Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (14) For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Continuing this morning with my 'fear of God' study. The above verses conclude the book of Ecclesiastes, a reflective book beginning with a statement of discouragement, despair, and futility:
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. (2) Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. (3) What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? (4) One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. (5) The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. (6) The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. (7) All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. (8) All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. (9) The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (10) Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
The man who wrote this, though without stating it specifically, almost certainly Solomon, maybe nearing the end of his life, reflecting on the transient nature of men's lives and accomplishments, and after all of his reflection and review, coming to the conclusion 'fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.'
Everything we might build in our lives. . . will eventually pass away. Without exception, all will eventually fade, and our memory will disappear, some longer. . . but in a few generations almost all of us will be forgotten.
A few weeks ago now, Jackie and I released the bunnies that we had raised, in the Bristol town cemetery. What a beautiful and peaceful place that is. There are many graves found there from people who died over 150 years ago. Who remembers those names? Mary. . . John. . . Phillip. . . Jack. . . Many of the headstones, were so eroded that only possibly by rubbings could they be read. People much loved, certainly some much hated. . . some with amazing stories to tell, if they could but speak from the grave. . .Births, marriages, deaths, victories, laughter, and tears. . . all accomplishments long forgotten. Now in the long sleep, awaiting that day when they shall, along with all of us, stand before the white throne of judgment, to give an account of their lives. . .
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. (12) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (13) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (14) And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (15) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
. . .and they were judged every man according to their works. . .
The things we do to build our relationship with God. . .
The things we do to honor God. . .
The things we do to fear God. . .
The things we do to worship and revere God. . .
The things we do to keep his commandments. . .
These are the lasting things. . .
. . .for this is the whole duty of man. . . all else is vanity. . .
I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
One of my favorite authors of all time is/was Isaac Asimov. When I was growing up my father and I enjoyed reading his books. He was a prolific writer. The best list that I’ve seen of his works, counts some 469 books under his name. Some of these are anthologies of previous works, etc., so not unique and new books, but in any respect, he undoubtedly wrote more than 400 books.
Here is a link to an online catalogue of his works:
He wrote on so many varied topics. His science fiction works are delicious, all of his writings are written to be very easy to understand. One of my favorite pastimes, as a youth, was reading Dr. Asimov’s collected science essays. He would take pen, paper, and reference books, and using easy to understand logic, calculate all sorts of things.
One my favorite memories was reading for the first time an essay of his showing that every breath you take, if the atmosphere perfectly mixed, contains roughly 7 molecules of any famous persons individual breath, who ever lived. Think of a particular point in time. . . the breath Abraham Lincoln took as he finished the Gettysburg Address speech. Every breath you take, contains (according to Dr. Asimov), if I remember correctly, roughly 7 molecules that Mr. Lincoln exhaled upon his final words. A mental exercise with no stunning scientific value, but still something to give you pause to think of the implications of.
Then as an atheist, and now as a Christian, it is fascinating to think of this. Every breath of every apostle. . . every character of the Bible. . . every historical figure. . . has across the centuries mixed and if perfectly dispersed. . .then you inhale and exhale the same atoms as that person. . .
In this way of looking at is, Jesus is already inside of you, in a small physical way, His physical breath already in a small way resides within you.. . . He greatly desires to be inside of you, and wishes you to abide in Him in a large and significant Spiritual manner also.
This morning, I duplicated Dr. Asimov’s calculations in an Excel spreadsheet, and I copied the results below, using data figures for volume of the atmosphere, volume of an average breath, etc. etc. etc. taken off the internet from various sources.:
Air volume in an average breath (liters): .5
Average breaths/minute (range 9-20) : 12
Average lifetime (years) : 70
Minutes/year : 525,600
Breaths/lifetime : 441,504,000
Volume of air breathed/lifetime (liters) : 220,752,000
Molecules/liter of air : 26,900,000,000,000,000,000,000
Molecules breathed/lifetime: 5,938,228,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Volume of the atmosphere (cubic kilometers): 4,200,000,000
Liters/cubic kilometer: 1,000,000,000,000
Number of molecules in the atmosphere (I divided this number by 3 to account for decreasing density per increasing height): 37,660,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Percentage of the entire atmosphere for each breath: 0.000000000000000000000357142857
Number of molecules breathed in each breath inhaled in another breath (if spread evenly): 5
This was enormous fun for me to retrace Dr. Asimov’s calculations. Again, if I remember correctly after more than 40 years, the number that he arrived at was 7 molecules. I came up with 5. . . really to me an astounding correspondence between our calculations. The one adjustment that I made, which I have no idea how correct it was, is that I divided the calculated number of molecules in the atmosphere by by 3 to account for decreasing density with increasing height. . . If you’ve ever been to a high altitude, you know the trouble that you have breathing, due to the decreased oxygen in each breath. I know that that the number of total molecules in the atmosphere needs to be adjusted downward, but I don’t know if my division by 3 is at all accurate. My instinct tells me that I should actually divide by a greater number, thereby increasing the number of molecules per breath, but for this back of the envelope work, this will do.
In my mind, without any doubt, the most significant breath in all of creation, was this one:
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Think about this occasionally. . . every breath you take, contains some unknown, but real number of molecules from Jesus last breath. . .think about His last breath, and importantly meditate upon the effects of what happened at His last breath. With that last breath, His sacrifice. . . His payment for my sins was complete. That last breath of His. . . the completion of His sacrifice, gives me hope. . . makes it possible for me to aspire to eternally live in Heaven. Without His sacrifice, I deserve death. His last breath is therefore a part of me. . . physically. . . spiritually. . . eternally. . .
Thank you Jesus. . .
Thank you my God. . .
I love you. . .
. . . for everything You’ve done. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 7:21 AM
Sunday, May 20, 2012
A Song of degrees. Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. (2) For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. (3) Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. (4) Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD. (5) The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. (6) Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel.
A few moments ago, I read this Psalm in my study of 'the fear of the Lord'. The blessings of living for God are literally endless. . . they will last for eternity, but they begin immediately. You don't have to wait for your reward in Heaven to begin reaping good things in your life, from your relationship with God.
Before I knew God, I prided myself in my freedom from Him. My knee wasn't bowed to Him. . . but in hugely significant ways, I was in absolute involuntary bondage, in servitude to my flesh. My flesh ruled my life, whether I wanted to admit it or not. I was controlled by my flesh. Truly I was prideful that I did not submit to God, but my eyes were blind to the extent that my addictions dictated my actions with a rule of iron.
Today I am largely free from my flesh. . . My spirit and will exercise dominion, but I say largely as some things I still battle: pride, unforgiveness, anger, but they are very largely subdued. No longer am I controlled by them, and I have complete victory over a huge swath of the battleground of my flesh. I move on to ever finer roots of weakness within me.
My freedom is that my submission to Christ is completely voluntary. He does not coerce or control me in any way. The beauty and wonder. . . the danger of this relationship with Him, is that at any time that I choose, I can leave Him. Remembering the war I had to find freedom, I revel in that freedom and I am terrified of it. I see brothers and sisters in Christ, some having lived for Him for long years and decades, walk away from Him with no apparent external remorse. . .
To stand on the top of a mountain, is wondrous, but also very frightening. . . the way to the bottom is always before me, and it is a fast and violent path. I cling to my Rock. . . my Savior. . . my God. . .
My knee is bent and I am free. . .
I love you my God. . .
Thank you my God. . .
Thursday, May 17, 2012
And this clump of clay, formed by the hand of God. . . filled with the breath of God, was given life. . . No death or decay was found within him. As made by God, Adam was perfection. God gave Adam a gift beyond knowing. Adam’s world was perfection, and without contrast neither darkness nor light. . . neither pleasure nor pain are understood or appreciated. Beauty cannot be valued without ever viewing ugliness. No disease, no cancer, no want, no evil of any kind was present either in the garden, or in Adam’s memory or history. . . and God gave Adam a free will. . .The ability to choose his own path.
In his ignorance, and innocence Adam chose to explore the unknown. Not realizing that he and Eve were at the pinnacle of existence. Every path from where they stood led down. . . Every road from Eden led away from God, led downhill into blackness, and terror, and sin. . .
Adam was not created as a slave to God. That was within God’s power, but that was not God’s desire. God gave Adam a will to choose and very quickly Adam chose to reject God’s will for him, utterly without any understanding of the consequences. What does the threat of death, as a consequence of disobedience, mean to a man, to whom even the trivial experience of a common cold is a mystery? Without experience, ‘death’ is merely a word,. . . a sound in the ears, but with no linkage to loss and pain. . . darkness and desolation. . . and by his decision, Adam brought sin and death into himself. . . and into the world. . . and by his decision he lost eternal life. Adam rejected God, and rejected the breath of God. . . the life giving breath, by which God so freely gave him life.
Adam lost eternal life, by accepting sin. In rejecting the breath of life and turning toward sin and disobedience. . .Adam rejected God. . .to reject God is to die. Something so easily taken up as sin, cannot so easily be rid of. We take up smoking, illicit sex, drinking, drugs, lying, cheating. . . and on and on so very easily, but they are not at all casually put down. A tattoo may be acquired in an hour, but a lifetime of scrubbing on your own, will not remove it. Sin stains deeply. . . even tattooing our very soul. Adam and Eve’s sin, taken up with a mere bite of fruit, took a spiritual journey of thousands of years to remove. A struggle of spiritual growth and training of many centuries for mankind to be able to rid themselves of something acquired in an afternoon of idle mischief.
We had to learn through the pain and stench of sin. . .through vomit, and sweat, and blood and inner rot, the value of holiness and submission to God. We had to learn through the failure of the Mosaic Law to cleanse us, that we were incapable of attaining righteousness, and holiness by following endless rules. No matter the number of lambs slain, the sin still returned. . . We were scrubbing our exterior, while our inner darkness remained. . . the way back to Eden was blocked for hundreds of generations. In an agonizing rediscovery of weakness, men fell anew all over again and again. . .
God worked hard to restore us. We were. . . we are His creation. His breath gave us life once. We rejected that life, but He strove to restore in us the power of His breath, to give us life once again. The entire Law of Moses, John’s preparing the way with his ministry of repentance, Jesus coming to us robed in flesh, His ministry and eventual sacrifice on the cross. . .were necessary prerequisite steps leading up to the day of Pentecost.
The Holy Ghost. . . in the Greek: The Hagios Pneuma. . . another way of translating it is, the Sacred Breath. . . But ye shall receive power, after that the [Sacred Breath] is come upon you. He might have said, After that [Sacred Breath] is [once again] come upon you. . .For Adam had once received this same life giving breath of God, but its power and effect had been long forgotten, and though Jesus had preached of it many times, the men and women gathered were unprepared for its impact.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind. . . the Greek word translated here as wind is:
respiration, a breeze: - breath, wind.
So again we could read this as: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty respiration or breath. . .The breath of God came upon all those gathered there. Their hearts readied by repentance. . . the turning away from sin and the ways of the world. Prepared and ready for the Spirit. . . as prepared as the completely innocent red earth of Adam, for the breath of God to enter them and give them eternal life once again. . .
And they were all filled with the Sacred Breath, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit. . . again the Greek word pneuma. . . as the Holy breath of God gave them utterance.
You must have breath to speak. No breath, no speaking. . . likewise, you must have the Sacred Breath of God. . . the Holy Ghost to speak His heavenly language.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit [pneuma ~ breath of God], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (8) The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit [pneuma ~ breath of God].
But if the Spirit [pneuma ~ breath of God] of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit [pneuma ~ breath] that dwelleth in you.
Our raw material was dirt. God took His hand. . . He shaped and molded that raw dirt into an image of Himself. He then added His breath into the soil and it came alive. Uniquely of all that had been created before, God gave Adam life by His own breath. Soon though, Adam chose sin and turned his back upon God. . . thereby poisoning himself and dying. The poison was potent. The antidote took thousands of years of preparing mankind to receive the cure. It required a most rare ingredient, the sacrifice of a totally innocent life, a life totally pure and undeserving of death to implement, but even then, after all the lengths that God had gone to save the dying patient. . . robing Himself in flesh, enduring the pain and humiliation of the cross. . .much of humanity, rejects life, and chooses death over accepting the the Spirit. . . the breath of God. . .
Turn to God. . .
Seek His Spirit. . .
Be reborn and made new with His Spirit. . .
Open yourself to the Sacred life giving Breath of God. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 12:36 PM
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight. (20) Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.
God loves us every day. His wonder filled creation, speaks of His great love. Our universe was created entirely as a place for us to reside. I've been reading of the anthropic cosmological principle. There are numbers of physical settings if you will, in the universe, and if any one of these settings had been set at any value different from what it is, no life could exist.
You might envision the universe as being controlled by a large sound board, with banks of dials, and sliders, and switches. . . all precisely set to the value required for life. Scientists can find no reason, that these values are required to be what they are. So far no underlying restrictions have been discovered that the values for these masses, forces, densities, sizes, etc. etc. etc. are in any way constrained to their present settings. All these numbers seem to be totally arbitrary in their values.
Some of the values, if they varied by .000000000000001 from what they are, it would be impossible for life. . . From everything scientists are beginning to understand, for all its vast emptiness, the universe could not be any smaller and still support life. . . New wonders of interconnectedness are found regularly. . .
Everything about the universe we live in, is set exactly as needed for our existence. To attribute all we see to random chance, even to many scientists, this is beginning to require greater faith, than to believe that this must have been intentionally designed by God. . .
This is proving to be quite a difficult concept for unbelievers to explain away. . . all this to say God loves us so very much, that He went to such extreme lengths in His creation
And yet. . . sometimes His love is not enough to attain His purposes. Love can be ignored. To abide in His love is easy. . . but if He is not acknowledged. . . if within His love and blessing, there is no recognition of Him. . . no relationship is desired with Him, then He must reveal Him self in his awful power. . . that which could not be attained by love, will be recognized in a position of fear and trembling. . .every knee shall bow, if not in love, then in abject humility, and brokenness, and fear. . .
v20 Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. . .
Our position is precarious beyond our knowing. We are balanced on the edge of an infinitely sharp razor, in our blindness thinking our way to be a 4 lane highway. . . not seeing how finely tuned everything is for our very existence.
Help us Lord. . .
Light our way. . .
I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 8:08 AM
Saturday, May 5, 2012
I just got back from picking up my friend Matt Yeater from Indiana Bible College in Indianapolis. The semester is over and Matt (and Griffin Matt's leader dog) will be staying with Jackie and I for the summer. I left around 5 a.m. Roughly 11 hours driving, loading up, driving back, and unloading.
About 1:00 or so, Matt was crashed and sleeping heavily in the truck from his long hours of finals and work to get his school apartment in shape the the inspection this morning. . .As I drove on to the sound of Matt's heavy breathing, my eyes started doing their little I'm too tired dance. . . finally the compulsion to sleep overcame me and it could not be ignored any longer.
I knew this was going to happen, and I knew the exact little church parking lot, that I wanted to stop at. It's about half way between Kokomo and Rochester. There are two little churches bordering U.S. 31 across a county road, one is a United Methodist church, the other a plainer, simpler building. That's the one I wanted to stop at.
When ever I'm on the highway and become sleepy, I always like to look for a church parking lot to pull into, to take a little power nap. I don't know why, but I've done this in a number of states, and even in Canada on business trips. I doze off for a few minutes, often thinking of the people, the history. . . lives. . . deaths. . . marriages. . .baptisms. . .all the woven life events that take place in a church. There's a particularly beautifully picturesque tiny little church in central Illinois, that I've stopped at quite a number of times on my way to Peoria on business over the years. I feel safer in a little country church parking lot, than pulling into a shopping center or merely parking on a random city street. I see it as a place of refuge. . .and I can rest more easily and more quickly with out worry. . .a place for a weary traveler to find rest while on the road. . .
Here's a link showing the little country church on the map: Little country church
This church building has been there for at least 5 years. As I pulled in there, I saw one of those lighted portable signs in front, saying:
FIRST SERVICE MAY 6
One car was in the parking lot. Not wanting to be threatening, I parked well away from the building, out in the limestone gravel, next to the county road. I left the engine (air conditioner) running, while I napped for about 15 or 20 minutes. It's not very comfortable napping in my truck. The seats only recline maybe 15° or so, but even closing my eyes for such a short time helped me greatly to overcome the extreme drowsiness I had been beset with.
As I prepared to leave, I noticed the car was gone. I was disappointed. I had had thoughts of wanting to say hello, to what I assumed must be the new pastor getting ready for his first church service tomorrow.
I thought to pull around the building, rather than directly exiting the parking lot, and as I did there was the same car, just beginning to pull away as I pulled along side of it.
A distinguished and kindly faced man, appearing to be about my age, rolled his window down, as I did the same. I told him that I was on my way back from picking up a friend at Indiana Bible College, and had used the church's parking lot for a little napping place.
I said that I noticed that he was having his first church service tomorrow. . . as I said those words, it was like pent up pressure was being released from him. . . He began telling me his story. He had been a pastor of a church for 30 some years and a couple of years ago resigned, turning his church over to his son to pastor.
He had spent the time off seeking God's will for what he should do next. About a year ago he decided to open a new church. . . or as he explained, He decided to open NOT-A-CHURCH. . .
He said people need God so badly, but are alienated from going to CHURCH per se. . . sometimes with good reason. . . sometimes just intimidated by the structure and format of an official church. . . Church is a family, but people today don't know what true families are. . . We pray to our heavenly Father. . . but lots and lots of people today, don't know what it is to have a father. . .
He talked on and on. . .people needing God, but traditionally structured churches not filling the need for many. . . the words tumbling out one after another telling of his passion. . . He said this week has been one of the hardest weeks of his life. He has greatly felt under attack. . . I told him that we would be praying for Him. . . that I would spend the rest of my drive home praying for him and for his new church. He said he felt that my coming by was appointed. . . I repeated. . . we'll be praying for you. . . His eyes were deeply grateful. . .
He and I left the parking lot. . . I prayed for this pastor and this little country church. . .
Please, if you have a moment. . . say a prayer for them also. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 10:58 PM
Thursday, May 3, 2012
I am currently reading the book:
Godforsaken by Dinesh D’Souza.
It has a subtitle: Bad Things Happen. Is there a God who cares?
I had not heard of this author until a few days ago. From his Amazon page:
In the fall of 2010, Dinesh D'Souza was named the President of The King's College, a Christian College located in New York City. The mission of The King's College is to transform society by educating students so that they are prepared to shape and lead the strategic institutions.
Here is a link to his Amazon page:
Mr. D’Souza has written several books (I find 14 listed on Amazon) and apparently he debates atheists in public at universities, etc.
I can remember how much I enjoyed debating Christians as an atheist. . . asking them difficult questions. . . trying to weaken or destroy their faith. In my own mind, all of my previous questions about God and Christianity have been answered to my own satisfaction, but difficult questions still remain.
This book deals with a favorite question of unbelievers: “If there is a loving God, how can He stand by and watch all the horrible cruelty taking place on the earth, without doing anything.”
There are several traditional/historical Christian responses to this, none of which feel completely satisfying. . . He covers these in chapter 2:
1. Blame it on Adam and Eve
2. Suffering for punishment for evil deeds
3. Suffering as benefit for all involved
4. Evil isn’t real (proposed by St. Augustine)
5. Best of all possible worlds
I find this discussion to be very fascinating. One observation of his, really struck home with me. The word Atheist, means without theism or without belief in God, but for people who do not believe in God, atheists define themselves by their relationship to God, and spend enormous amounts of time and energy focused on God.
Mr. D’Souza puts forth the idea. . . and this is very powerful and described me perfectly, that many/most atheists, could better be described as wounded-theists, rather than a-theists. Many/most (and I was absolutely in this category) atheists have turned away from God after having felt betrayed, abandoned, or greatly disappointed by Him. This explains much of the energy and anger which they display towards Him.
My lunch time is almost over, and I must draw this to a close for today, but Mr. D’Souza raises another question: If Christians have a problem explaining evil, and how can a loving God allow evil to continue in this world. . . How do atheists explain the inherent evilness of Man?
Most atheists depend upon the theory of evolution to explain man’s origins. If mankind is descended from animals, How is it that animals really don’t manifest evil in the way that humans do? Evilness is pretty much a uniquely human attribute. . .
I am not even 25% of the way through the book, and if it ended at where I have currently read, I would feel satisfied with the purchase price. . . It is a very interesting and enlightening book. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 11:43 AM
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The unrepentant mind. . .
Remembers wrongs. . .
Justifies its actions. . .
Blames others for its faults. . .
Magnifies its virtues. . .
Minifies its flaws. . .
Is prideful. . .
Abhors submission. . .
The repentant mind. . .
Forgives. . .
Continually questions its motivations and actions. . .
Accepts responsibility. . .
Gives God the credit for successes. . .
Is aware of its shortcomings. . .
Strives for humility. . .
Is meek. . .
The dark chasm between who I was, and who I am. . . or maybe rather better said. . . who I was and who I strive to be. After 12 years, I am still changing. . . still growing. . . still learning.
Much of what is happening in the world today makes no sense, and greatly mystifies me, until I remember how I used to act and think. . . until I remember what motivated me. . . what drove me . . and it becomes clear. . . the unrepentant mind. . .
I can see the tattered remains of my old thought processes, still hanging there, still within me. . .BUT!!! a new Spirit resides there now. . . I am a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. . .
I thank you my God for the work you have done within me. . .
I thank you my God for the work you have yet to accomplish with me. . .
I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 11:46 AM