Certain Deliverance

by Tim Hall
The plight of 33 men in Chile illustrates our own dilemma.
mineshaft2.jpgPerhaps the fact that my father was a coal miner has sensitized me to the story out of Chile. Maybe my amateur explorations of undeveloped caves help me feel for those men.
From the moment I first heard the story about 33 men in Chile trapped in a mine since August 5, I’ve kept up with the reports.
Efforts to rescue the men are proceeding around the clock. For a time no one was sure they were even alive. Now we know that they all survived the entrapment, but we also know that it will take months to free them.
Keeping those men alive until the deliverance can happen is a monumental challenge.
Deliverance, as all will admit, is not a certainty. Yes, great effort is being expended and experts from around the world have offered their wisdom on how to proceed. But keeping those men fed, hydrated and sane for several more weeks will not be an easy task. Deliverance may happen, or it may not.
Those whose spiritual eyes have been opened know that we are looking for deliverance on a grander scale. The world in which we live is badly marred by sin and mankind has incurred the wrath of God by disobedience.
What will be the result of this spiritual rebellion? “… a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26,27, NKJV). Sooner or later the roof will fall in, and guilty sinners will be swept into everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
There is hope, however. God saw our dilemma and did not abandon us in our earthen tomb. The provision he made is “… his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
That wrath will fall upon sinners. But Jesus can deliver souls from such misery. That deliverance is certain.
God’s ability has already been demonstrated on a smaller scale. He “delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7). Living in a city doomed by its depraved inhabitants, Lot was nonetheless rescued before the fire and brimstone began falling.
Hear the testimony of Paul, if you still doubt God’s ability to rescue: “Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that he will still deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:10).
Pray for the miners trapped underground in Chile and for those trying to deliver them. But Jesus doesn’t need our prayers because “he is able to deliver thee!”

A True View Of God

by Tim Hall
There is only one way to obtain an accurate view of God.
Idolatry2.jpgHow people yearn to have some visible object to venerate! Most religions feature statues and images to which worshipers offer food, drink and precious objects. Shrines dot the landscape of nations across the globe and pilgrims make long treks to bow before these “sacred” relics.
The true God, however, commanded his people not to engage in such behavior. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4, NKJV).
Though idols were often erected in Israel, God consistently viewed them as abominations.
Why would God forbid what seems to be such a natural human impulse? Consider some of the erroneous views people have had of their “deities” and you’ll see the wisdom of God’s orders.
Isaiah challenged the people of his time who ignored the prohibition on idols. He mocked the man who used the same tree for different purposes:

“And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?'” (Isaiah 44:19).

Can God be fashioned by the artisans of our time? Whose representation of the Lord will resemble him most? Will any of their representations resemble the true God?
Another failed attempt to represent God is found in Daniel 2:11. Nebuchadnezzar’s magicians could not reveal the king’s dreams. “It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
These men were partly correct: Only God can reveal dreams, a truth to which Daniel quickly agreed (Daniel 2:27,28). In saying that God does not dwell with people, however, they were mistaken. Jesus would disprove that false view (Philippians 2:5-8).
The wise man will conclude that he can know nothing about God except what God reveals to him. God made that very point in Isaiah 55:8,9. Instead of creating an image of God that we desire, let us learn the lesson of Habakkuk 2:20: “But the Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silent before him.”
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).

Enduring The Blows Of Life

by Tim Hall
What keeps us going when the going gets tough?
ship_rescue.jpgMany analogies have been used to describe our lives on earth: voyages across often-stormy seas, climbing to the summit of tall mountains, fighting daily battles. We steer clear of comparisons like “a bed of roses” because we know one thing for sure: Life is sometimes quite difficult.
What keeps God’s people going when those blows are allowed to land? Here are a couple of passages that have helped many:
Hebrews 12:2 – “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith …” Peter was granted an awesome privilege – to walk on water, just like Jesus was doing. Peter’s walk was cut short, however. Why did he begin to sink? Matthew tells us: “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:30)
If we concentrate on the blows of life, we may also begin to sink. Let us learn the truth presented in Hebrews 12:2. Let us never stop “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Here is a needed admonition for those who have been disappointed in God’s decisions. Some, after suffering hard blows, consider giving up.
Once again, Peter illustrates the concept. On one occasion Jesus’ teachings offended many of his followers. Some even turned away from following him. Jesus looked at those who remained and asked, “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67)
Peter spoke for faithful disciples of all times when he responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68,69).
We won’t always understand God’s will for us. Sometimes we won’t even like it. But to whom will we go? Only in Christ will we find everlasting life. And one thing more we believe: “We’ll understand it all by and by.”

Have You Not Heard?

by Tim Hall
Reading the Bible is so simple. Why should we take time to do it?
hearing3.jpgSometimes I shake my head in disbelief as I consider what happened to ancient Israel. These people were the beneficiaries of incredible blessings from God. But still they turned away from the Lord to serve idols. How could such a thing happen?
Isaiah helps us understand the problem. In chapter 40, the prophet exhorted the people with these words: “… Lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!'” (Isaiah 40:9)
“Be not afraid,” he wrote. But why would the people of God be afraid?
The land of Israel was constantly harassed by enemy nations. Located in a strategic spot just north of Egypt, Israel was envied by many. God had given Abraham’s descendants a fertile and prosperous land, and other people wanted it. That’s why Israel was afraid.
But should they have been afraid? Isaiah speaks to that question in verses 28 and 29:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.”

His message to Israel was simple: God gave you this land, and he is able to defend it from your enemies. Why don’t you believe this, Israel? Have you not heard?
That’s precisely our problem most of the time. When worry or fear grips our hearts we should ask ourselves, “Have we not heard? Have we not known?” God’s promises are extended to his people today just as they were extended to Israel.
For too many, however, those promises are shrouded in darkness. They haven’t been to the Word in a very long time. They’ve forgotten the power of the One who called them.
Bible reading sounds like the most mundane activity in the world. When we have so many exciting activities from which to choose, why should we make time to read such an old Book?
Sadly, most don’t make the time. And as a result, they haven’t known and they haven’t heard about God’s power and might. Their failure to read and meditate on God’s word is exactly the reason why their lives are filled with fear and worry.
What strength comes to those who spend time reading their Bibles! We are reminded of God’s past actions and comforted by his promises of help, both in the present and in the future.
“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Wasted Resources

by Tim Hall
What God-given resources are we not putting to work?
gardening3.jpgAs one who has gardened, I often marvel at the process. In the spring I till the ground and bury small seeds under the soil.
Over the next few weeks the plants grow and vegetables are produced. I sometimes think, as I eat the beans I’ve harvested, of the phenomenon I’ve witnessed. Out of inedible dirt has come nourishing food for me and my family.
The wise man had this in mind in Proverbs 13:23: “Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, and for lack of justice there is waste” (NKJV).
The first part of the proverb is what we’ve described: the wonder of being able to make food appear out of the ground. The second part points to unrealized potential. It speaks of soil that could do much good, but instead lies fallow (untilled).
Why was this ground not put to work? There are two views of what the writer had in mind. First, some say that the injustice of others has kept the poor man from working his field. Someone seized his assets and that is why he remains poor.
Others argue that “justice” is better translated as “judgment.” It refers to the landowner’s slothfulness. His lack of industriousness keeps the food in the soil. What might have been will never be because he is lazy or distracted by other pursuits.
In either event, God has provided a resource that has the potential to bless many. How sad when those resources are wasted!
Many Christians have learned the fine art of “poor mouthing.” When asked about their involvement in the work of the kingdom, they reply that they’re not capable of doing the work. Someone else will have to carry the burden. But is that really true? Are there some who have been given no resources at all?
Peter answered that question clearly: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
In the next verse he mentioned two such gifts: speaking (whether in preaching or in conversation), and ministering our various gifts to others. No one, though, can truthfully claim to be without any gifts at all.
As I dig potatoes from the soil in the fall, I’m made aware of the grace of God. Energy invested in tilling the ground will bless me and others whom I love. But will I also till the spiritual soil God has provided? Using these resources, I’ll bring blessings upon myself and others.
How sad to see rich soil left untended!

Live Strong

Lance Armstrong can truthfully be described as “a legend in his own time.” He is currently engaged in the Tour de France, a bicycle race that covers a 2,200 mile route throughout France and bordering countries.

The race would be hard if the course was flat, but much of the course goes through the Alps. This is not a race for weekend bikers.

At age 38, Armstrong has been described as a Methuselah in the sport. When you recall his health crisis from 1996, the amazement factor increases. Continue reading “Live Strong”

Spies Among Us

by Tim Hall
Some are not really who they appear to be.
The arrests earlier this week of 11 individuals on charges of spying for Russia has garnered much attention. These seemed to be ordinary citizens, pursuing the American dream like the rest of us. If the charges are proven true — and there already appears to be substantial evidence coming to light — we will learn again that people can be deceptive.
According to a report released on July 1, 2010, one of those charged has confessed to his actions. Though he seemed to be an ordinary citizen, working as a photographer and a karate instructor, he has confessed that he worked secretly for “the Service”. He was born in Uruguay as he previously claimed; the house in which he and his wife lived had been purchased by Russian intelligence officials.
Neighbors and associates of those arrested are shocked at the thought that their lives intermingled with people who were living lies. The most unnerving prospect is that these people were working to undermine the ideals their neighbors held dear.
Will this cause us to look with renewed skepticism at those around us? Can we know the true identity of our next-door neighbor?
Paul wrote about some who were spies: “And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage)” (Galatians 2:4, NKJV). A key phrase in that verse is “false brethren”; *pseudadelphos*, brothers who were not genuine.
These of whom Paul wrote were of the Judaizing group of Christians, teaching that Gentiles must become Jews as well as Christians. The letter to the Galatians was meant to squash such thinking and to preserve the liberty they had in Christ (Galatians 5:1,13). These, however, were more set on their agenda than on serving the Lord. In some ways they resembled Christians, but they actually served another master.
This was not Paul’s only experience with false brethren. In 2 Corinthians 11:26 he wrote of some of the trials he had endured. Among them were “perils among false brethren”. They wore the name of Christ, but they didn’t follow his will.
How frightening would it be to be busted by God, exposing the fact that we were not really the people we claimed to be? Instead of being devoted to Jesus, we were instead devoted to our own comfort and happiness. The consequences of being a pseudo-disciple are serious!
This is an opportunity to examine our allegiance. Do we really subscribe to the truth of Philippians 3:20: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”? Before we’re exposed in judgment, let’s come clean and be genuine.

Drifting Away

by Tim Hall
A man is rescued from one danger; but what about the greater danger?
Imagine lying in a hammock in the warm summer sun. A slight breeze draws a contented sigh from you as you close your eyes. Within moments you’re drifting off to a restful summer nap.
Now change the scene slightly. Instead of a hammock you’re lying on an inflatable raft, bobbing along in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The alcohol you imbibed makes it impossible to stay awake. Instead of sleep, you’re in a stupor. And you’re awakened only when the Coast Guard arrives — one mile from shore — to rescue you.
That last scene wasn’t just imaginary; it happened to Jerry Whipple on June 24, 2010. Authorities stated in the Associated Press report that they suspect Mr. Whipple was very drunk. Jerry should thank the boaters who spotted him, still unconscious, and alerted rescue personnel. Things could have turned out much worse.
Mr. Whipple and many others should consider advice given thousands of years ago: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1, NKJV).
Many will be mocking this seafaring fellow after reading the story. But they will not be the first to mock him.
Another passage in Proverbs sounds almost prophetic. After noting the poisonous effects of intoxicating substances, this is added:

“Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: ‘They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?'” (Proverbs 23:34,35).

Statistics vary, but all will admit that there are millions in America who are enslaved to alcohol. How many of these made a decision to become addicted? Not one; they all began drinking with the thought that they could handle their liquor. But they couldn’t.
Like Jerry Whipple, they drifted further with each drink from being in control. How much better if they had never taken that first drink!
Some will argue that the Bible doesn’t tell us not to drink wine; rather, it warns us against drunkenness. In response we would ask that they consider 1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
Can anyone state with absolute certainty that their drinking will not lead to addiction? Why would you want to roll those dice?
Jerry Whipple has been rescued from the perils he faced at sea. Will he allow himself to be rescued from that which put him in the imperiled condition to begin with?

A New Tower Of Babel?

by Tim Hall
A daring new project is actually not so new.
manmachine2.jpg“Chilling” is a word that comes to mind in reading the article published in the *New York Times* on June 11, 2010.
Entitled “Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday,” the article describes a conference held recently in California where forty people paid $15,000.00 each to attend a course sponsored by Singularity University.
“Singularity” is the key word. Those behind this movement have one goal in mind: the merging of humans and machines. Supported generously by the co-founders of Google, the aim is to blend the intelligence of humans with the durability of machines.
Yes, eternal life is in their sights.
Ashlee Vance, author of the article, states the vision of Singularity University: “… human beings and machines will so effortlessly and elegantly merge that poor health, the ravages of old age and even death itself will all be things of the past.”
Raymond Kurzweil, an outspoken proponent of the University, boasts that he will be able to live for hundreds of years. He will also be able to resurrect the dead, including his own father. He’s helping to produce a movie to be released later this year: “The Singularity Is Near: A True Story About The Future.”
If you wonder whether anyone of intelligence buys into these ideas, Vance notes that hundreds of students worldwide apply for one of the 80 spots in a 10-week graduate course. Those chosen will pay $25,000.00 each to attend.
Long ago, people banded together on an ambitious project: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11:4, NKJV).
We’re not given all the details behind that project, but God clearly did not approve. To thwart their efforts he imposed different languages. No longer able to communicate, the project was abandoned.
We’re not predicting that Singularity University will be disrupted by Divine intervention. But the ambitions behind it appear to be similar to those in Babel. Man has often attempted to “make a name” for himself, only to see his efforts crash and burn.
The sons of Korah sang a message in Psalm 46, that needs to be heard today: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).
Hundreds of years later the apostle Paul addressed a group of intellectuals who worshiped every deity but the true God. He reminded them that “they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
Eternal life is already within our grasp (Romans 6:23). Merging people with machines will prove to be futile. Merging people with the will of God is the key.

Give Attention To Reading

Nicolas Carr’s 2008 article in “The Atlantic” entitled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” caught a lot of people’s attention.

To even ask such a question is audacious, one might think. Isn’t the purpose of Google to help us find information on the Internet? How could finding new information make us less intelligent?

Carr intensifies his argument in a new book, “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains.” In a nutshell, here is what Carr claims: The way we browse items on the Internet changes the way we focus on information. We are acquainted with a greater array of information, but becoming less able to maintain a focus on that information. Continue reading “Give Attention To Reading”