Immigrants along the Oregon Trail were a tough lot. They left behind everything that had been stable and comfortable in their lives to seek opportunity in the West. They left civilization as they knew it behind them in Missouri and launched into a long, arduous journey across the prairies and mountains. Natural landmarks marked the trail so that guides could make sure the correct course was followed. Seeing these landmarks had to be a very comforting thing to both confirm location and as a waypoint of progress. The immigrants placed a lot of faith in their trail boss/guide to get them to California or Oregon territory, and I suspect many of them had heard of some of the key landmarks that lay ahead. One such landmark was called Split Rock, located in what is now south-central Wyoming. Split Rock is a cleft in the top of a mountain of rock that can be seen from many miles away. I recently visited this historic site and climbed on some of the nearby rock outcroppings that bordered the Oregon Trail. One thing that always impresses me is how tough and tenuous life must have been for those folks traveling west. Nothing was easy and the work probably never seemed to end.
Life remains complex today. I realize that isn’t anything new, but despite all the technology we enjoy, we seem more and more challenged as a society each passing year. Sure, the challenges are different than what our immigrant relatives dealt with, but they are still hefty hurdles. One aspect that is very disturbing to me is that so many people have become intolerant of other folks with differing views. Political leanings, religious views, climate change, and so many other topics have become points of volatility and even violence when opinions differ. Respectful debate in search of the truth rarely happens, but instead recitation of talking points, name-calling and personal attacks are employed at lightning speed. Friendships end. Families weaken. Culture crumbles a little bit more.
How life came to exist on Earth is one of these highly contentious topics. While there are several positions/theories/beliefs on this topic, the two I am most familiar with are the theory of evolution, as put forth by Charles Darwin and creationism, as put forth in the Holy Bible. Even among believers of each of these there exist a variety of tangential supporters. For example, there are some creationists who believe God created the Earth and people, but suggest the Biblical account is more parable than literal, so they subscribe to the notion that there was a long, extended period of time for all this to happen. In some cases the time-frame fits nicely with the proposed calendar of events an evolutionist might ascribe to. On the other hand, there are folks like me who believe in the literal 6-day creation, as recorded in the Bible. For the record, I did not always believe this. While I have always been a creationist, I first bought into a long, drawn out period of creation by God, where a “day” in the Biblical account was representative of a period of time that might be many years. Because I found that difficult to justify and had no real data to support it, I later decided that how it happened didn’t matter, so long as I believed God did it all. This was really convenient because I had less to defend and didn’t need to worry about pesky little details. At the end of the day, does God care if we believe in a 6-day, 6-year or 6-century creation? Well, He most likely cares more that we believe He is the creator; I don’t believe we’ll be thrown into Hell because we chose the wrong time-frame.
As a Christian, I came to find my vague position weak and self-serving. How could I so enthusiastically defend so much of the Bible as the inspired and accurate word of God, but then allow certain parts to be open to debate? Don’t get me wrong here, I am not a Biblical scholar by any means. There are a lot of parts of the Bible that I don’t understand and many questions I don’t have answers for, but I do believe it to be the true word of God. Are there some areas that might not have been translated perfectly by the many scribes and scholars who’ve maintained, translated and published it over the last couple thousand years? Most probably, yes. Fortunately, many accounts in the Bible were recorded by more than one person, so within the book there is some corroboration that can be done – many of these occur in the New Testament and help to confirm very important facts related to important things like grace, mercy, forgiveness and salvation. So while I allow that there may be some man-created errors within the text, I contend and support that these are minor errors that don’t change the ultimate meaning and lessons. Afterall, if I believe God created everything, then why wouldn’t I believe that He could keep His word on point? My position is based on what the text of the Bible says and the areas which aren’t fully explained require some faith.
So, back to how we all got here. There have been some very heated exchanges between creationists and evolutionists recently. A number of atheist organizations are not only forcefully pushing evolution as a fact (remember, even Darwin called it a theory), they are hostile toward those who believe in a God-creator worldview. They ridicule our position as foolish because we use “faith” to fill the gaps that we don’t understand. For many years I have contended that believing in evolution requires much more faith than believing in the Biblical creation account. While I was crawling over the rocks at the Split Rock historical site, I came upon this scene…
When you see stacked rocks like this, do you wonder how they came to be stacked? I suppose we could craft a few theories about their existence. Maybe the rock was much larger a couple million years ago, but erosion by wind and rain removed all the soft part of the stone, leaving these small clumps of individual rocks in precarious stacks. Or perhaps the stones were scattered, but after a couple million years they somehow migrated toward each other and ended up on top of each other. Maybe aliens landed here and deposited these stacked rocks here. I am sure we could come up with a lot of potential theories. But I also would suspect that, just like you and I, most evolution-believing people would take a look at this and quickly surmise that someone must have stacked the rocks. They and we would contend that there is no way this could happen all by itself – someone had to create it. Yet the same evolutionist would contend that with a bit of good fortune and millions of years, dust, gas and tiny particles of matter came together, formed life and eventually became human beings.
And here we thought stacked rocks were too complex to happen all by themselves. I guess it is just a matter of time…
Near our home is an odd rock outcropping from which sprouts an old, dead Ponderosa Pine tree trunk. The trunk has been weathering away for many years, and the Lord only knows how many years ago that old tree first sprouted. There were most likely many tough years that challenged the tree’s survival, as this is country prone to drought and harsh weather. To make matters worse, our soil is very shallow and the tree essentially set root in solid sandstone! Oftentimes I’ve wondered about the things that sentinel has witnessed over the years, from the days when Indians hunted buffalo here on the bluffs, and while Texas steers grazed through these highlands of the Musselshell River Valley, and eventually the arrival of fences, tractors, roads and homes. Oh, the things that sentinel must have seen!
I photographed that old tree yesterday, knowing only the outline of the story that would accompany it; a story of the past, leading to the present, offering hope for the future. The more I studied that photo, it seemed to beg for a poem. Unfortunately, I am not a poet by any stretch of the imagination. A quick search engine query brought me to a poem on another blog, CHRISTian poetry. Deborah Ann Belka’s poem, ‘Oh, the things I’ve seen,’ was the perfect complement to the image, as is the Scripture she tied to the poem, from Isaiah 40:8 – “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
This wonderful and slightly enhanced scene was captured near Pecos NM a couple weeks ago. Over the course of 4 days at this place, I think I saw a rainbow each day and double-rainbows at least two times. It is odd that something so common fascinates me every time I see one. Today’s culture has attributed a variety of meanings to rainbows, but I hold to its significance as a symbol of a promise made a long, long time ago.
After the flood (the one that made Noah famous), God acknowledged what He wrought in His judgement of sin that had grown rampant through creation. Only a handful of people were spared from this judgement, and God made a covenant with Noah that He would never again judge via a global flood:
“This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” Genesis 9:12-15.
So that rainbow is God’s reminder to us of that promise. At a glance, this sounds very comforting, but don’t get too comfortable. God did not promise that He wouldn’t judge sin in the world again, He only stated that worldwide flood wouldn’t be the tool of judgement. In fact, He has promised that sin will be judged, but next time the tool will be fire! Isn’t it interesting that two quite opposite forces are the tools He chooses to use?
But take heart, there is a way to survive the next judgement! Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers In Genesis, explains this very well:
When the secular world hears the account of Noah’s global Flood, they often accuse God of being an ogre for bringing this terrible judgment on people. However, the God of the Bible is a God of infinite mercy and grace.
God told Noah to build an Ark to save representative land animal kinds and Noah’s family. However, this Ark was much larger than needed for just these animals and this family. Just as Noah and his family had to go through the door to be saved, so others could have gone through that door to be saved. In fact, after the Ark was loaded, it stood for seven more days before God Himself shut the door—seven more days of grace. And I have no doubt that Noah preached from the doorway, imploring people to come in and be saved. Noah’s Ark is actually a picture of salvation in Christ, as He is the door through which we need to go to be saved for eternity (John 10:9).
All need to be reminded that we sinned in Adam—we committed high treason against the God of creation. God is holy and pure—completely without sin. A holy God has to judge sin, but in His judgment, He also shows infinite mercy. When God judged sin with death in Genesis 3:19, He also promised a Savior (Genesis 3:15). God Himself, in the person of the second member of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, stepped into history, fully human and fully God, to be a man so He could pay the penalty for our sin. Through the shedding of His blood, He offers the free gift of salvation to all who will believe.
I realize I’ve been away from this blog for too long, but I believe God is leading me back, so please hang in there and stay tuned! In the meanwhile, here is a composition from a photo I took several months ago. At the time I knew the message I wanted to use it for, but crafting that message took longer than planned. So often we chase things that seem to be great and wonderful, but in reality they may not provide any real or lasting value. Worse yet, they often rob from us precious time and resources that could be better invested. This also occurs in our spiritual lives, as we tell ourselves that what we’ve chosen to do is wonderful, worthy and fine. But if that path isn’t following Jesus Christ, and Him only, then we have become deceived. So check your map and see what destination awaits you on your present road.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
How many bridges do you cross on any given day you’re on the road? If you took the time to actually count them, I bet the number would be surprisingly high. We cross bridges so often that we simply taken them for granted and pass over without notice. Bridges are simply a way we can cross over obstacles that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, for us to overcome. And of course, those obstacles are in between us and where we want to be.
There was a time a few thousand years ago when the Creator walked the Earth with a fellow named Adam. The fellowship they shared must have been truly amazing, however it came to an abrupt end when Adam disobeyed his Creator. That first sin became an obstacle preventing him, and all others to follow, from enjoying fellowship with God. Fast-forward to roughly two-thousand years ago, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to Earth to be our Redeemer. As people redeemed from our sins, we could again fellowship with God. When He died on the cross, Christ became our direct path to the Creator. In fact, Jesus Christ stated that very clearly, as recorded in the Gospel of John 14:6; “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The crucified Christ became our bridge to return to fellowship with God.
On a recent road trip through southern Utah, I pulled into the Kolob Canyon section of Zion National Park to stretch my legs and get a bit of fresh air. This part of the park is conveniently located just off Interstate 15, and is a great preview of the remainder of this great place. The red rock formations are incredible and majestic. Every time I visit this spot the landscape tends to take on a different appearance, mostly due to the lighting and type of sky that serves as a backdrop. On this day the early morning mist still hung low, as the sun tried to pierce through the clouds. The high rocks seemed even more daunting that usual with this setting, and some Scriptural references to God as a High Tower immediately came to mind. I felt that the 2 Samuel passages were appropriate for the image.
As the shadows were swallowing up the last rays of this evening’s sun, a muley buck trotted across our place with a mission in mind. The rut is in full swing here, and he only has a limited number of days to find receptive does. Avoiding the hunter’s aim is paramount to his success and survival.
So what is the “joyful sound?” I believe it refers to the gospel message of salvation, which is indeed a message of joy, peace and comfort to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Walking in the light of His countenance requires obedience to Biblical principles and the commands of Christ. This sets the stage for Him to allow us to yield fruit (see my previous post) through what we do, say and participate in…as a result of our faith and salvation, not as a condition thereof!