Friday, August 31, 2007

Not all that golden. . .

There is an old, probably ancient, saying that 'silence is golden'. . . Over the years, numbers of times I have wished at different times for silence in an atheistic plea to an unknown god. . . said those words in gratitude after the sick child finally fell asleep in my arms. . . in the stillness, in the precious like gold silence. Tension recedes, the air softens, muscles begin to relax. . . testing the depth of rest. Will the precarious sleep hold or will the misery and agony again break forth. . . little sounds unnoticed before, now appreciated, now magnified by their lack of competition. . . footsteps on the carpet, the creak of a loose floorboard, the dogs toenails clicking on the linoleum, a dripping faucet, the whispered ticking of a clock, even the gentle ever present sound of my heart beating softly steps into awareness after the cessation of a prolonged tension building noise.

In perspective, seen from the distance of years gone by, the unbroken quiet of the long empty and rarely visited child's room, is no longer precious, but faded and recognized for the vacuum that it truly is. We wish for silence until the noise is gone and then we wish ever so much harder that we had the noise again. Does your spouse snore? One day the snoring will surely stop and the silence will be twice as hard to bear, sleep ever again denied for stillness sake, not noise. . .

No state is desirable in unbroken duration. Feasting and fasting are both best experienced in moderation. Neither noise, nor quiet is tolerable in excess. . . Silence has meaning every bit as deep as sound, for without the pauses between sounds and silence between words, no intelligible communication is possible. An unbroken procession of syllables is not decipherable for long. The mind needs the pauses to uncover more than just the dictionary meaning of the words and to arrive at the thought beneath them. Read of the difficulties in reading and in translating the original ancient Hebrew Biblical text. That rudimentary language has no punctuation, no pauses between words, no separation between thoughts for emphasis, no telling where one thought ended and another began. Even given bright minds and millennia of time to study and ponder the words, it is often still difficult to determine the original intent of the writer in that language with no pauses.

The blank pages between chapters, the indentation of a new paragraph beginning, the full stops of periods, my beloved ellipsis, the brief pauses of a comma, the colons, and semi-colons of written language all add to our understanding. . . In maybe more symbolic form, but no in less meaningful intent I believe that our relationship with God undergoes periods of quiet. . . little pauses. . . little times of quiet. . . longer periods. . . even at times full stops. It is not a relationship of endless noise, but is punctuated by times of purposeful quiet and that quiet has meaning. It is not randomly assigned to us. There is purpose and intent in the quiet times of God.

I read recently of Mother Teresa, no matter what disagreements you might have with her theology, you would be a very hardened person to deny that her life was lived as one who dearly loved the Lord. It is said in an article about a recently written book that she endured a silence, a cessation from hearing the voice of God of almost 50 years. I cannot comprehend. I dearly pray that I never have a punctuation mark of that length in my communication with my Lord, but. . . but. . . but. . . I do not believe that God does anything randomly, merely to be cruel or by accident.

In my short time of living for God, I have had a number of periods where I could not hear the voice of God. I believe that I am in such a period right now. I believe that there is always a reason for the silence. . . If I have the honesty to admit it and to face it, there is always a reason for God's quietness. . .

In Malachi chapter 3 God offers a stinging rebuke of the Jewish people:

6 "I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'
8 "Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How are we robbing you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.
Israel Speaks Arrogantly Against God
13 "You have spoken arrogantly against me," says the LORD. "Yet you ask, 'What have we said against you?'
14 "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.' " (NIV)

As Dr. Larry Crabb points out in his wonderful book Finding God . Immediately following this condemnation of the Jewish nation was a silence of some 400 years, no prophets, no open word of God, "You have spoken arrogantly against me. . ." says the Lord. . .and then only after several centuries of silence later did Jesus give his first recorded public sermon of His ministry. . . He begins

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These words of Jesus are virtually in a direct continuation of the theme of the last words of God in Malachi, the accusations of 400 years earlier, He speaks of the blessings of brokenness and meekness. . . the very opposite of arrogance. I do not believe in coincidence with God. Nothing was left to chance in the creation of the universe, no loose ends in the bringing us out of the dirt and the rib. I do not believe that there are any random happenings in our relationship with Him.

When I look at the times of quiet between He and I, they are times that I have needed to heed what He has already said to me. They are times when I, like the five-year-old, need a time-out, a quiet time, a time of reflection. I am in the midst of a quiet time right now with God. I have been here for some time already I can look mystified and pretend that I don't know what is going on, but in my heart I do know. . . There are things within me that need to be dealt with before I can grow again. . . .hardness, ego, rebelliousness, selfishness. . . maybe even arrogance it could be called. I know that God is there. His eyes are fully upon me. He is expectantly waiting to find which direction I will choose to go.

I cannot speak for everyone and their relationship with God, but I know that God loves you and I and everyone. I know that His goal is for us all to have as close a relationship with Him as is possible and that He will go to any length to achieve that relationship. He has proven that by taking on human flesh and being nailed to the cross for us. My journey with Him is a journey with no end. I am slow and stubborn at times, thick headed like an ass. He must become ever more creative in his teaching of me, in order that I might continue to travel down the path He has set before me. No teacher worth the name gives the same test over and over. At times He closely guides me and gives me daily hugs. At times He withdraws and lets me stumble about on my own. He is still there, peering at me just around the corner like the parent of a toddler, watching the young one, who thinks they are alone. What will they (I) do? Our Father waits for us out of sight, just around the corner watching. . . waiting. . . .

I will not be satisfied with the separation. I stand on His words:

Jeremiah 29:13
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

I've got to get everything else out of my heart. There can be room there for nothing but desire for Him. God warned the Hebrews of the coming separation, the coming 400 year unholy silent night:

Amos 8:10-12
And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day. (11) Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: (12) And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

It was in response to their sin that God grew quiet. It was a lesson for them, a test for them to take. . . He used the prophet Amos to warn them. They didn't listen. They did not pass the test. God used Jonah to warn Nineveh. Nineveh listened and repented. Jonah's prophecy did not come to pass. If the Israelites had heeded the warning of Amos, the silence and withdrawal of God may well need not have happened. Time and again in the Bible God relented of promised retribution in the face of sincere and humble repentance. When God grows quiet in your life, you have two choices. You can accept His silence or you can seek Him ever more diligently. . .

I am working Lord. . .
I am seeking your face. . .
I am examining my heart. . .
Help me Lord. . .
Create in me a clean heart. . .
Renew a right spirit within me. . .

Dave Stokely

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Lord my Glory - Psalm 3:3

Psalms 3
1 A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.
2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.
3 But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.
5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.
7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

This is a compound name that has taken me some time to understand. I have been studying and meditating on this one for several days. A little while ago I awoke with my mind full of scriptures and new understanding. . . Thank you Lord!!!

It has been difficult for me to understand, to comprehend what God being 'my glory' means. Here is the Strong's entry for the word:

כּבד כּבוד
kâbôd kâbôd
From H3513; properly weight; but only figuratively in a good sense, splendor or copiousness: - glorious (-ly), glory, honour (-able).

So this word translated as glory is a physical characteristic or dimension, weight, used in a figurative sense. God is beyond us. He has characteristics that we cannot comprehend. We cannot bring our minds to understand how an attribute that has no apparent substance, like His glory, can have a physical structure or presence, but with God it does:

1 Kings 8:10-11 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, (11) So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.

I cannot tell you what this means. All I have are the words written in the Bible. I have no first hand knowledge of this, but the word translated as 'glory' first means weight. . . "so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house. . ." Glory so substantial, so thick that you cannot stand in its presence.

I've never been in the presence of a king or queen. Maybe the closest, for me, is being in the military. When you are on a military base and in uniform, you must keep a watchful eye out for general officers. Their vehicles are denoted by a little flag on the front with number of stars on it of the general riding in the vehicle. Whatever you are doing, you must stop and salute that vehicle as it passes. This is no joke. It is a great risk to just pretend that you did not notice a general passing. It is not at all unknown for such a vehicle carrying a general to stop and the officer riding therein to get out and make, whoever was so unfortunate as to have not noticed his or her passing, not only wish that they had not overlooked the passing of that vehicle, but to wish for a season that they had not been born. . . In the military you must give honor. . . you must. . . you are required to bend the knee so to speak in the presence of a superior. . . . but even at that it is a voluntary action.

It appears that the glory of God is so substantitive that it is not voluntary, but physically impossible to do otherwise. Remember the New Testament words:

Romans 14:11For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

This is not idle boasting by God. This is what men do in His presence:

Genesis 17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
Genesis 17:17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
Numbers 16:4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face:
Numbers 22:31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
Joshua 5:14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
Ezekiel 1:28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.
Ezekiel 3:23 Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face.
Ezekiel 9:8 And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?
Ezekiel 11:13 And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. Then fell I down upon my face, and cried with a loud voice, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou make a full end of the remnant of Israel?
Ezekiel 43:3-4 And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.
Ezekiel 44:4 Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD: and I fell upon my face.
Daniel 8:17 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.
Matthew 17:5-6 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (6) And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
Luke 5:12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
Luke 17:15-18 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, (16) And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. (17) And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? (18) There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
Revelation 1:17-18 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: (18) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

It appears to me that if we are striving to get into the presence of God, if we want to see the glory of God we'd better get on our knees, the less likely to break our noses in the fall to our faces when He appears. . .

OK, I see these things, but how can God be my glory as our verse says:

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

This word is found some 201 times in 190 different Old Testament verses. It is interesting that most often when the word is used in association with God it is translated as 'glory' (162 times) and when the word is used in association with a man, it is translated 'honor' (39 times):

Genesis 49:6
O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they digged down a wall.

Numbers 24:11
Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honor; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honor.

1 Kings 3:13
And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.

1 Chronicles 17:18
What can David speak more to thee for the honor of thy servant? for thou knowest thy servant.

Notice the following passage:

1 Chronicles 29:10-13
Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever. (11) Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. (12) Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. (13) Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.

David says that riches, (meaning: great worth and abundance in a material sense) and honor, (meaning: great worth and value and dignity or respect in a sense of character and reputation and renown) both come from God. What ever we have as far as physical riches comes from God and whatever worth we have in our own personal worth and character also comes from God.

Our verse:

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

now begins to make more sense to me. Rather than 'glory', let us say that my 'honor' or my dignity comes from God. I have greatly sinned in the past. The only reason that I can hold my head up and not be ashamed is from Him. . . He is "the lifter up of mine head". . . He has forgiven me for the things that I have done.

As a grandparent, I get after my grandson. I chastise him for something he has done. He is upset and cries at my rebuke. He is disappointed with himself at letting me down. I put my hand under his chin and lift his face to mine. . . "It's OK. . . I forgive you. . . lift your eyes. . . you are forgiven. . .I hug him. . ." This is what David is telling us that God did for him. David disappointed God, but God forgave him and lifted up his head to again have honor and respectability. God gave him his dignity back. He was once again able to look himself in the mirror without being overcome with his sin and worthlessness. . .

I need you Jehovah-Kabodhi.
I was so low in my day of shame. . .
I needed my honor, my dignity to be restored.
I thank you for lifting up my head.
I thank you for allowing me to escape my deserved punishment. . .
I thank you for forgiving me.

I love you my God. . .

Dave Stokely

Reference Section:

Genesis 31:1; 45:13; 49:6;
Exodus 16:7, 10; 24:16, 17; 28:2, 40; 29:43; 33:18, 22; 40:34, 35;
Leviticus 9:6, 23;
Numbers 14:10, 21, 22; 16:19, 42; 20:6; 24:11;
Deuteronomy 5:24;
Joshua 7:19;
1 Samuel 2:8; 4:21, 22; 6:5;
1 Kings 3:13; 8:11;
1 Chronicles 16:24, 28, 29; 17:18; 29:12, 28;
2 Chronicles 1:11, 12; 5:14; 7:1, 2, 3; 17:5; 18:1; 26:18; 32:27, 33;
Nehemiah 9:5;
Esther 1:4; 5:11;
Job 19:9; 29:20;
Psalms 3:3; 4:2; 7:5; 8:5; 16:9; 19:1; 21:5; 24:7, 8, 9, 10; 26:8; 29:1, 2, 3, 9; 30:12; 49:16, 17; 57:5, 8, 11; 62:7; 63:2; 66:2; 72:19; 73:24; 79:9; 84:11; 85:9; 96:3, 7, 8; 97:6; 102:15, 16; 104:31; 106:20; 108:1, 5; 112:9; 113:4; 115:1; 138:5; 145:5, 11, 12; 149:5;
Proverbs 3:16, 35; 8:18; 11:16; 15:33; 18:12; 20:3; 21:21; 22:4; 25:2, 27; 26:1, 8; 29:23;
Ecclesiastes 6:2; 10:1;
Isaiah 3:8; 4:2, 5; 5:13; 6:3; 8:7; 10:3, 16, 18; 11:10; 14:18; 16:14; 17:3, 4; 21:16; 22:18, 23, 24; 24:23; 35:2; 40:5; 42:8, 12; 43:7; 48:11; 58:8; 59:19; 60:1, 2, 13; 61:6; 62:2; 66:11, 12, 18, 19;
Jeremiah 2:11; 13:16; 14:21; 17:12; 48:18;
Ezekiel 1:28; 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18, 19; 11:22, 23; 31:18; 39:21; 43:2, 4, 5; 44:4;
Daniel 11:39;
Hosea 4:7; 9:11; 10:5;
Micah 1:15;
Nahum 2:9;
Habakkuk 2:14, 16;
Haggai 2:3, 7, 9;
Zechariah 2:5, 8;
Malachi 1:6; 2:2;

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Right Stuff

It seems like I am getting bounced on every side the past few days about motives. Sunday afternoon Pastor Johnson spoke about worshipping for the wrong reasons. Not long before, I was speaking with a friend about a similar thing. My friend was saying about how in his past he has been one who greatly desired the spotlight and praise of others and how he is now fearful of doing things and being motivated by that desire and not the desire to glorify God. This week I am working on reading and recording the book of Matthew for my Mom on CD. In doing my reading and studying, I am struck by the life of Jesus. To my knowledge there is never. . . ever. . . ever any hint of Jesus doing anything for a less than holy and pure motive. We have four independent records of His life and never even a wisp of an indication that for three and a half years that He ever acted upon any selfish or sinful desire.

To be honest with you I'm not sure that I can go three and a half waking hours without acting on an ungodly motive. Our days are filled with desires and motivations each pulling and tugging at us in every different direction. Some of these desires are good, some bad. . . some we act upon, most we don't. Maybe that's horribly obvious to everyone else, but I don't usually think about it in that way.

At any given moment, I have different desires, many many different things motivating me, pulling me in different directions. Right now, my ear hurts and I want to escape that. I'm hungry and I would like nothing better than a big chocolate bar or a deliciously greasy Ally-Oops bacon/double cheeseburger and a pile of very salty fries, topped off with one of their thick chocolate shakes slathered with whipped cream and a cherry on top, while I'm dreaming I want the waitress to have to use two hands to carry that milkshake container to the table. . . The grapefruit and banana sitting here on my desk are a ways down the list, but I am also motivated by a desire to avoid going on insulin shots and to do that I must lose more weight. . . so I'm pulled, motivated in another direction. . . the banana and grapefruit are looking better and better. I would love nothing more than to just take off and spend the afternoon knee-deep in muck taking butterfly pictures in a swamp, but the thought of my mortgage company and various other financial obligations motivate me to stay here at work for the rest of the afternoon. . . I feel almost a compulsion, a rising within me, a very strong push to say the things in my head, in my heart. I am desiring to communicate with you therefore I am writing. . . typing during my lunch hour. What is the motivation there?

Since I awoke this morning the pressure has been building. As I drove to work, thoughts kept popping into my head, things I need to say. Today it finds its release a lunchtime, at other times it is in the middle of the night. I get up out of bed with ideas flowing from my head, driving Jackie a little crazy. I must write but what is my motivation for writing? Like my friend, who I was speaking with, I too in the past have been greatly motivated by a desire for, a craving for recognition and praise. And likewise, similar to my friend, I have struggled with measuring my own motivation for my actions. A little voice at times speaks to me, tells me that I'm just doing, whatever you name it: writing, taking pictures, worshipping, testifying, praying, any act of kindness or giving for the recognition and thanks that I will receive and not for pure and Godly reasons.

When this little voice of self doubt first started speaking to me, a number of years ago, at times it actually handcuffed me into doing nothing. I felt it preferable to do nothing, rather than to take the risk that my motive was less than what it should be. For a time, I would not testify for fear that people would think that I was just wanting the spotlight and attention for myself and not to give glory to God. I felt self-conscious worshipping. I was sure that people thought that I was doing it just to show off. My fear of the disdain and/or rejection of others was the my first thought, but then I began to wonder if these imaginarily critical people were right? I know that I have those seeds within me. Maybe those unknown, faceless people of my dreams were correct? I was spiraling into permanent paralysis. . .

How do I tell? Motive surely is important. Almost any action can be Godly or sinful depending on the motive behind it. That is not to say that there are not some things that are always wrong. Much of the world would have you think otherwise, but not every action can be justified by supposedly pure motives, but almost any action that on the surface of it appears to be Godly and righteous can be tainted and thereby made sinful by impure motives:

Luke 18:10-14
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

It is certain that praying is usually an honorable activity, but praying with the wrong motive is not. Over and over Jesus with different examples and parables emphasized that giving, keeping the Sabbath, worship, etc. were all goodly Godly and wonderful things. . . if done with the correct motive. An incorrect motive would corrupt them all.

I ask again, "How do I tell, by what motive I am acting?" I ran across this little passage by Thomas Kempis in his classic devotional book Imitation of Christ chapter XX paragraph 2. a few years ago:

No man safely goeth abroad who loveth not to rest at home.
No man safely talketh but he who loveth to hold his peace.
No man safely ruleth but he who loveth to be subject.
No man safely commandeth but he who loveth to obey.

This little book is a small treasure that I found at Goodwill. The original was written some 75 years before Columbus discovered America. The copy I found at GW was published somewhere about 1860. It is an awesome little book. (At the used book rack at GoodWill. . . Thank you LORD!!!) Anyway, when thinking about this today I found this little passage to be very encouraging to me.

I believe that everyone has the seeds of vanity and pride and self-glory within them. Some undoubtedly more than others, but to an extent I believe we all must be ware of those pitfalls. Having them within us and being aware of them is surely less of a danger than denying that they are there at all. As Pastor spoke Sunday, worship is dangerous. It exposes you in many ways, smimlarly as does teaching and preaching.

Maybe this is too philosophical, but I wonder if maybe one of the first crucial steps in becoming a good preacher, is to lose the love of preaching. . . Am I drawing too fine a line here? Maybe if I slightly modify the words of Mr. Kempis:

No man safely preaches but he who hath learned to love to hold his peace.

I think if we are healthy that we all have self-doubts. A sure way to fall, is to never examine the trail you are on for pitfalls and roots. I think it is important for us to always be examining our motives for unpure leanings. I don't mean to say that I'm some wizened old man who has been doing this for decades, but I can remember back when I first began going to the jail and maybe for a couple of years after that, how I sat in many meetings there wishing that I were speaking that night and what I might talk about or how I might differently present the topic.

Rather than allowing myself to be ministered to and listening to the Word of God, I would spend my time minstering to my own love of preaching. I think with time has come a greater maturity and without doubt a more godly perspective. There are times when the urge. . . a message. . . comes upon me so strongly I feel like I am going to explode and when that occurs God always provides an opportunity to speak whether it be to one or to a roomful. That is the way He is. He isn't going to give you something to say without also giving you someone to say it to.

I've wandered a long ways away from where I started down this little road, but to bring it back home, I used to question myself and as I said, at times I would keep quiet in my doubt as to my motives. That though, is a victory for the enemy. God has given us abilities, testimonies and a heart for Him that needs to worship and sing praises to Him. If I allow myself to be intimidated by the imagined criticisms of others, if I sit muzzled and handcuffed by my doubts and fears, that is a victory for the dark one. Though I recognize and am very much aware that I have those seeds within me. . . (there is always a grain of truth in the evil ones questions or logic, but it is not to be forgotten that he without fail is the father of lies). . .

I do not worship, or testify, or speak in order that I might collect praises or recognition. . .

I do those things in spite of my questions. . .in the face of my fears . . .and in victory over my self-doubts. . . .

God is so good!!!

I love you Lord. . .


Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Lord Saves - Psalm 20:9

Psalm 20 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; 2 Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; 3 Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah. 4 Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfill all thy counsel. 5 We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfill all thy petitions. 6 Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. 9 Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call.

I love verse seven. I have a card made up for that verse that I hand out. Men and women in the jail get so caught up and worried about what a strict judge they have or how unfair the prosecutor is being or how incompetent their public defender. In the end, not a single one of those things are important. I have seen men and women delivered from jail for no humanly explainable reason. One day they are incarcerated with no hope (that they can see) of getting out for a very long time and in a matter of hours, they are freed. . . no good explanation. . . suddenly an appearance before a judge or paperwork materializes and they go from a prayer and no hope to absolute freedom in a short number of hours.

It doesn't matter how severe the judge usually is, or how much the prosecutor hates you or how lazy your lawyer is, God can, and does, override all those earthly setbacks. . .

What do you put your trust into? How many of us carry insurance. I do. I have trouble even thinking of all the different types of insurance that I have: medical, home owners, auto, life, credit, unemployment, social security . . . probably others. Every month I pay out hundreds, probably more than a thousand dollars to protect me from financial losses of various kinds.

When you think about it, it is like gambling in reverse. When you gamble, you along with hundreds or thousands of people go pay your money for a tiny chance to hit a big jackpot. The odds are set, by the casinos such that it is a certainty that most will lose and not win a thing. The casinos or state lotteries are absolutely going to win, almost everyone else will lose. . . guaranteed! Hundreds, thousands, millions put in and one or two win. Insurance is really the same game only in reverse. The risk tables are determined and the insurance premiums are set up such that the insurance companies will make a profit. That is the basis, just like the casinos. Thousands, really millions of us put money into the insurance companies slot machines and a very few have a fire or auto accident or huge medical bill and are thereby reimbursed against a big loss while the rest of us pay and pay and pay tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime, the rest of us going home guaranteed losers. By far the most of us would be much better off putting away for our own rainy days and staying away from both casinos and insurance agents. The Amish visit neither and somehow seem to thrive. . .

We put our faith and trust into insurance companies to protect us against loss and we feel more secure, many probably sleep better at night knowing, trusting in their insurance policies. How much greater degree of anxiety there would be without our 'insurance', but risk surrounds us in ways we cannot even begin to count, in ways that insurance companies can offer no benefit.

My mother recently had a stroke. I have seen first hand the terrible devastation from one little blood vessel being blocked or springing a leak. The human body has some 60,000 miles of blood vessels. I wasn't able to find how many miles of that was in the brain, but it's a safe assumption that as blood rich as the brain is, that it is a significant proportion of that number. Just for talking, let us say the number is between a half and a third of the total, maybe there are 25,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain. Use some of those vessels and think about that. A distance equal to the circumference of the earth at the equator of tiny little blood vessels. Each inch of these fragile little tubes must maintain it's function and integrity for some four score years or significant damage and loss occurs in your ability to think and function. Every thump of your heart puts significant force on all those tens of thousands of miles of blood vessels and all it takes is one little leak for your ability to speak or to see or hear. . . or even to breathe to be taken away from you.

Risks abound on every side of us. Every time you eat, without thinking about it you depend on the correct functioning of your digestive system to prevent terrible things from happening to you. If the beef protein from your Quarter-Pounder were to enter your bloodstream without being digested properly it would kill you. Everyone's bodies contain cancer cells all the time. Our immune systems usually do a magnificent job of keeping these cells in check. We all have cancer to one degree or another. Only relatively rarely does it become a problem. Every time you drive down the road, you are within inches of certain death. If any of the uncountable cars in the opposing lane veers only a few inches, if the driver sneezes, if he has a blown out tire, a malfunction in his steering mechanism, a heart attack or a stroke, a moment of distraction you will almost certainly die.

I am certain that this is only the scratching of the surface of the nearly infinite possibilities, but there is One who watches over us in all times of risk, our God who saves, Jehovah-Hoshe'ah. We must not fear. We must have faith in God for every contingency.

What. . . who do you put your trust in. . .???

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

I love you my God. . .

Thank you for protecting me. . .
Thank you for saving me. . .

Dave Stokely

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wolf Lake Vacation. . .

Years ago a family member rented a lake cottage and invited all his children and grand children to spend a weeks vacation with him. I have such wonderful memories of that week, more than twenty years later it still ranks as one of the best weeks that I remember in my life.

This summer Jackie and I decided to do the same thing with our family. We found a cottage to rent up on Wolf Lake, just east of Muskegon, Michigan. I made the arrangements in February. It seemed like a long wait from when we made our plans in the bitter cold of last February, but our wait finally ended last weekend. I asked my kids (they did not respond) and Jackie's three daughters and their families to come spend some time with us. Julia, Ryan, Jakub, and Allie drove up with Jackie and I last Saturday. They stayed until Monday. Jackie's youngest daughter Kim, and her oldest daughter Jenny and her three boys came on Sunday and stayed until Wednesday. Jackie and I were by ourselves from Wednesday afternoon until we left on Saturday morning. Does it look like we had a good time? It was amazing. From start to finish, it was unbelievable. It is beyond my words to describe. . . how good a time we had. . .

Almost the entire country was being flame broiled under a huge heat wave this week, but we, only 130 miles north, were really at times quite cool. I don't think that it got to 80 until maybe Wednesday. The weather was really wonderful and being with the girls and grand kids was almost like old times. . .

Years ago when the kids were small, we went snorkeling as a family. All the kids had their own fins, and face masks, and snorkel tubes and everywhere we went camping or swimming we always took our equipment along: Pokagon, Potato Creek, Muskellunge Lake in the U.P. and Lake Michigan. We got kicked out of Potato Creek State park. Jackie and the kids and I were out in Wooster Lake swimming around with our fins and masks, when this DNR guy just went ballistic on me. He was on the bullhorn screaming for us to get out of the water, etc. I didn't know I was breaking any rule. We got out and he yelled at me, in front of all the other people, for 10 minutes or so. "What would we do if everyone decided to go swimming outside of the beach area??", he screamed at me. I thought very much to myself, "Well then it would be like almost every other lake in the country I guess. . ."

My daughter and I found a class ring while snorkeling up at Van Buren State park in Michigan. There was a high school name and some initials in the ring. After a little sleuthing Adrianne and I were able to reunite the ring with the young woman who had lost it in the strong waves of the day, a year before.

Just as an aside, maybe a mile or so south of Van Buran is the Palisades nuclear plant. It may have changed, but at the time we were going up there, you could swim in the cooling water coming out of the plant. It was like a river with a very strong current, maybe 15 or 20 feet wide, of very hot water rushing out of the plant into the quite cool water of Lake Michigan. Your upper body would be in 100+ degree water and your legs in what? I don't know maybe 60-70° water (depending on the time of the year). It was strong enough that you could body surf in this hot hot current. It was really weird. You had to walk down there from the state park beach. There were always quite a few people and boats would pull up quite close. This was way before 9-11 and all the terrorist/security issues, etc. You probably cannot get this close anymore. The fish loved it also. I stuck my head under the water and opened my eyes once and saw very very big fish swimming in this hot river. I don't know if they were trout or salmon or what, but they were very big fish swimming in amongst all the people.

I'm getting way off track, but this week was the first time in probably close to 15 years that I have been snorkeling. My son and I got our scuba diving certification together. I bought classes for us, I think it was for his sixteenth birthday, but he had asthma so bad at the time that it really kind of spooked me. I didn't really know all the implications of diving and asthma until we took the classes. He was medically approved to take the classes, but if you have an asthma attack while scuba diving it can very easily be fatal. So I never continued with that, but I/we loved to snorkel.

Anyway, we had just a great time snorkeling this week. I was able to go with all the girls and started teaching the grandsons how to use the fins and masks, etc. I could really tell that my breathing was out of shape for the first day or so, but by the end of the week I was in top notch shape. I was out there snorkeling for a minimum of 4 hours a day and most often for 6 hours or more. This lake had an abundance of these very large snails. Probably 90% of the shells were empty, the snails had died and left the empty shell. It was easy enough to find live snails. I mean there were just hundreds of these snail shells on the lake bottom. That picture is of some that we collected without any effort at all.

I think it was on Sunday, I was snorkeling around and picked up a shell. I found a snail that had just recently died. His little trap door came open and his flesh kind of just hung out there. It didn't retract like a live snail would. It was apparent that it was dead, so I started thinking that as many empty snail shells as there are, these have to be an important food source for the fish, etc. in the lake. I pulled on the snail flesh and he came out of the shell and promptly kind of sprung back into a corkscrew shape. I swam out into the deeper water and just let the snail meat go while I watched. Boy-o-boy! In short order there were quite a few fish fighting over this not so little morsel. I mean this would be a decent mouthful of food for me. . . my mind started thinking of escargot and . . . well that's a story for another day. . . :)

Anyway, one thought led to another and after seeing those fish fighting for the snail meat, I had visions of Jacques Cousteau and clouds of fishes surrounding him as he spread chum through the waters of some exotic reef. . . . in short order I was in the car on my way to buy some sardines and some wax worms. WOW!!! What a grand time.

It took a little while to start. I would swim (the grand-kids and all the girls also did this) to the end of the pier and I would get just a small bit of sardine meat, maybe a little more than a thimble full in one hand and a wax worm in the other. I would snorkel out to where the drop off just started and I would kind of break up the sardine meat by rolling it between the palms of my hands and disperse it into the water. I would then fan it a little in the direction of some bluegills and sunfish that I saw. At first they were afraid and didn't know what to do, but it wasn't too long before they caught on and they just loved the sardine meat. Then I would hold the wax worm very still under the water between my index finger and thumb. It took a little while, but it wasn't too long until they were coming up and taking the worm out of my hand.

Basically this is how I spent the bulk of my vacation, for at least four hours a day, I was David Stokely/Cousteau on Wolf Lake. It was cool. The grand kids loved doing it and the girls really got into it also. I changed over to Jack Mackerel after the second day. It was much cheaper (I fed $12 worth of wax worms alone) and the fish liked it as well as the sardines. I kept the worms and the mackerel on the end of the pier. I would pick up the meat and the worm, swim out to the feeding point, feed the fish and then I would swim around the raft making a big circle maybe 50-75 yards in total length. I thought I would get some exercise while feeding the fish and then swim back to the pier and begin the process again.

It wasn't too long before I had clouds of fish swimming with me and waiting for me at the end of the pier. It got to the point where they were biting people swimming on air rafts and biting the buttons on my shirt if I took too long getting back to them. It was just awesome. They got to the point where they weren't afraid of me at all. I could gently stroke their sides with my finger. They would come right in front of my mask. Occasionally they would really bite my ear lobe very hard, mistaking it I guess for a big fat worm or maybe in some funny fishey way just liking to hear me squeal and see the big cloud of air bubbles that came out when they did that.

I had bluegills, sunfish, perch, small mouth bass, musk turtles, and painted turtles coming in to eat. The bass and the perch never ate from my hands, they ate the fish that I was attracting. The musk turtles were interesting to me. I knew they were somewhat of a predator for fish and I thought that the fish seemed a little spooked when the first one showed up, but when I fed the little guy (I had to swim down to the bottom and put the food right in front of him) I had a big surprise. The fish just turned, attacked and started stealing the big piece of food hanging out of his mouth. He had to dive under a big mass of seaweed to keep his mouthful of mackerel.

Who knows what all I would have attracted to my little feeding station of I had continued. Jackie spotted a really big snapping turtle rising from the depths for air not too far away after I began doing this. I really didn't want to contend with a 20 or 30 lb snapping turtle trying to grab a wax worm from between my fingers. Have you ever seen one of those guy eat? They are some serious critters. I enjoy all my fingers and toes. I don't really have any that I want to part with and the guy who rented the cottage to us, told us of some really huge northern pike in the lake. That too would be something to come face to face with under the water.

But I, we all had such a tremendous time. I don't want you to think that it was all about fish on my vacation. We had just super times grilling out virtually every night, playing games of all sorts. The Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend and we watched meteors on several nights. My birthday was on Monday and the girls made me a birthday watermelon with candles. They knew I wouldn't eat cake and ice cream so they came up with that. The grand kids loved it. It was the best watermelon I think I've ever tasted. . . all in all it was the best birthday I can remember.

My relationship with God is very very much strengthened. I spent almost all my time under water snorkeling, praying to God. Watching the heavens, watching meteors is a wonderful time to pray. I got lots of Bible studying done. I brought many reference books and Bibles.

Last night about six-o-clock when I got out of the water for the last time, I was just overcome. It just completely swept over me. I think I wept off and on for almost an hour. . . Jackie too. . . we were both just completely overcome with the emotions of the week. . . memories of parting. . . memories of goodbyes. . . memories of what had been and was no more. . . It was a tremendous week, but it was ending. . . It was a wonderful time, a spiritual time. . . a holy time of closeness and love with each other and with our beloved family members.

You know, I'm tired of this. Shakespeare was undoubtedly a brilliant man. Is that an understatement? He understood people, emotions, and the ways of people, but his line "parting is such sweet sorrow" is to be frank, a bunch of hooey. . . That may be the case when you are a love struck teenager whose depth of knowledge about hurt and missing and sorrow are focused upon stolen kisses in the moonlight and being reunited in the morning, but for me there is nothing at all sweet about parting.

The ache of being separated from the ones I love is not sweet at all. In another day, in another age, in other cultures there would not be parting as we know it in our society. Look at the Amish, numbers of generations live in the same house, the rest of the family is usually within a country mile of one another. Yes there is the parting at death, that is not avoided by anyone and it surely is no sweet sorrow either. We all await that reunion.

But to me that will be the highlight of heaven, the eternal end of parting. . . no more goodbyes. . .never again!!!. . . We had such a wonderful time this past week and we have a strong desire, firm plans to do this again next summer, but no one knows what the future holds. The last weeks vacation I had at a lake cottage was mere months before my first marriage ended. . . My ex father-in-law whom I love dearly to this day, maybe sensing something in the wind, invited us all together for a week in two cottages at Gun Lake. Within five years, much less than that I think, three of the four couples (his four children and their spouses) in those idyllic days at the lake were divorced. . . drops of water flying through the air from happy splashing kids, replaced with salty tears overflowing eyes and running down little cheeks as their worlds came crashing down around them. . . .

Who knows. . . I'm surely not trying to be the prognosticator of doom, but the wheel of life turns and no one knows what lies ahead. Life is filled with unexpected turns. . . no one can know the future. I confidently said good bye to those little fish, with every intention. . . meaning to come back again on another warm sun filled day, with my can of mackerel and my little cup of wax worms. . .

I am tired of good byes. I am tired of parting. It ain't no stinking sweet sorrow. . .

I love you my Lord!
I thank you with a depth beyond anything that can pass from my lips for this week!
I hunger for the reunion in eternity with my loved ones. . .

Thank you Lord. . . help me get them to you. . .

Dave Stokely

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Mother's Day 2007

My mother had a stroke on May 1st. The doctors said that she would be a vegetable. . .

I write these words a few days before Mother's Day 2007. This morning my sister and I met my Mom's doctor to discuss her future. I am appreciative of what he is trying to do. He wants us to begin thinking of things that we want to keep covered and out of sight. His experiences with similar cases, I am sure are valuable to him, but this is not a usually or a most often, this is not a past history, this is my Mom. She lies critically ill in a bed, unconscious, receiving her nourishment, and air through a tangled umbilical of hoses, lines and cords. We grasp at every positive hint. We make excuses for dark signs. This is our Mom. . .

God made Eve from Adam's rib. I came from someplace deeper and much more intimate than a rib. I suspect (being an outsider to the mystery) that the tearing, the parting of birth is both physical and emotional. Birth being only the first wrenching separation in a lifetime of good-byes. Postpartum depression. . . the ripping and tearing away, an ache, an empty spot. . . Man and wife join as one flesh in a temporary and peripheral way. Mother and child are joined, one flesh for months on end. As a father, I surely love my children, but I can never know the heart, the soul of a Mother.

As I watch the machine inflate and deflate her chest, breathing for her, much in the same way as she breathed for me. Her heart providing everything, her heart carrying my needs to me. Her heart still beating for me, but now laboring, faltering, slowing. . .

Where can I go? Who can I talk to that will ever think so highly of me? I think God is the only one who can hope to compete with a Mother in love and esteem. The love of a mother. Who can understand it. We've all seen the wrenching, pitiful, undiminished adoration of the mother of some horrible serial killer, still calling him a basically good boy. Nothing I can do will diminish me in her eyes. She will always know there is a good reason for my shortcomings. I was perfect when I came from her and if I'm not now it is not my fault. If anything, more than me, she would blame herself.

Mom, it's a shame. I can't always say this about the past, but this Mother's Day I surely will be there, more than a phone call, more than a card and flowers. This year I will have time for a visit. If you are still here with us, I will be with you. I'll pray for you. . . . I'll sing you a lullaby. . . .

Thank you God for my Mother

Dave Stokely

Father's Day. . .

What does father mean? I like using the context of Bible usage to define words. I did a search on 'father' in the Bible, 1720 times is the word 'father' contained in scripture. Are fathers important in scripture? The word 'mother' is only found 329 times. To look at the contexts of the word 'mother' would be difficult this morning, to even scan the instances of the word 'father' is impossible.

What is a father? There is such a broad range of meanings. At its minimum it requires only half a cell from a man's body. A sperm cell only has half the genetic material required for life. It is nothing on its own, but a little packet of DNA with a tail. That is all that is required for minimalist fatherhood. The woman's egg waits for this little insignificant spark of life to join with it, then the magic and wonder begins. From this beginning a new life is created totally within the mother's womb. Hidden from the world, isolated and independent from the father.

The bond between mother and child is first, always stronger than any other, inherent, foundational, totally enmeshed a part of each other from the beginning, and independent of the father. To some this Independence seems to mean that the father is not necessary, an accessory and not a requirement. Look at the world around us. Many of the ills of our society are the result of men contributing sperm and little else in their children's lives.

I've asked at meetings in the jail, for anyone who was raised as a child, with their father in the home to raise their hands, it is rare for anyone to do so. Men with fathers don't very often go to jail. To spawn a life only requires a spark, but it will often be a life that is out of control as a result of just a spark. It will rage and burn with few limits.

The word father is mentioned so many times in the Bible because it is through our father's that we receive our identity. This is more than just our genealogy. How we view ourselves comes from our father. This is not merely some male chauvinistic artifact from the past, as some would have us believe. This is truth. A mother's love teaches us how to love others. A father's love shows us how to love ourselves.

From the very beginning an infant recognizes its mother's voice from within the womb. The voice of a father is another thing entirely. It has to be learned. Trust comes in steps, not from the beginning. The father's voice comes with the world. If your mother doesn't love you, there is something wrong with the world. If your father doesn't love you, there is something wrong with you. A father's love is voluntary. It is not a given. It has to be a decision on the part of the father to love and if he decides not to love you, you assume the burden for yourself rather than put it on him. . .

I was a fool. I was not a very good father in many ways. I was so very selfish. I cannot undo the past. Do not make the mistakes I made, at any cost stay in your children's lives. Let them see themselves reflected in your love for them. Let them learn to value and respect themselves through your value and respect for them. Love your children as your heavenly Father loves you. . . .

Dave Stokely
Father's Day 2007

Happy Father's day Dad

I love you. . .

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Lord King Forever

Psalms 10:16
The LORD is King forever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.

The Lord is King forever. . . wow! We are so accustomed to exaggeration or hyperbole in everyday language, that when words are used literally in ways that are magnificent and grand in of themselves, their impact is lost upon us. The Lord is King forever. . . I will love you forever. . . It's going to take forever to get there in this traffic. . . It's been forever since I've had strawberry ice cream. We use forever in every day conversation in circumstances that are in no way forever.

Even God in His Word sometimes over states illustrations for the purpose of emphasis:

Genesis 22:17
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

This is God talking to Abraham after his offering of Issac on the altar. God uses two comparisons here. Abraham's offspring, his seed will be as the stars of the heaven or as the sand upon the sea shore. I do not believe that either one of these are to be taken literally.

Let us look first at the statement that Abraham's offspring will be the same "as the sand upon the sea shore." A hair upon your head measures approximately .003 of an inch in diameter. I just put a pair of dial calipers on my fingernail and it measured .012" thick, about the width of 4 hairs. I'm guessing that an average grain of sand is around .010" in diameter, somewhere between the thickness of a hair and a fingernail. So for a grain of sand that is .010" in diameter, if we had 10 of them (10 x .010) it would be 1/10 of an inch and again if we had 100 of them (100 x .010) it would be an inch and again to follow, a 1,000 of them would be 10 inches in length (1,000 x .010).

I know that grains of sand don't line up like kernels on a cob, but in our little mental exercise a million is 1,000 grains x 1,000 grains. So using our grains of sand a square 10 inches wide by 10 inches tall would equal a million grains of sand. A billion is 1,000 times a million so we would take our square 10" x 10" (of sand grains) and give it another dimension make it 10" deep. Instead of a square it is now a cube 10" x 10" x 10" on a side. If the grains of sand are .010 in diameter there would be a billion grains of sand in a cube 10 inches on a side. I think there are roughly 6,000,000,000 (6 billion) people on the earth today. So everyone in the world could be represented by the grains of sand in a shape 10" tall x 10" thick x 60" long. Now this is a tiny bit of sand in comparison to the sand on the sea shore. I think it fair to say that a child's very small sandbox would have several times this amount of sand.

Most of us in this area have been to the sand dunes up at Lake Michigan or in any respect seen pictures of them. How many 10" cubes of sand are in just one sand dune, let alone in the uncounted thousands of miles of seashore?

In the other comparison, God says, his offspring will be "as the stars of the heaven." What is He talking about here? With the naked eye, in a dark sky location without light pollution and 20/20 vision, it is said that it is possible to see around 6,000 stars. This is a very small number. If that was the promise that God was making to Abraham, it really wasn't much of a promise. So, if God wasn't talking about the number of visible stars, what was He referring to?

A report recently listed the number of stars visible to modern telescopes at 70 sextillion (70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). Note that this is just the number of estimated visible stars, the actual number of stars in the universe is thought to be larger, maybe much larger than that. How much larger is ultimately probably only for God to know for sure. If you read the article that I linked to above, you will find this statement: "Even so, 70 sextillion is greater than the estimated number of sand grains on all the world's beaches and deserts" Think about that now, the number of stars visible with today's telescopes, not truly all the stars, just the ones we can see, are possibly 10 times greater than the number of all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world.

It is remotely possible that God was speaking literally, if Abraham's offspring were somehow to fill the galaxy, but I think it more likely that God was speaking figuratively. He was using a commonly known item out of nature to illustrate a big number. He was trying to make a point to Abraham using a literary technique commonly used even today. We become so accustomed to overstatement or exaggeration as a literary technique that the impact of truly amazing statements passes us by without our even noticing it.

What is for ever? What does for ever mean? In the compound name of Jehovah for today, Jehovah-Helech'Olam. It is translated as Lord King forever. We read that and we don't even think twice about it. This word Helech'Olam is translated: for ever, perpetual, everlasting, eternal. . . What do those words mean?

Exodus 15:18
The LORD shall reign forever and ever.

Isaiah 51:4-8
Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. (5) My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. (6) Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. (7) Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. (8) For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation.

Every time you read the words perpetual, everlasting, for ever, eternal. . . you are reading a word that means infinity, an infinite amount of time will pass, time without end. Our mind cannot even begin to comprehend the concept of infinity, for ever. . .

Take the number of stars visible to telescopes, 70 sextillion, that is a number way beyond our ability to understand. Just think about this, if each of those stars were as big as our grains of sand in the above exercise, .010 in diameter, and strung together in a line, how long would the line of stars be? OK 1,000 of them in 10" would be 6,336,000 per mile. How many miles long would that line be? Here's the number: 11,047,979,797,979,797 miles long. How do you make any sense of that? Let's try this. Light travels 186,000 miles per second. It makes the 95,000,000 mile distance from the sun to the earth in about 8 minutes. The distance light travels in a year is called a light year. That number is: 5,865,696,000,000 miles per year. Our grains of sand .010" diameter, lined up representing the 70 sextillion stars that scientists think they can see, would stretch in a line for 1883.49 light years. If a beam of light started down that line at the moment of Jesus birth, it would have gotten to the end of the line of grains of sand right about a hundred years ago. . . at 186,000 miles per second. . .

As big as this number is, it is nothing in comparison to eternity. I've used the following illustration for eternity in my Bible studies at the Work Release center: A bird alights on the top of a huge mountain and sharpens his beak once every hundred years. When that mountain has worn down to nothing, that is only one grain of sand on the beach of eternity. That metaphor originally came from a fairy tale and though an aid to maybe help us understand a little better even that falls pitifully short of what eternity really means. It is just beyond us. . .

Oh, Lord King forever. . . O how well we will come to know You. I don't know? Will we have Bibles available in heaven? That's one of my joys here on earth. I sure hope I can study the word of God in heaven. I know I'll have Him to talk to directly and undoubtedly things that I cannot now even comprehend to do, but still I hope I can study the Bible in heaven. I'm not very good at memorizing verses, but if I only learn a new verse every 1,000 years I'll have the entire Bible memorized in about 31,000,000 years. I can memorize it in every language that has ever existed on the earth. That's still only a drop in the vast ocean of eternity. . .

The treasures that await us. . . the joy, the fascinating things we will see and experience. . .

Dear Lord help us maintain till the end. . .

I love you God. . .

Dave Stokely