Sunday, October 23, 2016

Asking the LORD for help sometimes has unexpected results

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. (Daniel 6:10-11 NIV)

Daniel, the Godly youth, was in a bad way. He had been carried off to Babylon and separated from all he had known. He was under the earthly sovereignty of King Darius, while Babylon the city and the Kingdom of Persia was at its peak. Darius was pleased with Daniel and had planned to set him high in his court as a second-in-command administrator. The other administrators were jealous and plotted ways to defeat Daniel by stealth. They tried to find something with which to charge Daniel, but could not. They said if we find something it will be having to do with His God. So the jealous administrators went o King Darius and urged him to make a decree that anyone who prayed to another god except to Darius for the next thirty days should be thrown into the lion's den. Darius liked the idea, and made the decree. That's where we pick up the above verse. Daniel heard the decree had been set, and according to Persian law kingly decrees cannot be repealed.

First it should be mentioned that Daniel did not compromise. Likely he had men telling him that "it's only 30 days, just ride it out. Just don't pray to Yahweh this month'. Daniel did not compromise. As a matter of fact, he went immediately to his room and prayed. The jealous administrators knew Daniel would, and they spied on him just as immediately.

We know the story. Daniel was 'caught' by the jealous administrators, and Darius reluctantly sentenced him to the lion's den. God showed His majesty and power by shutting the lion's mouths and Daniel was unharmed and released.

Note the verse though. The NIV has it most clearly but all verses say the same. Daniel was making supplication to the LORD. Daniel prayed- to ask for help.

Daniel knew he'd been painted into a corner. Instead of looking around at his shrinking options, he looked up. He asked the Lord for help.

The help came. It was to sentence Daniel and throw him into the lion's den!!

Daniel knew His God had the power to save him or the power to allow him to die. Daniel was a Godly man. However, Daniel was a man, and no doubt he was scared to face lions and wondering about this version of the help he had prayed for! Nevertheless, Daniel trusted God.

When we pray to God for help, He hears our prayer. He is a good, good Father who knows the number of hairs on our heads. If He cares for the sparrow which is a small insignificant bird, will He not care for us, His children? He will!

However we never know in what form the help will come. God will always shine His glory, and in so doing He might make circumstances that we can see with our fleshly eyes seem dire. Our eyes can only see so much less, like, 10% of what is going on at any given time. We can't see the invisibles, the heavenlies, and the circumstances beyond our eye and ear range but they are all working God's will to His glory and our good. (Romans 8:28).

The key is to pray, ask for help, and then to trust the outcome. Even if it is our moment to part the veil and go to the other side, God will hear our prayer, and He will use our situations to show His glory. Trust and obey, as Daniel did, even if we are thrown into a metaphorical lion's den!

Look at the lasting glory that occurred through the help that came to Daniel:

Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: "Peace be multiplied to you. 26I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel

from the power of the lions."
(Daniel 8:25-27)


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ack, Millennials these days!

Millennial Generation comedy #1, by John Crist.

"Millennial International is a sponsor based program designed to help Millennials live the lives they portray on Instagram." HT Challies

Millennial Generation comedy #2, by Micah Tyler

We love to poke fun at younger generations. We read this famous quote from one elder statesman regarding the younger generation.
"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise."
This is a quote anyone from any generation could have uttered. It was actually Socrates, who lived from 469-399 B.C.

Many times we perpetuate stereotypes of preceding or upcoming generations. However, it happens that oftentimes the parodies and pokings are based on germs of truth. We shouldn't succumb to stereotypes but we shouldn't ignore the truths, either. Those in older generations do have concerns whether the ones coming up will handle with care and thoughtfulness the gains made and achievements won by the elders in previous generations. When we pass the baton, will it be to hands that care for it well? Or will they be casual about receiving the baton, or worse, even drop it?

We read about the 'generation gap.' We hear that this generation is the first that will not have a better life or opportunities than their parents. The skepticism about generations is not only one way, from elder to younger. Younger people often worry about their future because of long-lived elder generations like us soaking up resources in health care and social security.

I agree with the following author's quote about generations:
Every generation wants to be the last. Every generation hates the next trend in music they can't understand. We hate to give up those reins of our culture. To find our own music playing in elevators. The ballad for our revolution, turned into background music for a television commercial. To find our generation's clothes and hair suddenly retro. Chuck Palahniuk, author of Lullaby
Though we may poke fun of the other generations, (either elder to younger or younger to elder) and even though there are grains of truth in all of it, what does the Bible say about generations?
"O my God," I say, "take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!" (Psalm 102:24)
The writer finds encouragement in the midst of all his distresses. God's eternal existence is a pledge of faithfulness to His promises, says Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.

Or this verse,
Your faithfulness is to all generations: you have established the earth, and it stays. (Psalm 119:90). Gill's Exposition says,
Thy faithfulness is unto all generations,.... Or "to generation and generation" (y); to his people in every age, fulfilling his word, supplying their wants, giving them new mercies every morning and every day; never leaving and forsaking them, according to his promise: his faithfulness never fails, it endures for ever, and is exceeding great and large indeed

We can poke fun of generations or even grouse about them. We can worry, look askance, and hope and encourage. But one thing is clear, Jesus is faithful to all generations. His promises touch all generations, sustain all generations, and ultimately will bring home all generations.

What age will we appear in heaven? Will we be looking the age when we died or were raptured? Will we be the age of Jesus when He died? God created Adam and Eve at a certain age, which was adult+. Our bodies do have a peak at which our deterioration is not yet exceeded by our growth. We do hit peak before going downhill, perhaps we will be resurrected at that peak age. Whatever the actual age-look we will be, won't it be funny if we are all the same age-look, and there are no more generations? Where would we be if the elder ones could not grouse "Ack, kids these days", or if the younger ones can't say "Get out of the way, Grandpa!" Lol.

For now in earth, Brett Harris, author of Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations,said,
The beauty of collaboration between older and younger generations is that we combine strength with wisdom—a surefire way to accomplish more for the glory of God.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Power of Music- Baby Moved to Tears as Mom Sings Worship Song

In his book, Real Worship: Playground, Battleground, or Holy Ground? Warren Wiersbe wrote,
Music confronts the whole person, mind, heart, and will- and demands some kind of response. Music instructs the minds, inspires the emotions, and challenges the will. ... It should not surprise us that great revival movements, evangelistic campaigns, and political and nationalistic crusades have all swept forward on the wings of song.Even Israel felt a new sense of unity and victory when they sang God's praises at the Red Sea (Exodus 15), a scene that will be repeated in new dimensions when God's people arrive in heaven. (Revelation 15:1-4).
I am convinced that congregations learn more theology (good and bad) from songs they sing than from the sermons they hear. Music reaches the mind and the heart at the same time. It has the power to touch and move the emotions...
RC Sproul said of music in his online class Recovering the Beauty of the Arts,
Just as conversion is an aesthetic experience in which the converted person is first awakened to the sweetness and excellence of God in Christ, so our musical expression of worship should continually direct our attention and stir us to adore His beauty and majesty.
But do not take my word for it. Watch what happens when a mom sings "Good Good Father" to her baby

Baby Moved to Tears as Mom Sings Worship Song to Him - "Good, Good Father"

Song Leaders, please be ever so mindful of the tremendous impact music has. Wiersbe said music
can be a wonderful tool in the hands of the Spirit or a terrible weapon in the hands of the Adversary. Naive congregations can sing their way into heresy before they even realize what is going on.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nebuchadnezzar knew it was best to take the youth

James Montgomery Boice preached through Daniel. In his initial sermon of the series, Daniel 1: A Young Man Decides, he expounded on how liberals use language to change the meaning of words, and to inculcate a loyalty to the new definition by showing how Nebuchadnezzar did the same. (Daniel 1:1-7).

How does one change the loyalty of people who adhere to a different God, and make them loyal to him and the Empire? And as much as possible make them forget their loyalty to their homeland and all that was within it (including their God)? In the sermon, Boice noted that the originator of the word changes was Nebuchadnezzar.

We see of course that Nebuchadnezzar took young men, who at that age are more impressionable and perhaps have not come to a settled loyalty yet. Or who at least could moldable and be made to forget.

Next, you entice them. That was why the King offered the young men choice delicacies from his own table. Nebuchadnezzar was making the world attractive.

Third and chiefly, Nebuchadnezzar did it through changing their names. Their names had God within them. According to Daniel 1:6, the young men's original Hebrew names were


Daniel and Michael have the name for God (El) in them, the plural name of El is Elohim which we may be more familiar with. In Hebrew, Daniel means "God is my judge", Mishael means "Who is like God?". The names were great reminders of their racial and Godly heritage. Hananiah and Azariah contain a shortened form of the name Jehovah. Hananiah's meant "Jehovah is gracious", Azariah's meant "Jehovah is my helper."

Nebuchadnezzar was intending to mold them by giving them names of local Babylonian deities in order to distance the men from their own God and inculcate a local loyalty.

We can apply Nebuchadnezzar's tactic to our own day. Nebuchadnezzar did it then, and the world still does it. Changing words and meanings of words is a scheme that molds followers to a new concept or idea. Liberals change words within the Christian vocabulary. They don't abandon the great concepts outright, they simply change the meanings of the words.

A word like sin is changed to mean: not any want of conformity unto or lack of obedience to the Law of God, which is the word as true Christians know it. Sin is changed to oppression that resides in the social structure to a word so that it's not a personal thing, where you and I individually have rebelled against God, but is instead something 'out there' in the system that can be overcome by revolution.

The name Jesus according to traditional understanding is the second person of the Godhead, God the Son who became a man-God who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead to be seated at the right hand of the Father.

The word 'Jesus' has come to be redefined in some liberal quarters, not the second Person of the Trinity, but is changed to mean simply a Person who is an example to us, not someone who achieved anything for us.

Salvation comes not as a word meaning not God's deliverance to us by His grace instead of the penalty due us for our sins, but a word meaning we are freed from the world's socially oppressive structures.

The word faith has been changed to mean not that obedient response of the heart to God's declaration of what He's done, but instead becomes something like "commitment".

Change the word meaning, and you can change the mind. What's important though, its that external pressures, liberals, or the world, cannot change the heart. What keeps the heart warm and moldable to God is reading His word and prayer. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah could not be swayed from their faith to God and in God. They remained actively attuned to Him and steadfast in their faith in both heart and mind and so were true to the end.

When you speak to people and they say words like faith, salvation, Jesus, sin, or any other common word, they might mean something totally different to that person from what your understanding of these words are. It's always important to first, know what you believe and can define it. Second, when discussing Christian concepts, don't take for granted that both you and the other person have the same understanding of the words you are using. Third, recognize that there is nothing new under the sun, and people opposed to the truth use and re-use the same tactics that are intended to incrementally sway you away from the truth.

One wonders what tactics were being used against the truth to draw the Galatians away from the Gospel. Paul was amazed it had happened so fast.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6).

The word 'quickly' is tachus which means quick, fleet, speedy. We get the word tachometer from tachus. Tachometer is a measure of velocity of machines. I know right now you're picturing a tachometer needle speeding up form first gear to top gear. Sometimes desertion of the truth can happen that fast.

Make sure your loyalty is founded on a solid rock and that you (and I) have a solid understanding of what word means what in the faith. Especially the moldable youth. I do not think it is an accident that over this last generation we have herded the youth away from the main church service and sequestered them all in one room or building. Nebuchadnezzar knew that the impressionable teenagers were best to remove from their traditional place and mold to a new thought by sequestering them, enticing them, and redefining what they used to know into new concepts.

Stay strong, Ladies, oppose redefinition of our words, which are precious to the faith and important to the mind and heart. Watch your teenage children. Don't be satisfied when you superficially hear the Youth Pastor teaching them of Jesus, sin, faith and the like. Make sure you know that he knows what they really mean, and that your children do too.

And, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How MUCH does Jesus love us?

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

'To the end' does not mean to the end of Jesus' life. To the end does not have a finite, temporal quality here. 'To the end' in Greek means to the end of where love ends, an infinite quality. Strong's says,
It is well-illustrated with the old pirate's telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).
So to the end doesn't mean to the end of Jesus life, it means to full extension or furthest capacity. This, of course, is an infinite love, the end of which is only contained in Jesus the finite God-man, who is infinite.

As you go throughout your day, realize that this love was not offered to or lavished on just the disciples, but it's also lavished on you and me. It's given to all who believe. Such love is beyond comprehension, yet we experience it daily.

No matter what you are going through or experiencing, Jesus loves us 'to the end', to the fullest capacity that it is possible to love. What comfort.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Do we have the ability to interpret our own circumstances? Should we?

The title's question is an important one. According to New Age-ish teachers like Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God study,
God speaks through circumstances to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways.
What Blackaby means in using the word circumstances, is Providence. J. Vernon McGee said providence is "the means by which God directs all things — both animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, good and evil — toward a worthy purpose, which means His will must finally prevail. Or as the psalmist said, "his kingdom ruleth over all" (Psalm 103:19)." I. E. Circumstances.

Blackaby teaches people how to interpret those circumstances through which he claims God is speaking. So let's look at an example of how well or badly this kind of personal interpretation might go.

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:3)

Let's put that circumstance-interpreting to the test. In his sermon on Jonah 1:1-3 titled Sin's Stupidity!, Ian Hamilton said,
When Jonah arrived at Tarshish, he might have said, 'Oh! Wow! This is providential! There's a ship going to Tarshish, just what I'm looking for!' We are never the best judges in discerning the significance of God's providence. God's providence will never overrule His commandments. If you're ever in a quandary, obey the commandment and leave it to God to sort out the providence. You and I, at our best, are no infallible interpreters of providence. Obey the commandment, and leave God to work out the providence. The Lord Jesus Christ ultimately did that. When all the providences around His life seemed to shout out that He had been ultimately, irrevocably and finally abandoned and forsaken, He still prayed, 'My God, My God.' He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Look! A ship loaded and ready to go to the exact place I want to go!
It must be God's Providence! (Prata photo)
In today's parlance of interpreting circumstances as Blackaby advised, we might say something exactly like the hypothetical statements Hamilton said Jonah might have said. Leave the interpretations alone and stay with the more sure word. (2 Peter 1:19).

Greg Gilbert of 9Marks reviewed Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God study. He related a similar example of a person interpreting circumstances and backward proofing it through scripture to confirm.
George Whitefield, the great preacher in the Great Awakening and Edwards’s friend, admitted that even he had fallen into this kind of error. Prior to the birth of his only son, Whitefield announced that the boy would be a great preacher and that he would be great in the sight of the Lord. Four months after his birth, though, the child died. Whitefield recognized his mistake and wrote: "I misapplied several texts of Scripture. Upon these grounds, I made no scruple of declaring ‘that I should have a son, and his name was to be John,'" (in Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards, p.241-2). Whitefield had taken the angel’s declaration to Zechariah as his own, and had thus fallen into error. Let that be a caution to us as Christians to always read the Bible in its context.  
No, we don't use the scriptures to confirm what we have first intuited as a circumstance for action. Mr Gilbert continues with a solid reminder about omens, providences and circumstances.
God’s normal way of operating in His people’s lives is to shape them by His Word, to transform their minds by His Holy Spirit, and to sanctify their reason so that they can consider and weigh alternatives and make wise decisions.
Key words, "wise decisions." Jonah had made a decision, nothing more, which happened to be in direct rebellion to God's clear word. No amount of personal circumstance-interporeting would ever trump what God hath said. Relying on omens and circumstances shifts the onus of the decision from the person making it to some kind of externals, such as to Providence or to God. His commands and His wisdom is in His word. Let obedience begin and end there.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Monday, October 17, 2016

What is 'earthquake music'?

I came across a lecture to be given last week at University of Southern California Library in a series called Visions and Voices. It grabbed my attention because of my curiosity about the music of the spheres, a concept I'll explain down below. Here is the blurb for the lecture. To my knowledge, it was not recorded or transcribed so I don't know the specifics of what was said, though I did email the Lecture people to ask after it.
The earth hums along to its own soundtrack. If only we could listen to it. 
When the ground beneath us shifts, as it is prone to do in Los Angeles, it unleashes enormous quantities of energy as seismic waves. Packing a destructive punch, these waves race through the earth like sound waves through air. In fact, seismic waves bear many remarkable similarities to sound waves. But though we feel them as earthquakes, we can’t hear them; their frequencies are simply too low for the human ear to detect. What if we transposed earthquake waves to an audible frequency? This fascinating event will bring these normally inaudible sounds to life through a panel discussion, scientific demonstrations of how seismic waves affect our built environment, experimental sonification of seismic data, and creative musical interpretations. 
Participants include seismologist Lucy Jones, known to many Angelenos as the longtime public face of earthquake science for the U.S. Geological Survey; composer and USGS geophysicist Andrew Michael (Earthquake Quartet #1); USC Dornsife College earthquake geologist James Dolan; USGS physicist Stephanie Ross; and sound artist DJ /rupture. The discussion will be moderated by Josh Kun of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
I like Dr Lucy Jones. I've listened to her explanations regarding earthquakes. I've read some of her articles, too. I noticed that the Lecture was to include geophysicist Andrew Michael who is part of something called Earthquake Quartet #1, so I looked that up. His info is located at the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It states in part,
Earthquake Quartet #1 is an outgrowth of a lecture that I have been giving since 1997. This lecture, "The Music of Earthquakes," mixes performance and lecture, music and science, acoustic instruments and computer generated sounds. A musician controls the source of the sound and the path it travels through their instrument in order to make sound waves that we hear as music. An earthquake is the source of waves that travel along a path through the earth until reaching us as shaking. It is almost as if the earth is a musician and people, including seismologists, are the audience who must try to understand what the music means.
The excerpt above has a sample of the music. How interesting!!

That led me to explore more and I learned about sonification, which was also mentioned in the excerpt of the Visions & Voices Lecture at USC. This is a link to an absolutely fascinating 7-minute interview on how, with today's technology, scientists are turning data into sound (sonification). Take a listen to data that plots median income in Manhattan turned into a song. Meanwhile, here is an excerpt of the article and interview below:
How do you turn a pie chart into sound? That was the problem faced by NASA scientists who found challenges with conveying data to astronauts who were unable to process it because of movement and sight issues in space. But where visuals failed, sound showed its practicality. 
Ears were found to detect patterns in places where even visuals failed, according to Bruce Walker, director of Georgia Tech's Sonification Lab, who worked on that initial project when the field was just getting started in the early '90s. Data sonification is now a full fledged academic field, with a growing number of daily uses. Brian Foo, an application developer for the New York Public Library Labs, is pushing it to new boundaries...
The clip does provide audible sounds for data that are usually visually presented on a pie chart. It's fascinating. What does data sound like? Listen and you will hear a sample. Meanwhile here is one definition of what sonifcation is-
Data sonification means representing data as non-speech sound.  The basic principles are similar to visualization, but where visualizations use elements such as lines, shapes, and colours, sonification relies on sound properties such as volume, pitch, and rhythm.
The original premise above was the lecture with earthquake and geophysical specialists who say that seismic waves are similar to musical waves (sound waves) and thus the earth possesses a music all its own. This reminded me of the Music of the Spheres, Musica Universalis, an ancient philosophical notion. I wrote about it in a multi-part essay here. The following is an excerpt.
This is My Father's World is a hymn written sometime in the 1800s by Maltbie Babcock, a preacher in upstate New York. It was published after his death in 1901, and set to music by Frank L. Sheppard. It references Psalm 104; Psalm 24; Acts 4:24; Acts 4.
If you ever heard the hymn "This Is My Father's World" there is a lyric in the first stanza that mentions the "music of the spheres". explains the hymn's lyric in context- 
The text is a confession of faith and trust, a testimony that all creation around us is the handiwork of our Father, who made the creation (st. 1), charged us to take good care of it (st. 2), and continues to exercise his kingship over it ... The phrase "music of the spheres" in stanza 1 refers to the ancient belief that the planets made music or harmony as they revolved in the universe. 
Pythagoras, Plato, Kepler, Bohr, and Pastor Babcock all brushed up against the same order and harmony in creation in math, astronomy, and music, and each of these people throughout the centuries reacted to the divine knowledge of this creation differently, just as Romans 1 said they would. Some saw harmony and order in creation and worshiped it, while others saw harmony and order in creation and worshiped the Creator. 
Musica Universalis is the Latin term for the Pythagorean philosophy called Music of the Spheres. Pythagoras initially developed the thought that the planets made music. This notion is not as far off as it sounds- Pythagoras was really on to string theory. 
Does the earth make music? Does the universe make its own music? How can we "sonify" the inherent order and harmony of the created universe? Can we tune in to it? As RC Sproul said in his online class Recovering the Beauty of the Arts,
His word of order triumphed over the chaotic abyss present in Genesis 1:2. Any example of creation points to His majestic artistry. 
The orderliness of God in His majesty, set to music, or, extracting the inherent music within His harmonious order. Either way, both are interesting notions.

Now wait a minute, did I read that above correctly? The NY Public Library has labs? Now I'm off to explore THAT rabbit trail! Happy earth listening!