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Liberty

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. ” (Galatians 5:1)

“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.” (James 2:12)

What is liberty? How do we obtain it? How do we live in (or by) it? Many lengthy treatises have been written on this subject but a simple, functional definition is frequently beyond our grasp. I began to think on liberty after considering a line in the hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”, by Fredrick Faber: “There’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty.” In order to understand the meaning intended by this line you must understand kindness, justice, and liberty, not from a humanist standpoint, as we frequently do with liberty, but from God’s viewpoint.

A short article on Christian liberty I found online had a succinct discussion and concise conclusion: “The ultimate goal for the Christian should be to glorify God, edify fellow believers, and have a good reputation before unbelievers.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-liberty.html) This sentence confirms what I had heard to be a simple statement of what Christian liberty (and therefore any real liberty) is: Liberty is the freedom to do what is right.

In order to stand firm in that liberty we need to stay out of two miry, hazardous ditches: legalism and license. We best keep our eyes fixed ahead on Jesus and the liberty trail He has blazed rather than fearing or obsessing over the ditches on either side of us. We must be aware of them, wary of them, and wise to them, but if we obey the voice of God as He guides us, we need not fret over them.

So how do I run the right wheel of liberty merrily along without being tracked into the icy waters of the ditch legalism? I love the hymn that says, “Free from the Law, oh, happy condition, Jesus hath bled and there is remission; Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall, Christ hath redeemed us once for all.” As the Scripture says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13). That curse was death demanded by the righteousness of God proclaimed by the Law. In fact, “we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6) There it is! The Spirit gives us the power and freedom to do what is right. The statutes of the Law for the Christian were abolished in Christ, but not the moral law, the ten commandments. Instead, we are now enabled to do what is right- blessed liberty!

Many friends reading this blog will not have trouble with the aforementioned ditch. So how do I run a true course with the left wheel of liberty and avoid sliding off into the ditch license? Again I refer to this old hymn: “Children of God- oh, glorious calling, Surely His grace will keep us from falling; Passing from death to life at His call, Blessed salvation once for all.” I see three Scripture based answers to the license danger in this hymn verse: 1) His grace keeps us from falling (2 Corinthians 12:9), 2) The glory of our calling in Christ gives us purpose and worth to resist mere license (Romans 6:1-4), and 3) We are being fitted for heaven which brings great hope and focus (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). 

So the “standing firm” of the initial verse of this blog entry means walking in liberty without tracking or sliding into the ditches. When you “Consider yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:11) you guard on the one side and “So speak and so act as those judged by the law of liberty,” (James 2:12) in defense of the other. Tracking in liberty is not looking at the worrisome waves on either side, but keeping full view of the Savior out in front of us. And He even knows our frailty and extends a hand to catch us up when we call for help. (Matthew 14:28-33)

We extend this liberty to others in the natural realm through governance, community involvement, church unity, and family togetherness, so that they may come to see true liberty in the spiritual realm through the two great commandments: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40), and thus be saved to eternal joy and peace. Happy Independence Day!

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Some of my friends have already seen this or were there, but others might benefit from what this video has to say. I had the privilege of preaching at my church this past Sunday. I felt led and carried along, so that I believe it is a message that God gave me. I give Him the glory for anything of profit therein. It is a message for the church of America. I hope that you will take the time to listen to it:

It is very possible that you do not know what you fear most because you have not confronted that situation yet. There is also depth of fear and extent of fear, by which I mean absolutely horrifying as opposed to what you most guard against because it is constantly in your thoughts consciously or subconsciously. 

Evidently, I speak of the latter when I say what I most fear. I most fear being publicly humiliated for being incompetent and unprepared. I say evidently because occasionally I have dreams about just such things. I tend to have two kinds of dreams, those that may or may not seem significant, based on my emotional state after I awaken, but that I can’t remember any detail about, and those dreams that are very clear in every detail and seem to be communicating something profound to me or about me.

This morning was an occurrence of the latter. I am a science teacher. For some, what seems to me, a silly reason, I always have a few moments of first-year teacher nervousness about the first day of class (a tale tale indication of my greatest fear?). Now in terms of the school year, the dream I am about to relate to you is a mid-summer nights’ dream, making it all the more curious that it should happen, since school should be the last thing on my mind.

I was in a old school building that was very well remodeled. It was between classes of the last period of the day on the first day of class. I was required to rove to a different class this period, which when I have been required to do is the most bothersome thing to me, probably because it always involves some level of not being prepared for class when it begins. On the way there students in the bathroom were involved in some unknown rowdiness which my appearance and stern voice immediately dissipated. This further delayed my arrival to class. The students began filing out of the bathroom. I recognized most of them and many of them went into the classroom that I was entering. As we entered the tardy bell rang. The room was large with the classroom set-up at one end. Students were already in their desks. I knew all of the students, having had most of them the previous semester and others the year before. All of the students had attempted, out of a social habit that I have observed that makes them feel more comfortable, to sit in their previously assigned seats. Everything was in order except for one desk missing on the front row, so that a student assigned last year to that desk was sitting on the floor where the desk would have been. As I walked to the front of the room all faces turned toward me and the immediate thought came to me, “Why are these students here? I have had them all, most of them last semester, and they all passed (didn’t they?)?” I came to the desk, seeing that it was very neatly organized with every office supply gadget you could want and organizers for many colorful highlighters and markers. As I surveyed this wonder and the fact that there was not one piece of my papers, syllabus or otherwise, on the desk, the thought occurred to me, is this Earth and Environmental Science class that I have exclusively taught the last few years or the Chemistry class that I was told I might be teaching? If I ask the students which it is they will know that I am unprepared, not because I don’t know the subject, but because I have no materials to hand out and no lesson prepared. If it is Earth Science, I’ve done it so many times recently that I can totally wing it, but if it is Chemistry, as likely these “repeating” students imply, I’m clueless where to begin even though my head is filled with Chemistry facts. I stood overlooking the smiling faces in front of me, students who had likely taken Chemistry because they liked me as a teacher before, waiting for a spark of inspiration.

The dream ended by me awakening, lying flat on my back in the pleasant morning light and coolness, wondering what I would do next, and wondering why such dreams persist in my consciousness. Evidently, I fear being humiliated publicly for being incompetent and unprepared. Given that fact, should I share this dream?

Crag Snakes

Two weeks ago my climbing partner and I were making a short approach to a crag. I chose to come to the top of the cliff and set up a toprope. He went down through the crack to the base of the outcrop. When I was ready to rappel down, he said, “Watch the snake below you about ten feet above the ground.” I asked for further explanation. A moment later my partner said, “He fell.” I looked down just in time to see the snake smack the ground. This snake was climbing perhaps a 5.9 section of a 5.11 climb. We climbed a few pitches, watching this 5 foot Black Snake search for holds. After a while it gave up on the direct approach and moved up a slanted ledge toward the top of the cliff. While I was climbing, my partner commented that it had climbed into a bush high up on the ledge. We took no more notice for a while.

A little later while I was belaying my partner, I saw the snake 30′ up on a branch, reaching out to the cliff. It was at nearly full extension with just the last 6″ wrapped around the branch. I could discern the possible path that the snake had crawled out of the bush onto a far branch of the tree, to the trunk, and out to the end of the branch to the cliff. After much searching on the cliff for a hold, it slowly released hold on the branch, and soon afterward fell 30′ to a boulder below. I thought surely this killed the snake. However, I did observe the center of the snake strike the rock and the head flopped onto the leaf mulched ground beside it. It lay still. After my partner came down, I went over and poked it with a stick. It coiled up to strike. A few minutes later it crawled into a crack low on the ledge, and then back out followed by a shorter Black Snake. The shorter one tried climbing the wall several times, searching different holds to go up. It was more cautious that its climbing partner backing down instead of falling.

At one point I took a long stick and removed the shorter snake from a climb that I wanted to try. It got back on the climb shortly after I ascended. As I descended the climb I ask my belayer to stop at a small crack/ledge filled with miniature rhododendron bushes. The crack was no more than 4″ wide. There under one of the bushes was a fairly new bird’s nest without a bird or eggs. I suspected that this nest was the goal.

We moved to the right of the crag only glancing back occasionally to see the progress of the snakes. Now, nearly 2 hours since we had arrived, the larger snake was coming down from the top of the cliff and succeeded at getting into the crack where the nest was without falling. It must have been a disappointment to find no eggs for breakfast (late evening though it were). I would guess that they had visited the nest previously and consumed the eggs but had no idea that there would not be more eggs when they returned. So much effort with no return. Well, we certainly enjoyed the show!

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“Shorty” about 10′ up

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Check out the tail hold, full body contact, tense core, use of multiple holds, and hold searching

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Ledge Traverse

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Another “try hard”

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Climbing Partners in matching outfits

Creation Museum

I have been a Six Day Creationist for as long as I was read to from the first several chapters of the Bible. I became a much more informed one with the reading of “Scientific Creationism” by Henry Morris in 1977 when I was 17 years old. The more evolution I heard, by the grace of God, the more I rejected it as I got a Biology degree in college. I have made a lifelong study of the subject, finding nothing that evolution explains better than the Bible. On questions I could not answer I have always assumed that the Bible is true and the answer will be revealed, either in the Bible or by observational evidence. So far I have not been disappointed. I’ve been called foolish, ignorant, and blinded for believing the Bible over “science”. But Big Bang Theory, Origin of Life Scenarios, and Evolution by natural selection are worldview interpretations of evidence, not science. “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Romans 3:4)

All that having been said, I have been encouraged by numerous people to see the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. I thought it might be nice to see but didn’t feel any compulsion or need to see it since I know where I stand and have a full range of evidence and had no opportunity until recently. One of my sons was going to a wedding near Louisville and wanted a traveling companion. He suggested that we go see the Ark Encounter and then go to the wedding. I convinced him to see the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter while we were in the neighborhood. I knew Answers in Genesis’ take on presenting the controversy and feared that I might be disappointed in the level of science presented. It certainly was a popularized version for the general public, but it was well done with serious attention to the science that was communicated. The presentation was aligned around the AIG’s 7 C’s of Creation: creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ, cross, and consummation. I wondered at the outset how the salvation message would be presented. I was very impressed with the Gospel presentation.

I saw most everything that I wanted to see and read most things in a somewhat rushed fashion because of our time constraints, even taking a quick walk through the outside gardens and seeing the short movie, “In Six Days”. On the bottom floor was an amazing insect collection. There is much evidence based science at the museum, but I hope as they expand, the designers will delve even deeper. Enjoy a few pictures I took while there.

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Swinging Bridge in the Gardens

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Extensive, well kept gardens lead to the museum

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These are very diverse interpretations of the same facts. They cannot both be right. The horizontal lines about 1/3 of the way up on the “orchard” represent the Flood.

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“In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all” New England Primer

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“Christ crucify’d, For sinners dy’d” New England Primer

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In the Garden

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“Ebenezer”, Allosaurus fragilis, one of the best preserved skulls extant; approximately 30% of the skeleton is actual fossilized bones with the rest reconstructions from other specimen

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Very rapid burial!

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Models

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Noah and Son: They weren’t ignorant primitives (Genesis 4:17,20-22)

Numbers make sense out of our world. They quantify otherwise incoherent information. On occasions they reveal interesting patterns of symmetry. They may prevent us from taking flights of qualitative fancy should we happen to heed their steadying implications.

I was silly enough to pull over a few nights ago to take a picture of my odometer because of some symmetry I saw. It is in no way magical and not even uncommon to observe symmetry in numbers. It isn’t even a palindrome, for example, when expanding (x + y)^2  the coefficients of the resulting polynomial are 1,3,3,1.

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Then there was the one I ask my son to take a picture of in his car while I was driving (more about that when I get the pictures downloaded from the phone).

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I had posted a time for my one mile some time back. I have struggled with increasing my distance. I seem always tired or something not quite right. Finally, I made three miles recently. It was not pretty. It is amazing how much slower I am than a year and a half ago. Chock it up to old I guess, even though it seems more like some type of induced physiological inefficiency (I ought to name some syndrome after that- IPIS (pronounced eye-pis)- Induced Physiological Inefficiency Syndrome. It makes a good excuse.)

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Another trip on the road to pick up my wife who was visiting our daughter while I was away for the weekend with one of our sons (not a sentence yet), caused me to reflect on white lines. Strictly speaking, since they were white and it was daytime, they were reflecting on(to) me, but you get the idea. Have you ever wondered how many dashed center lines there are per mile on the interstate, and if the number is consistent? The first time I considered this seriously was on a trip to Oshkosh with a Scouting Outward group. A discussion came up about ways of thinking and perspectives. I made the point that people need to try to find several ways of solving a problem to see if the answers match. Then I proceeded to say I knew of three ways to estimate the length between the beginning of one stripe and the beginning of the next. Challenged that I could not, I pulled the van (driving again) over onto the shoulder, hopped out and paced off between the beginning of one stripe and the next (parallel on the shoulder). Then I got back in and counted the number of stripes in several measured miles (little green mile markers help) for repeatability, which I then explained as precision. Next I traveled at 60 mph, that is, a mile a minute, and had several people count how many stripes passed (relatively speaking (frame of reference)) every 10 seconds and then had them multiply by 6. Finally, as a bonus, I noticed a semi-trailer labeled 53′, as they frequently are, and estimated what fraction of that length the distance between beginning of stripes was. Well, I’m here to tell you that in NC, the distance between stripes is fairly consistent, with approximately 120 stripes per mile, at about 44 feet between the beginning of one stripe and the next. Now I imagine that there is a spec somewhere that delineates this distance and that the instructions for the stripe painting driver go something like “traveling at 40 mph, set the frequency of stripe painting at one stripe every 0.75 seconds for duration of 0.2 seconds (Can you figure out how long I am estimating the stripes to be?) All of that historical background was for the purpose of clearing my mind of the first time I seriously estimated the distance to refer to what I discovered about counting them today.

Actually, looking at and identifying sight of each stripe in order to count it is hard to do. After messing up several times, I opted for a simpler and more primitive method. Instead of looking directly at the stripes, I looked directly ahead (good idea when you are driving, eh?) and caught sight of the flash of contrast as each stripe disappeared at the bottom corner of my windshield. It felt almost like an involuntary response that I was counting rather than stripes. I got more interested in the process and why it is more efficient and more accurate than the result I was obtaining, though that result came out the same after several tries. Catching the peripheral vision flash method excluded the fully intentional recognition of individual stripes for the simpler counting of flashes. I understand that certain infrared missile guidance systems look for changes in heat signature rather than positive IR ID of targets. As an after note, I found out on that trip to Wisconsin those years ago that the stripes are closer together there, especially on WS toll roads. Is it a random change of the dials for the paint truck or a different spec for some legitimate reason like fog or snow? After allowing my brain to go with what comes to it in a paragraph like this one, I always wonder how many people who started this article read this paragraph and how many rolled their eyes as they did read it. I attribute readership of such wonderings to staunch friends and deep seated geeks.

Speaking of geeks and numbers, I just watched an informative YouTube video on rocket engine comparison. The main take away from the video for me was the number and complexity of considerations to engineer anything. Such a video can open your mind to the breadth of design considerations. If you like, you may check it out at “Is SpaceX’s Raptor engine the king of rocket engines?”

I like numbers and symmetry and beauty because they point to God. Galileo Galilei said, “[The universe] cannot be read until we have learnt the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language…” And concerning his astronomy, Johannes Kepler said, “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” It has long been realized that math is the language of science, leading to an understanding, albeit at times ever so dim, of how God organized the universe. Math and Science and Art should be our means of giving glory to God, not detracting from it.

 

Time to graduate some students. It is a time for smiles and celebration and happy tears. The education we give our young is too focussed on knowledge and understanding devoid of moral evaluation, too lacking in wisdom for living and discernment for awareness of various dangers. I hope that I may be a mentor in thoughtful and careful living.

Knowledge leads to understanding
This path will serve you very well
To your mind and heart rewarding
In interactions it will tell

Acquire wisdom in your youth
Always prudent to do what’s right
Acting kindly along with truth
With wisdom overcoming might

Many deceived by false knowledge
Seek that you may discernment find
That at home or work or college
By truth delivered, sharp of mind