Today is Halloween, an observance when much of our society celebrates fear, evil, darkness, and the paranormal/supernatural. While children dress up to rake in candy, many teens and adults search for the next scare. Hollywood obliges this year with these movies and themes: "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D" (demonic world), "Paranormal Activity 4" (demonic possession), "Sinister" (supernatural killer), "VHS" (gore, abandoned house), "#holdyourbreath" (serial killer and possession), and "Smiley" (serial killer).
Battered by the blows of life
The stone falls out of the ring of many promises
Scratched and dulled, it isn’t the gem we thought
Just man-made, weak, and without much value
The ring, once radiant and beautiful, is empty
Prongs reach for what used to be
What of the promise it once held?
In the hands of the master jeweler, there is hope
Strengthened with new gold,
Intricately woven designs
Showcase the glittering diamond
Remade by fire, a new ring is forged
Purer, stronger, uniquely designed,
Declaring its promise to all
Battered by the blows of life
The marriage falls from its many promises
Scratched and dulled, it isn’t the journey we expected
If only man-directed, it remains weak and without much value
The marriage, once radiant and joyful, is painful
Hearts reach for what used to be
What of the promises they each held?
In the hands of the Master Designer, there is hope
Strengthened with new purpose,
Intricately woven plans
Showcase the glittering of endurance
Remade by fire, a greater marriage is forged
Purer, stronger, uniquely designed,
Declaring our promises restored in Him
With this ring, I thee wed
To have and to hold
Cherishing in joy or sorrow, want or plenty
Faithful to each other and to Him
Until death is allowed to part
Whom God has joined, let none separate
A poem for my wife on our 19th anniversary.
A year ago, I wrote about a controversial three-parent IVF technique intended to avoid mitochondrial disease. I argued that it is both medically unsound and an affront to God, the Author of Life. Many folks disagree with both positions. Some scientists, however, are coming around to my position – at least on the medical side.
Three biologists published an opinion piece in a recent edition of the journal Science (summarized here). They argue that government agencies (especially in the UK) should not be rushing to clinical trials of mitochondrial replacement. The macque monkeys in the original trial have not yet reached adulthood. They suggest at least waiting to see if any problems develop. Their concern? Just as I mentioned last year, the interaction between mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA is not fully understood. Mitochondrial replacement may actually cause unanticipated issues.
Now, these scientists do not agree with my theological position. Of course, their identification as evolutionary biologists reveals that we have many differences in our views of this world. While I think MR should be abandoned, they still find the technique promising and important. It just is not ready for a “leap of faith.” I suggest that these scientists have taken their own leap of faith in accepting evolution as the cause for the beautiful complexity of life. They should reconsider the reasonable evidence for an intentional and artistic Creator.
Lincoln (my two year old) made this craft at church tonight. He was so excited to give it to me. In the course of catching him as he ran toward me, the man’s arm fell off. That’s when I decided this illustration could be used for the New Amputated Version of the Bible.
If you groaned too much, I apologize.
These were originally a series of Facebook blurbs I posted last week on the Rising Above Ministries page. I had requests to do a compilation of them, so here they are. -Jeff
The giants you face in your special needs world are going to wake up today. Go ahead and punch them in the face and remember what God says, "“Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.
Have you reached a point where you don’t know what to do? Does God’s will seem misty? Are there competing voices on all sides of an issue? Do your circumstances seem to indicate that God might be asleep on the job?
By chapter 27 in the book of Job, we are at an impasse. Job has lost his children, his wealth, and his health in a series of devastating blows. He curses the day of his birth (ch 3), but pleads for God’s explanation. Job’s friends, after three rounds of debate, have concluded that he must be a wretched sinner because of these troubles. Eliphaz, who gave Job the benefit of doubt in his first speech is convinced by the time of his third and final one: “Is not your wickedness great and your iniquities without end?” (Job 22:5) Bildad, the last to speak, (Zophar has apparently exhausted his explanations and doesn’t even offer a third rebuke) generalizes and leaves all of us in the dust:
“If even the moon has no brightness
and the stars are not pure in His sight,
How much less man, that maggot,
and the son of man, that worm.” Job 25:5-6 (Note the contrast with Psalm 8!)
Job, totally disgusted with his comfortless friends, maintains his innocence, but blames God:
“As God lives, who has taken away my right,
and the Almighty, who has embittered my soul…
far be it from me that I should declare you [his friends] right;
till I die I will not put my integrity from me.
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.
My heart does not reproach any of my days.” Job 27:2, 5-6
The arguments of men cannot resolve the dilemma. Is Job innocent and abandoned by God or has he earned his fate? Into the impasse comes the serene poem about wisdom in chapter 28. Some translations punctuate this as a continuation of Job’s discourse in chapter 27. However, it has changed from a first person rant into a third person hymn. Job’s first person speech continues in chapter 29. Therefore, some commentators have decided that this is an unwelcome and later interruption of the text. A more careful analysis, though, shows that this is actually a masterful insertion by the author. Instead of an intrusion, it is the narrator’s reminder. It is a chorus that concludes the cycle of speeches and prepares us for the revelations yet to come. This hidden gem of Scripture asks and answers a question of great importance for us today.In fact, the poem is divided into sections by this key query: “Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding?” (v12, repeated in 20)
Man’s ingenuity and risk cannot unearth wisdom (v1-11)
The author marvels at the risks and effort that were expended by the miners of his time. For the sake of wealth or power, they would brave the dark and depths of the earth to bring out its treasures. Listen to this marvelous line: “They hang and swing to and fro far from men” (v4). at great personal risk, humans will hew channels through rocks and dam up streams to uncover hidden wealth. We will search where no one has seen anything until we find something. The implication, though, is that not even that kind of effort can reveal wisdom.
Man’s wealth cannot purchase wisdom (v13-19)
No matter what treasures man has unearthed or collected, none can purchase wisdom. Its value exceeds them all. Wisdom, therefore, should be pursued above any earthly valuable: “And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls” (v18). But how can it be obtained?
Only God can reveal wisdom (v21-28)
Death and destruction have heard of wisdom, but cannot reveal it. However, God is the Creator of all from the beginning. He has both established wisdom and searched it out. And He reveals it now to us: “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (v28). (The author is surely indicating the end of this long first section by echoing his description of the upright Job from 1:1 – “fearing God and turning away from evil”)
The difficulties in our world and in our own lives leave us grasping for help. The wisdom of the world leaves us at the mercy of “friends” who do not comprehend. If we are polite, we might just agree to disagree. Then we stay undecided and divided, with no conviction to move forward. Or, if we are more insistent, we shout louder to drown out those who disagree. This can even escalate to violent disagreement.
If we would seek God’s revelation of wisdom, then we could see clearly. We have to acknowledge that God knows better than we do (fearing God). Then we have to act on what He has revealed (turning). With this hymn to wisdom, our author has prepared us for the further revelations to come in Job (keep reading!).
In another posting we can explore how to pursue this revealed wisdom from God. However, let me suggest three things briefly:
- Scripture. The Scriptures reveal the character and plan of God. Wisdom can be found here.
- Spirit. The Holy Spirit also guides us to true wisdom. This can be a personal revelation of truth for our specific need.
- Community. The Spirit also speaks through His community, the church. Gifted teachers, pastors, friends, and counselors can be His voice.
In what areas of life do you need wisdom? How has God revealed His wisdom to you?
My wife, Melanie, and I have three biological children: Aidan (11), Gwendolyn (9), and Lincoln (2). Each one is a special blessing from God for our family. Aidan is our firstborn (aka guinea pig), an excellent student, a voracious reader, and about to go to middle school (eek!). Gwendolyn, you know, is our amazingly sweet and tough daughter who has a mitochondrial disease. Despite never speaking a word, she has taught us more about love and compassion than anyone we know. Lincoln, even in the throes of the “Twos”, is our injection of joy. He is also our living reminder to just trust God.
But Aidan was not our first child. Soon after we got married, Melanie and I sponsored Uwimana Emeline, an orphan from Rwanda through Compassion International. Her parents were killed in the genocide there. We sponsored her and prayed for her for over 12 years until she left the program. We even had the opportunity to send her a care package through some friends who went to Rwanda on a mission trip. We sent letters back and forth through the years. We don’t know what she is doing now, but we pray that God used our little bit of help to make a difference in her life.
In our family, the summer of 2009 is now “The Summer of Iliya.” At that point, with “only” Aidan and
Gwendolyn, we made ourselves available to adopt if we could find a birth mom interested in choosing our family for her child. We also decided to see if God would have us adopt internationally (even though we had no idea how we could complete the adoption with Gwendolyn). So, we joined up with New Horizons for Children, an Atlanta area orphan hosting ministry. They arrange for orphans from Russia, Latvia, and Ukraine (at that time) to spend 4-6 weeks with a host family in the US. Many of these children are eventually adopted here. We chose Iliya, a young boy about Aidan’s age, from Ukraine to spend 6 weeks with us. We were open to adoption. That was one tough, rewarding summer! Iliya had a hard time adjusting, and we had a hard time keeping him from just running into the road. He could be so happy and care-free, and then he could be very upset if he didn’t get his way. We read the Bible with him (he read in Ukrainian), prayed with him, held him when he rocked himself to sleep, and tried to show him what “family” is all about. By the end, he did not want to go back.
It was hard to let him go, but we knew that he was not God’s choice for our family. He got to come back with a family from Aidan’s school that Christmas. A third family tried to adopt him later. That fell through (long story), so we are not sure what is going on with him, either. Again, we trust that God will use the little we could do to make a difference. God used Iliya to change our hearts, though. We learned that any child we added to our family might have problems or concerns. We were ready to let God give us another biological child, even if s/he would be like Gwendolyn. He is the Author of Life and He is good.
After Uwimana left the Compaspassion, we decided to sponsor another child. We let Aidan have major input into our choice. We chose Ltalakwa Moses, from Kenya (also through Compassion). He is just a few days younger than Aidan which drew his interest. We are still getting to know him, but he seems to be a very happy boy.
We also have children out there we don’t even know. All through the year, Melanie prepares for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that sends shoe boxes of blessing to children all throughout the world. Each year we send four to seven boxes somewhere. They have gone to Ukraine, Bangladesh, India, South America, and more. Little blessings, but a big God to multiply them.
We have also had the privilege to serve in youth ministry, and we just finished spending three years on Wednesday nights with boys Aidan’s age helping them memorize Bible verses, pray in public, and enjoy church.
Why did I share this on a Bible blog? Because we believe the truth of God’s Word must be put into action. And we want to encourage you to do your part. If our family can reach dozens of children around the world in the name of Jesus, what could you do?
Religion that God accepts as pure and without fault is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help, and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. James 1:27