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July 03, 2008

As I mentioned in a brief post yesterday, I have begun making my way through Bruce Waltke’s Old Testament Theology. It is a massive book and is perhaps just a bit intimidating, but I have been enjoying it a lot. It is my first attempt to read an Old Testament theology and even through the opening chapters I can see that there is much to learn.

After six introductory chapters, Waltke turns to Old Testament theology proper in a chapter entitled “The Gift of the Cosmos” and here, as we might expect, he discusses God’s work as creator. He argues here that it is critically important that we read the opening chapters of Genesis properly, acknowledging the author’s intended literary genre. Though he eventually argues that this section is meant to be read as “ancient near eastern cosmogony,” which in turns leads to supporting his views on theistic evolution (a view I do not support) I found something very useful in this section. He explains how a wrong reading of the creation account leads to further and deeper problems. He shows how culture’s refusal to acknowledge the creator necessarily leads to the anti-God worldview so apparent in society around us. “Christians now live on a mission field with worldviews that besiege the message of ethical monotheism.” He says that this new paganism has six faces and one proceeds from the one before it.

1. The common worldview of the Western world since the time of the enlightenment has been materialism. This philosophy says that matter and its motions constitute the entire universe. Everything in the universe has to be regarded as due to material causes.

2. There is an implication to materialism. Since everything is material, ideally and theoretically, everything is subject to empiricism. Here he quotes Alan Reynolds who says, “empiricism, which insists that all knowledge is based on observation, experimentation, and verification, has led to belief in a self-sufficient universe that can be understood on its own terms, without any need of the transcendent or of God.”

3. Together materialism and empiricism entail a belief in an inherent coherence within nature between cause and effect. This, in turn, has led to belief in determinism, which understands reality as mechanical and without inherent value. Life’s origins and the nature of humanity have natural rather than divine causation.

4. Secularism is a political or social philosophy that embraces each of these “-isms”—materialism, empiricism and determinism. It embraces natural causation and and rejects religious faith and worship in the public square. Nature, society, and government become instruments dedicating only to fulfilling our material desires which masquerade as “rights.” This is fast becoming the dominant worldview among Western intellectual elites.

5. Secular humanism is a system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values and dignity are predominant. This leads to a kind of intense pragmatism that calculates everything in terms of its benefit to humanity. There is no acknowledgment of God and his rule of the created order.

6. Post-modernism or New Ageism marks what is really a return to old-fashioned paganism, though with a distinctly modern twist to it. New Ageism takes distinctives of Eastern religion and distorts them with Western concepts. Post-modernism replaces the objective reality of God as revealed in special revelation with subjective deifications of individual expressions of spirituality. Waltke says, “it rejects the notion of a revealed moral code and instead tests truth by its therapeutic value.” In this worldviews there are no better or worse cultures but merely differences between them.

I was able to see through these six faces of the new paganism how important it is that we get Genesis right! The irony, I suppose, is that I am not at all convinced that Waltke is correct in his views on creation. Still, he acknowledges the creator, of course, and acknowledging God as He reveals Himself in the Bible is a safeguard against the post-modern, secular humanistic viewpoint that pervades society. Those in our society who refuse to admit the existence of this God are soon left with materialism and from there empiricism and all that these -isms entail.

July 01, 2008

canada_flag_sunset.jpg

Today is Canada Day and I, like just about every other Canadian, am taking the day off from work. But it does give me a good opportunity to add a new article to the “It’s a Fact, Eh?” article archives.

Every year on July 1, Canada pauses for one day to focus on our nation. Though often compared to America’s Independence Day, Canada Day celebrates something quite different. The day marks the anniversary of the joining of the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces. At this time what had previously been the Province of Canada was divided into Ontario and Quebec. This all happened on July 1, 1867. However, even at this time Canada did not become entirely independent and it was not until 1982 that Canada fully and finally severed political ties with Great Britain.

Though Canada Day (or Dominion Day as it was known then) was first instituted in the 1860’s there is no record of any substantial celebrations being held at that time. The Canadian citizens still considered themselves British and saw little reason to mark the occasion. In fact, the day really only became an important national holiday in the middle of the twentieth century. The centennial celebrations in 1967 really kicked off the tradition of marking the day in a special way. This year marks the 141st anniversary of Confederation and also the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, which also marks the founding of Canada. It is a good day to celebrate Canada.

Today many Canadians will mark the day by attending public events or celebrations—parades, festivals and the like. Most towns will hold public fireworks displays when night falls (around 10 PM in this area). The “official” ceremonies will be held on Parliament Hill on Ottawa and this is where our Prime Minister will make his Canada Day appearance. The province of British Columbia is celebrating in a very strange way by instituting a carbon tax that will raise the already-high gas prices by 2.4 cents per litre (10 cents per gallon) this year, rising to almost 8 cents per litre by 2012. Personally I prefer our plans, which involve heading to a local park and watching the kids have fun in the splash pad over there. Then we’ll probably enjoy lunch at McDonald’s (well, the kids will enjoy it) and head on home for a quiet afternoon. Because the fireworks are so late and because my girls are absolutely terrified of them, we’re unlikely to take in any of the local shows. We’ll have to wait until the kids are a little older before we do that. And, of course, we’ll pause to celebrate one of the greatest things about being Canadian—we’re not American.

Enjoy your Canada Day!

June 28, 2008

Heaven Without HerI came very close to tossing this book away. With so many books coming my way these days, I need to move assess them quickly, determining which are worth a closer look and which are not. I cannot read them all. In this case, I saw the cover, I saw the title, I skimmed the back and thought “not likely.” But then I noticed that the author had included a little note inside. There she drew my attention to a couple of the endorsements that she felt would be meaningful to me—namely, Nancy Pearcey and Mark Buchanan, both authors whose works I am fond of. As I looked further I saw that it is also endorsed by Ray Comfort. Based on all of this I decided I would read it. And I’m glad I did.

Heaven Without Her is a memoir. It is the life story of Kitty Foth-Regner, who, until the year 2000, was living exactly the life she wanted for herself as an ardent feminist. She owned her own business, and a rather successful one at that, had a live-in boyfriend whom she loved, and owned a house with a beautiful garden. It was all she had ever wanted. But when she learned that her mother had a terminal illness and as she watched her mother succumb to death, her heart was stirred with questions of eternity. Was there something to her mother’s Christian faith, or was that faith really nothing more than wistful delusions?

Kitty set out to determine what was true. Her searching took her through most of the world’s major religions (and a few more). She saw quickly how each of them failed to offer good answers and true comfort. All but one, that is. As she explored Christianity through the guidance of sound pastors and theologians, she found a faith that offered answers to the toughest questions. She found a God who loved her as He had loved her mother before.

In this book, Foth-Regner documents hear search. In a fun and narrative style, she describes how the Bible answered all of her questions and how her heart was first convicted, then convinced, and finally renewed. The unthinkable happened—she became a Christian, and this despite so many years of feminism and agnosticism. Her old passions and desires fell away and were replaced with new ones; holy ones.

Heaven Without Her is a valuable read and I think an important one. i consider it an important apologetic work. Sure it presents truths that have been written in other books over and over again, but rarely have they been written in so readable a style. The innovation here is not so much the content as the style and its readily accessible format. This is an ideal book to give to a person who may have questions about the Christian faith. For that person who seems to be seeking or searching, this is a book that can provide answers and can show how God has worked in the life of another of His children. Despite my initial apprehension, having read the book I now highly recommend it.

(Interestingly, Amazon shows that people who bought this book have also bought Same Kind of Different As Me, another fantastic memoir. I recommend them both!)

June 21, 2008

A short time ago I was trying to help a friend redesign the bulletin for our church. In need of inspiration, I took to the web and began looking for examples of bulletins. I was rather surprised to see that there was really not a whole lot available out there. The majority of sample bulletins I dug up were the Christian equivalent of Microsoft Word’s clip art collections—covered with awful art that someone thought would appeal to Christians. Most of them were unsightly. Few offered anything interesting in terms of the layout of the information within; it is the text layout that interests me more than the “bells and whistles.”

I thought it would be interesting and perhaps helpful to piece together a small collection of church bulletins. Perhaps this can help inspire others as they attempt to create the perfect bulletin for their church.

So I am asking if you will do me a favor. Will you keep the bulletin from your church this weekend and send it to me? You can scan it, photograph it (assuming it’s a photo of reasonable quality) or mail it to me. Once I build up a collection, I will post them for all of us to see.

Thanks in advance!

June 19, 2008

You may well know of Dennis Rainey of FamilyLife (he is executive director and co-founder of FamilyLife and the daily host of the radio program Family Life Today). He has authored or co-authored several books. Rainey’s daughter Rebecca recently gave birth to Molly Ann, her first child. Molly was unexpectedly born with a life-threatening medical condition. The following are a few emails explaining the situation and asking for prayer. As the father of young children, reading these emails just about broke my heart. Please pray for Dennis and his wife Barbara and for Rebecca and her husband Jake. And pray for Molly. Though it seems that her situation is hopeless, God is more than capable of healing even this little girl.

Update: this evening Dennis Rainey wrote “Molly met The Savior just moments ago and is breathing celestial air at the feet of Jesus.” So do pray that God would grant His grace to the mourning parents and grandparents.

Initial Email

E-Mail from Dennis Rainey (Sun, June 15, 2008),

Believe me, this is not an email that I wanted to write you…but you are family and need to know.

Molly was born Friday morning around 5:30 to our daughter Rebecca and her husband Jake Mutz. A single email from her dad Jake announced “It’s a girl.” I knew something was up when we didn’t hear anything from them for the next hour and a half.

Everything about Molly looks so cute and normal. But she has a problem with a vein that carries blood to the brain. The Vein of Galen is supposed to carry blood, nutrients, oxygen, ect to the brain, but because it is enlarged and has a tangle of blood vessels in the middle of her brain, it is flooding the brain with too much blood and the blood that is going there is not going throughout the brain as needed. The result is that at birth her heart began working double time to try to pump blood to the rest of her body. Her condition at birth was so serious that she was in congestive heart failure and she had pulmonary hypertension.

The MRI taken on Molly around noon yesterday came back with very bad news. More than 50% of her brain has irreversible brain damage. She is blind. If she ends up being able to live thru numerous surgeries, she will not be totally paralyzed, but likely be in a wheel chair, not able to talk, or understand language. The pediatric neurological surgeon told us that the only hope of her living would be a series of 10-15-20 surgeries, that would need to begin soon…each one risky for a new born, and with a very questionable outcome. If taken off the ventilator, her heart and lungs would fail within a few days, if not within hours.

Rebecca and Jake are faced with the choice of multiple surgeries with no guarantees or making her comfortable and enjoying all the days the Lord God gives her. Words can’t describe what Jake and Rebecca are experiencing.

I am writing you to ask you to please pray:

Pray for Jake and Rebecca that they will be comforted and experience God’s peace in the midst of dashed hopes.

Pray that they’ll have wisdom to know what God wants them to do.

And ask God to heal Molly. He is able. He could do it. Yet, He may have other plans for her little life. May His will be done. And may he be honored.

Thanks for praying.
Dennis
Ps 112:1-2

Update #1

E-Mail from Dennis Rainey (Tuesday, June 17, 2008)

Molly’s condition remains the same, critical. Multiple meetings with neonatologists, pediatric cardiologists (from here to Little Rock, to Indiana to Mayo Clinic), neurologists, and interventional radiologists, have confirmed: Much of her blood is going to the brain.
Because of the abnormal vein and aneurysm, the blood that’s going there is ineffective, since it’s not going to her lungs, and the rest of her body…as a result 60-80% of her blood is going to her brain, normally it should be 10-15%. And because of this she is in congestive heart failure.

Damage is substantial to both halves of the brain and permanent. As a result they have two options:

Brain surgery, very dangerous and at best a questionable procedure, since she’ll never function normally without a miracle. If the surgery is successful, the congestive heart failure could be slowed and with a couple more surgeries, perhaps eliminated. Leaving Molly with a damaged brain and many more dangerous surgeries.

Second option is to withdraw life support and enjoy what hours or days God may give Rebecca and Jake with her. It is likely she’ll only live a few hours.

I have to tell you that listening and watching Rebecca and Jake (with Molly in Jake’s arms) grapple over what God wants them to do in terms of treatment of their daughter has been THE most difficult thing I’ve ever watched. It’s been holy. Worshipful. Heart rending. It is beyond imagination and words. I know that some of you have been through this, but oh how tough to watch two people you love enter into this deep valley. I marvel at how honest and real they’ve continued to be. Their faith and trust in God is remarkable.

They have decided not to operate. And in the coming days, Rebecca and Jake have decided to remove the life support.

What has been unimaginatively tough has just become a lot tougher. Please pray for Jake and Rebecca’s broken hearts. Scriptures tell us our days are numbered. Molly’s little life may be comprised of less than 7 days.

I am grateful for your prayers and sustaining love.

God is God. We are surrendering to Him and His ways. Blessed be the Name of our God. There is NO hope in any other.

Dennis

Update #2

E-Mail from Dennis Rainey (Thursday, June 19, 2008)

As the sun is coming out here in Colorado, and The Son will soon be welcoming home Rebecca and Jake’s daughter, Molly. A gift, entrusted to them for 7 days, to be ushered home, undoubtedly by a band of the gentlest and mighty angels dispatched from the throne of God to carry her into the presence of The Savior.

What has been tough, is about to get much tougher. Pray for Rebecca and Jake and forward this email to anyone you know who will pray for them.

Our days here have been so full of the presence of God. Honoring Him for Molly Ann.

Friday morning she was born… she didn’t cry for nearly 4’ because she was suffering from congestive heart failure. Her mom held her only for seconds before she was whisked away to be placed on life support. We think her problem is a heart murmur. Oh how I wish that was all she had. She is rushed by ambulance to The Children’s Hospital here in Aurora. We arrive that evening to hear Jake say she is going to need brain surgery. I am thinking…I wish it was a heart murmur.

Saturday was a day of testing, in more ways than one. She has x-rays, ultra-sound, and MRIs around 11. The radiologist makes a copy for Jake and me from her text book about the Vein of Galen. I go on line and find out that Molly is up against a serious abnormality in the middle of her brain that it is VERY rare and VERY destructive. Around 4 we are seated in a private room with a neurologist, cardiologist, neonatologist, and nurse giving us the news that over 50% of Molly’s brain is permanently damaged and that the damage affects both halves of the brain. 10-15-20 dangerous surgeries, she MIGHT be able to have A FEW functions as a human being. (Later I talk to a friend who has been a neurologist for 30 years and he puts it in perspective-“In cases like Molly where there is so much brain damage, I have never seen a good outcome through surgery.” Never is a strong word. Yet we hope and pray for a miracle…even today) It is as though this young couple have been hit by a truck, news beyond comprehension. Joy turns to mourning.

In other words, it would take a miracle for Molly to live.

Sunday Jake’s parents, Bill and Pam Mutz, arrive along with some of their family. Laura flies in from DC, Samuel and Stephanie and their three children fly in from Seattle, Ashley flies in from Memphis where she was on vacation with her husband and 5 sons and Ben and Marsha Kay come to the hospital. Rebecca and Jake want to introduce their new daughter to each family member. Many come and kneel at Rebecca’s feet and just sob. When a family is being a family it is powerful. Worshipful. God honoring.

Jake and Rebecca spend a good bit of Sunday and Monday praying, talking, seeking second opinions trying to decide what is God’s will for Molly…what is the loving thing to do?

Monday we surround Molly and have a baby dedication, read Scripture, pray and sing a couple of songs. More than a dozen of us weep our way through the familiar hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Again many of us kneel at Rebecca’s feet as she hold’s little Molly in her arms teethered to life support tubes.

Monday night Bill and Pam Mutz and Barbara and I witness the unimaginable…we sit in a hospital room as Jake hold’s Molly…listening for over 2 hours as Jake and Rebecca process their choices. God is God, but it’s impossible to NOT feel, this just shouldn’t be. What a choice for a young couple to have to make. They decide to not pursue the several very dangerous and complex brain surgeries and remove life support later in the week.

Tuesday, honestly, I don’t know what happened to Tuesday. But I do know that if love could heal, Molly would be well. Instead, we can all see Molly’s little chest pounding, her heart beating faster and faster, trying to keep up with what she needs to live. 60-80% of her blood is going to her brain when it should be 10-15%.

I do know that Wednesday was an incredible day. Videoing, picture taking, making a mold of Molly’s hands, Rebecca and Jake holding Molly still teethered by life support tubes. Rebecca and the mom’s giving Molly her first, and only bath, washing her hair. Stroking her little naked body. This is not what this young mother expected. Doing footprints and hand prints. Ask me to show you my bible and I’ll show you her footprints all over Psalm 127 and 128…and her handprint on my life verse, Psalm 112:1-2…Her life may have been short in terms of days, but her life has been mighty. Mighty Molly Mutz.

Wednesday closed out with this email at midnight from Jake, on the close of the last full day that Molly will likely live:

I just got done holding Molly chest-to-chest for the last 3.5 hours! Heavenly! I could feel her beating heart on my bare chest! 2569 kisses later I relinquished her to Mom.

She is an Angel!!!!

Now Rebecca is experiencing this delight! I just looked over at Bec & she nodded, as if to say - I WILL be sleeping here with my Sweet Pea for the next 12 hours!

We love you guys!
Jake & Rebecca

And now today. Molly’s coronation day. Read Ecclesiastes 7:1-4. This morning we will all say goodbye one by one and then leave Rebecca and Jake to spend the afternoon with her. She is expected to live only a few minutes after being taken off all life support machines later on this afternoon.

Pray for Jake and Rebecca today.

And for the Mutz family and ours.

Our hearts are breaking.

Update #3

E-mail from Dennis Rainey (Evening of Thursday June 19, 2008)

Molly met The Savior just moments ago and is breathing celestial air at the feet of Jesus.

June 16, 2008

Though I work primarily as a web designer, and despite receiving training in another area of the computer field (network administration, for those who may be interested), my most significant education was in history. It was history that I studied while in college and it is, in many ways, still my first love. As much as I love reading Christian living and spiritual growth books, I’m always eager to dive into my next history book. In the decade since I completed college I have continued to read in history, and in particular, in church history.

As I’ve read about the first-century church, I’ve been struck by the blessedness of living in this generation—our generation. As I study the very early Christians I begin to see again just what a legacy we have as Christ followers. The faith as we know it today was not simply handed to us, but was painstakingly developed over hundreds and thousands of years. The Scriptures have been closely studied through all of those years and the general pattern has been incremental steps forward and often large steps backward. Sometimes God sees fit to allow the church to take a giant step forward, as in the days of the Reformation, but more often the church has slowly and deliberately developed doctrine that accords to Scripture. Today we have unprecedented access to the Scripture and to resources dealing with the Bible. For this we ought to be profoundly grateful.

I thought it would be worthwhile to list some reasons that we, as Christians, should be eager to engage in the study of church history.

God Tells Us To: The Bible continually exhorts believers to search out and remember the past. The Old Testament in particular is filled with references to God commanding the Israelites to remember His deeds of the past. He instituted ceremony after ceremony, festival after festival, that caused His people to look to what He had done in the past. Veiled in many of these ceremonies and festivals was a glimpse of what would happen in the future. And so, when we look to the past, we may also glimpse just a little bit of what God promises us in the future.

For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding?” (Job 8:8-10)

The pillars and monuments of the past serve as constant reminders of God’s faithfulness. They serve to increase our faith and they reassure us that as God has acted in the past, He will act in the future.

To Understand Today: We should study the past to understand the present. The study of history, when done right, is always a humbling experience. It allows us to understand and sympathize with the plight of those who came before us. It helps us understand the blessings we enjoy today that were not always enjoyed by our brothers and sisters in days past. It also prevents us from developing a view of the faith that is too narrowly focused on our day and ignores the long, storied history of the church. It shows us that we are not too far different from so many of our brothers and sisters in days past and helps us avoid sins and mistakes they may have made.

To Understand Tomorrow: History is not just a study of the past in an attempt to understand the present, but is also an attempt to understand and even predict the future. When we see the patterns of days gone by, we can begin to formulate ideas about where current trends will lead. By understanding the past we begin to understand the future. When we understand where our current trends are taking us, we can react to avoid heading down paths that have been shown to be ruinous.

To Understand Providence: As Christians we are often guilty of dwelling in the present and looking eagerly to the future while forgetting all about the past. But to do this is to lose sight of the valuable teaching of the past. In past days God revealed Himself in mighty ways, continually providing for His people through trial and persecution. When we study the past, we can see many of the ways in which God’s providence has already been displayed. This can serve as a valuable teaching tool as we prepare to face trials or persecution in our day. It can and should spur us to greater love and appreciation of God and give us greater confidence in His promises. As He has been faithful to men and women of days gone by, He will be faithful to us and to our children. This assurance gives us great stability in our faith.

To Understand Error: In many ways the history of the church is a history of action and reaction. Much of Christian theology has been developed and strengthened in reaction to error and heresy. When we visit the past we can see how error has arisen in the church and we can see which errors have already arisen and have been decided by a consensus of the church. This can be valuable as we face the inevitable error in our own day. Many Christians engage anew in battles over doctrine for which they could receive a great deal of guidance from great theologians of days past. By studying what has happened, we can avoid future errors and even the patterns that precede error.

To Understand People: We all enjoy considering who we would choose to sit for a meal with, were we able to select from all the people who are living or have lived in the past. The reality, of course, is that we cannot speak with our heroes who have lived before us. Yet by studying history we can come to know and understand them. We can come to see the parts of their lives that brought glory to God and the parts that brought Him dishonor. We can see what led to their rise to prominence within the church and perhaps the character flaws that led to their downfall. We can learn much not just from history, but from specific people who lived in a period of history.

To Understand Endurance: Since Christ left the earth, Christians have lived in anticipation of His return. Those who lived in the first century expected that this event would be imminent. And yet, two millennia later, we continue to wait. As we look to history we arm ourselves with the knowledge that Christ’s return may still be far off. As we see how men and women have persevered throughout the history of the church, we are strengthened with endurance, knowing that we, too, shall be witnesses to Christ’s return when that great day finally arrives.

Can you think of more reasons? If you can, feel free to post a comment below.

June 04, 2008

Planet Earth is widely regarded as the greatest nature or wildlife series ever produced. Says David Attenborough in the opening moments, “A hundred years ago, there were one and a half billion people on Earth. Now, over six billion crowd our fragile planet. But even so, there are still places barely touched by humanity. This series will take you to the last wildernesses and show you the planet and its wildlife as you have never seen them before.” And it proceeds to do just that, finding and filming some of the most exquisitely beautiful locations on the planet. The scenery, the panoramas, the creatures are absolutely breathtaking.

While the producers of the series are not Christians (or do not claim to be Christians) and while the films were not meant to draw attention to God, as I watched them I was continually drawn to marvel in the greatness of the Lord. As the films provided a tour of so many beautiful locations and as they gave close-up shots of such incredible creatures, I saw the hand of a Creator. I saw it everywhere.

I’ve since often reflected on what I saw in the series and eventually wrote down a list of some of the things I learned about God through Planet Earth. And today I’ll share that list with you.

I learned that our God is…

…A God of Variety

jungle.jpgAs a web designer I know a thing or two about design. I know about the demands placed upon those who seek to design. I know that it is not nearly as easy as it may appear. Sometimes creating even just two or three variations on a similar theme taxes my creative abilities to the max. A few hours of design work on a theme can leave me tired and burned out. Design inspiration can go missing for long periods and may show up only in isolated bursts.

But God is not so limited. In Planet Earth we see stunning variety in plants, animals, and landscapes. There are animals we’ve grown accustomed to—the ones we see around us every day—and there are animals the likes of which we can barely even imagine. There are plants of every kind, every color, every size. From beginning to end, this series showcases diversity. It shows God as a lover of variety. God could easily have created just a few animals or a even just a few types of animals. But He went far beyond, creating far more creatures and plants than anyone has ever been able to count. The diversity is almost unimaginable.

God’s emphasis on variety in what He has created teaches me that He also loves variety in other areas. God has not created humans to resemble one another in gifts and talents any more than He has created all of us to look the same. God is pleased with who He has made us to be.

…A God of Beauty

God did not make a world that is drab and uninteresting. Instead He made a world that is dazzling in its beauty. Plants, animals, and landscapes can cause us to gasp in wonder. Who but God could have created such beauty? He created a world of untold beauty and created us so we could enjoy it with Him. He created this world and declared that it was very good. Planet Earth shows us the world’s beauty in ways that were previously impossible and unimaginable.

Humans are drawn to beauty, and little wonder as we are created in the image of the one who designed beauty. Beauty is something that flows from the character of God and in pursuing and enjoying beauty, we imitate the One who made us.

…A God of Detail

God overlooked no detail in creating this world. While humans like to declare that certain parts of our bodies are unnecessary or left over from some far-off evolutionary process, nature offers us no such hints. In Planet Earth we cannot help but see the beauty of God in the details—in the tiniest microbes and the largest mammals. God created this world to function perfectly, down to its tiniest and seemingly least significant parts.

whale.jpgIf God has seen fit to be involved in the tiniest details of the tiniest creatures He has made, how much more can we trust Him in the details of our lives. The same God who sees the sparrow fall is the God who is present with us as we seek to live our lives in accordance with His will. The God who has woven together this world is the same God who weaves together providence for our good and for His glory.

…A God of the Big Picture

While God has overlooked no detail, he has not done so at the expense of the big picture. The way the world works is so clearly seen as the tiniest creatures in the ocean become food for the larger creatures, who in turn become food for larger creatures still. Life begins in the oceans and filters out throughout the earth. Even with the advent of sin into the world, everything functions so well in the big picture. Planet Earth shows us the big picture in action.

As God watches over the sparrow and even the smallest details of our lives, so He weaves together the big picture. The big picture of creation and of history shows us a God who created us and, despite our sin, has redeemed a people for Himself. The big picture shows that everything in the world is unfolding exactly as God planned for it to. In the big picture as much as the small God will be glorified.

…A God of Pleasure

God takes pleasure in His creation; He takes pleasure in beauty. There are some places in the world and some plants and creatures that seem to exist primarily to display their beauty. Planet Earth takes the viewer to the deepest recesses of the world and there shows beauty almost unmatched in the world above. What purpose does such beauty serve except to allow God to reflect His glory through what He has made. The beauty is unmatched.

God is not a cruel taskmaster who wants only to push His people to do things they do not want to do. On the contrary, God takes pleasure in what He has made and He wants us to take pleasure in it as well. As we look at the world He has made, we can stop and look and ponder and delight in what He has done. We find pleasure in creation and ultimately in the One who made it all.

…A God of Laughter

Bird of ParadiseGod takes pleasure in His creation, to be sure. But He must also sometimes enjoy what He has made for the humor it displays. Who can but laugh as he watches Planet Earth and sees the bizarre and hilarious mating displays of the ridiculous birds of paradise? Surely God must have a sense of humor to create something so entertaining and something so funny.

God does not wish for His people to go through life solemn and sour. Laughter is a gift from God and when we laugh at the sublime and the ridiculous we honor the God who made us to be people who laugh. And He made certain aspects of His creation funny so that we could join Him in laughter and delight.

…A God of His Word

The Bible tells us that God reveals Himself in what He has made. He reveals His existence, His power, His authority. He also reveals His wrath. In nature we see glimpses of what God created this world to be and glimpses of what it has since become. And we learn that God is a God of His Word. As Tennyson wrote so long ago, nature is red in tooth and claw. In Planet Earth we see the results of the fall into sin. We see animals destroying one another; we see humans destroying the creation. We see that God is not One to be trifled with. What He says is true. What He says will come to pass. God warned man of the consequences of sin, and man ignored the Creator. The world has been suffering ever since.

seal-shark.jpgCreation testifies to the truth of what God tells us about sin and its consequences. If this is the case, we can also trust God when He tells us how we can avoid the eternal consequences of sin. The same God who saw man plunge this world into sin is the God who has provided salvation to those who would believe in Him. He is a good and a kind and a trustworthy God. He is worthy of our trust.

…A God of Redemption

Nature cries out for redemption—for release from its bondage. We cannot even begin to fathom the amount of death and destruction upon this planet—this planet where death was once entirely foreign and unnatural. Every day countless millions of animals are torn apart, suffering in agony as they fall prey to one creature or another. No creature is immune. Some may live for centuries, but sooner or later they go the way of all the earth; they die and decay and pass away. In every glimpse of a baby animal being torn to pieces and in every scene of terror and bloodshed our hearts cry out that this is wrong, this is unnatural. Somehow we know that death is a foreign state. And we ask, “when will the last drop of blood be shed?” We long for the final redemption of this world and its return to a state of perfection. Nature attests to the fact that death is wrong; and it testifies to the end of all that is unnatural.

cave.jpgPlanet Earth vividly shows that the world groans as it awaits redemption. And as we watch we, too, cry out for someone who can stop all of the suffering and destruction. Our hearts long for a redeemer!

…A God of Adventure

This world will be fully and finally redeemed. And when that time comes, we will have the inestimable privilege of enjoying an eternity exploring the wonders of the world He has made for us. The wonders will only increase as the sin is removed from us and as we enjoy access to every part of this planet. We will enjoy eternal adventures exploring the deepest depths and the highest heights of this amazing planet.

While we may love to explore even today, we know that even the most committed explorers can catch only a glimpse of the world’s wonders. But the time is coming when we will have unending opportunities to see the hand of a loving creator in every part of this world. But even now we can praise Him for what He has made and what He has done.


A couple of months ago I reviewed Planet Earth and its predecessor Blue Planet. Click here if you want to read that. If you are interested in buying the series, I’m pretty sure the best prices are at Amazon (or they were when I bought it).

June 02, 2008

For the past few weeks I’ve been transfixed by a word. That may sound a little bit strange but it is exactly what’s happened. It keeps coming to mind and I keep pondering it, trying to gain a sense of its meaning. Though the word appears just three times in Scripture, twice in Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming of Christ and once in Matthew in the fulfillment of that prophecy, it’s a word we have all used and a word whose meaning most of us know. Our children read about it every Christmas and our pastors mention it in their Christmas sermons. That word is Immanuel. God with us. God is with us.

I sense there is a lot to this word and to the truth behind it that I’ve never thought about before and I know that there must be great application to my own life. I hope to spend more time studying it and discerning how God wants me to live based on the awesome fact that “God is with us.” But even now as I’ve meditated upon this word I’ve been profoundly moved. How can we ever exhaust the wonder of God, the One who created the heavens and the earth, taking on human flesh? And even then, how can we but marvel that He did not come in the form of a great and mighty warrior, but in the form of a tiny, helpless baby. God in flesh; God in human flesh. Like every baby before and since He entered this world through pain and agony, sweat and blood. Though He was the power that had created the world, He depended upon His mother’s breast for physical sustenance. Though He upheld the creation by the Word of His power, He needed His parents to protect and nurture Him as a helpless infant.

What mind could conceive of a God who would walk this world and be so misunderstood? Why would God come to earth only to have almost everyone He encountered ignore His divinity? How could people see God and not understand?

Yesterday my pastor preached on John 8, one of two chapters dealing with Jesus’ time at the Feast of Booths. Here, as in so many passages of the gospels, we see people trying to figure out who this person is. They accuse Him of being a Samaritan and of being possessed by Satan: “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” They wonder how He could claim to know Abraham: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” They ask if He is going to commit suicide: “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” They are utterly bewildered, blinded by their own ignorance and their own hatred of all that is good and true. Before them stood “God is with us” and all they saw was a wicked and perverse man who blasphemed their faith.

As Jesus’ ministry continued, people continued to seek but not find His identity. Even as He stood trial the questions continued. “Are you the King of the Jews?” asked Pilate, and then “So you are a king?” Pilate was incredulous, unable to understand who this man was. Even His beloved disciples wondered and wavered.

As I sat in church yesterday and pondered the mystery of so many who were unable to see that God was with them, standing before them, I was struck by the fact that this will not always be so. Jesus came to earth incognito, announced only to a group of shepherds as they tended their flocks in the night. Suddenly the dark night was disturbed and God’s glory shone all around. An angel announced the birth of Jesus and immediately a host of angels poured forth their praise at the wonder of it all. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” To so many others, though, Jesus appeared just as a man, walking the dusty roads of Israel. No angels foretold His coming; no trumpets blew as He approached. Even today, Jesus is present with us through the Word of God. He is quietly but powerfully present there, though just as when most people looked at Jesus and saw only man and not God, today most people look at the Bible and see words but not Word.

But this will not always be. God gives us today, He gives us now, to understand who Jesus is and to humble ourselves before Him. He tells us that today is the day we need to put our faith in this God who came as man. When Jesus returns to earth, He will not come incognito. He will come with all of the power and the glory and the honor that are rightly His. When He returns to earth, there will be no mistaking who He is. When He comes again, every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. And God will be glorified in every one of us. There will be no mistaking who He is.