorder).

Baruch is the one who actually wrote the scroll of Jeremiah, as Jeremiah dictated it to him. Jeremiah the prophet was persona non grata in the royal court of Judah, because his prophecies were condemning the Judean kingdom for their sins as the clock ran down on the southern kingdom. Since Baruch was associated with the hated prophet, he shared in the abuse and contempt. It could not have been pleasant to be hated by your own people while the barbarians were at the gates (actually, it was the Babylonians).

At some low point for the scribe, God gave to Jeremiah a word of encouragement for Baruch, with a promise. “Drop your personal ambitions and dreams of greatness, Baruch. It’s not an appropriate time for that. Instead, I will give you your life as a prize.”

This is for me both a rebuke and a comfort. When I was a young believer, I had dreams and ambitions of “what I would do for God.” Like most ambitions, mine were sullied with prideful desires for personal greatness. Needless to say, my great ambitions did not pan out. And it’s a good thing, too. I already struggle too much with personal pride. Visual success would simply be more than I could handle. God is so gracious.

This promise to Baruch is mine. Christ has given me my life, in that He has saved me and provided me with eternal life. By His good grace, my path has followed His course for me, not my own. Those dreams didn’t pan out, but they were more for me than for Christ. It’s been a far better path than I would have chosen. This is my life verse for the latter portion of my life as a believer, and it is a good one—a blessing.

Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t, Christian. God has given you your life as a prize, instead. What He has for you is far better than what you would have chosen for yourself.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bye-bye Barnes and Noble!

Rats! After struggling for several hours with the Nook platform, I regret to say that I am abandoning the Barnes and Noble NOOK. However - if you have a NOOK, and want a copy of one of my books, be sure to read to the end of this post. As always, Kindle copies are available on Amazon.

Two reasons why I am ditching the B&N platform.

#1, When I look at my book on the Nook for PC it looks perfect. When I look at it on the Nook Previewer on the author site, it looks terrible. C'mon, B&N! Both of these viewers are your software! Get your act together!

#2, There is currently a maelstrom of discontent among Nook authors. B&N is messing around with the Nook author's site (transfering everything from PubIt! to NOOK Press). It is a fiasco.

As an independent author who holds down a full-time job, I want to spend my discretionary time WRITING not playing with the bits and the bytes, or xhtml.

If you have a Nook, and you want to read one of my books, use the contact form on my web site and I'll be glad to email you the file directly. If it works on your Nook, you can pay me. If it doesn't, delete the file and we won't worry about it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Life-verse Number Two

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says:
Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.
I love this passage. Somewhere along the line in my earliest days as a believer in Christ, I was reading Jeremiah and these two verses jumped out and grabbed me and carried me around the room a couple times. This is my life-verse.

I am one prone to boast. When I tend to be inflated with pride—puffed up, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1—this passage calls me back, plants my feet on the ground. There is but One of whom to boast—and it’s not me. I will boast of Christ, that by His divine sovereign election I know Him. I will boast of Christ, that by His grace and mercy I know and love His Word. Apart from Christ I would be deaf to His Word and blind to His glory. Apart from Christ I would remain spiritually dead and headed for an inexorable judgment. Apart from Christ the gospel would be foolishness to me, and the ways of the world, wisdom.

When I sign my name, I often add the reference “Je 9:23-24.” When I was at Westminster, some of my instructors took exception to my using that text. They knew my background (fundamentalist), and thought I was staking out some sort of anti-intellectual position. I can understand why they might have thought that: the fundamentalist movement has often fallen prey to that self-defeating and biblically foolish position.

But my use of Jeremiah has never been a statement of that sort. It’s not a rebuke for someone else: it is a reminder for me: I have nothing of which to boast—except Christ, whom to know aright is life eternal. In Him, of Him, I will boast.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This one's for you, dad.

  The following is taken from the dedication page of my new novel, Falcon Down. I thought I'd put it on my blog for Father's Day.
In memory of Cdr. Lewis Milner Cobb, USN (Ret.)

In every generation there are those men and women who simply do what needs to be done, even at great risk to themselves. My dad was one of those men. He was pursuing an engineering degree at Georgia Tech when World War II reprogrammed his future. Dad joined the Navy and became a fighter pilot, flying Grumman Hellcats off the pitching decks of carriers in the Pacific. He married mom in August, 1945, expecting to return to the Pacific for his third tour after their honeymoon, but by the time their honeymoon was over the war had ended. He stayed in the Navy, eventually retiring as a commander in 1966. From there he went into the Episcopal ministry, still serving people, but in a different way.

He died a couple of years ago. He was faithful to his wife, his family, and his country: a good man, with a life well-lived. He was a great father. This one’s for you, dad.

Life-verse Number One

I have three life verses from Jeremiah—three and counting, I expect.

As a prophet, Jeremiah is very apropos to our generation. His is a sixth-century BC book. Babylon is besieging Jerusalem. The once proud nation is now in its death throes. Sounds a lot like another country I know. And its people are enmeshed in sin and rebellion; they want relief, but are not particularly interested in repentance.

I’ll take my life verses in chronological order, as God used them in my life. First up is Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

In 1974 I was a freshman, a Geology major, at Colorado State University. I was mostly agnostic and completely lost. God was for me an abstraction at best and a distraction at worst: I wasn’t interested.

I was button-holed on the campus by a fellow named Chuck. He had a Bible in his hand; I tried to avoid him, but failed. Trapped, I grudgingly consented to hear what he had to say while making it obvious by my body language that I was not the slightest bit interested.

He began sharing the Gospel with me. As a teen I had enjoyed trying to talk other bible-banging teens out of their faith, but this guy parried every thrust with the Word of God. He patiently and gently answered my every question and my every objection right out of the text, and God began to work in my heart. I was not seeking God, but He was seeking me.

At some point Chuck quoted Jeremiah 17:9, and with that my resistance collapsed. I had been outed, I had been pegged, I had been exposed. All my self-righteousness went up in smoke at that moment and I knew that God saw right through my act. God knew my heart, and His knowledge was dead-on accurate.

All my objections became superfluous, because I knew that only a living God could pierce me with truth as I had been pierced. I trusted Christ that very day, and have been trusting Him ever since.

Jeremiah 17:9 is a pretty humiliating life verse—but I love it. It’s still true of me, but less true than it was thirty-seven years ago, and a year from now it will be even less true of me than it is today. The closer to Christ I grow, the more clearly I see my own corruption. And the more grateful I am that God the Son absorbed the righteous wrath of His Father; wrath that should have been poured on me. I will never be called to account for my sins before the judgment bar of God, because they’ve already been paid through the death of Christ, and God doesn’t do double jepoardy. Hallelujah!

I’m thankful for the Son of God who purchased my salvation, for a man named Chuck who gave me the facts of the Gospel straight, and for Jeremiah 17:9 which exposed my sins!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Force Government workers to live on Obamacare

Here's a great article. It's basic point is that all government employees (including and especially legislators) should have to switch to Obamacare for their insurance. Personally, I would exempt the military. But everyone from Obama on down in the government should be made to switch to Obamacare for their health insurance.

Book Review: The Discipline of Grace, by Jerry Bridges

Bridges, Jerry. The Discipline of Grace:God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006.

Bridges is a great writer on holiness and the disciplines of the Christian life. But a one-sided emphasis on discipline can cause the believer to lapse into a performance mentality in their relationship with Christ, thus falling into a sort of legalism. The solution is a fresh apprehension of grace, which means a fresh appreciation of the gospel and its enablement of holy living. Bridges accomplishes precisely that in his book, The Discipline of Grace.
Bridges is able to show that it really is not “balance” that is necessary, as though we must juggle the conflicting emphases between discipline and grace; rather, it is a full-bodied appreciation of what the gospel is, and what Christ has wrought through the gospel. The author shows that we are able to pursue grace and holiness as a single pursuit, not two separate ones.

This is yet another valuable contribution to the library of Bridge’s offerings aimed at Christian growth. Believers will find it very helpful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fielding Age-of-the-Earth Questions Evangelistically - By Mark Thompson

What follows is a guest-post from Mark Thompson. I really enjoyed it and I trust you will as well.

Fielding Age-of-the-Earth Questions Evangelistically
Anyone who has gone through the public education system or listened to the national media cover what might be called “origins science” has been inundated with the idea that the earth is billions of years old.  Individuals whom the Spirit is leading to consider the claims of Christianity may have legitimate questions stemming from the assertions of evolution.  In answering their questions, we must always emphasize that when the scientific facts are seen in their proper light they will always agree with the Bible because the Bible is the ultimate source of truth.  Scientific evidences cannot be used to “prove” the Bible to an unbeliever because evidences may well change over time and, more importantly, fallen men consistently interpret evidences in light of their presuppositions (unproven starting assumptions, such as naturalism).

This said, I do believe it is appropriate and indeed glorifying to God to show how creation testifies to His infinite wisdom and might (Rom.1:18-22).  But the goal of our Christian witness always needs to be a respectful but authoritative presentation of the gospel (1 Cor.2:1-5).  Do not give up the bedrock of God’s Word to stand on the shifting sands of popular scientific opinion.  The following was my response to an age-of-the-earth question from a friend with whom I have already shared the gospel.  As disciples of Christ, we need to consistently elevate the authority of His Word in interpreting all of life and reality.
Mark, how many years ago did Adam & Eve arrive on earth?
3-4-5-6-7 Thousand years ago?

Hey my friend!

It’s good to hear from you!  Have you seen the planetary tango in the west?  Friday night I was able to put all three into a 5 degree binocular field of view.  It was a stunning sight!

Life has been a little crazy recently with our youngest graduating from High School (though he took his last two years at Edison Community College) and preparing for his open house this last Sunday.  There is nothing like having a whole lot of people over to motivate you to get those neglected projects completed!

As to the date of the first couple, I agree with many conservative Bible scholars who place their creation and that of the earth and cosmos a little over 6,000 years ago based on what is called a “strict” reading of the Bible’s genealogies and a normal reading of Genesis 1 and 2.  Some conservative scholars would allow for the possibility of missing generations in the genealogies (the term “father” could possibly mean “ancestor”, such as in our referencing “the founding fathers” or “our forefathers”).  They might push the beginning back as far as 10,000 years or so. 

Obviously God was the only one who was there in the beginning and so is the only One who could accurately tell us when that beginning was or what it was like.  As the Lord asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).  I do believe that there is a large volume of scientific evidence that would support the Bible’s chronological framework but I doubt whether you would ever hear it mentioned, let alone be given a fair hearing in secular publications. 

Part of the problem lies in the fact that none of us is unbiased.  We all look at facts with certain assumptions. My assumption is that an infinitely wise Creator, who was able to design such incredibly complicated things as DNA, was able to infallibly communicate truth about human origins and all other areas He deems important for humans to function as He designed us. There are three questions concerning any “clocks” that we might look to in nature that are particularly important: 1) what were the starting conditions, 2) has the rate of change been consistent over time or has there been factors that may have caused that rate to vary and, 3) has there been any “contamination” from outside?  These three assumptions play heavily in interpreting various radiometric clocks, which give dramatically varying ages for rocks. 

Interestingly enough, many geologists are resorting to catastrophes to explain the geological features of the earth and not gradual, uniform change.  This is much more in keeping with what would result from a worldwide flood as detailed in Genesis 6-8.  The theory of geologic uniformitarianism and the denial of the Genesis flood were predicted to be prevalent in the end times by Peter when he penned 2 Peter 3:3-7.

If you are really interested in checking out scientific evidences for a young earth, I would suggest exploring material published or offered for free online by Answers in Genesis or the Creation Research Institute.  I have a good bit of fascinating material by AIG.  Let me briefly mention several of the evidences that they detail in an article from their Answers magazine (see, www.answersmagazine.com/go/10evidences):

1) Very Little Sediment on the Seafloor.  If Sediments have been accumulating on the seafloor for 3 billion years, the seafloor should be choked with sediments many miles deep.  Yet the average thickness globally is less than 1300 feet.  This amount of sediment is easily explained by water draining off the continents towards the end of the Biblical flood but certainly not by evolutionary models.

2) Bent Rock Layers.  In many mountainous areas, rock layers thousands of feet thick have been bent and folded without fracturing.  How could that have possibly happened if layers were laid down separately over hundreds of millions of years and already hardened?  Hardened rock layers, including sedimentary layers, are very brittle (think about hardened cement).  Fossil-bearing layers in places like the Grand Canyon were laid down quickly and folded while still wet and, hence, are not fractured! 

3) Soft Tissue in Fossils.  Bone slices from the fossilized thigh bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex recently found by Dr. Mary Schweitzer in Montana and reported in Scientific America (Dec. 2010, pp. 62-69) contain blood vessels with red blood cells and nuclei along with specialized lining cells.  The bone marrow contained flexible tissue, proteins and complex molecules.  There is no known way to explain these features from a specimen a supposed 68 million years old, but it has repeatedly been demonstrated by many studies of Egyptian mummies and other humans historically dated to more than 4,000 years old.

4) The Faint Sun Paradox. Evidence supports astronomer’s belief that the sun’s power comes from the fusion of hydrogen into helium.  As the hydrogen fused, it should change the composition of the sun’s core, gradually increasing the sun’s temperature.  If true, this means that the earth was colder in the past.  Indeed, it should have been below freezing 3.5 billion years ago when life supposedly evolved.  Evolutionists acknowledge that there is no evidence of this in the geologic record and even call this the “faint young sun paradox”.  Obviously, this is not a problem if the solar system is only thousands of years old.

5) Rapidly Decaying Magnetic Field.  The earth is surrounded by a magnetic field that protects living things from solar radiation.  Without it, life could not exist.  The magnetic field around the earth has been measured since 1845 and consistently found to be wearing down at a rate that testifies that the earth could not be older than 20,000 years old.  “Reliable, accurate, published geological field data have emphatically confirmed the young-earth model” (Dr. Andrew Snelling). 

6) Helium in Radioactive Rocks.  Radioactive elements in rocks produce a lot of helium as they decay; and this gas quickly escapes into the atmosphere, especially when the rocks are hot.  Yet radioactive rocks in the earth’s crust contain a lot of helium.  The only possible explanation is that the helium hasn’t had enough time to escape.  Rocks mined in New Mexico show an average diffusion age of only 6,000 years (+/- 2,000 yrs.).

7) Carbon-14 in Fossils, Coal, and Diamonds. Carbon-14 (Radiocarbon) is a radioactive form of carbon that scientists use to attempt to date fossils.  Because its decay half-life is a mere 5,730 years none is expected to remain in fossils after only a few hundred thousand years.  Yet carbon-14 has been detected in “ancient” fossils – supposedly up to hundreds of millions of years old- ever since the earliest days of radiocarbon dating.  Diamonds supposedly 1 to 3 billion years old yield carbon-14 ages of only 55,000 years.  (This assumes that the earth’s magnetic field was not stronger in the past, which would have protected the atmosphere from solar radiation and reduced the radiocarbon production.  Hence, the amount of radiocarbon to begin with in every creature was less and their deaths occurred much more recently than reported.) 

8) Short-lived Comets.  (My friend), as you know, comets have little mass and each close encounter with the sun greatly reduces the comet’s size.  Given that the loss rates are well known, it is easy to calculate the absolute maximum age of comets, which is only a few million years (not billions).  Kuiper Belt objects do not correspond to the composition or size of comets and astronomer Carl Sagan said that there was not a shred of evidence for the Oort cloud.  This assessment has not changed since his death in the 80’s.  The Oort cloud was hypothesized without any evidence simply to cover this huge evolutionary problem. 

9) Very Little Sea Salt.  If the world’s oceans have been around for 3 billion years, they should be filled with vastly more salt than they are today.  Every year, the continents, atmosphere, and seafloor add 458 million tons of salt into the oceans but only 122 million tons (27%) is removed.  At this rate, today’s saltiness would be reached in 42 million years just from runoff.  Surely, God created the salty ocean for sea creatures He created on day 5 of Creation, and the Flood quickly added more salt.   

10) DNA in “Ancient” Bacteria.  In 2000 scientists claimed to “resurrect” bacteria discovered in a salt crystal conventionally dated at 250 million years old.  They were shocked to find that the “ancient” bacteria were very similar to modern bacteria.  If the modern bacteria were the result of 250 million years of evolution, the DNA should be very different from the “Lazarus” bacteria based on known mutation rates.  Because DNA normally breaks down quickly even in ideal circumstances, they were at a loss to explain DNA intact after a supposed 250 million years! 

11) The Recession of the Moon.  Currently the moon is moving outward from the earth because of the gravitational tidal force between the earth and moon.  The present rate is 3.82 cm/yr but would have been much greater in the past (the relationship is highly non-linear – gravitational attraction is governed by an inverse square law – if you cut the distance in half the attraction is 4 times as great; if you make the distance 1/3, the attraction is 9 times as much!)  If we extrapolate backward, gravity theory shows the moon in direct contact with the earth about 1.55 billion years ago.  The Roche limit shows that the moon would fragment into Saturn-like rings long before this time as the earth’s gravity force would overcome the moon’s own cohesive force. 

However, evolutionists say that life originated on the earth 3.5 billion years ago.  There are many ways in which the moon’s precise distance, inclination, orbit elongation, mass, etc. make life possible here on earth that would be drastically changed if the moon has been receding for millions or billions of years.  But, if the earth is only about 6,000 years old, the moon would have only been about 755 feet closer.  Clearly this is no problem for the young-earth creation position.

(My friend), I believe that it is much easier to see design and special creation in the universe as well as the human body than it is to see random chance and purposelessness.  Every single paragraph of a 2000 page Biology textbook screams “purpose, design, function” for everything it describes.  There is no purposelessness or randomness to all this intricacy that boggles the human mind.  What is amazing is that the Lord has given us the capacity to “search out His ways” through the disciplines of science which confirm His Word!  As the Psalmist said to the Lord, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Ps.139:14).

This same God is who spoke everything into existence out of nothing (Heb.11:3 –this is the same thing that Big-bang cosmologists believe only without an Intelligent Designer), inerrantly communicated His will in written form, sent His Son to take on human flesh to die for the sins of rebellious creatures, and is able to receive a repentant sinner into the presence of His resurrected Son for eternity (Rom.10:9-10).  Apart from this God, nothing makes sense and surely has no meaning. 

Thanks much for your question.  I appreciate and enjoy your inquisitiveness!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sanctification, Adoption, and Union with Christ

For one whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit such that he possesses saving faith, at first view the Gospel is not complex. Jesus Christ died and rose again for my sins, that I may be forgiven by God the Father on the basis of Christ's sacrifice for me. An elementary school child can grasp the message. An aging person on their deathbed whose mind is clouded by pain and medications can understand it

On the other hand, the Gospel is a message of such profundity and enormous implications, and yes, complexity, that we can never truly exhaust its depths. Any moderate to advanced level of study in the Bible will confirm this. Theological studies will add their 'Amen.'

Sanctification is that process by which we are delivered from the presence of sin. We who know Christ are 'already' sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11, note the tense), but we are 'not yet' sanctified (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).

Union with Christ is that reality of having been mystically placed into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Every time you see the pregnant phrase 'in Christ' or 'in Him' in the Pauline letters, you are brushing up against the doctrine of union with Christ. More than any other biblical truth, it is this one that provides for both our present, positional, perfected sanctification as well as the power that we need for the day-to-day ongoing practical sanctification. Through union with Christ that which would have been unthinkable (to share in God's glory) becomes a reality (compare Isaiah 42:8 and John 17:22; Romans 8:17; 2 Thess 2:14). There is a very real sense in which union with Christ has always been the ultimate aim of redemption, in the service of God's glory (see John 17).

Adoption is that doctrine which explains our new position in the household of God. We are sons, and because sons, heirs with Christ. By adoption, God is truly our Father, and by the influence of the Holy Spirit we can cry, 'Abba, Father!' (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Adoption is also seen as the ultimate aim of redemption.

All three of these realities occur at the instant of salvation. Sanctification is both instantaneous (in its positional aspect) and an ongoing process (in its practical outworking). Union with Christ and adoption are both eternally complete in the initial instant of salvation. Some theologians will try to establish a logical order for these (as part of the ordo salutis), but the important thing to note is that they are eternally complete and assured for the true believer in Christ.

Whereas we found the Gospel to be simple as new believers, now indeed it seems to us as a precious jewel, with countless facets all reflecting together the glory of the Living God. It is an enormous, life-dominating, soul-stirring, intellect-satisfying, saving reality. And, we see that it is beyond simple comprehension.

Isn't God awesome!!!