I love – and I’m exhorted by – the Apostle John’s manner of self-identification. See what I mean in this brief video:
Perhaps this morning a brief devotional on Isaiah 40 might be encouraging to you:
After you watch, enjoy this song drawn right from the text: “Behold Our God.”
This passage from Herman Bavinck’s, The Wonderful Works of God (Westminster Seminary Press, pgs. 6-7), is worth reading and reflecting on…and maybe especially so in 2020. I particularly like paragraph three:
“The conclusion, therefore, is that of Augustine, who said that the heart of man was created for God and that it cannot find rest until it rests in his Father’s heart. Hence all men are really seeking after God, as Augustine also declared, but they do not all seek Him in the right way, nor at the right place. They seek Him down below, and He is up above. They seek Him on the earth, and He is in heaven. They seek Him afar, and He is nearby. They seek Him in money, in property, in fame, in power, and in passion; and He is to be found in the high and holy places, and with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isa. 57:15). But they do seek Him, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him (Acts 17:27). They seek Him and at the same time they flee Him. They have no interest in a knowledge of His ways, and yet they cannot do without Him. They feel themselves attracted to God and at the same time repelled by Him.
In this, as Pascal so profoundly pointed out, consists the greatness and the miserableness of man. He longs for truth and is false by nature. He yearns for rest and throws himself from one diversion upon another. He pants for a permanent and eternal bliss and seizes on the pleasures of a moment. He seeks for God and loses himself in the creature. He is born a son of the house and he feeds on the husks of the swine in a strange land. He forsakes the fountain of living waters and hews out broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13). He is as a hungry man who dreams that he is eating, and when he awakes finds that his soul is empty; and he like a thirsty man who dreams that he is drinking, and when he awakes finds that he is faint and that his soul has appetite (Isa. 29:8).
Science cannot explain this contradiction in man. It reckons only with his greatness and not with his misery, or only with his misery and not with his greatness. It exalts him too high, or it depresses him too far, for science does not know of his Divine origin, nor of his profound fall. But the Scriptures know of both, and they shed their light over man and over mankind; and the contradictions are reconciled, the mists are cleared, and the hidden things are revealed. Man is an enigma whose solution can be found only in God.”
Yesterday I listened to a National Public Radio (NPR) episode of the podcast “On Point” titled “Lessons Of The Pacific Northwest Wildfire.” As you might expect, this particular episode addressed fires burning in the states of Oregon and Washington. During the latter portion of the show, the host, Meghna Chakrabarti, spoke with Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. I found the Governor’s commentary disturbing at best, and disturbing is too light a word. I was disturbed not primarily by the way in which he used his remarks to criticize President Trump and promote Joe Biden (not too surprising in an election year, though to be fair, I’ll assume the Governor spoke from true conviction and not mere political expediency), but with the Governor’s confident and (I’ll argue below) hypocritical assertion of the authority of science. The Governor charged President Trump with an anti-scientific view of climate change that led him to be dismissive of Washington’s fire-induced tragedy. He, Governor Inslee, described his feelings of “rage” and accused the President of a “callous indifference to science.”
Now, my purpose in this post is not to address climate science, nor is it to defend the comments or positions of the President. Rather, my purpose is to make clear the deep hypocrisy, the stunning hypocrisy, that fundamentally undermines what the Governor said and where he presumes to stand morally. The Governor referred repeatedly to science as if it is his grounding moral reality, an authority against which no one can argue. And yet, I assert that in truth Governor Inslee actually does not “believe” in science. Why? Because he is an avid supporter of abortion. He bragged about his position on abortion during the recent Democratic presidential primary process. Apparently, the Governor does not see, or does not care to see, that you cannot hold to a pro-abortion position and yet claim the authority of science. It’s profoundly hypocritical to do so…plain and simple. True science will tell you that the so-called fetus growing inside a mother is a living, developing human being. True science will tell you that such a child, long before birth, can feel pain, can respond to influences outside the womb (like sound for instance), and even has a special affinity for his or her mother’s voice. In the face of “science,” Governor Inslee stubbornly maintains the twisted faith of a pro-abortion position. It is this science-denying dark faith that made the Governor’s charge against President Trump so shockingly hypocritical (even if his charge against the President is warranted).
Repeatedly in his comments Governor Inslee referenced the tragic death of a one-year old boy killed as his parents tried to flee from a fire near Colville, WA. While he’s certainly right to grieve the death of this little boy, why can’t Governor Inslee understand the same tragedy at work in the deaths of 17,080 children aborted in the state of Washington in 2016 alone (the last year for which the Washington State Department of Health includes statistics)?
Governor Inslee, you are a science-denier, and your denial of science is one factor contributing to the death of thousands in your state every year. I pray you will change. I pray you will repent. I pray your eyes will be opened. Consider the rage you feel pertinent to President Trump’s denial of climate science. Let your feelings of rage cause you to wonder over the rage a holy God must feel at your denial of “created in his image” science.
(This post has now gone through a few iterations as I’ve found it necessary to moderate my words in order to try and communicate clearly and carefully. Hopefully I come close.)
In what follows, it’s important that you know I am not anti public school education. In fact, I am personally a long-standing beneficiary of public schools, having attended six of them ranging from elementary to graduate level. I am also a parent whose children – all but one – have spent time, most of their time in fact, in public schools. We’ve appreciated many fantastic teachers and administrators, and I’m thankful for what my children have learned in these schools. I have family who serve in public education and two of the best men I know are, or were, public school teachers. That said, while not dismally apocalyptic in outlook, I am increasingly less sanguine about the prospects of public schools. I am increasingly convinced of the need for parents to be closely attentive to, and careful of, what their children hear in school. Such attentiveness has always been needful, it’s just ever more so at the present time.
Why raise this point now? Well, perhaps because in recent days I’ve been faced again with the deeply concerning milieu (the common atmosphere, the air that exists) in public schools, specifically public schools in the area of California where I live. Let me give two examples of what I mean by a “concerning milieu,” starting with the use (or reference to) preferred gender pronouns in official school communication. This development suggests to me that the local school system has adopted a particular worldview, namely the present-day transgender worldview. The transgender worldview asserts that gender is not something fixed and God-given, but accidental and changeable according to personal desire. In other words, I cannot tell my three elementary-age girls that they are young ladies because God created them such and gave them the bodies to match. No, in fact, as the argument goes, they are free to choose whatever gender they desire, and to do so in rebellion against biology, reason, and all that is true; indeed, in rebellion against God himself. As a father, it’s become apparent to me that this new transgender orthodoxy will increasingly define the milieu of my children’s schools, beginning with the elementary grades. I have to ask myself, “Is this environment one in which I want my impressionable kindergartner to experience her first six years of education?” Is committing her to such an atmosphere faithfully discharging my duty and privilege to raise her in the nurture and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Second, and closely related to the transgender worldview, is the profound influence of “mindfulness” in my area’s public schools. “Mindfulness” is a topic that seems prevalent in my kids’ classrooms, including through teacher-led practices and material officially endorsed by administration. By way of example, I recently reviewed a school-provided link to a video entitled, “Mindfulness Movement: Qi Gong.” Here’s the problem: “Mindfulness” is not neutral. “Qi Gong” is not a neutral term. “Mindfulness” is the Western appropriation of religious thought that streams from the sources of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism. The term “mindfulness” may seem denuded of religious connotation, but it’s not. You cannot pursue “mindfulness” (of the sort I’m referring to here) without entering into religious philosophy that, at its root, is demonic and fundamentally opposed to the living God.
Can you see where, for a Jesus-follower, I have cause for concern? I’m concerned that two disturbing factors mark the milieu of schools in my area: 1) An explicit denial of the most basic reality in God’s created order – male and female; 2) A subtle, but not so subtle, endorsement and teaching of religious thought that is directly contrary to Scripture. I’m not surprised by this. I’m not surprised since both of these elements mark the societal milieu of the greater Bay Area in which I live. While not surprised, I am concerned, and I’m increasingly unsettled by the atmosphere of my community’s public schools.
As a parent I, together with my wife, am challenged to think deeply and pray faithfully over questions like: “Lord, how should we educate our children? What do my children need in order to be equipped as faithful followers of Jesus Christ? What education do they need to live well according to God’s plan for them in all the endeavors he calls them to pursue – in work, in perhaps raising their own family, in contributing to society and culture, etc?” The specific answer(s) to these questions may vary greatly, even year-by-year, according to the circumstances God providentially brings to us; according to the needs and gifts of each of our children; according to the particular realities of schools, and administrators, and teachers in our area, etc. For our family the answer is not yet a wholesale abandonment of public schools, and I hope it won’t come to that in the future. It may even be that God will call us to lean further in; further in as partners and participants with the public school system. There are many good people working in public education, and I want to encourage their efforts when those efforts warrant encouragement and celebration. That said, the cause for concern is present and growing.
Christian-parent, know your school…
On Friday evening I was able to return home after just over a week of being evacuated due to the CZU Lightening Complex Fire that ravaged the San Lorenzo Valley and areas nearby (Big Basin, Bonny Doon, etc). While I am full of thanks to God for preserving my family’s house (through the work of many brave people), I cannot forget that multiple hundreds of families in my broader community have no home to which they can return. It was in this context that I read Psalm 90 this morning and found it sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the point of dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb. 4:12). Read the entire poem (because the whole thing is so apropos) but note with special poignancy verses 1-2. As you do, listen to those same verses sung by Seeds Family Worship. From everlasting to everlasting oh Lord, you are God!
Psalm 90 (New American Standard Bible):
(1) Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
(2) Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting
You are God.
(3) You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
(4) For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
(5) You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
(6) In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.
(7) For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
(8) You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
(9) For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
(10) As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
(11) Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
(12) So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
(13) Do return, O LORD; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
(14) O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
(15) Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
(16) Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
(17) Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.
I recorded this video particularly for the people of Felton Bible Church, most of whom are scattered many places under evacuation orders because of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire burning in and alongside the San Lorenzo Valley. Of note, I bungled the name of the church whose office I borrowed…it is Grace Church Monterey Bay. If you live in the Monterey/Seaside area, I commend this group of folks to you!
Here are words of deep joy and real encouragement this morning:
O LORD (O Yahweh), You showed favor to Your land;
You restored the captivity of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of Your people;
You covered all their sin.
You withdrew all Your fury;
You turned away from Your burning anger.” (Psalm 85:1-3, NASB)
How and why are these words personal for you (us) if you (we) are a follower (followers) of Jesus Christ? Well, because of what Paul reminds us of in 2 Timothy 1:9-10 (NASB) about God:
“…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”
Amen, praise the Lord!
This is a very brief post to note that we as Jesus’ people gathered under the banner of Felton Bible Church (FBC) are currently living through the massive CZU Lighting Complex fire burning outside of Santa Cruz. Please pray for the people of the San Lorenzo Valley, Scott’s Valley, Bonny Doon, and other nearby areas. Pray for all the hardworking men and women working to battle this blaze. If you’d like, check out the FBC Facebook Page for a recent picture and short note. God is good even in the middle of disaster like this. His plan is perfect…
Many of you are likely familiar with a song titled, “The Blessing,” that has quite literally swept the world during this pandemic. One of the most remarkable developments with this particular song is the way in which it has been taken up and recorded, for all to hear, in many of the world’s different languages. Though human language developed in a context of disobedience to God’s command (see Genesis 11), I’m convinced that it is nonetheless one of God’s best gifts to human beings. Human language is beautiful. And it is never more beautiful than when put to the service of praising God. Consider for instance this version of “The Blessing” sung in Arabic. I love the sounds of Arabic. I love the fact that Felton Bible Church has the privilege of partnering with people working to bring the Gospel to people who speak Arabic. I love that Arabic – so often employed today in worship of the false God of Islam – will one day sound only to the praise of the one who named himself, “I Am.”
As you listen to this song, consider its source – Numbers 6:22-27:
“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
Moses gave this blessing to Aaron and his sons to speak as priests over the house of Israel. This is a priestly blessing. Thus, it is entirely appropriate that the church would sing a song like this. Why? Because the true church of Jesus Christ consists of people chosen by God to be a “royal priesthood, a holy a nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Did you catch that? Being priests of the living God is a matter of proclaiming the excellencies of him – of God – who called you. Called you from what…into what? From darkness…into his marvelous light. From the darkness of sin, of rebellion against God, of death…into the light of salvation, of obedience, of life. How did this happen? Only through Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ is the light of the world who brings life: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
Enjoy this song. Enjoy the deep truth it reflects. But enjoy it…oh please enjoy it…as you stand redeemed from your sin by the blood of Jesus Christ who died for you on the cross. Enjoy it while, by the sheer grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ as your King and Savior, you pass from death to life. The blessing that you and I have to speak over the world is not one of generalized good will. No, it’s far better. It is the blessing of a call to come and worship at the feet of Jesus. If you enjoy this song like that, then indeed you will bless all to whom God brings you this week.
Free Bonus Thought: Did you know that blessing of Numbers 6 appears on the oldest example of written biblical text uncovered thus far? Check out this “Fix Your Mind” post from last year.