“Modern Flat Earth societies consist of individuals who believe that the Earth is flat rather than an oblate spheroid. Such groups date from the middle of the 20th century; some adherents are serious and some are not. Those who are serious are often motivated by pseudoscience or religious literalism.” (Wikipedia)
Some people claim the Bible posits a flat earth. Ancients believed in a three-tiered creation. The heavens formed the canopy over the earth as a solid firmament. Some believed the stars were windows into heaven. The earth was not regarded as a globe, but as finite and flat. There are many stories of mariners who were terrified they might sail over the edge of the world. The underworld was just that, the mysterious place of shadows.
Most recently, some claimed that the total eclipse proves that the world is flat. The Flat-Earthers questioned why they were told not to look at the eclipse directly. What was being hidden? They also questioned how an object could cast a shadow smaller than itself.
Yes, and there was a time when humanity was convinced that the sun revolved around the earth, that the earth was the center of the universe. The human mind is an amazing creation, but sometimes it isn’t engaged as designed!
The psalmist wrote: “When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them?” (Psalm 8); and “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, the skies display His craftsmanship” (Psalm 19).
Creation of the universe is astounding, but the greatest miracle is the gift of life and relationship we humans enjoy. The Westminster Shorter Catechism reads: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Conspiracies aside, we were created by a gracious and generous God to experience and explore His love. Let’s go deeper into that love!
Trying to take my mind off the misery of devastating weather …
- Coke has a learning problem. Perhaps they have a short memory. Remember what a hit New Coke was? Now they are messing with Coke Zero.
- Then there was the guy who robbed the convenient store wearing his motorcycle helmet. He must have forgotten the nameplate with his name on it just above the visor.
- At church one Sunday, we lost power and the sanctuary was very uncomfortable. A couple of our guys had a bright idea. They brought in electric fans to cool the room. Think about it.
- When an attempted robbery at a Lowes Home Improvement store went awry, Milton J. Hodges fled across the street and jumped a fence … right into the Cypress Cove Nudist Resort & Spa. As the Orlando Sentinel pointed out, “As one of the only folks wearing clothing,” Hodges was easily spotted by police. You think.
- A 12-year-old boy adamantly denied having stolen an iPhone when questioned by police at his home. And then the iPhone rang in his closet. Whoops!
- In July, he turned 104. This November, she will be 93. They have been married for 75 years. It’s a first for this Washington state couple: Two hurricanes slamming two different parts of the United States bearing their names, Harvey and Irma Schluter.
This has been a tough stretch for people in the Islands, Mexico, Texas, Florida, and other places. Lives have been lost. Families shattered. The economic impact will be felt for years. We see the worst in people who descend to scams and looting, but we also see the best in people who come to the aid of others. Irma is starting to fade but still brings damage and difficulty. Let’s keep praying for those who felt nature’s wrath and those still in the path of high winds and rising waters. First Responders, as always, are doing what they do best. God bless each one.
Lost in all the coverage of the storms is the sad reality that we observe another anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. We may have moved on or have become distracted, but for thousands of people this day will always be a nightmare. We must never forget.
The Sea of Galilee was known for sudden, ferocious storms. The people who plied those waters understood the risk as they cast their nets or traveled from shore to shore. In Mark 4, Jesus accompanied the disciples as they left the crowds behind, heading for the other side of the lake. “But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat and it began to fill with water” (v.37). Panic ensued. Too be caught out in the open could have been a death sentence. The disciples, several of them seasoned fishermen, flipped from panic to fearful exasperation when they saw Jesus still asleep in the stern. “Teacher, don’t You care that we’re going to drown?”
We know how the story ends. Jesus calmed the storm and alarmed the disciples. “Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey Him” (v. 41).
Chris Cadenhead made this observation: “The key to understanding this story may lie in the fact that Jesus was even in the boat with them at all. That means He put Himself in the path of the same storm that threatened them.”
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God is not some distant observer. When Jesus entered the world, He came to experience life with His creatures. He felt pain, knew fatigue, got angry, grieved, wept, and suffered. Storms are nothing new to Him.
There are times when He silences the storm, but there is never a time when He isn’t in the boat with us. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We need to cling to that when it would be easy to panic or get discouraged.
Harvey has left a trail of devastation. Irma brings terrible destructive power. Jose is not far behind. Who knows what is coming next? More than ever, we need to seek the presence and peace of the Lord of the storm.
Escape rooms have been around for a while. Depending on whom you believe, a Japanese man came up with concept in 2007 or a guy in Budapest created the idea in 2011. These adventure games require critical thinking by solving puzzles through clues, hints, and strategies. There are fixed rooms and there are video games to challenge the most daring thrill-seekers. Companies and universities use escape rooms to provide a release for the over-stressed and over-worked. Like most other things, people get obsessed. You can confront zombies, pirates, terrorists, or kidnappers. You can find yourself trapped in a prison or a space station, looking for clues to break out. Since finding the secret to solve the puzzle is time-sensitive, you can also freak out.
Escape rooms? That sounds like a great idea for someone with the toughest job in the world … dealing with preschoolers. How about a person whose heart was broken over a failed relationship? Or the kicker who blew the game-winning field goal? Or the business woman who botched negotiations for a big deal in her company? Or the guy who sees no way out when life crushes his dreams?
There are times for all of us when escape sounds really good. Escape can be harmful when we are just trying to avoid reality. We can live in a fantasy world just so long before there are negative consequences. However, there are healthy ways to escape. Just changing up our routine might help. Recreation can truly be re-creation for the mind, body, and soul. Practicing the discipline of solitude can help us get centered.
That’s what Jesus did. There were times when He needed to escape … the demands of the crowds, the pressure of mentoring the disciples, facing the constant attacks of His enemies. The Bible records that Jesus would pull away, find a quiet place, and commune with His Father.
If escaping replenishes us and empowers us to stay the course, we owe it to ourselves, the people we love, and the commitments we have made to find a way. We weren’t created to run on fumes!
It sank in twelve minutes. Two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine dealt the fatal blows. On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis had delivered vital components for the atomic bomb that would fall on Hiroshima and was headed back to base. Her secret mission ended with disaster. 1196 sailors and Marines were aboard. Hundreds were killed in the attack but most survived. 900 men went into the waters of the Pacific. Days later a plane spotted a raft and rescue operations finally commenced. Only 316 men were saved. The rest perished because of exposure, dehydration, drowning, and shark attacks.
After 8 years of searching, a team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen found the wreckage at a depth of 18,000 feet. CNN writer Immanuel Grinberg wrote an article about the discovery, quoting a relative of one of those who died: “After 72 years, the Indy might’ve finally been found, but I’m still lost in a sea of tears.”
Only about 20 of the survivors are still alive today. For some of them and the families of those lost, there is gratitude that the ship was finally located. For many others, the news opened wounds long thought closed.
Controversy has swirled about this tragic episode for decades. President Harry Truman was vilified by some, hailed by others. He made the decision to use a weapon that both cost and saved lives. War is indeed hell.
Even amidst the horror of vicious sharks taking men, there were stories of gallantry and sacrifice. A sailor who gave up his life jacket to a wounded man and then slipped below the waves … groups of men uniting to fend of the bloodthirsty predators … sharing the meager supplies of food and water. In the worst of times, the human spirit can soar.
We could use some soaring in our day.
Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus: “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And you may have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is” (Ephesians 3:16-18).
Of all the things that concern us, shouldn’t we seek the safest place there is? Shouldn’t we center our lives on that which offers us peace, confidence, and hope? What is the antidote for the poison that spreads its malevolent destruction all around us? Fear and violence seem to be default settings these days, whether we are talking about North Korea or Charlottesville.
We are not called to hide from the darkness; we are summoned tp bring light into a dark world. We start where we are – one relationship at a time, one situation, one decision, one attitude, one act. Infused by the power Paul sought for the believers in Ephesus, we draw upon the greatest force the world has ever known. Fueled by a growing awareness and experience of God’s love, we are transformed as ministers of reconciliation … as bearers of good news … as messengers of hope.
Does that sound trite to you? Have you read the Scripture lately? Jesus didn’t promise an easy road, but He did promise to be present every step. He called those who would follow Him to a radical commitment. He never suggested that discipleship was simple or convenient.
Until we take seriously our calling, we will never experience what Paul prayed for the Ephesians. Can we really be satisfied with a comfortable, convenient faith? How can we?
Let’s go deeper!
If you have ever had to use crutches you know they are both blessing and curse. Having had foot surgery a few weeks ago, I have been reintroduced to the fun of navigating through life with these sticks. I’m keeping score – only one face plant so far. Kim and I spent several days trying to rent, even buy, crutches. A friend came to the rescue. Another friend let me borrow a kneeler. Life is good. I’ve been challenged by one of our senior adults to a race in the church hallways. I’m in training now.
I’ve noticed that most often the word “crutches” has a negative connotation. Crutches symbolize weakness, a need you cannot meet without help. Unhealthy relationships, substance abuse, laziness, and stunted growth are just a few of the downside aspects of crutches.
When there is a physical reason for crutches, most people I know can’t get rid of them fast enough. Putting them down indicates a return to health and normal activity.
So how do we get rid of crutches? I love the stories about Jesus when He rid people of their crutches. Sometimes He healed them, but He would always urge them to take the first step, to throw away the crutch. Remember the guy who had been a paralytic for 38 years? It’s found in John 5. Jesus actually asked the man, “Do you want to get well?” Sounds like a silly question but some people cling to their crutches.
Jesus told the man to pick up the mat he had been lying on for so long and to start walking, He gave the man dignity and accountability. The guy could have just stayed on the mat, physically and mentally. He expected the man to take the first step.
In our world of so many broken people, we yearn to see people be healed in mind, body, and spirit. We have been called to help people get rid of their crutches, to encourage them to get off the mat and get back into life.
Perhaps you and I will get the opportunity this week. Let’s pray we’ll be ready.