Center of the Universe

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

James 3:16

“Picture God in the beginning of creation with a man and woman made in his image,” Carson said. “They wake up in the morning and think about God. They love him truly. They delight to do what he wants; it’s their whole pleasure. They’re rightly related to him and they’re rightly related to each other.

Then, with the entrance of sin and rebellion into the world, these image bearers begin to think that they are at the center of the universe. Not literally, but that’s the way they think. And that’s the way we think. All the things we call ‘social pathologies’-war, rape, bitterness, nurtured envies, secret jealousies, pride, inferiority complexes;-are bound up in the first instance with the fact that we’re not rightly related with God. The consequence is that people get hurt. From God’s perspective, that is shockingly disgusting. So what should God do about it? If he says, ‘Well, I don’t give a rip,’ he’s saying that evil doesn’t matter to him. It’s a bit like saying, “Oh yeah, the Holocaust-I don’t care.” Wouldn’t we be shocked if we thought God didn’t have moral judgments on such matters?

But in principle, if he’s the sort of God who has moral judgments on those matters, he’s got to have moral judgments on this huge matter of all these divine image bearers shaking their puny fists at his face and singing with Frank Sinatra, ‘I did it my way.’ That’s the real nature of sin.

Having said that, hell is not a place where people are consigned because they were pretty good blokes but just didn’t believe the right stuff. They’re consigned there, first and foremost, because they defy their Maker and want to be at the center of the universe. Hell is not filled with people who have already repented, only God isn’t gentle enough or good enough to let them out. It’s filled with people who, for all eternity, still want to be at the center of the universe and who persist in their God-defying rebellion.

What is God to do? If he says it doesn’t matter to him, God is no longer a God to be admired. He’s either amoral or positively creepy. For him to act in any other way in the face of such blatant defiance would be to reduce God himself.” I interjected, “Yes, but what seems to bother people the most is the idea that God will torment people for eternity. That seems vicious, doesn’t it?” Replied Carson, “In the first place, the Bible says that there are different degrees of punishment, so I’m not sure that it’s the same level of intensity for all people. In the second place, if God took his hands off this fallen world so that there were no restraint on human wickedness, we would make hell. Thus if you allow a whole lot of sinners to live somewhere in a confined place where they’re not doing damage to anyone but themselves, what do you get but hell? There’s a sense in which they’re doing it to themselves, and it’s what they want because they still don’t repent.”

I thought Carson was finished with his answer, because he hesitated for a moment. However, he had one more crucial point. “One of the things that the Bible does insist is that in the end not only will justice be done, but justice will be seen to be done, so that every mouth will be stopped.” I grabbed a hold of that last statement. “In other words,” I said, at the time of judgment there is nobody in the world who will walk away from that experience saying that they have been treated unfairly by God. Everyone will recognize the fundamental justice in the way God judges them and the world.” “That’s right,” Carson said firmly. “Justice is not always done in this world; we see that every day. But on the Last Day it will be done for all to see. And no one will be able to complain by saying,’This isn’t fair.”‘

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Case For Christ” by Lee Strobel, 1998.

Matthew 13:3 A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

What The Bible Says About Demons

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

–James 2:19

If we are going to be successful in our unseen battles against Satan and his demons, we need to gather as much intelligence as we can about them. In the Old Testament there are only two references to demons, and they both have to do with false gods. Look at Deuteronomy 32:17: “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread.” The Israelites thought they were worshiping Baal and Asherah and other false gods, but they were actually sacrificing to demons. Psalm 106:37-38 adds, “They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan.” In order to worship the false god Molech, the Israelites would actually sacrifice their children. They were not worshipping Molech; the Bible says they were actually worshiping a demonic power. Behind every false god in the world today, there is a very real demonic power. That is what the Old Testament teaches.

In the New Testament, there are over one hundred references to demons. Every writer of the New Testament mentioned demons except the writer of Hebrews. For example, look at what James said in James 2:19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” If James were writing to our church today, he would say, “You believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? You believe that He died and then rose from the dead? Congratulations! The demons believe all of those things too.” We have this idea that if you believe the right facts about Jesus, you go to heaven. No, it is coming to that point in your life when you are so broken about your sin that you say, “God, I cannot save myself. I am trusting in Jesus and Jesus alone for my salvation.” That is something the demons have never done.

The Bible is filled with revelation about demons. It should not surprise you, however, that the greatest number of references to demons occurs in the Gospels during the life of Jesus Christ. Demons were more active in the world during the time of Christ than at any other time in human history. When you stop and think about it, you can understand why that is. When Jesus Christ invaded planet Earth, He was coming for one reason: to reclaim this world from the grip of Satan and deliver it back to God. Meanwhile, the demons and the devil were working overtime to stop that plan from being fulfilled. In fact, Jesus Himself interacted with demons, which means they must be real beings–otherwise, He should have been checked into a mental institution. The fact that Jesus interacted with demons means that they are real forces in your life and my life.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The World Of Demons” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

The Perversion Of Pleasure

There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?
–Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Satan uses worry and riches to distract us from serving God. But in Luke 8, Jesus mentioned a third distraction: the pleasures of this life. Now Jesus was not condemning pleasure. God wants us to enjoy life, and pleasure when engaged in in the right way can actually draw us closer to God. C. S. Lewis recognized that. In his book “The Screwtape Letters,” a senior demon writes to his neophyte nephew demon about God’s plan for pleasure (remember, God is “the Enemy”): “When we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. . . . All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.” What Satan wants to do is to pervert God’s plan for pleasure, and one way he does so is by having Christians abstain from pleasure for the sake of being “sold out” to Jesus. When we do that, we are actually playing into the enemy’s plan to destroy our life. Pleasure is a part of God’s plan for your life. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2:24-25, “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?”

If Satan cannot get us to abstain from pleasure, then he tries to get us to overindulge in pleasure, to make it the focus of our lives. We concentrate so much on entertaining ourselves that when Sunday comes, we are so exhausted we cannot even drag ourselves to church. Or maybe you are working yourself to death right now in order to enjoy the golden years of retirement–when you can wake up each day and ask, “How am I going to entertain myself today?” But God never meant for us to retire from being productive, especially spiritually. When you spend any period of time, whether it is six months or ten years, focusing solely on entertaining yourself, you are sowing the seeds of spiritual destruction in your life. I am not saying you have to keep working at your job until the day you drop. I am saying that God wants every part of your life and every period of your life to be God-focused and others-focused, not self-focused.

What has become a distraction for you in your relationship to God? Have you allowed the “what ifs” of worry to strangle out your desire to know God? Has an obsession with money–either earning it, spending it, or saving it–become the central part of your life? Has the pursuit of pleasure become the grand objective of your life? If you are going to defeat Satan’s real plan to destroy your life, the best way is to recognize what strategy he is using against you right now.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Blueprint For Your Destruction” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

C. S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters” (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 44.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

The Minarets, Sierra Nevada – California

There is tremendous beauty in the Sierra Nevada. It never stops amazing me whenever I visit. The mountain scenery makes you feel so small, but so special being part of God’s creation. Even though this life has it’s trials, tribulations, and nastiness, it can be a glorious life knowing you have the Lord who is always at your side. I took this photo on a solo back country trip and climbed the pass to the left of this photo. After I arrived I was looking for a photo everywhere but to no avail. To say I was discouraged is an understatement. This place is so special and beautiful, that I couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to get a photo. As I made my way down to mosquito haven, out of nowhere I saw the scene pictured and knew it was God showing himself to me. He always amazes me and constantly shows me the way. I snapped off many shots before losing a pint of blood and retreated back to my tent with a massive smile. My prayers that night are like every night – giving gratitude and thanks to the Lord for all he provides.

The Strategy Of Discouragement

The Strategy Of Discouragement 

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
–Job 13:15

If you are a Christian, Satan’s first strategy to destroy your family, your faith, and your future is to discourage you from worshiping God. You and I are bit players in an eternal drama that began many years ago when Satan, who was God’s chief of staff, chose to rebel against the Creator. Watching this drama play out is an unseen audience of angels and demons. And in Job, we get a glimpse behind the scenes of this drama. Job 1:1 says, “There was man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then God directed Satan’s attention to this main character on the stage named Job. Verse 8 says, “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.’” Satan was not about to let God be proud of His creation, so Satan said, in essence, “Of course he worships You. Look at all the things You have done for him! But you let me have a few rounds with him and I can turn him against you.” So God granted Satan limited permission to attack Job, and for the next two chapters we see Satan’s relentless attacks against him.

One day Job was sitting on the ash heap of his incinerated possessions, his dead children, his broken health, and Job’s wife came to him and said, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9). That was Satan’s objective: to send so many tragedies into Job’s life that he would conclude worshiping God is not worthwhile. But after Satan had hit Job as hard as he could, destroying his possessions, killing his children, taking away his health, Job cried out, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (13:15). I believe at that moment the heavenly audience gasped in amazement that God could command that kind of allegiance.

Job played his part well here on earth. But now Job has exited the stage, and it is your time and my time. The question remains: “Is God really worthy of our worship?” Job’s story tells us Satan has limited control over this world. He is able to use natural disasters, financial reversals, health problems, and relationship disruptions to turn you away from God and to discredit the reputation of God before the entire universe. However, Satan’s power is limited. He is still under God’s control, but God has allowed Satan to have limited access to our lives. Why? Because untested faith is really no faith at all. For Job’s faith to be sure, it had to go through the crucible of trials, and it is the same way in your life. God uses trials to strengthen us, but also to prove that we are really His followers. Right now Satan may be bombarding you with relentless attacks. Perhaps he is attacking your sense of well-being. Perhaps he is attacking your family. Perhaps he is attacking your livelihood. He is doing everything he can to discourage you from worshiping God. But God is saying to you, as He said to Job, “Trust Me. I have a plan that I am working out in your life right now, even though you cannot see what that plan is.”

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Blueprint For Your Destruction” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

Walk With Jesus

I’ve decided to dedicate my artwork to the ultimate creator – the Lord, Jesus Christ. He is responsible for all things and creates beauty everywhere – He is nature’s true artist. I’m simply here to capture these fleeting moments to share them with as many people as possible to spread the word of God. Nothing is more important than your salvation in Heaven, as all of us were created by Him. We are all God’s children, made in His likeness, who sent his only Son Jesus to die for our sins. If we can share this message with one person and they become saved, my mission is a resounding success! By showcasing my artwork paired with insightful Biblical verses, I hope to share the message of the Lord and help my brothers and sisters learn more about our Savior, Jesus Christ.

MATTHEW 28:19
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Shasta

Wow is all you can say when you view the big bulge in the Earths crust caused by Mount Shasta. Driving from Sacramento you can see the tip from at least 150 miles away. As you get closer it grandeur doesn’t diminish. There’s some really outstanding views to behold and the trail/area that’s most impressive is Castle Lake/Heart Lake. Unbeknownst to most, if you climb the ridge to the top you get gorgeous backside views of Castle Crags. There’s so much to explore here and the views seem endless. Grabbed some really good pics too!

Spirituality of Nature

“Well, I went hiking. And we did these services on the rim of the Grand Canyon. And my friends and I drove to Utah to see Zion and Bryce Canyon. All these incredible places touched my spirit in a way I’ve never felt before. I did some really difficult hikes. I ran out of water when it was really hot. My shoes fell apart and I hiked across the canyon barefoot. I prayed all of those times and for the first time I really felt like someone was listening. I stopped feeling God inside the church. Or with other people. Or really anywhere except when I was out hiking or moving through a landscape. It was like seeing God with my very own eyes instead of closing them and imagining him. I felt like Eve must have when she first opened her eyes and saw the beauty of the garden.”

From “Thirst : 2600 Miles To Home” comes this great paragraph that must make every adventurer recognize the spirituality the author is describing. It certainly resonates with me.

California Wild Flowers

Coming from Ontario and Illinois we don’t get to see amazing spectacles like the wildflowers in California. This Spring is my first wild flower bonanza and although they didnt disappoint I know it can look nicer when it’s much more wet. Unfortunately this Winter, Cali has been suffering from drought. In fact, February didnt get a single drop of rain which is unprecedented. Even so, the blooms sprouted and filled the valleys with various shades of color. The photographs pictured are from Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, Judge David trail, the Wildflower patch off Bear Valley Road, and finally Smittle Creek by Lake Berryessa

All are gorgeous in their own right! This Spring however, due to very low rainfall and snow the waterfalls at Table were very lackluster. From previous photographs it’s obvious they can look majestic. I’ll be back next Spring!

Judge Davis was a huge surprise. The open expansive views on top were amazing. I bet this spot is gorgeous for sunrise. I’ll definitely be planning a trip here soon for that.

Smittle Creek was gorgeous! I was here 3 weeks prior and there were some flowers however a couple days ago blew me away. Flowers everywhere! Mostly lupine.

https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/North-Table-Mountain-ER