Category Archives: God’s Creation

Waaa Hooo!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this picture of a cactus I came across when hiking in the Sandia Mountains near my home. I entitled it, “Howdy Pardner.”

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This past weekend, I came across this little feller. It seems that he got so excited he couldn’t help but leap for joy!

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Howdy, Pardner!

Michelle and I – along with some good friends – went on a long hike into the Sandia mountains yesterday: 2.5 miles in and 1700ft up. It took us about 3 hours round-trip, and we are pretty wiped-out today. However, the entire hike was worth it because we met this cactus cowboy at about 7300ft elevation. He was just standing by the trail in full-kick stance. Funny the things you see while exploring the mountains…

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This Is Your Story!

This is a condensed transcript of my June 26, 2011 sermon.

What’s your story?  Or better yet: What story are you living?  What story are you allowing to define you? As followers of Jesus, we share the same history…the same story.  But are we allowing it to shape us?  If not, we will be susceptible to other stories shaping us, and we will not live in the victory, experience the peace, nor be a blessing like God has designed us to be.

The Bible is the story of us.  It’s our story.  The history of God’s people is our history too, and knowing this is vital to our present and future.  As I get older, I have a growing desire to know where I came from, and so the last time my parents visited, I asked them to tell us about their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.  I wanted my kids to hear this too so that they would know where they came from as well.  They heard my dad tell about how his dad had fought in World War II and watched as Mussolini was hanged.  They heard my mom share how her dad was a driver for the first public bus company in Ohio.  He drove a bus that was made of wood!  My dad revealed that his grandfather was a baptist minister – something that greatly interested me seeing that this is what I am too!  I believe that it’s vital for us and our children to know from whom we’ve come in order to help us know why we are who we are.

More importantly, I believe that it is essential for us to know and understand the story of God and His people as chronicled in the Bible. All human beings have been created by God and made in His image, and as we will see, God desires to be in relationship with His image-bearers.  The Old Testament records God’s loving and relentless pursuit of His chosen people and His desire for His people to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.  The New Testament reveals God’s ultimate love for all people through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, who paid the penalty for man’s sin once and for all…but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Because this story is so important, let me start at the beginning.

The Beginning

In the beginning, God created… These are the first words of the Bible, and they serve as the opening scene of the opening act of our story.  God created the world and then He created man – the only beings made in His image.  Man is given the mandate to rule, which is displayed in Adam (the first man) given the task of naming the animals.  God says that if man obeys His mandate and does what they’ve been purposed to do, they will be blessed. However, if man chooses instead to throw off the purpose and reign of God by disobeying Him, then the result will be curses and death.  Of course, like with any good story, a major conflict occurs.  Sin makes it’s nasty appearance through a corrupted created being named Satan.  He tempts Adam and Eve to throw off God’s reign in their lives, and sadly, they give in.  Their mutiny against God’s reign resulted in God’s perfect creation being destroyed.  This was not just true for man but for ALL creation.  Everything God created was wrecked by sin.  The Bible says that because of sin, all creation is “groaning” under the weight of sin.  This is our story; it’s a story marred by sin and rebellion toward our Creator.

The initial sin of Adam and Eve begins to ripple out, and it’s effects are widespread and devastating.  When the gates of Eden close behind Adam and Eve, they do not cease to be what God has created.  They remain in the image of God, but how they are human is deeply affected.  So too is it with us.  Our sin and rebellion deeply impacts how we live our lives and carry out God’s purpose for us as well.  Adam and Eve go on living, and Eve gives birth (painfully because of the curse) to two healthy sons. They are a family – just as God designed things before the fall.  But as we move through their story (which is part of our story too), we soon see that the terrible change in the story is apparent.

Sin Spreads

Cain, one of Adam and Eve’s sons, commits an abhorrent sin: he kills his brother. Eventually, Cain has his own son and names him Enoch, which marks the beginning of another family as God has designed it, but the story of Cain and his family demonstrates clearly that humans – after the fall – have a terrible capacity to misdirect their lives.  Cain builds a large city and names it after his son, Enoch.  But, he is corrupt and so his corruption is at the foundation of the city.  In Genesis 6:11-12, a summary is given of where things stand not long after the sin of Adam and Eve:   Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. Corruption and violence reign the world, so God decides to start again.  But, because of His love and mercy for His created image-bearers, He decides to save a people and protect them with His presence.

God’s Judgment and Mercy

The God of our story is a God of justice, but He’s also a God of redemption and rescue, rescuing His people from sin and its effects.  God chooses to save a man named Noah – along with his family – from His coming judgment and wrath upon the earth.  God instructs Noah to build an enormous boat that will protect him, his family, and two of every living creature on earth from the onslaught of water.  After the flood subsides, God renews his covenant with man through Noah, and in so doing, He fulfills what He always intended for creation – to rule and to be in relationship with Him.  In Genesis 9:1-3, it says, And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

God Helps Man Fill The Earth

Sadly, Noah’s descendants did not “fill the earth” as God instructed.  They decided to stay put and go up rather than out. In ancient Mesopotamia, people would build towers as part of their temples devoted to false gods.  Most towers had a large staircase which led to a room at the top.  This room contained a bed, a table, and fresh food so that the god could rest before he come down to earth.  Most likely, this was the kind of tower that the people built in the account of the tower of Babel.  In Genesis 11:4, the people say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” This was done in direct defiance of God’s covenant to fill the earth.  The people didn’t want to, so they built a large city and erected a tower, hoping to make God happy with them.  He was not.  Genesis 11:5-9 says, And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

God Renews His Covenant Again

So, finally, mankind is dispersed all over the earth as God designed it.  God then renews His covenant with mankind through one man: Abraham.  God tells Abraham to give up everything that the people of Babel were not willing to give up…and he does! Genesis 12:1-3 says, Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God renews His covenant with Abraham, but notice that God tells Abraham that He will bless Him so that he and his descendants will be a blessing to “all the families of the earth.”  God’s design from the beginning is to bless His created image-bearers with his presence and love, and even though sin is now rampant, God’s purposes will not be thwarted.

This is our story. It’s a story that begins with a loving Creator.  It’s a story that has been marred and twisted by sin.  But it’s a story that is overwhelmed by the love and redemption of the Creator for His image-bearing creation (us!).  In the coming weeks, I’ll explore more of the story with you, and we’ll see over and over again that our story is shaped by a God who loves us and will go to unbelievable lengths to rescue us from our sin.  Will you allow this story to shape you?

Artwork: #1 by Regis Friend-Cassidy; #2 by James Schlavin.

 

Dreaming of Sun and Sand

Today is a rare day in Albuquerque.  Like most of the nation today, we got whacked by a blast of winter weather.  Schools were delayed for two hours this morning, and after about two inches of snow fell here in the Foothills of the city, the wind is now gusting up to 60 mph.  Brrrr.

As I was scraping the van and brooming off the walk early this morning so that my wife could go to work in a warm and cleared-off van, I though to myself, “I moved here to get away from this kind of weather.”  I then began dreaming of sun and sand.  A couple of years ago, my family escaped the snow and cold of the Midwest winter (where we were living at the time) and had the privilege of going on a family Caribbean cruise for my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday.  There was nothing more rewarding than getting on the plane in the cold and landing in the sunny warmth of Miami.

As I look at today’s weather map, it looks like many of you will be dreaming of sun and sand too, so I’ve decided to post pictures of some of the Caribbean beaches we visited.  Take a minute to browse the pictures by clicking on them.  May they add a glimmer of sun and warmth to your cold, wintry day!

Scientists claim to have found the missing link. Seriously?!

A team of researchers this week unveiled an almost perfectly intact fossil of a 47 million-year-old primate they say represents the long-sought missing link between humans and apes.  Seriously?!

Scientist, Jens Franzen, hails this discovery as “the eighth wonder of the world.”  He says, “We’re not dealing with our grand, grand, grandmother, but perhaps with our grand, grand, grand aunt.”  Seriously?!

Scientists say the cat-sized animal’s hind legs offer evidence of evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright – a breakthrough that could finally confirm Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Seriously?!

The fossil of the lemur-like creature dubbed Ida shows it had opposable thumbs like humans and fingernails instead of claws, thus scientist are considering this the missing link.  Seriously?!

I – for one – am not convinced.  As a Christian, I realize that I am biased, but seriously?! Is this one fossil enough for anyone to be convinced that humans evolved from apes?  Are one hundred fossils enough to convince thinking people that humans are simply glorified, ape upgrades – Apes 2.0, if you will?

On my last visit to the Albuquerque zoo, I sat and watched the apes for quite some time.  They’re fascinating animals who do resemble humans in some pretty uncanny ways.   But, when the large male ape proceeded to dig feces out of his hind quarters, ball it up, throw it my way, then lick his fingers clean, I became sure that not even a “revolutionary” fossil find could convince me that I am in any way, shape, or form linked to him.  Seriously.

A Walk in the Clouds

I haven’t been this sore in years. Yesterday, Taylor and I went on a colossal hike in the Pecos Mountains. We went with Pat and Jake Smith. Pat grew up hiking and camping, so I don’t think this was as rough for him as it was for me, although I know that he was struggling at the end like I was! I – on the other hand – grew up playing baseball in the park and Atari in my living room. I was way out of my league on this one!

We drove up to Jack’s Creek campground north of Santa Fe Monday evening and slept in our vans over night. We were on the trail by 7AM yesterday morning with our sights set on the 12,500 feet peak of the East Pecos Baldy mountain. It’s 9 miles from the campground to the peak with a 4,100 feet incline over those 9 miles. By the time we hit the Pecos Baldy Lake – which is a natural resting place before ascending to the peak – a storm started brewing in the east. We quickly ate and began our final climb, and as we did, the thunder began to roar in the distance.

When we were about 200 feet from the top, it began to rain. The storm was moving in fast, so much so that a group of hikers who were very close to the top decided to turn back. They passed us heading down, warning us of the high winds above. Pat asked me what I thought we should do. I couldn’t tell him what I really wanted to do…die! By that time, I was hurting. The air was thin, the climb was getting steeper and steeper, and the trail was covered with jagged, shifting rocks. The thin air and steep incline forced us to stop to catch our breath about every 20-30 feet that we climbed. As exhausted as I was, we were so close to the top that I didn’t want to turn back. So, I told Pat that we should go for it…and we did.

The boys scurried on ahead (oh to be 12 again!), and Pat and I forged on. When we reached the top, we were greeted by a monstrous cloud wall heading right toward us. It was quite surreal. Knowing that we were completely exposed to the storm at 12,500 feet, we quickly slapped high fives, took a few pictures, and promptly began our ascent back down. As we raced off of the peak, the clouds roared in and enveloped us. At times, we could barely see each other. It was truly “a walk in the clouds.” Amazingly, we didn’t get very wet, and once we were off the summit, the clouds seemed to roll around us but not over us.

I wish I could tell you some deep spiritual truth that I learned while walking in the clouds, but I really can’t think of any. It was a bit frightening, but I really was fully aware that God was in control during all of it. I was actually more concerned about how bad I felt, knowing that the climax of conquering the peak meant that we were only half way done with the hike. We had nine more grueling miles to go to get back to the camp!

All in all, it was an awesome experience. Nothing like being with your son and some good friends on top of the world! However, I don’t think I’ll ever do that hike again! As I write, I’m lying in bed applying an ice / heat regiment to my left knee. I think I really messed it up yesterday, so please pray for me. I don’t know whether this is something that will get better as the rest of my sore body does or not. Please pray that it does.

I’m not opposed to trying to conquer some of New Mexico’s other mountain peaks, I just want to find some that I can park a little closer to next time!