Archive for: February, 2014

Thoughts on Faith & Science from a Pentecostal

Feb 24 2014 Published by under Church, Evangelism, Life, Ministry

By Dr. Jim Bradford

Bradford, James T. - Casual 1 -- 02 24 2009The cover article of an issue of Time [Magazine], February 2011, featured a concept known as ‘Singularity.’ It is not a mathematical singularity or a black hole, but a moment in human history when futurists predict that machines will have exceeded human intelligence by such a margin that human existence as we know it will change forever.

“Imagine,” the article suggests, “a computer scientist that was itself a super-intelligent computer. It would work incredibly quickly. It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It wouldn’t even take breaks.” Machines creating machines . . . technological capacity growing exponentially . . . human life being extended by decades, even centuries . . . artificial superhuman intelligence that can “write books, make ethical decisions and appreciate fancy paintings.”

The time line? Just over 30 years from now!  Futurists are predicting that by the year 2045 ‘Singularity’ could be upon us. Quoting again from the article, “In that year… given the vast increases in computing power and the vast reductions in the cost of the same, the quantity of artificial intelligence created will be about a billion times the sum of all the human intelligence that exists today.” Sound far- fetched? Even NASA hosts what is now a five-year-old Singularity University for graduate students and high level executives.

The offspring of science, in the form of advanced technology, is one reason why understanding the integration of faith and science is so important. How will faith relate to a ‘singularity’ world and what kinds of ethical frameworks will be needed to guide that kind of technological explosion? The importance of this discussion is further underscored by the implications of the new atheism’s assertion that science is at war with religion.

Some of us with conservative Christian upbringings may have been exposed to the church’s own version of that ‘war,’ being taught that science was contrary to Biblical teaching. Sometimes more highly educated people have wondered if they can remain in the church given a somewhat anti-intellectual bias that has been advanced. Still others have walked away from faith completely, believing that science is irreconcilable with Scripture and, in fact, disproves Scripture.

As a follower of Christ, a Pentecostal and a student of the sciences (Aerospace Engineering, Ph.D.), my starting assumptions over the years have been the following:

  • Understanding how and why things work in the natural world does not preclude the existence of a personal God. He is more than ‘God of the gaps.’
  • All truth is God’s truth, because he is Creator of all.
  • The capacity of the human intellect to be curious, to investigate and to learn is a God-given attribute, not a threat to my faith.
  • The very nature of God himself, imprinted in what he has made, makes scientific study possible.

There has always been a direct link in Scripture between God’s creation and God’s character:

“The heavens declare the glory of God,

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

(Psalm 19:1)

“God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

(Romans 1:20)

Because of this I would often leave science classes feeling like I had been in a ‘worship service.’ If our starting assumption is that discovering how the natural world works will eliminate the need for a God to explain that world, then our faith will be threatened. But does discovering the beauty of a painting mean that there must not be a painter? Quite the opposite – both the Old and New Testaments teach us that the created order reveals the glory and character of a creator God.

Furthermore, Proverbs 8 declares:

“I [wisdom] was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep. . . Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” Prov. 8:27, 30-31

Most every scientist has tasted that enthralling ‘delight’ of discovering the handiwork of God as revealed in astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, physics, geology and the breadth of scientific endeavor.

Loving God with ‘all of our minds’ (Matthew 22:37), in fact, calls us to that delight – exploring and being in wonder of all God’s handiwork. Not only does he ‘know’ it all but he ‘designed’ it all. Here is an invitation to curiosity and intellectual pursuit in a way that does not threaten our faith, but glorifies and honors our Creator.

 Dr. Jim Bradford serves as the General Secretary for the Assemblies of God. In addition, he holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Minnesota. To learn more about the Assemblies of God, visit www.ag.org.

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Follow the Call

Feb 17 2014 Published by under Life, Ministry

By Rev. Michael Johnson

MJGenesis 12:1-3

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

When I was 6 six years old, my parents enrolled me into the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) Boarding School in Crystal, NM. It was my first time being away from home. I remember the feeling of being alone amongst strangers. While I did not cry, I did experience a time of loneliness. Thankfully, I was a hyper and interactive kid so finding likeminded boys was not a problem!

As I reflect back, the hardest part was going to the boarding school. For any child, attending school for the first time is difficult and in my case, it was even more so because of the parting from mom and dad. Nonetheless, my parents had a great plan for me that included: an education in a good community that upheld high standards in academics, sports, and community activities.

In comparison, Abram heard the command of God to “go” into a distant land and follow the call. The call included a plan of blessings upon his name and offspring, with the ultimate gift coming in the form of a savior, Jesus Christ. One can only imagine if Abram’s first reactions were fear, stress, or disbelief.

Thankfully, Abram obeyed the Lord’s command: “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” (12:4).

Today’s challenge in following the call of God is no more or less than what Abram experienced. This text is a reminder that while God’s calling often includes difficulty, it also involves blessing.  Therefore, Abram’s example gives us a game plan on how to follow the call of God:

  1. Sacrifice-leaving one’s place of comfort and familiarity
  2. Obedience-responding to a directive with positive action
  3. Trust-faith in God’s plan for self and family

Prayer: Father, today we acknowledge your goodness and thank you for placing a call on our lives. We ask for strength to respond as Abram did, with obedience. Let our lives too be an example for others to follow, so that we can bless the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rev. Michael Johnson serves as the Director of Ethnic Ministries for Global University. He can be reached at mjjohnson@globaluniversity.edu.

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Real Powerade

Feb 10 2014 Published by under Life, Ministry

By Rev. Doug Clay

Clay_Douglas_Casual_100For years people have relied on various sources for energy. There was burning wood; then coal, followed by petroleum. Today scientists are experimenting with multiple sources to power the world: solar, wind, hydrogen, algae, methane, gas, ocean currents, geothermal, ethanol, and other bio fuels. No doubt, the search for energy and power is a constant quest.

Similarly, many Christians are on a quest to find more spiritual power and energy. So they attend conferences; attend specialized small groups; join cohorts; etc. Did you know that there is a Christian nutritional product company that guarantees their supplements will make you feel more energized, look healthier, and help you live longer? Crazy!

Jesus said, “You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”

Sadly, some people feel awkward relating to the Holy Spirit. They ignore Him; they treat Him as an “it.” It’s almost as if He’s the uninvited member of the Trinity.

The fact is, if you want more spiritual vitality in your life, then give more room for the person of the Holy Spirit to be in control of your life. After all:

1.      He will guide you when you’re confused.

John 16:13a

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

2.      He will be with you, wherever you are.

Psalm 139:7, NLT

I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!

3.      He will renew you when you feel spiritually sluggish.

Titus 3:5-6

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he       poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.

4.      He will remind you that you belong to God, in those times that you doubt it.

Romans 8:16

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

5.      He will help you to pray when you’re not sure how to pray or what to pray for.

Romans 8:26

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

If you are looking for some renewed spiritual energy, seek to be filled or refilled with the Holy Spirit.

 

Rev. Doug Clay serves as the General Treasurer of the Assemblies of God. To learn more about the Assemblies of God, visit www.ag.org..

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Weather Systems and Life

Feb 03 2014 Published by under Life, Ministry

By Rev. Gary J. Blanchard

Blanchard29Because of my travel schedule, I’ve been watching more weather-related reports than ever before. I’ve been on information overload regarding the “polar vortex” with subzero arctic temperatures, snow, winds, and roller coaster temperature readings.

I’ve noticed that all weather maps have several things in common – arrows showing the direction of the wind and circles with the letter “L” or “H” designating high or low pressure areas. I’m not a meteorologist and don’t pretend to be, but after watching so many reports you quickly learn that high pressure areas are usually associated with fair, sunny weather while low pressure areas are generally cloudy, rainy, storm-related systems. While staring at the TV, mesmerized by the wind lines and circles, I dreamed about a weather map without all that stuff on it.

And then I began thinking, what would life be like without pressure areas?

The results of my very unscientific, hallway conversation poll reveals that many of my friends are living through pressure areas known as stress. Some talk about good stress that’s beneficial and motivating while others talk about bad stress that causes anxiety and even health issues.

According to the experts, good stress can produce bursts of energy that help to meet challenges and motivate people to accomplish goals. On the other hand, bad stress produces a fight-or-flight response that can lead to a variety of physical problems.

So how can we best respond to the high and low pressure areas – the stress areas – on our life’s map?

Let God do the heavy lifting. It almost seems foolish to write this to readers who are involved in ministry. Yet I know I fail at this; I want to handle all the problems myself. If there was a machine that could turn stress into peace, it would make its inventor a billionaire. Yet God has given us the perfect recipe: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Have a clear sense of God’s calling and purpose for your life. God’s calling and purpose serve as anchors in our lives, anchors that keep us in place despite the storms and high winds.  Jesus managed His stress by understanding His calling and purpose. As Jesus approached His own death, he prayed, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Get rid of the microscope. All too often we look at our circumstances through the lens of a high-powered microscope magnifying our smallest problems beyond their significance. God is the author and finisher of our faith; He knows the end from the beginning and provides all we need for the present. Don’t live in yesterday; concentrate on today and not tomorrow and thank God for His daily grace that sustains you.

Know that God is at work. Trials always create character and perseverance for the future. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3, 4).

The good thing about living in Illinois and looking at weather maps is that if you don’t like the current weather, hang in there, it will soon change. The same is true with our life map. My wife’s favorite scripture verse, “And, it came to pass;” and it will.

Rev. Gary J. Blanchard serves as Assistant Superintendent & Executive Secretary of the Illinois District of the Assemblies of God.

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