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For much of my childhood, I disliked chocolate. This probably is because of when I was very young, I once over-ate from a bag of chocolate to the point of being sick. However, I now enjoy chocolate immensely and typically will snack on it at least once or twice a week, sometimes every day. But chocolate as most of us know it now is very different than how it was consumed in centuries past. Chocolate bars and chips, as well as milk chocolate, are inventions only about one hundred fifty years old. For my debut post for History Weekend, let’s look at the history of the chocolate bar:
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“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:11

Last week I went down with the family for our annual trip to Camp Susque, a Christian camp in Trout Run in north-central Pennsylvania. The above verse is the theme Scripture passage for Susque. While I stayed in a lodge with running water, electricity, and other modern conveniences, I still got to get away from the stress of life and enjoy family, good Bible teaching, and the creation of God. I hiked mountains, swam in cold spring water, and sat around campfires. And reveled in the wonder of creation.

Modern science in many ways seems to contradict what God has revealed to us in his Word about Creation and the beginning of all things. I don’t understand how all of it works out, but I do trust the word of the Creator over the word of his creations. God created this world, and it is through him that the world holds together.
Last week, as I gazed down into Lycoming Valley from lookout-points on Lookout and Rattlesnake mountains, I was reminded once again of the wonder of God’s creation. The whole universe is a master-song of praise to the creator. Yes, it has been marred horribly by sin, but God works the ugliness and tragedy into the piece, bringing about a beautiful work of redemption that makes the song only greater.

We live in a world of wonder, and live under a wonderful Creator.

Introducing History Weekend

Last week I was on vacation, which is why I did not post a Thought for Thursday. There will be one this week, but I’m also rolling out another blog series, History Weekend. Every Friday or Saturday morning, I will publish a new article recounting exciting historical events! The first post will come out this week, so keep watching this site!

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Eccles. 4:9-12

Friendship is something that often seems misunderstood and taken for granted. So often, it seems that we (including myself) think of a friend as someone we like and who likes us. But there is so much more to true friendship. Think on the verses above. A friend is someone who will go through the utmost extremes for you. Like the scene in The Lord of the Rings where Sam, when he sees Frodo collapse from exhaustion, lifts him on his shoulders, and with his own last strength, carries him up the broken, burning mountain. Do you have a companion who would go through such extremes for you? Would you for them?

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:10-12

The inscription of this psalm explains that David wrote it after Nathan the prophet confronted him about his grievous evil: taking another man’s wife and then having her husband, one of his great army champions, killed in battle. Obviously, this it is hard to imagine an act more despicable, and, after Nathan calls David out on this and condemns him, David pens this psalm in grief, remorse, and repentance.
What I want to look at today is verses ten through twelve. Here, David asks God to restore his soul, and for the Holy Spirit to stay within him. David had no guarantee of this. His predecessor, Saul, also had the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. But, after impatiently making sacrifices himself instead of waiting for the priest, Samuel, to make them, the Holy Spirit left Saul. To me, Saul’s sin pales in comparison to that of David’s, and I think that David felt this too. Thus his desperation. However, unlike Saul, David turns back to God, realizing that only God can cleanse him of his wrongdoing.

And that is to be our response when we sin as well. But, our prayer to God should be different than that of David. After Christ ascended, he sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us and keep us on the path of right. And, unlike with David in the Old Testament, we have a guarantee that he will not leave us. Our sin has already been removed by Christ’s death on the cross. The Holy Spirit lives in us forever, and empowers us to live Christ’s work out in our lives. We still do not always follow God, but we know that, if Jesus has died for us, his Holy Spirit will restore us, and that our heart will remain clean.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” – 1 Cor 13:11-12

Sometimes, it seems as though, even though I have the Word of God, I can’t seem to understand it. Seeing God through his Word sometimes can seem like looking into a foggy mirror. But I don’t think this is God’s fault, but mine. Too many of my own sins, my own desire, taints the message that I’m reading. Or, perhaps, I have not yet matured in an area to grasp the concept. Even though, as I mentioned last week, Jesus has brought light into the world, he lets us grow into it. He transforms us slowly. But, I know that one day I will be united with him and perfected. In the mean time, I try to serve God and grow to spiritual maturity.

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
 And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3

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“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” – Psalm 119:103

Last week, I mentioned that we can taste and see that the Lord is good – we can experience God in a tangible way. But I also mentioned that we also will encounter periods of dryness, where we don’t seem to feel and enjoy God. What I did not get into very much is how we experience and enjoy God.

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“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” 34:8

God tastes good! That’s the analogy that Psalm 34 uses.  Have you ever tried a new food, which you were curious about, and found the taste to be exquisite? We can experience God in much the same way. God isn’t just some abstract being up in the sky somewhere who we can pray to, but someone living whom we can experience with the senses and enjoy.

But I must admit that currently, I have been feeling dry and empty in a spiritual sense. I still believe in God, still have faith, but there is little passion behind that faith. When I read the Scriptures, my soul does not seem to resonate with the message the way that it once did.

However, I do not think that state of emptiness is a state to shunned. Life has peaks and troughs, and our emotions change constantly. Yet God is the same throughout. Desperation for God can drive us to him, can cause us to seek him out more. When we feel thirsty, we take a drink. So when we spiritually are thirsty, should we not drink spiritually? I’ve often found that sometimes the periods of greatest dryness are when God pours out spiritual refreshment. Sometimes, this may be an emotionally powerful moment, other times it might be a gentle and subtle confidence. And God does not guarantee that we will feel good all the time, or that we will suddenly experience deep emotion while worshipping him. But we can know that spiritually, when we take the time to consume his words, we will be refreshed.

“…Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7b-8

About two years ago, I graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in History. Last month, my brother graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Anthropology. One of my sisters has been in college a year and my other sister will start in a couple of years. Our parents were professional teachers, and thus instilled in us a value for education.

But what is the value of education? I think chiefly education is to train you for life. It is valuable because it enables you to better understand the world and to contribute to it. God made the world for us to explore, and an education helps us do that. Now that my brother and I have graduated, we are supposed to be better citizens, with our studies having equipped us to deal with life’s challenges.

In many ways, our lives themselves are training. While life now is important, it is not nearly as important as the life to come. As Paul explains in 1st Timothy 4, we will someday graduate to an eternal life, and so it is important to train for that future life. Our lives now teach us lessons that will prepare us for our eternity. So I ask myself, am I ready to graduate? Will I pass the test and live in the coming Kingdom? If I, and if you, trust in the work that Christ already did, then the answer is yes. Christ graduated a life on earth with honors, and he freely passes on those honors to us. So we can, if we have received those honors, say that yes, indeed, we will graduate.

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