Science as Worship

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The heavens declare the glory of God, and science explores His handiwork.
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Why are we, the Church, so afraid of science? Are we fearful that our God will turn out to be a sham?
I will always maintain that we have nothing to fear from science. If science is man’s way of figuring out our world, of using our God-given intellect and reason to understand the works of God, than we should be able to enjoy the breakthroughs of science rather than trembling every time a new discovery is made.
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After all, truth is truth. Truth cannot disprove truth. ~ Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project
When we attack the findings of science without fully understanding the facts, we bring ridicule on Christ’s Church, driving away those who are seeking His truth.
It happened before, between the Church and Galileo. I believe it is happening now, between the Church and Darwin.
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There is no real conflict between theistic religion and the scientific theory of evolution. What there is, instead, is conflict between theistic religion and a philosophical gloss or add-on to the scientific doctrine of evolution: the claim that evolution is undirected, unguided, or unorchestrated by God (or anyone else).  ~ Peters and Hewlett, Theological and Scientific Commentary on Darwin’s Origin of Species
Why does evolution threaten us so? It doesn’t say anything about what was before the Big Bang, whether anything set things in motion so as to produce our current existence, or of what value is our existence.
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What goodness or beauty is, why we are here, and what happens next are all questions for theologians, not scientists.
Why can we not follow the urging of Copernicus? To know the mighty works of God; to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful working of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge.
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Science can be worship.
Seeking to understand the stars and the oceans, attempting to comprehend the laws that govern our universe, yes, even the study of evolution, all of this can be worship.
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Science is moving forward. New breakthroughs are being made and people are deciding what to do with those discoveries.
The ethics of how to use such new findings will be debated with or without people of faith sitting at the table. We, the Church, have a responsibility to join in the conversation, to learn the facts and not get defensive about where those facts will lead.
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The need to succeed at (figuring out these ethics) is just one more compelling reason why the current battles between the scientific and spiritual worldviews need to be resolved – we desperately need both voices to be at the table, and not to be shouting at each other. ~ Francis S. Collins
So let’s stop shouting and begin talking. Please. For the sake of the Church. For the sake of us all.
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Note: I am not a scientist. I am not qualified to argue the specifics of whether or not evolution is true. Yet like it or not, evolution is now the accepted truth of how life came to be, and we must have a conversation about how to accept evolution within the Biblical worldview of our Christian faith, or to at least accept those Christians who do accept evolution as truth. Why? Two reasons: The first is that so many intelligent people are being driven away from Christ because we, the Church, continue to dismiss evolution out of hand, becoming defensive and angry whenever the topic is broached. The second is one I brought up at the end of this essay, the ethical issues that are here now and those that will be coming in the future. We must be present for both of these kinds of conversations. Our world needs us, as representatives of Christ, to be present, not fearful and defensive, for conversations about evolution. God can handle evolution. Evolution is not something to be feared but something to be thought about deeply, pondering how it could fit within our Biblical framework.
If you are truly interested in reading more about this topic from a Christian and scientific perspective, I highly recommend The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins. Collins is a committed Christian and a brilliant scientist. You may be familiar with his scientific work as the head of the Human Genome Project.
I understand that this can be an inflammatory topic. If you choose to comment, please keep your conversation seasoned with grace and, above all, love. Thank you, dear readers.

Art credit: all space photos are from NASA; all other photos are my own, copyright Elizabeth Giger, 2017

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Our Prayer for the New Year

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We live in a weary world.
Our world searches for light, searches for hope.
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We who have the light and hope to offer…
…do we?
Our world behaves foolishly as it clutches after joy, looks frantically for peace.
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We who have knowledge to share of joy and peace in desperate circumstances…
…do we?
Do we shine out the light of the world in rejoicing or shutter it in fear?
Why would we do that? How selfish must we be to withhold life from a dying friend out of fear for ourselves?
Yet we do.
I do.
As we begin a new year, as we close out the old, could we who are light bearers join together in prayer?
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Could we pray together that God would give us boldness and courage, that He would give us words to say and opportunities to say them, that He would help us to behave wisely and to love well?
Oh, Lord, our God. We are yours. We say to you along with Mary, Behold, we are the servants of the Lord. Do with us what you will.
Amen.

House of Cards

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

Why are we so defensive on God’s behalf?
Why do we become so frightened of hard questions?
Do we think the Bible asks us to defend God’s character, or is it deeper than that?
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Not all of the time, but all of us do harbor a bit of the recurring agnostic inside. A tiny voice that says, what if it isn’t true?
What will become of me if it isn’t true?
This flicker of fear lingers so insidiously that when someone asks a questions to which we don’t know the answer, when someone expresses a doubt we ourselves have thought, we tend to lash out, to push away, to shame.
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If this piece of what I believe turns out not to be true, perhaps none of it is true.
Is God so fragile?
Is the God who flung the stars into space, who has the power to overcome sin and death so uncertain that one piece of the puzzle can bring the entire edifice crashing down?
Is our God a house of cards?
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If your God is a house of cards, you need a new God.
You need a God who is big enough to cradle all our questions, deep enough to hold all our doubts.
You need the God who shows His power through the universe we see, who reveals Himself through His Son in Scripture, who speaks to us through His Spirit within us.
When you know this God, you can let go of your need to defend. You can rest easy with, even welcome the doubts and questions of others.
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When you are safe and secure in the LORD Almighty, you become a place for others to find rest. You become a safe place where people can sit with their questions and doubts without feeling shamed or guilty.
What if we as a Church became a place where people could question and yet trust, where people could doubt and yet worship, where people could wonder and yet love.
What if we welcomed the not-so-sure rather than driving them away?
What if we could be comfortable with the hard spaces, acknowledging that not everything has an answer we can know right now?
It starts with you and with me. Can we let go of our fear and trust that our faith is not a house of cards?
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Imagine a church where people could worship even when they don’t have it all figured out.
Imagine a church where people could love and serve even in the times when they aren’t quite sure about it all.
Imagine a church full of people like…
Well, full of people like us.

What Should We Truly Fear?

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Fear is a powerful force.
I have done things of which I am not proud out of fear. I have done things that were good from the same motivation.
The Bible speaks often about fear.
Fear God. Don’t fear anything else. Simplified, perhaps, but that is about the sum of it.
Yet we are also told that in Christ, we do not need to fear God. We are instructed to come boldly before His throne. We are told that perfect love casts out fear. How are these reconciled?
Fear the Lord thy God
Come boldly
It is certainly true that God tells us to fear nothing but Him. We are told that we will have trouble in this world but that we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.
Jesus tells His disciples not to fear those who can harm only the body but to fear only the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
He had, however, just been speaking about the Pharisees who had the power to cast them out of the temple which, for a first century Jew, was about the worst thing imaginable. The temple was an integral part of who they were. If they were cast out, not even their family would be allowed to associate with them. They became untouchables.
Jesus reassures His followers, though. He tells them that the Pharisees truly are not to be feared and that to be cast from the temple is not the worst thing imaginable. He warns them that the worst thing would be for God to cast your soul into hell.
Frightening words.
Then come comforting words, as Jesus is wont to do.
He then reassures them that if you trust in God you don’t have to fear the worst (being cast into hell) because God cares even for the tiny sparrows and you are worth so more than a sparrow to God.
So fear God. But don’t fear God.
Clear, yes?
I find clarification in the writings by John, one of Jesus’ disciples. He was there when Jesus spoke of fearing God rather than one who can harm only the body. Perhaps he was thinking of that moment when he wrote about fear in one of his letters.
John, speaking to those who have confessed that Jesus is Lord, says that there is no fear in love. He says that fear has to do with punishment, which has no place in those who are in Christ. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, speaks of this kind of fear as a dread arising from feelings of guilt. And perfect love drives out dread.
Perhaps it is a bit like our feelings about fire.
We all treat fire with caution and care when it is contained in our fireplace or firepit, but perhaps do not fear it. We have a healthy respect for it when checked by the confines of the fireplace, but I venture to guess that if a raging wildfire were headed straight for us with no way to escape, we would feel just a smidge of fear.
Perhaps fire truly is a good example in its limited way. If we follow the rules of caring for fire, it is beautiful and bestows many benefits upon us but if we disobey those rules it can consume us.
In the same way, if we obey God, if we accept His gift of Jesus’ blood covering us, we need not worry about punishment from God, and in that sense we do not need to fear Him. We should, however, still have fear in the sense of reverence and awe of what He could do if He were to choose, what He will do to those who reject Him.
So if we are in Christ, we do not have to be afraid of anything at all: nothing in this world, because Christ has overcome the world, and not of God, for we are in Christ who has taken on Himself the punishment for our sins.
So let us fear God out of awe and reverence rather than out of dread, for He is, in Scripture’s own words, a consuming fire.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. ~ Hebrews 12.28-29

Art credits: Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Jan Vermeer

The Absurdity of Jesus

Once upon a time, there was an American who took a hike in the Smoky Mountains.
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He was a couple of days down the trail when he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
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Now by chance a State governor came along the trail, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
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So likewise, a conservative talk show host happened upon the American as he walked down the trail, and he too passed by on the other side.
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Also a local pastor, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
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But a middle-eastern man, dressed in military fatigues and carrying a sub-machine gun, looking much like the pictures of ISIS soldiers, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds…
Much of what Jesus says is ridiculous. Completely unreasonable and absurd. Crazy, even.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil.
Then the King will say…, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father…For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a refugee and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
It doesn’t make sense and it is uncomfortable and it is hard. It is so very hard.
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The idea of praying for those who want to bomb me is ludicrous. The thought of welcoming people who might be preparing to hurt my children is absurd. It makes my heart freeze and my stomach hurt.
I am frightened and I want to obey Jesus only when I can see the outcome, only when I know that I will be blessed, not blown to smithereens, in return.
There are so many commands of Jesus that I skip right over. I look at them, read them, and decide that they are not for me. Following Jesus is hard, and I am a coward.
Which means, if I am honest with myself, that I am no better than those I am frightened of.
while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…
And God reached down to earth for me. He became a refugee, a stranger, for my sake, to bring me back to Him.
God, help me.
Give me courage, give me strength. Give me faith to trust that in Your ridiculousness, You know what You are talking about.
Help me to love You enough to obey You. To obey all that You command.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever.
Help those who do not love You, including myself who does not love You enough.
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Emmanuel, God-with-us, help me. Help your Church.

Art Credits for Good Samaritan paintings in order: David Teniers the younger; Maximilien Luce; Russian iconPelegrín Clavé y Roqué; Rvalette; Domenico Fetti; All Saints Church wall painting

Whatever Is Necessary

What do we do with the truly awful things of this life? With a loss of love, with a deep constant pain, with a fear that pervades our depths?
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 Discouraged
 It is dangerous to attribute it all to our not loving God enough, although perhaps we could say that is often the case.
Our faith is, as CS Lewis once said, often only a house of cards.
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He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down. ~ CS Lewis A Grief Observed
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We walk around, believing that our foundation is solid, but in truth we are playing at faith. Our house needs a good breath of wind, for if it is never allowed to fall, it can never be rebuilt to last for eternity.
If my faith is only steady enough to endure this life, wouldn’t I want God to blow it down with whatever wind is necessary so that I can endure to the end?
I’m not sure.
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I think I want this, but fear holds me back. Fear of what God, in His infinite love and wisdom, might deal out.
He never promised to be gentle.
Is any pain at all worthwhile if it brings us closer to Him, closer to the sort of life with God that Jesus lived?
The given answer should be yes, but I hesitate and pull back at the brink of giving it.
Which means that I do not yet desire God above all else.
Not truly.
Do many of us?
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We give our hearts over to so many things other than God. . .As long as our happiness is tied to the things we can lose, we are vulnerable. ~ John Eldredge Walking With God
If God is truly enough, if He is what we need for happiness, for contentment, then we should be able to let go of those we love, endure that deep pain, rise above the pervasive fear, because we still have Him.
It is God who remains when all else is gone. It is God who fills us up with Himself so that we do not need anything or anyone else.
In truth, when we lose, when we hurt, we have more of Him than we have in the comfort and in the ease. That in itself should make us turn from the easy way.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. ~ Philippians 3. 7-12
If only I could believe that. Truly know it and live it.
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But without the pain of learning it.

Go Act Like It

Sometimes, when I forget who our King is, this world makes me want to run away and hide.
In a week when refugees number in the millions,
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In a week when a friend, a friend with a wife and three small children, dies much too soon,
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In a week when fellow believers choose to scream about gay marriage across the country rather than to do something about the poor on the other side of town,
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It is easy to believe the lie that I can do nothing against the darkness of this world.
It is easy to believe that the darkness is too strong.
It is easy to believe that ISIS wins, that cancer wins, that politicism wins.
In a week like this, I want to give in to despair. To give up. To gather my babies around me and sit and wait for Jesus to come back and make all of this right again.
And then I remember.
I remember that Jesus calls us to fight. He calls us to be a royal priesthood. A people who rule on His behalf and a people who represent Him to the world around them.
If we hide from the darkness, the darkness will certainly overcome. At least, it will overcome those to whom God asked us to be the light. Perhaps it will overcome us as well.
God is light and He has commissioned us to bring that light to the world.
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I often tell my children:
You are beautiful. You are loving.
Now act like it.
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Helping Others to Stand
So now I tell myself and I tell you:
We are royal. We are priests.
We should act like it.
Go dish out food at a soup kitchen.
Go babysit the children of a parent who has lost someone they love.
Go take a meal to an elderly friend who broke their hip.
Go have patience with that tantrum-throwing child one more time.
Go bake some cookies and take them to the gay couple down the street. Without a note that tells them how wrong they are.
Go find out how to help those refugee children who are lost and hungry and afraid (here’s a good place to start: http://wewelcomerefugees.com/).
We are royal. We are priests.
Act like it.
Be the light that overcomes the darkness.
And take heart; Jesus has overcome the world.

My Capricious Heart

I’m back.
Tentatively, yet determinedly back.
I’ve been a little paralyzed, waiting for the perfect post to form itself before writing. I’ve been a little hesitant, thinking I should have time to dig deep into books before pouring forth out of my emptiness. I’ve been a little prideful, believing that my troubles are not of value to others because they do not deal with death or poverty or persecution.
I will cast off these lies and write. I will write and pray that God will use what is inside of me whether or not it is perfect or brought from research or developed from great suffering.
Since when can God only use greatness for His purpose?

Moving

Packing

Still Packing

Unpacking

Swimming in Packing Paper

Drowning in Packing Paper

Moving is hard.
There is a loneliness that comes from knowing that deep, local friendships lie months, even years away. There is fear in the understanding that your introverted self is going to have to be bold and take risks in order to find those new friends. There is a sadness when grieving the friendships you left behind.
There is the ache of watching your children struggle, seeing them cry before trudging off to a new school and holding them when they rant and rage with an anger that is really stress they don’t know how to handle. It hurts to hear them talk about what they miss from our old home.
There is the exhaustion of too many sleepless nights. Sleepless from a six month old baby who still wakes up multiple times a night, sleepless from older sisters who wake with nightmares or because they can’t find the bathroom in their new place, sleepless from your own desire to unpack just one more box and try to make this house a home.
And?
Moving has within it a hope for future grace.
There is the freedom of a house in which your children have the space to spread out a bit, a house big enough to host a gathering without sitting in each other’s laps, a house with room for you to grow.
There is the excitement of a town you know you can enjoy, a town that’s just the right size for you, a town with potential for serving and for fun.
There is the joy of being near my brother and his family, the joy of good neighbors who might become good friends, the joy of a job my husband enjoys and doesn’t dread every day.
Underneath it all there is the peace, when I look for it, of knowing that we are where God wants us to be. My heart is capricious and ever-changing; the loneliness and grieving will not always be so strong. Until my emotions catch up, I will know that God has purpose for us here. I will know that He will use us in beautiful ways we don’t yet see and that this is what will make us happy.
Until that happens, I will trust Him and cling to Him even when my heart would tell me otherwise. The joy and peace will come. This I know and this I hold on to.

What Is Found in the Dark?

Dark.
There is darkness outside at three in the morning and there is darkness inside of ourselves from which we cannot escape.
Dark.
There is darkness in the middle of a storm and there is darkness in the destructive aftermath when the sun is shining.
Dark.
Darkness
There is danger in the dark and there is fear, but is it the darkness that we fear or is it whatever lies within the darkness that we cannot see?
We light candles and we plug in nightlights and we busy ourselves to do whatever is necessary to hold the darkness at bay.
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What are we really afraid of? Are we afraid that God is not there in the dark? Are we afraid that God is only in the light and if we enter into the darkness, whether it be the darkness of loss or of sin or of depression or even of death, we will lose the glory of His presence?
Yet in the darkness was where the glory of His presence was found, within the dark cloud over Mt Sinai when He made His covenant with His people Israel.
Yes, there is death in darkness.
And
There is new life in the dark.
New life
In fact, life can only begin in the dark. A seed sprouts underground and a baby grows in the womb and even Jesus was raised into His new life in the dark.
In the darkness of a cave.
We see the afterwards of the resurrection, the earthquake and the angel and the glorious, blinding light.
But the resurrection itself?
It happened in the dark.
It happened in the dark, in the silence, with the smell of damp earth and the roughness of rock all around.
And if new life can only happen in the dark, well then,
instead of doing all we can to avoid it, perhaps we should lean in to the darkness, lean in to our fear.
Perhaps if we do, we will discover a new life that could not have been found otherwise.

We Eat One Another Alive

Why do we eat one another alive?
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It happens all the time.  Just look at what happens any time a Christian leader is found out or, worse, confesses.  Just look at what happens whenever a Christian public figure says something that is outside of our comfort zone.  Just look at what happens so many times when someone in our own churches does or says something we don’t agree with.
We talk, we rant, we fill up the air with our words.  And our words are not of grace.
It is too easy to speak harshly within the anonymous confines of the internet.  We forget at times that those on the receiving end of our arrows are as beloved as we are.
Why do we do it?
Fear, perhaps.
We fear that others will think poorly of us or of our faith if we do not speak out quickly and harshly against whatever was wrong.  We fear that we will be viewed as the same if we speak words of love instead of words of condemnation.
We fear, perhaps, that we are the same deep down inside, and we do not want anyone to know the truth.
Yet the irony of it all is that the very One we are trying to defend is the same One who shared meals, shared life with those who made the most public of mistakes.
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The irony is that the Bible is crammed full of one another verses…and not one of them mentions devouring one another.
Show kindness and mercy to one another.
Love one another.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
Welcome one another.
Bear with one another.
Be kind to one another.
Forgive one another.
These are just the beginning.
Jesus said that people would know that we follow Him by our love.  Too often love is not what we show to the world.  I confess that perhaps I would not think very highly of Jesus if all that I knew of Him was what I read on the blogs and Facebook pages of His followers.
May God help us.
May the God of love and grace teach us how to get rid of our motto of We eat one another alive.
May He instead change our hearts to adopt the motto of We never leave a fallen comrade behind.

Art Credits: Lion photo by Juliane Riedl; Christ and Samaritan Woman painting by Henryk Siemiradzki