How hiking actually changes our brains

I am just passing on an article that everyone in our culture should read.  It confirms what we probably already know.


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Is it wrong to question God or His motives?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1)

This psalm of David is quoted by Jesus while hanging on the cross. So the answer is a definite “Yes!”  Not only can we question God, I would suggest that we are commanded to do so.  There are two understandings of testing God in scripture.  One is seen when the Israelites grumbled in the desert saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”  This questioning met quick retribution, and is not the form of testing that I am referring to.  On the other side, we see Job blame God, “Why have you made me your target?”  He speaks freely of what God has brought against him, and calls Him to answer in a court of law.  In the end, the three friends that attempted to defend God, received this conviction, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.

What we have in the story of Job, is a picture of true faith growing.  In all of Job’s statements, he never questioned God’s presence, or doubted that He was in control.  Rather, he cries out to the One that he knows.  He calls God to uphold righteous standards.  He blames God for his suffering.  He asks “Why?”

How did God respond? By questioning Job with unanswerable questions. He called upon the testimony of creation, from the starry hosts to the most unique of creatures to the fiercest untamable creatures.  He calls Job to explain these creatures, to provide for and tame these creatures, to create the vast expanses, to answer God.

In the end, Job repents and proclaims, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”  His God got a lot bigger.  He had head knowledge before, but now he is inspired.  He had called God to account for what he knew about God, and now he knew far more of God.

Faith is similar to a scientific model.  We build scientific models because they have predictive and explanatory power.  By testing those models, we refine them, and they converge to a better understanding.  If we never rely on that model, then our understanding will never improve.  Likewise, I can say there is a God, but until I live my life based on that understanding, I will never understand Him better.  I may believe that God is a magic genie that responds to my use of certain incantations; however, if I never live by that understanding, my beliefs will never be changed.  If I believe there is no God, but live as if there is one then my belief will never be tested.  This is the difference between faith and belief.  Faith is put to work.  Belief stays in the head.  I have heard it said, “The greatest distance known to man, is the 12 inches from the mind to the heart.”


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The heavens declare the glory of God

(aka – How can we see God – Part 3)

I recently took a small troop of Trail Life boys and their parents on a campout at a nearby lake. We were blessed by one of the leader’s love of astronomy. As he began setting up his collection of telescopes, I wasn’t sure if they weren’t weapons-of-mass-destruction. By day we saw sun spots that could swallow our earth, and the radiating fingers of solar flare activity.  By night we saw several planets, the moons of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn.  We saw the nearby stars, globular clusters, galaxies, and nebula. We talked about the vast distances that the light had traveled to arrive at our home. We talked about how our own solar system was moving between two spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy.  We talked about how the Kuiper belt outside our solar system and the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter stabilized our own orbit.  We talked about how the arrangement of the large planets shields us from large asteroid collision. We have previously talked about how the mass of our planet is exactly what is needed to hold onto water vapor (atomic mass 18) but allow methane (atomic mass 16) and ammonia (atomic mass 17) to escape.  The moon also is precisely at the maximum mass that could yield a stable oscillation, but provide the maximum tidal motions. I could go on listing many more examples of the majesty and beauty  and fine tuning of the physical world, but instead I will reference a growing list of fine tuning features necessary for life on earth.

Some have leaned on multiverse discussions to explain that life eventually had to appear given an infinite number of universes.  Such arguments admit that they find themselves in a hole, and do not address the fine-tuning we see on our earth.  There are an estimated 50 billion trillion stars in the universe.  Based on our solar system, there could be 5×1023 planets.  However, excluding the fine-tuning of the universe, the fine tuning features required for advanced life on earth still greatly exceeds this number of planets by 101031 times.

Some have looked at the vastness of the universe and concluded that it seems too wasteful.  I say that God has shown us the extravagance of His love.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)


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Don’t let my ego get involved in my ministry

I heard those words from three different people on three different topics on three consecutive days.  In all three situations, they were applying the advice to themselves.  After the third time, I finally realized that God was speaking those words of warning to me.

I recently took on an elder role in an affluent congregation with lots of opportunities for service and too many ways to become overwhelmed.  I am one of two new elders who are about 20 years younger than the existing body of elders.  Suddenly, many more people are pulling on my time and watching my actions.  It has been so overwhelming that I have struggled to be focused at work.  I have found that God has prepared me through a lifetime of experiences – minister’s kid, repentant legalist, committed unifier of the church, believer/atheist/believer, father, husband, 20 years at this congregation, well connected to other ministries in the area, philosopher, engineer,…  The list could go on.  Still I wonder why I am here and if this is where God will use me best.  I have recently considered returning to school for an apologetics emphasis, even mentioned Oxford to Judy.  I have often started my book, but it usually stops when a minister derides those who want to write a book.  Nevertheless, I have lots of God-give wisdom.

Isn’t God lucky to have me!

There it is… the pride that brought ruin to David and countless others.  Ugly isn’t it.  Lord rescue me from this body of sin!  Use me in your work, but strengthen me to keep my ego out of my ministry, out of my family, out of my work, out of my life.  Let them be Your ministry, Your family, Your work, Your life.  Let me die to self, so I can know the freedom of serving You truly, and You only.

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Why do some find God so easy and not others?

I just got back from Camp Barnabus where I helped young adults with physical and mental struggles find ways to use their gifts.  I was blessed so much more by them than they were by me.  The best I could do was push them up and down hills in a wheel chair and try to do a lot of listening.

One camper is doing 4 weeks of service there.  His application states that he had the mental age of a 12 year old even though he was over twice that age.  The first night we all sat together and were asked how we planned to help the next day.  His response, “I..I..I think I..I  am going to change the world.”  No exclamation point.  Just a matter of fact statement.  The next day, I found him trying to read the first chapter in Luke from his King James Bible.  Many of the words did not make sense to him, so he asked me to read till breakfast time.  The next morning as we gathered our stuff to head upstairs, he told me he wanted to commit his life to Christ.  From what I could see he already knew God, so I wasn’t sure what he meant by that.  As I spoke to the other staff about this, they assured me this was something he said regularly and that any ritual that could be done had been done.  As we talked that night, he said, “I..I..I just feel like a child when I think about God.”  Of course!

Ironically, that next day I met a much higher functioning young lady about the same physical age.  She could navigate the ropes course with no assistance, had a black belt in Taikwondo, was a medalist in the special olympics, and reminded others about these things frequently.  However, she had stopped “doing the church thing” a long time ago.  She had no need for that sort of thing or having God in her life.

What was the difference?  Was it the difference in mental age?  I doubt it.  Was it because one of them had been told something that the other had not?  It did not appear to be the case.  One looked around at their simple world and sensed that God was with them.  The other looked around at their own accomplishments and did not sense that God was not with them.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Perhaps they were both correct.

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How can we see God?

I keep coming back to this question and seeing it in different ways.  A couple of weeks ago, I asked my son if he knew I loved him.  His response was a definite “No”.  How ironic… There are children who desperately want for anyone to love them but no one does. Then there are children who are loved intensely, and, yet, are blind to it.  Which situation is more perverse?

God must wonder the same thing.

“I gave them many diverse foods that would stimulate the senses, bringing them pleasure as the were nourished.  I created beauty all around them, beautiful sunsets, delicate flowers, and vast landscapes, and gave them a sense of awe.  I created a vast zoo for them to be able to explore themselves and the things around them.  I gave them things to play on, play with, and challenges to conquer.  I placed the stars and galaxies just so they could see how great I am and how special they are treated in this vast universe.  I put them in communities to meet their relational needs.  I created their minds and bodies so miraculously that they will forever pursue replicating its wonders.  I endowed them with self-awareness, to be able to judge their own actions and placed my laws in their hearts.  I even made each one unique so they could learn to love more fully.  …but they still do not see me or know that I love them?”

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What rules/knowledge are important to be saved?

Another great question, son.

We have touched on this question before.  Refer to…

Perhaps it is best to start with who is forgivable: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers to name a few.  All things are lawful but not all things are profitable.  This seems like little help.

Perhaps we should consider what rules are required.  However, even in the law, God cursed the people for loosing God in the rules warning them…

So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.

What about knowledge?  Perhaps we must know the name of God.  Unfortunately, no man knows the heavenly name of God.  Even when Moses asked him His name, the response “I AM who I AM” seems more of a truth statement than a name.  Even rejecting Jesus in the flesh is forgivable.

The one requirement is the spirit of God.  If the spirit of God lives in anyone, he is truly alive.  If the spirit is not present, he is walking dead.  The problem is that man is not in control of such a relationship.  God alone can bestow it after searching our heart.

In the end, I cannot answer this question.  I am not the final judge.  However, know that God is searching the hearts of all men.  He longs to gather all men to himself; however, he ultimately bestows mercy on those whom he ultimately chooses.

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