DNA and the Beanstalk

One thing I miss in our current condo is having a garden. I even miss the fall clean-up. I remember trying to untangle the climbing bean stalks from the poles and trellis I had set up for their growth. The beans stalks grew round and round the poles and each other, then onto anything nearby including the tomatoes. The plants had kept us in fresh green beans almost until first frost. They grew so dramatically high that if I had been able to install a two or three story lattice work they would have climbed to the top. As it was, I had to use a step ladder to pick the topmost.

And all this growth from a few little bean seeds. How did those seeds know to climb when my bush beans didn’t? How did they know they weren’t soy beans? How could they climb so high? My climbing beans reminded me of the magic beans described in the story of Jack and the beanstalk. I can see why the imagination of the writer went wild.

The information packed into the DNA of those seeds is incredible. How does God do these kind of things? A bean stalk ten or twenty feet long. An apple tree from an apple seed. And what about a giant sequoia? Moving from plants we could ask the same questions about a whale or a butterfly. As Werner Gitt points out in his book, In the beginning was information, there is no known natural law or process or phenomenon through which matter can give rise to information. And without encoded information there can be no life.

I’ve been writing about a bean seed, but what about the information stored in human DNA? We are told that every kind of life and every organ of every living thing uses specific proteins. In our bodies there are about 50,000 different proteins. Wow! The result of billions of years of chemical accidents? A product of evolution? Sorry, I’m just not that credulous. I’d rather go with David and praise our Creator God because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14) Do we know that? Do we know Him?

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright –– )

 

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Why Can’t We Just Get Along? #2

Polarizing opinions shout at us on every side. People keep lobbing verbal grenades through Facebook and Twitter at those on the other side of whatever issue is important to them. And many Christians have joined the fray.

But did not God instruct us; “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you” (Rom. 15:7). “This is impractical,” you say. “How can I accept him, he’s a democrat” Or, “She’s a republican!” Or, they’re “Blind Liberals, Naïve NDP, Bigoted Conservatives” or whatever label you choose to apply.

While accepting others, in a Christian context, does not mean we jettison our deeply held convictions it does mean we exhibit civility. Certainly, we must respect others as men and women created in the image of God. Surely, we must exhibit patience, love and forbearance for one another. Assuredly, it means we deal with each other gently without rancor or accusation.

Indeed, receiving one another, assumes that we exhibit interest in one another instead of erecting unassailable barriers between us. In terms of listening to others, Christians ought to be the most gifted people on earth. Jordan Peterson points out in rule number nine in his best seller, 12 Rules for Life; Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t! Listening, of course, means asking people questions about themselves and their beliefs.

In the context of Romans 14 and 15, accepting one another meant accepting people from diverse races or social classes. Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, entrepreneurs like Lydia and fishermen like Peter were to get along. Christians are categorically commanded to denounce any kind of elitism or racism.

That’s not easy. Even those with the same language but from different locations, have contrasting practices. In our first year as missionaries in Pakistan we boarded with a British family who insisted that tea had to be made a certain way and eggs had to be eaten before you put jam on your toast. They were scandalized when we brought peanut butter to breakfast!

In the Roman church, to whom Paul wrote, there were great differences of opinion. Some demanded that believers eat only vegetables while others promoted freedom to eat anything. Some had strong opinions about how to keep the Sabbath.

In today’s context Christ commands vegans and omnivores, climate change deniers, those with contrasting tastes in music, those with opinions about bottled water and the use of microwaves to all get along. Liberals and conservatives are called to join hands beneath the cross.

This directive also means we embrace those with annoying habits. Those who squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle, those who ask loud questions during a TV show or movie. Yes even those who drum their fingers incessantly and those who leave their grocery cart smack-dab in the middle of the aisle.

The exhortation also includes acceptance between those with diverse personalities. Consider the gregarious type for whom everything is wonderful; who’s always exclaiming, “this is so exciting, it’s all good.” Then there is the melancholic, quiet type of introvert who projects a more gloomy approach. Or the phlegmatic type with their ponderous but methodical approach to decisions. Even more challenging to many of us, is the strong, decisive, rather impatient choleric person who knows what to do, when to do it, and why we should get involved in their agenda.

Matthew Henry comments on this passage. Let there be a mutual embracing among Christians. Those that have received Christ by faith must receive all Christians by brotherly love; though poor in the world, though persecuted and despised, though it may be matter of reproach and danger to you to receive them, though in the less weighty matters of the law they are of different apprehensions [opinions], though there may have been occasion for private piques [annoyances], yet, laying aside these and the like considerations, receive you one another.

A CAUTION: This exhortation doesn’t mean we are to abandon our carefully reasoned opinions, but we must be open to their amendment. It does mean we should seek to understand each other’s personalities and modify our own annoying habits so we get along better.

This directive certainly does NOT mean we are to overlook heretical beliefs or immoral actions in professing believers. Paul deals with church discipline for immorality in 1 Corinthians 5. Acts 5 deals with church discipline for lying to the Holy Spirit. Acts 8 deals with trying to buy spiritual influence within the church. Other epistles deal fully with identifying and handling anti-biblical teaching; heresy.

A FURTHER NOTE: Paul instructs believers to follow Jesus directive, “Judge not that you be not judged.” He does that by clarifying the impression he had given in an earlier letter to the Corinthians. He had written, “not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat” (1 Cor. 9:12).

There is a place within the church community to withdraw from those who practice clear sin and propagate false doctrine.

But let’s be clear. God has not called us to judge non-Christians, just avoid their bad habits. There is only one Judge, and He is God.

WHY ACCEPTING ONE ANOTHER IS IMPORTANT: The passage we have been applying states that accepting one another is important to bring praise to God. How so?
When we obey God’s command to love one another, we glorify Him. When we accept one another, we recognize that although we are all sinners, we have a common heritage of mercy received beneath the cross. Acceptance exalts the grace of God.

In turn, offering one another loving acceptance creates a climate that promotes in all of us endurance, encouragement, and hope. We are not going to grow in Christ in a climate of alienation or recrimination. Many have left churches because of bickering over mundane issues or because they cannot accept differing opinions on non-theological issues.

But when brothers and sisters join hands at the foot of the cross it is a foretaste of heaven. This in turn presents a united witness to the world at large.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5,6

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright –– )

Must We Get Along?

Hall clan...A month or so ago I attended the anniversary of a couple whose wedding I conducted 25 years ago. They came from two different cultures. In a day when the world is splintered into us and them, conservatives and liberals, democrats and republicans, straight and gay, white and black, Asian and African; to gather at an event celebrating harmony is wonderful.

It’s encouraging to rejoice in the life of two who love each other and talk to each other rationally while all around us people are shouting and yelling and calling each other names. Certainly, in politics and international relations, civility seems to have disappeared. Civility and respect is even rare on our highways.

The apostle Paul, echoing the example of Jesus Christ, has some advice about our need to get along. He writes in Romans 15:7; Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

How did Christ accept us? In Romans 5:8 we read that God demonstrates his own love for DSCN2805 (2)us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we are all sinners we should be able to accept brothers and sisters who share our faith in Christ. Where? On the ground beneath the cross. The cross where Christ died for our sins is the only really common ground beyond the fact of our shared humanity. Clearly, Christ received us before we could get our act together.

A high degree of wealth, education or power generate pride and foster exclusive classes of people. By contrast, Paul clarifies the raw material from which God created the Church. “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things Kashmirof the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things…so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

Dumb, ignoble, poor, foolish, weak, lowly, despised; this is the raw material God chose to use in creating his Church. Truly, God saved us through Christ without regard to our station in life. Do we see any class distinction here? Any preferred race? Any colour of hair or physique?

Can we relate to this truth about you and me? Or do we feel that God is very fortunate to have us in his Church? Among those called in the early church we have fishermen, hated tax collectors, doubters, prostitutes, demon-possessed men and women, and legalistic, self-righteous men like Paul who had to be humbled by making him blind.

We need to remember who and what we were when called. We were accepted on the basis of the cross, not because of anything in us.

An astounding passage in Philippians reminds us to pattern our behaviour towards others after the example of Christ who left the glories of heaven, set aside the independent exercise of his divine attributes, and came as a helpless baby. He grew up among us so He could identify with us. He was tempted in all points like we have been.

His example exhorts us: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped [held onto] but made himself  nothing taking the very nature of a  servant, being made in human likeness…became obedient to death—ever death on a cross” (Phil. 2:3-8).

Shouldn’t we have the attitude of Christ when we consider those with a different political bias, race, degree of education, parental upbringing, or less financial success? All of us who are saved, are debtors not to the bank or the university but to grace. No wonder Paul writes; I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Ndscn1336-1ow, we must admit that some people have very annoying habits which make them hard to accept. And there are people who promote heretical ideas or a licentious lifestyle. Must we really accept everybody? Let me tackle that question in the next blog.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––)

 

Does God Speak To Us Today?

The host of a radio talk show asked his listeners, “Does God speak to us?” He was reacting to a sports celebrity who claimed that God spoke to him about his relationship with his girlfriend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Christians we often assert; “God spoke to me,” or “God told me,” or ”God led me.” Non-Christians usually misunderstand us; they think we are either self-deceived or arrogant.

However, Christians rarely mean that they heard God’s voice audibly. Scripture makes clear that God can do that. “God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’”(Ex. 3:4). But more often God has either communicated directly with a prophet’s spirit or given him or her a vision or dream. “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision”(Daniel 2:19).

The big question is not, does God speak, but are we listening? Are we even able to hear God? In our natural state mankind is hearing impaired. Jesus addressed this universal deficiency by quoting from Isaiah who had encountered the same problem. “Though seeing they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving’”(Matt. 13:13,14).

Of course, few humans admit their impairment, just as people who are hard of hearing often delay getting hearing aids, blaming their difficulty hearing on the way others speak.

To correct this hearing deficiency, we need God’s Technician to install a hearing aid and teach us to use it. That Technician is the Holy Spirit who alone can “give us ears to hear.” How? Through convicting us of our careless and unconcerned attitude to what God has clearly revealed in the universe around us, in our consciences, and in the Good News of the Gospel. When we admit that we have shut our ears to God’s voice but want to become hearers, the Spirit gives us spiritual hearing equipment, that is, a new heart. Through this conversion, we become believers, those with faith in what God communicates. “And without faith it is impossible to please God [or hear Him]” (Rom. 10:14).

With this spiritual “hearing aid” in place, and faith to receive God’s Word, the Spirit begins to teach us how to interpret what God is saying in life and providence. “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”(1 Cor. 2:11). Just as simultaneous translators interpret a foreign speaker and beam the translation into the ear of delegates to the UN, so the Spirit becomes our interpreter.

Learning to interpret God’s voice requires us to go through a training process. Sometimes we misinterpret God’s voice. In a subsequent blog, I’ll discuss the process whereby the Holy Spirit trains us to interpret God’s voice accurately.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright        Twitter @EricEWright1)

Of Family Reunions and High-Tech Talk

We’re just back from a family reunion. This get-together proved once again that texts and phone calls, letters and pictures don’t stack up to face-to-face communication. Among family, friends, neighbours, colleagues or even in our churches nothing cements relationships better that sharing time with people in person. Around a dining table, across the room, in a coffee shop, or across a neighbour’s fence.

The ostensible reason for our gathering was Mary Helen’s 80th birthday and he 50th wedding anniversary of Mary Helen’s youngest sister Annie Pearl and her husband from Tennessee. Another sister from Charleston, South Carolina came too. Two of Mary Helen’s sisters together after years apart! Sadly, a third sister couldn’t attend.

Our family joined the party. Our oldest son, Stephen and his wife Catherine came from Atlanta. Debbie and her family came to John and Shona’s home in Mississauga enjoy the memories. Missionary colleagues, Hugh Gordon and his family also came.

With Annie Pearl holding court, conversation never dragged nor laughter from her fund of apocryphal stories about Mary Helen’s childhood. Her other sister, Colie, filled in any lulls with her fund of anecdotes and jokes. Any one who knows Mary Helen, realizes that she has no problem conversing. These three sisters must have all eaten off the “talking beans” tree growing up. If only we could discover the secret and include it in chlorinated water. Society would be changed.

My point, however, concerns the power of face-to-face connection. Each person projected a persona that is missing from a text or phone call. We heard new stories. We came to understand each other better. As time passed conversation opened new insights into the work and ministry different ones were involved in. We even learned about the health challenges some of us face.

The few words in this blog cannot articulate the facial expressions, the emphases, the gestures of those who sat across from us. There is no substitute for time spent face-to-face with others.

Business and industry must learn this reality to rise above the cold technology that so many depend on for communication. Churches especially must realize that communicating to congregations sitting in rows side-by-side is not enough. Genuine discipleship will take place only as Jesus conducted it—in person, face-to-face with a few persons at a time. Jesus, although the Son of God, concentrated his main energies on twelve men. Despite their detractors, small groups can be an effective way to get to know people and inspire them to become effective disciples of Christ.

I’m sure I spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter, but I also participate in an early morning Bible study with six or seven men. It is a wonderful time of study, laughter, and fellowship. There is no substitute for face-to-face fellowship. It’s interesting that the current issue of Christianity Today, July/August 2018, contains two articles that make this point.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––

A Hug A Day Keeps the Darkness At Bay

We live in a lonely age. Multiplied newspaper articles highlight this reality. Our community newspaper recently discussed the prevalence of depression and suicidal thoughts among teens and young adults. A major part of the proposed solution involves face-to-face support groups. And yet every young person I’ve ever seen is perpetually using a phone to connect with peers on Facebook, Instagram, etc. However, technological connection is part of the problem. We need face-to-face human contact.

Another article discussed research that showed that exposing children under the age of four or five to screen time with tablets, phones, etc. led to problems later in life. One might have naively thought that substituting sophisticated programs geared to kids would be a proper substitute for parental absence. But no, more so that anyone, young children need face-to-face time with parents and other children. Like all humans they need hugs and touch and chatter.

Given the communication marvels we take for granted, one might have thought that this period of history would be the ideal time for God to reveal Himself to the whole world. Not so. “But when the time was fully come, God sent his Son born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). Jesus was born at just the right time. But that period was so low-tech!

God knows what we really need, both as humans and as sinners. To reveal Himself to mankind, He came in the flesh where we could see Him in person, touch Him, watch Him heal and listen to Him talk. It wasn’t enough for God to communicate third hand through angels or prophets. No! “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, …full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). His disciples could see in His actions, His speech, and even on His face—grace and truth.

John later comments; “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3).

Eternal life is found through connecting by faith on a personal level with Jesus. He was no phantom; no angel. He had flesh and blood like you and I. He died an agonizing death on the cross for our sins. By connecting with Him for salvation we then find ourselves adopted by God into His family. And in that family, we find fellowship with other believers in a local church.

It is not enough to be a successful business man, a scholar, or a whiz on the computer. All of us need personal connections with others. For that we need face-to-face time with friends and family—in the same space. We need to see them. We need to be able to touch them. We need to be able to listen to them and see the inflection of their faces. God created us to relate to one another, not to live our lives in isolation.

Please don’t continue living a lonely life. Join a local, Bible-believing church. Join a Bible study group. Develop friendships with others in the great family of God. And remember that even if other Christians disappoint, Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always.” We can always have a heart-to-heart talk with Jesus. And let those of us already connected through a local church, commit ourselves to banishing loneliness in those who come.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter:@EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ) 

Our Plugged-in Lonely Age

Life is full of paradoxes. Consider the contrast between our hyper-connectedness on a digital level and the epidemic of loneliness that pervades our society. We have smart phones with scores of apps that connect us instantly to a myriad of platforms where we can interact with scores, no, hundreds of ‘friends.’

But we wander through our cities and towns as lonely souls. An aged widower sits on a bench and stares at the waves lapping the beach with tears leaking from his eyes. A teen lounges at a lunch table with five or six of his friends. All are glued to their cell phones. But back home in his room he contemplates suicide. A subway car crammed with passengers hurtles toward the next stop. Silence reigns. People avoid eye contact. Each seems lost in a private world.

Throughout the western world, loneliness is epidemic. In Canada, a commonly quoted figure indicates that 1.4 million elderly people experience feelings of loneliness. “Sixty-six per cent of Canadian university students admitted to feeling isolated in the previous year.”

Loneliness has damaging health effects. John Cacioppo at the University of Chicago is a pioneer in isolating the harm loneliness does to our health. “He and other neuroscientists determined [that loneliness] could be life-shortening in extreme cases.…Loneliness can increase levels of stress hormones in an individual [and in this] increasingly individualistic society was fraying social connections.”

Because of the damage caused, Britain appointed a minister for loneliness. The Dutch government is investing 26 million euros to combat loneliness in its elderly.

Professor Cacioppo suggests that we think of loneliness not as a failing but as a biological signal like hunger. If so, we need to find some way to satisfy its craving.

The degree of loneliness in our societies is a sad commentary on how far we have fallen from the biblical ideal. When God created man, He said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). From this beginning we see the development of families, clans, and communities.

The coming of Jesus Christ as a man demonstrates how much God values communication and fellowship on a personal level. God could have sent His son into the world in a period such as ours when communication would have been instantaneous around the world. But no, the cold, distant communication that occurs through video, facetime, texts, FB posts, tweets, even phones cannot alleviate loneliness. Nor can it really communicate feelings and essential personal truths.

The communicator from God, Jesus Christ, was born like us, grew up in a family and chose 12 disciples to be with Him. Imagine the companionship of that group of disciples! Imagine the communication that went on! Imagine the feelings of love and acceptance generated. No loneliness there.

It is not enough to be a successful business man, a scholar, or a whiz on the computer. All of us need personal connections with others. For that we need face-to-face time with friends and family—in the same space. We need to see them. We need to be able to touch them. We need to be able to listen to them and see the inflection of their faces. God created us to belong, not to live our lives in isolation.

Please don’t continue living a lonely life. Join a local, bible-believing church. Join a Bible study group. Develop friendships with others in the great family of God.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––Quotes in this article are from Being Alone Together, Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe and Mail, April 7, 2018)