Apr 102019
 

Some of you may be interested in checking out some of these links to further your understanding of God, Scripture and our intended role(s) as Believers. The links for the apologists’ (“apologia” is greek for “defense” by the way, not for “apology”) sites are awesome for finding answers to questions/concerns you may have in/about your faith and beliefs, or for finding answers to questions other people pose to you for which you have no confident response. I hope you find them helpful.

Apologetics and evidence for faith:

https://www.reasonablefaith.org

http://multiplymovement.com

https://www.reasons.org

https://www.str.org

https://crossexamined.org

https://coldcasechristianity.com

https://www.johnlennox.org

Bible studies & commentaries:

https://enduringword.com

https://www.versebyverseministry.org

https://jesusonline.com/resources/free-bible-studies/

Mar 232019
 

The Bible (both old and new testaments) exhorts us to read and study God’s word so that we thoroughly understand God’s character and nature, and how He wants us to live our lives. Through Jesus, He wants a personal relationship with us. He doesn’t want “religion” or ritual, because religion doesn’t save: Jesus does.

Look and see how many, many books and chapters of the Bible (again, both old and new testaments) are offered as warnings to us all to not ignore our God, the Creator of everything that exists.

As I was studying Scripture this morning, I was particularly struck by these words from the Book of Hosea 4:6 (NASV), given as warning and prophesy to Israel prior to their destruction by Assyria. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because you have rejected knowledge…”

Do those words bring any degree of conviction to your heart? Are you rejecting the knowledge readily and freely available to you because you’re “busy” with your life? Take a look at your activities throughout the day. What actual value has that 30 minutes (or hours????) of television brought to your life? What about the time spent on social media? Do you find yourself watching silly videos posted by people you don’t even know, and then realize how much time has evaporated? Oh, it may have been entertaining, but was it of any real value???? And when things get rough in your life, do you ever feel God seems so far away? I’ve heard this several times, and you may have as well: “If you feel far from God, guess who moved?” Here’s the clue: it certainly wasn’t God.

We should have our noses in our Bibles every single day, or certainly as often as we can manage — always giving priority to time with the Lord. (Try getting up 15-20 minutes earlier every day and make it your very first task.) If you’ve tried reading the Bible and feel like you’re just not getting much out of it — possibly because you’re struggling with old King James linguistics, I implore you to try a different, contemporary version. Nowadays, you can read almost any version of the Bible online for free, or download from Amazon or the Apple Store. Also please read, listen to or watch commentaries and studies posted online, for free (such as, but not limited to: versebyverseministry.org; bible commentary; https://thebibleproject.com/podcasts/exploring-my-strange-bible/; https://thebibleproject.com/explore/;and enduringword.com), and pray for discernment from the Holy Spirit. I will testify to what great insight you will gain — not only an increase in head knowledge, but tremendous enhancement of your spiritual growth and your connection with the Lord.

The thing is (and you’ll learn this once you begin to study Scripture), the Jews believed they were “just fine” because they continued to go through the motions (ritual) of the Law, without putting any thought into it. Without putting their hearts in it. They worshipped and trusted in other gods, adding a small side-serving of the One True God just to make sure they had all the bases covered. They acted according to “what was right in their own hearts.”

I ask you to “Sow with a view to righteousness. Reap in accordance with kindness. Break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord.” (Hosea 10:12)


Feb 182019
 

Hello again. Here is my amalgamation of 1 Peter 1:15, Mark 9:24 and my own requests for spiritual improvement and relational growth with the Lord.

Please forgive me for my lack, and for my failures. Unveil my faults and rid me of them. Prevent my neglect. Cure my unbelief. Help me wait for You, putting my hope confidently in Your word. Help me be holy in all my behaviors in imitation of You, the Perfect One who called me. Imbue in me Your goals. Include me in Your work, and support my success. Create in me a fervent and unwavering spirit; a faithful, pure and devoted heart. Set in my being an unquenchable passion for You and Your ways. Give me all Your promises, for You are the God of my Life.

Dec 252018
 

Psalm 119 has so many verses that speak to me. Here’s an adaptation from that Psalm:

Help me seek and find You, Lord. Be with me. Enlighten me, inspire me, and fill me. Store up Your living words in my heart so I may not offend You. Give me all I need to earnestly carry out Your desires each day. Draw me ever closer to You. Help me fully trust in You, and love You with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength. Reveal to me the way I should go, because I pine for You. Align me with Your will and hold me fast, for You are my God.

Know that the Lord Goes Before You.

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Know that the Lord Goes Before You.
Dec 172018
 

Since my current work in progress is greatly stifled by writer’s block, 🙁 I’m inclined to post some Bible verses and prayers that resonate with me. Perhaps you might also enjoy them? Here’s the first, a mash-up from Deuteronomy 31:8 and 1 Chronicles 28:20 :

Know that the Lord is the One who goes before You. He will be with you. He will not fail you nor forsake You. Never fear or be dismayed for His work is always perfect. All His ways are consummate. He is the God of faithfulness and power, devoid of injustice. Faultless and upright is He.

Aug 022015
 

Colin Mercer is facing divorce, the collapse of his business, a multi-million dollar personal lawsuit, and worse. In my current work-in-progress, The Ruins, I explore his heartbreak and loss of security, identity, and faith.

He’s pretty pissed at God. But all with good reason, right? I mean: look at what his life has become. Everything he’s achieved, all his effort and sacrifices over decades, all his hopes and dreams…. Snatched away.

But why is it so many of us interpret God’s promise of ‘blessings’ to mean plentiful material goods, financial prosperity, success in our careers, healthy physical bodies, satisfaction in our life goals (whatever they may be), and the like? When those things are not realized, we feel we’re being ‘punished’, don’t we? I suspect this is more prevalent in Western culture than elsewhere in this world. But, if your life experience is similar to my own, this is primarily due to the religious dogma to which I was indoctrinated growing up: because we are Christ’s ‘chosen’, we are somehow ‘owed’ a happy, perfect life. At the very least, our faith becomes a sort of talisman or charm protecting us from the tribulations, and sometimes horrors, of life.

It’s unclear to me where such expectations originated. There is absolutely no evidence I can find in Scripture leading anyone to such an interpretation. In fact, I repeatedly find proof to the contrary. Christ Himself warned His followers how the world, in general, and all in it would be set against Believers. Our view, as supported by Scripture, is to be directed toward the blessings/rewards we are to receive on the other side of this existence. Everything in this life, according to the Apostle Paul, is to be considered a ‘trifle’.

In the meantime, in our humanity, we are keenly reminded of all the troubles afflicting us now. Why does the Lord have us suffer at all? If He is truly God, He has the power to give us everything we could ever want. And wouldn’t doing so also demonstrate to peoples of other faiths that He is the true God? Wouldn’t everyone jump on board the Christian train?

Stephen Armstrong of Verse By Verse Ministry of San Antonio contends that the Lord permits these earthly afflictions, not for the purpose of destroying us, but in order to ensure our weakness is always evident, and Christ’s strength is always visible, both to us and in us. But history, from the time of Cain, has repeatedly evinced our natural tendency to forget or dismiss from Whom all things are given. We become proud. We begin to believe we accomplished or gained this or that through our own brilliance or strength or effort.

Colin’s struggle to understand and embrace this whole concept is a mirror of my own challenges in accepting the way my life has been going. His story isn’t finished yet, so we’ll see how well he (and I) succeed.

 Posted by at 2:51 pm
Nov 272014
 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

The glory of the Lord: the visible token of the presence of the God. A white shining cloud of intolerable brightness, known among the Jews as the Shechinah. It was observed in Moses’ burning bush, in the pillar of fire and cloud which guided the Israelites out of Egypt and as they wandered in the desert, and also witnessed in the tabernacle in the Temple in Jerusalem. It shone round Jesus during the Transfiguration. It robed Him when, risen, He appeared to the Pharisee Saul outside Damascus. The occasional presence of this visible glory was exceedingly precious to the Jews. The terror felt by the shepherds was the natural awe felt by man when brought into visible communion with heavenly beings.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” 15 

It should be considered significant this message was announced to shepherds. Historical evidence indicates they were social outcasts, rough characters on the fringe of Jewish society, and considered among the lowest class. (That they were not allowed to give testimony in court is one indication of their low cultural status.) As a group, they have no discernible qualifications for the distinction of being the first to hear of the Savior’s birth —especially when delivered in such a manner. But this could be the very reason they were selected: as a practical illustration of what Christianity often exemplifies: “the exaltation of the humble and meek” as opposed to the further exaltation of persons held in high regard or power. This seems to reflect Mary‘s words in the Magnificat: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”[15]

May you, too, be lifted up with joy and uncountable blessings throughout this Christmas and holiday season. Go forth and make merry!

Passages and commentary excerpted from:

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/luke/2.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annunciation_to_the_shepherds

http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/news/why-did-angels-appear-to-the-shepherds-42031

http://www.whychristmas.com/story/birth.shtml

Oct 032014
 

The Fibonacci Sequence. Ever heard of it?

It’s a sequence of numbers (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,…) that recurs in nature; a pattern that gives rise to the architecture of many living — and non-living — bodies.

What is really interesting about the Fibonacci sequence is that its pattern of growth, in some mysterious way, matches the forces controlling growth in a large variety of natural dynamical systems. The most eloquent examples in nature are found in a variety of trees and flowers, generally associated with some kind of spiral structure. For instance, leaves on the stem of a flower, or a branch of a tree, often grow in a helical pattern; spiraling around the branch as new leaves form further out.

This “Fibonacci spiral” consists of a sequence of quarter circles with radii proportional to the Fibonacci numbers. It’s most clearly demonstrated in the arrangement of petals on flowers (picture a daisy), pine cones, seed heads (sunflowers are a good example), cactus spirals, vegetables (take a look at a cauliflower or cabbage) and fruits (pineapple, for one).

Curious, right? Now consider this: cell division, otherwise known as Mitosis. What do we find? The Fibonacci sequence. What governs honey bee populations within a hive? Hey! The Fibonacci sequence. And it doesn’t stop there. This Fibonacci spiral structure can be observed in nautilus and mollusk shells, the nerves of the cornea, the bands of hurricanes/cyclones, and even the spiral arms of galaxies.

Why should this be? What evolutionary advantage is there in arranging structures based on the Fibonacci sequence? And if evolution is the primary culprit, why does the Fibonacci pattern cross bioligical classifications (plant/animal)? And how/why does it extend beyond the architecture of living entities, otherwise localized here on our planet, to astronomical exhibitions; extending beyond our galaxy and into the far reaches of the universe?

So far, the question remains unanswered. Best guesses have been debunked. Yet, science dismisses the existence of something greater than coincidence. They dismiss God.

I don’t get it.

Want to explore questions about science vs The Bible? Try “Gunning for God. Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target” by John C. Lennox or “God’s Undertaker. Has Science Buried God?” by John C. Lennox.

*Excerpts from Dan Reich, Department of Mathematics, Temple University [https://math.temple.edu /~reich/Fib/fibo.html]; Wikipedia; Worldmyteries.com; http://www.inspirationgreen.com/fibonacci-sequence-in-nature.html; and www.maths.surrey.ac.uk

 

 Posted by at 8:24 pm
Dec 282013
 

Gospel of Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore  the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Whether or not you believe Jesus is the Christ is immaterial for my purposes. Let’s focus on Mary.

Based on information I’ve acquired from multiple sources over the years, Mary may have been all of thirteen years old at this moment in her life. At least one source depicts her as having Moorish descent, making her of very dark complexion. Although the Catholic faith (possibly others, as well) teach that Mary was without sin, or ‘immaculate’, nothing in the Bible supports anything other than her virginal status and her sincere devotion to God. Contrarily, Scripture repeatedly emphasizes that Jesus—and in all of humanity, only Jesus—was sinless and perfect.

In any regard, there is no indication this announcement was made to Mary in the form of a dream or vision. The archangel Gabriel literally visited her. She has got to be wondering what was in the wine she’d had earlier. Right? Given her innocence and devotion, one can reasonably conclude her to be quite humble, almost certainly struggling to comprehend how a lowly individual such as she could be selected for this incredible task. No matter your beliefs, she believed in the promise made to her.

I can’t help speculating her mind was abuzz with questions and, possibly, concerns about how this would all come about. Would or did the conception occur immediately? Was she immediately cognizent of it? And when her pregnancy was evident, did she begin to freak out a little bit? She’s already betrothed to Joseph, as it was customary for marriages to be arranged well before a girl’s first menstruation. Historically, and even to this day in Middle Eastern culture, you know not much is more highly prized in a woman than her virginity. So, how does one prepare for that conversation with one’s parents? Or breaking the news to Joseph? In that society, she would have been shunned — very possibly for all of her life — even my one’s own family. Wouldn’t that prospect churn in one’s gut?

At the very least, I wonder how saddened she was by the shame and disappointment her condition brought to Joseph and her family, who most assuredly could not comprehend her “explanation”. Although it isn’t recorded in scripture, perhaps Gabriel or other angels visited her later, giving her guidance and encouragement. Then again, I’m probably imposing my own very limited degree of faith upon her and, instead, she was perfectly accepting and content to let her future unfold as it would, in any manner it would.

But however she would have introduced that revelation, it wasn’t looking good for Mary. By the accounts, Joseph fully intended to file a writ of divorce since a betrothal was as legally binding as a marriage, and this would be required of him. Evidently, truly caring for Mary and wishing to spare her the shame she would have to endure among her townfolk, he also intended to send her away. But another visit from Gabriel, this time to Joseph in the form of dream, changed all that.

There are very few references to Mary recorded in Scripture, but as a mother, holding my own child in my arms was such a miracle to me, and so indescribably profound; what must Mary have felt upon holding Jesus? She believes he is the Messiah, the fulfillment of centuries of prophesies, a king for all time. There would be no way to grasp it, would there?

Nowhere in the Bible is insight provided as to what all Mary knew regarding Jesus’ future: his miracles, martyrdom,  and documented resurrection. Did Jesus have conversations with her, trying to prepare her for what would come? I find evidence in Scripture that probably wasn’t the case. Like I suspect most parents do, I agonize over hardships my kids endure just in “normal” life, from which I’m unable to protect them. But when I consider Mary…. Talk about strength. Talk about faith.

 Posted by at 3:32 pm
Nov 172013
 

I’m curious. I like asking questions. Encouraging others to question, think, and analyze. I want to scrutinize and attempt to understand elements of our existence: our physical world, our emotional world, our spiritual world, and how they interrelate, regardless of whether or not that interrelation is perceived or can be measured. The more I learn, the more I discover surprising connections.

For example: I’ve readily accepted what Science maintains as true regarding the Big Bang Theory of our universe’s creation. To wit: The universe was born with the Big Bang as an unimaginably hot, dense point.

A hot, dense point from what? We (i.e. scientists) don’t yet know.  According to the eminent Stephen Hawking, in his book “The Grand Design,” a great vacuum (or void) existed. This vacuum/void experienced a “fluctuation,” brought about through the natural forces of gravity, which resulted in a “singularity.”

Hmmm. If there was indeed a vacuum/void, in which nothing at all existed, how and why would a “natural force” of gravity exist? What would be its purpose, and on what would it “act” if nothing existed? Not everyone in the scientific community accepts Dr. Hawking’s theory, but overall, the current scientific supposition is: the incredibly hot, dense point (or “singularity”) simply was.

Anyway, when the universe was just 10-34 of a second or so old — that is, a hundredth of a billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second in age — it experienced an incredible burst of expansion known as inflation, in which space itself expanded faster than the speed of light. During this period, the universe doubled in size at least 90 times, going from subatomic-sized to golf-ball-sized almost instantaneously. After inflation, the growth of the universe continued, but at a slower rate. As space expanded, the universe cooled and matter formed. One second after the Big Bang, the universe was filled with neutrons, protons, electrons, anti-electrons, photons and neutrinos.

So, let’s review. In effect, we start with nothing. According to scientific theory, not even light exists at this point. From this “nothing”, an unimaginably hot, dense point somehow develops. In an instant, energy explodes from it. In scientific animations I’ve seen of this event, this is always depicted as a tremendous explosion of light. (No “matter” at this point, right? Pure energy only.) As this energy slows and cools, matter manifests.

A while ago, I participated in an online Bible study on the Book of Genesis. Even though I’ve read the Bible through a couple of times, I never participated in an actual study of Genesis until that point. This time the opening lines of Genesis really struck me:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Huh, said I to myself. Interesting. Then I read on.

 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.

Only after contemplating this for a bit, in an attempt to digest exactly what was being communicated, did I connect this detail with rudiments learned in fourth grade: our atmosphere, the air we breathe, behaves as and shares the same characteristics as liquid. Buoyancy, currents, temperature, flow, density, pressure, etc. are all properties inherent in both. Isn’t that intriguiging?

Now I’m scratching my head and wondering how Moses, who (according to tradition) recorded these words some thirty-four hundred years ago, would/could know anything about the scientific properties of air or water. Even a few hundred years ago, we hadn’t identified this kind of stuff, yet copies of the Bible exist that are older than this.

Is it mere coincidence? Could be, I suppose. But I do wonder what the chances would be for true coincidence.

I read an article where researchers claim all humans are wired for belief in the spiritual. Universally, across this globe, every civilization (including those of antiquity) has developed some form of religion. Why? Evolution teaches that our biology, our physiology, and behaviors develop intrinsically as a consequence of promoting survival. But what evolutionary benefit  to “promote survival” is gained from our belief in (a) power(s) greater than ourselves?

Isn’t it possible this spiritual need isn’t a consequence of evolution at all? That, instead, it is because, deep inside us, our Creator gave us a need for a relationship with Him?

Perhaps I can impose on you to consider the prospect for a while. I can recommend a couple of great books you can get on Amazon: The Case for a Creator and The Case for Christ, both by Lee Strobel. He presents scientific evidence from authoritative and respected sources pointing in directions other than the ones many of us have adopted. Why not read them — or either one of them — and see what you think?

In the meantime, there is so much to explore, investigate, and scrutinize! I suspect I won’t find all the answers. I’ll probably raise even more questions. But my own attitude is this: belief/faith that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny is simply myth and superstition.  When I write, I hope I incite curiosity and deeper examination of belief as well as human behavior. I’m grateful for this opportunity to explore aspects of it, and to share my curiosity with you.

Wishing you and yours a profoundly happy and blessed holiday season.

Annette Francine

 

 

 Posted by at 10:31 pm