Prayers for Manchester 

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog post in the wake of the Manchester bombing. My prayers and deepest sympathies go out to those affected by this atrocious act of terrorism. These are the moments that make me want to thrust my hands in the air and scream, “Why?”

Why indeed? Isn’t an act like this proof against the existence of God? After all, if there is a good and loving God, how could He possibly let this happen?

C.S. Lewis has this to say on the subject:

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”[1]

The fact of the matter is, we live in a fallen world of suffering and death as a consequence of sin.[2] However, as a Christian, I know that God is sovereign and His plan is perfect: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV).

Even if we may not see or understand what good could possibly come out of a given situation, God sees the bigger picture and is working in the midst of our pain. Joseph understood this when he confronted his brothers that had sold him into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good…”(Genesis 50:20 NLT).

As God weaves back together the frazzled threads in His external masterpiece, He is simultaneously knocking at the door of our hearts to incite internal growth as well: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2-3). (While this verse is important and true, however, I see this more as a spiritual maturation goal – an attitude to drop your anchor in before the storm, not a source of comfort during times of distress).

Ultimately, the best comfort I find, is the promise made to those who have accepted the forgiving grace of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross: And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelations 21:4 NKJV).

Whether you are mourning in Manchester or you are dealing with your own heart shattering pain, I invite you to join me in clinging to the words of Jesus: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV).

-Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

[2] Romans 5:12

SCRIPTUAL WISDOM REAFFIRMED BY NEUROSCIENCE

I love how science and scripture intertwine so beautifully. Unfortunately, not everyone perceives this to be the case. Typical objections revolve around claims that “real science” does not harmonize with the creation story in Genesis. There is a wealth of books and resources out there to address that –and I may write a post about it in the future myself. For now, you may want to take a quick glimpse here to address any questions along those lines: www.answersingenesis.org.

Anyway – all that aside, I want to shift my focus to the following verse, which popped up on my YouVersion app the other day:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

After letting the verse sink in, I wanted to find out if anything in the “secular world of science” reflected this sound piece of biblical wisdom. In my search, I stumbled across an interesting statement from an article published in the Journal of Neuroscience:

“…even if two individuals experience similar initial joy from an event, some will savor it while others will not (Wood et al., 2003). The ability to experience and sustain positive emotion is critical to daily function, well being (World Health Organization, 2013), and health (Pressman and Cohen, 2005). Positive emotion is a precursor in the recovery from psychiatric illnesses (Zimmerman, 2012). Experiencing sustained positive emotion has several other salubrious effects including lowering levels of inflammation (Steptoe et al., 2005) and may extend life expectancy (Steptoe and Wardle, 2011).”[1]

So you’re telling me…that by meditating on “…whatever things are lovely…” one may actually extend their life expectancy? Sounds perfectly applicable to me! (Note the word translated “lovely” here stems from the Greek word prosphilés, an adjective meaning “worthy of personal affection; hence, dearly prized, i.e. worth the effort to have and embrace”[2] – clearly something that would elicit sustained positive emotion while meditating over).

Another interesting note from the study is that they could actually observe the response of elongated positive thoughts in the brain as visible “sustained ventral striatum engagement.”[3] I have no idea what a ventral striatum is. Apparently it’s in your brain. Wikipedia says it’s somewhere around here:

img_2774

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Striatum

According to the Medical Dictionary, the ventral striatum is “associated with decision, risk and reward”[4] – hence the activation in the study. Now the next time someone asks you how your ventral striatum is doing, you will know what they are talking about.

However, one thing I noticed that the study didn’t answer – was how to focus on positive thoughts (or maybe it did… there was a lot of medical jargon that I didn’t understand). That’s where I’m going to refer back to the bible again:

 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV

With God’s word as a roadmap and the conviction of the Holy Spirit as a moral compass, we are well equipped to discern what things are true, noble, just, and pure to focus on.  With prayerful surrender, God grants the ability to resist temptation and focus our eyes instead on the things that help us to better reflect Christ in this world – with an actual, measurable benefit towards our own physical wellbeing as well.

Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/29/10503

[2] http://biblehub.com/greek/4375.htm

[3] http://www.jneurosci.org/content/35/29/10503

[4] http://medicaldictionary.net/ventral-striatum.html

 

What 3 Biblical Proverbs Tell Us About A Good Wife 

Since this blog post is sandwiched in between Mother’s Day and our five-year anniversary, I have decided to dedicate it to my amazing wife (or my “rib” as my wise friend Yuan would say). I could think of no better way to do that then to share how the bible confirms what a blessing she is to me. So…without further ado, what three biblical proverbs tell us about a good wife:

 

1. She is a delight

He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22 NKJV

The Hebrew word translated for good here is “towb” (ט֑וֹב) which is an adjective meaning: pleasant, agreeable, good.

Hence, the NET translation: “The one who finds a wife finds what is enjoyable, and receives a pleasurable gift from the Lord.”

 

2. She is a gift from God

Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” Proverbs 19:14 NKJV

Money and material possessions were created by man, but woman was created for man.[1] There is a considerable gap between the things that we make (cars, buildings, etc) and the things that God creates (such as…the Universe).

 

3. She is valuable

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10 NKJV

Notice that? Her worth is not just above rubies, but far above. The International Gem Society states that the value of the finest rubies can reach outlandish prices of over $100,000 per carat. Given that, you can get the gist of the enormous worth that the verse is referring to when it states rubies (plural) – plus an unidentified order of magnitude above it!*

Closing in on 5 years of marriage, I can attest that every single one of above Proverbs rings true. While it can be confusing and frustrating at times, attempting to cross the communication barrier between men and women, there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that I am ten times the man I would have been thanks to the support of my amazing wife. Happy anniversary/Mother’s Day beautiful!

– Nicolas. C Day

 

*Note: I contemplated doing some math here, taking into account the conversion of 1 carat = 0.000440925 pounds to calculate the relative value of my wife based on her weight in rubies – but quickly shot that down after some wise prompting by the Holy Spirit.

 

[1] Genesis 2:18

3 WAYS DOGS REMIND ME OF JESUS (THANKS TO MARLEY AND ME)

Please don’t misconstrue the title of this post for a lack of reverence for our Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously any comparisons stated here are limited in nature. The fact of the matter is, whenever I watched the movie Marley & Me, I was struck by at least three quotes that immediately brought to mind an image of Jesus. I mean to a tee. If taken out of context, I would have sworn they were from a pastor’s sermon.

 

1. “A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.”*     

Your background is not Jesus’s priority – he made that abundantly clear when he sought to save the criminals, prostitutes, and tax collectors. Neither is God concerned with the things by which the world measures success. Simply put, He wants your heart.

 

2. “Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity.”*

There is a plethora of powerful verses on joy and giving thanks in all circumstances. Jesus epitomized this quality, wishing the same for us. Paul, perhaps, conveys this most succinctly:

 

3. “He taught us the art of unqualified love. How to give it, how to accept it.”*

The act of God descending from Heaven, humbly donning the flesh of man, and shedding His blood as a redeeming sacrifice for the creation that turned its back on Him is the definition of unqualified love. Jesus also stressed during his earthly ministry this importance of loving others unconditionally.

So there you have it – three ways dogs remind me of Jesus. Now next time you walk through that front door and your pup’s face lights up and that tail starts wagging, just remember – Jesus loves you infinitely more.

– Nicolas C. Day

 

 

 

*https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/14961-marley-me-life-and-love-with-the-world-s-worst-dog

 

 

 

 

A Three Year Old & The Story of Jehoshaphat

Toddlers can be amazing little sources of revelation. Since I am enormously blessed to have three of them, I am dealt a heavy dose of wisdom on a daily basis. Here’s the funny thing about toddlers. Though they are comparatively lacking in accumulated knowledge over their short lives, they still insist on doing things their way (often against the advice of their exasperated parents).

For instance, every night (without fail) when I am giving my three-year-old son a bath, I ask him to tilt his head back and look up. This is so when I wash his hair, the water won’t run down and get shampoo into his eyes. He flat out refuses, choosing to look down instead.  I warn him multiple times of the consequence of that choice – thinking maybe this will be the night he listens. Inevitably, however, I will end up pouring the jug of water over his downward facing head and the shampoo-infused mixture will predictably flow right into his eyes. Even though it’s tear free he still freaks out and screams, “I WANT A TOWULLUH!” to wipe his face.

Sometimes that sounds like my personal relationship with my heavenly Father. I wonder how many times in my life have I flat out insisted doing things my way against the compassionate urgings of God only to demand a towel afterwards when it all blows up in my face. You’d have thought by now I would have learned to look up first and listen to the voice of infinitely more knowledge than I will ever possess.

The whole sage reminds me of a biblical story that is quickly becoming a favorite for my wife and me – the story of Jehoshaphat.

The ATS Bible Dictionary has this to say about Jehoshaphat:

“He was distinguished by his zeal for true religion, and his firm trust in God. He thoroughly cleansed the land from idolatry, restored the divine ordinances, and provided for the religious instruction of the people. His government was highly prospered at home and abroad.”[1]

Despite the good he accomplished, however, Jehoshaphat’s story is riddled with poor choices (as are all of ours).

Jehoshaphat arranges for an alliance with the wicked King Ahab of Israel. The marriage arrangement results in a failed assault against the Syrians (on which he embarks against the direct advice of God)[2] and reintroduces idol worship in Judah.[3] He then manages to lose an entire fleet of ships in a failed trade agreement.[4] Finally, Jehoshaphat unites with King Joram in a war against Moab.[5] While they are successful, the endeavor spurs a retaliatory assault by a massive coalition of Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, and Syrian armies that marched towards Jerusalem in order to wipe Judah off the face of the map.[6]

Map

Surrounded and on the edge of destruction, Jehoshaphat proclaims a fast in Judah and gathers an assembly in Jerusalem. In faith, he calls out to the Lord, ending his fantastic prayer with the following words:

…we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” 2 Chronicles 20:12 (NKJV)

Wow…our eyes are upon you… talk about a great time to look up!

God responds, sending his Spirit to speak through a man named Jahaziel:

“…‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’sYou will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’…” 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 (NKJV)

Sure enough, God arranges for the armies to turn against each other – completely annihilating one another. When Jehoshaphat arrives with his army the next morning, all they could see were dead bodies extending in every direction:

24 So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped. 2 Chronicles 20:24 (NLT)

Jehoshaphat became a fervent warrior in that moment because he took the counterintuitive step of surrender – shifting his eyes upwards, seeking guidance. As a result of his faithful obedience, God fights the battle completely for him. Had he done otherwise, it would have spelt certain disaster for him.

Like my son in the bathtub, I often find myself gazing downwards, making a mess of things by insisting on doing it my way.  My prayer is that I continue to grow in faith and trust to where I am always looking upwards instead – even if it may sting my eyes a little. Wash my hair Your way God – not mine!

– Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] http://biblehub.com/topical/j/jehoshaphat.htm

[2] 2 Chronicles 18

[3] 2 Kings 8:18

[4] 1 Kings 22

[5] 2 Kings 3

[6] http://biblehub.com/topical/j/jehoshaphat.htm

3 Amazing Answered Prayers in the Bible That You May Have Missed

The bible is riddled with unbelievable miracles of all types – from Moses parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14) to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). The fame of many of these occurrences has spread such that you can ask almost anybody on the street corner and they could relate to at least part of the story – regardless of their religious affiliation. I’d like to share with you today the miraculous outcomes of three amazing answered prayers in the bible that aren’t so well-known – hopefully providing you a little bit of refreshing encouragement along the way.

 

1.  SAMSON BREAKS OPEN THE EARTH

(Judges 15)

After letting the men of Judah turn him over to the Philistines, Samson goes into Incredible Hulk mode – ripping off the ropes binding him, grabbing the fresh jawbone of a donkey, and using it to slaughter a thousand men. Quite understandably, Samson was a little parched after this. He proceeds to call on his Creator thusly:

Judges 15:18-19 (NKJV) 

18 Then he became very thirsty; so he cried out to the Lord and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?” 19 So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out, and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore he called its name En Hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day.

To all sport drink advertisements throughout the history of television…Samson’s got you crushed.

 

2. PAUL HEALS A VILLAGE FROM DYSENTERY

(Acts 27 and 28)

On the way to Rome to stand trial, some crazy things happen to Paul and his captors. A severe storm blows the ship off course, they shipwreck on the island of Malta, the soldiers plot to kill Paul and the prisoners, and a venomous viper bites Paul on the hand – which he miraculously shakes off. A particularly touching account recorded by Luke, however, is Paul’s answered prayer of healing over the island Chief’s father:

 Acts 28:7-9 (NKJV)

In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed.

Severe intestinal inflammation with frequent bloody stools, dysentery is no small matter to overcome. In fact – according to statistics at Infoplease.com – there are approximately 600,000 deaths worldwide from cases of dysentery every single year.[1] Paul knew there are no limits to God’s power, however, and walked right up to the man and laid his hands on him in prayer. God honored his faith and multiplied it, not only healing the Chief’s father but the entire island – almost 2,000 years before the invention of antibiotics.

 

3. JOSHUA MAKES THE WORLD STAND STILL

(Joshua 10)

On my second pass through my whole Bible reading plan I caught a verse that I somehow, inexplicably missed the first time. Tasked by God to lead a holy war and drive out the judged nations from the land promised to Israel, Joshua encounters a fearsome force of opposition directed by five Amorite kings. The statement he makes while routing the Amorite forces (with the Lord’s provision), really made me drop my jaw in wonder:

Joshua 10:12-14 (NKJV)

12 Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon;
And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still,
And the moon stopped,
Till the people had revenge
Upon their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.

There is a fantastic article on this at gotquestions.org that offers a few different opinions on what may have occurred – whether this was just a “local” phenomenon, some sort of eclipse, or if in fact the world truly stopped rotating on its axis. I for one share their opinion that “the God who created the world and established natural laws is perfectly capable of compensating for any collateral complications” associated with the suspension of the Earth’s spinning. The article also references extra-biblical evidence for the occurrence of the phenomenon: “legends of a long day are found in Egypt, Greece, and other ancient lands. And among the American Indians, South Sea islanders, and others in the Western Hemisphere are legends of a long night—which would indeed make sense, seeing how these peoples lived in the opposite hemisphere.”[2] One thing is for sure – that was one heck of a bold prayer!

So there you have it – three astounding answered prayers from the bible that you may have not heard of before. I hope that you are encouraged as I am to spend some more time on your knees praying for God to do the impossible, all for the sake of His amazing glory.

[1] https://www.infoplease.com/science/health-and-body/water-borne-diseases-cholera-and-dysentery-epidemic-dysentery

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/sun-stood-still.html

– Nicolas C. Day