Sunday, June 22, 2014

Every Grain of Sand

"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you." 

Psalm 139 is a song filled with praise for God.  One of the reasons the psalmist praises God is for the extent of knowledge the that God has, knowledge of both the psalmist personally but also of all of creation.  Everything that God knows about the psalmist God also knows about every person and thing found in creation.

The psalmist knows that everything that could be known about him…the good, the bad…the well-known and the secret…all of these things are known by God.  In the language of the psalmist, the thoughts that God has about him are more numerous than the grains of sand.

More than the grains of sand.  That is a lot of thoughts.  And that is for just one person.  And God is able to hold not just these nearly infinite thoughts about one person, but all of the knowledge of all of creation.  That would be like multiplying infinity times infinity.  It is a number, a concept, too large and complex to comprehend.

And yet it is within the comprehension of God.  I find that very reassuring.

We are so often desperate to control our own part of the world.  And we can't.  At some point in time everyone learns that parts of their world are outside of their control, and parts of life will always be that way.  But God's knowledge of the world, every bit of it, is perfect.  And He also has the ability to exert control at any time over any part of the world, which He does, according to His purposes, and not ours. 

This morning, during worship, as we shared our prayer concerns, we were also reminded of the beauty that exists in the world.  There is beauty in the largest of landscapes and the smallest of details.  We were reminded that, while there are concerns on our  that hearts that we want to lift to God, in the beauty around us we can see reminders of God's knowledge, knowledge of us and every detail of our world. 

God, who can count every grain of sand, knows us fully.  He loves us.  He cares for us.  And He holds us.

May you know His peace and presence in the uncertain moments of your life. Amen.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

That Big White Light

Last Sunday I was watching some of the coverage of the US Open golf tournament.  During the broadcast they showed a human interest story about Erik Compton, a professional golfer who has had two heart transplants, one at age 12 and the second at 28.  He is currently 34 and his play this week was by far the best of his professional career.  On one of golf's largest stages he played better than he has ever played before, finishing in second place.

Stories like this touch our heartstrings.  They draw us in with their emotional power.  A man with a heart so weak that he was on the threshold of death…twice.  The narrator referred to the open door of death as "that big white light."  Erik Compton was at that door, twice, and could easily have passed through.  He was held back through the generosity of an organ donor and the skill of a medical team.  And on Sunday he stood almost at the very pinnacle of his profession.  A story of triumph over adversity.

The narrator of the story gave the sense that in receiving a new heart and the life that went with it, which for Compton has included marriage and a daughter since the second transplant, the best possible outcome has been achieved.  But as a Christian I think there are a some other points to consider.

The Apostle Paul, writing from prison and facing the possibility of death, wrote this in Philippians 1:20-23,

"It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.   I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better."

For Paul, the thing that mattered was that he gave glory to God.  If he lived, he wanted it to be to the glory of God, and in the same way he considered the possibility of his death, that it would be a death that pointed others to God.  And he knew that from the perspective of what was best for him personally, it was death, for he knew he would pass through death's door and into the everlasting presence of his Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

I know nothing of the faith of Erik Compton.  Neither the Wikipedia entry or his personal webpage have any insights into that.  If he is a person of faith then I pray that as a husband, a father, a golfer, a friend…that whatever he does in life is done to the glory of God.

And if he is not a person of faith then I pray that God may turn his heart towards Christ, so that in his life post heart transplant he comes to know the joy of eternal life.  When he comes, for the final time, to that big, white light, I want him to do so knowing his Savior is waiting for him on the other side.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Punctuated Equilibrium

"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.""

Those are the words of the first verse of Genesis 12, and they mark the beginning of a tremendous adventure.  Abram is in his own country, with his father and extended family, and God calls him and tells him to "go." 

I understand that equilibrium is a state of relative balance.  Things are holding together in a stable manner.  A force may be acting on something but the thing itself doesn't really change as a result.  There is a theory in natural history called 'punctuated equilibrium.'  It was developed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge and widely disseminated through the essays Gould wrote for Natural History for many years.  Applied to evolution, punctuated equilibrium means that changes to a given species did not happen incrementally over a great many years, but in short bursts of activity interspersed with long periods of evolutionary quiet. 

A brief aside: Gould was an unabashed and ardent Darwinist, with no toleration for anything but a scientifically orthodox view of creation.  I read several of his collected essays when I was not a Christian and found them engaging.  I recently read one of his books and was startled by his persistent disregard for any consideration of a divine hand in creation. 

Enough of the introduction….now to return to the topic at hand.

Abram lived in a state of equilibrium.  He was with his family, his flocks, doing his own thing.  And then God spoke into his life, saying, "Go."  God's call punctuated the equilibrium of Abram's life. As a result of God's speaking, nothing in Abram's life was the ever same.  And the path that God set Abram on led to the most glorious of destinations. 

Ripples of Abram's movement in following God's call are still felt today, and it was the privilege of myself, my family, and the congregation I serve as pastor to feel them this week.

Our congregation was host to a group of 31 people who had come to Dulce from Denver, spending the week here as a part of their own response to God's call in their lives. 

When God calls, people of faith follow.  Sometimes the call can be very dramatic, as with Abram, and other times it may be less so, such as the call to leave home for a time and serve God in another location.    

Last week was a very full one for me, occasionally bordering on chaotic.  The mission group punctuated the equilibrium of ministry in Dulce, with a powerful presence of God working through their hands and hearts. 

Now, in the quiet following the past week's activity and this morning's worship, I feel a sense of equilibrium returning.  And as I rest and reflect, I do so knowing that God will again speak, to me, to those who were here last week, and to all who follow Him in faith. 

And when I hear Him say, "Go" may I do as Abram did, trusting that He will always lead me to places that are better than any that I would have settled for, places that serve His purposes, to His glory.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Easy to love

"We love because He first loved us."

Those are the words of 1 John 4:19, and they have taken on a new shade of meaning for me this week.  We are in the midst of a mission week.   In the past mission meant that I was a part of a group from my church that was in service to a person or group of people different from myself.  This week, serving here in Dulce it is the reverse.  We are the recipients of the service of others.  There are about 25 people who have traveled from the Denver area to work on a number of projects at our church and in our community.

Windows are being repaired.  Buildings and fences are being painted.  Ramps are being built.  The children of the community are attending a vacation Bible school.  These are all very good things but the thing I value most this week is the relationships that are being built.

We have met a few of the people in the group before.  Others we are just getting to know and they are quickly becoming dear to us.  They come from four different congregations, and are a very diverse group, so they are also getting to know each other better.  Some are camping at the church property and others are staying at the motel.  They have a skilled cooking crew and lots of food so we are eating all of our meals with them.  Between working side-by-side, sharing a meal and sitting around the campfire it is has been my privilege to hear their stories and share my own. 

Yesterday, at the end of the day, it occurred to me that a thread that ran through all we have shared together is that, through all of the ups and downs of our lives, God is unchanging. 

I have heard a lot of stories of hard times, yet always times in which God remained present.  A situation may have been spiraling out of human control, but it was always in God's control.  And that perspective, which was not always in the front-and-center as a hard time was going on, was the place where peace was found.  A storm may have raged but it turned out that the ship was always safely in port.

Each person I have talked with knows, in their own way, that God, and God alone, is the anchor of their life.  And so I find these people easy to know…to know deeply…to love, because of the love that God has poured out on us in His Son. 

It is a love that He freely gave me when it was the last thing I was looking for or thought that I needed.  But it was truly the best gift ever.  And having received it I am able to love others in His name, to His glory.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


We had visitors last weekend and it was a lot of fun.  A couple, Wayne and Joyce, came through Dulce on a trip from Rochester, Minnesota to visit some friends in the Southwest.  Joyce's mother, Wilma, served at the mission here in Dulce for two years in the 1930's, just before she got married.  Joyce had heard stories about Dulce throughout her life and when she learned through a mutual acquaintance that we were serving in Dulce they decided to work a stop in as a part of their trip. 

We showed them around the property and town.  Some things are different from when Wilma was here and some things are not.  The town itself is much bigger, as most of the Jicarilla Apache lived out on the reservation until the 1950's.  Joyce had brought along her mother's photos and nearly every one that showed a view from a high point there are now buildings visible where once there was empty space. 

The best part of their visit was looking at Wilma's pictures with some older members of the congregation.  A number of pictures had writing on the back, identifying who was in the picture, but many did not.  Gaps were filled in, as our members recognized their parents and grandparents.  And seeing old pictures of loved ones brought back memories and stories, of the people and the times they lived through.

Speaking for myself, looking at pictures like that from my past can nurture a longing for a particular time, or a particular day with a particular person.  The "good old days," if only for a moment. 

As a Christian I sometimes have moments where I long for a bit of the past.  A moment when everything with God seemed so "right."  A time where whenever I opened my Bible or folded my hands God seemed very near. 

I usually have these longings for the past when the present seems to be the near opposite.  When my day becomes so chaotic and seemingly out-of control that I begin to wonder something like this: "God, is there anything going on today that has anything to do with your kingdom?  Any single thing?"

And in that chaos the memories of those precious moments have supreme value.  They remind me that the chaos is temporary.  We live in a fallen world.  We live in a world that is filled with brokenness and separation from God. 

But God's promise is that one day the world will be redeemed.  One day, through the work of Jesus, God will set everything right.  Those memories of nearness to God point me to the day when nearness to God will be an everlasting condition of my life.

In my own 56 years I have collected many treasured memories.  But perhaps the best ones are those that point my vision forward, to eternity with God, received as a gift of His Son.