Fear Not

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
“I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly,
Who are among you,
To whom its reproach is a burden.
Behold, at that time
I will deal with all who afflict you;
I will save the lame,
And gather those who were driven out;
I will appoint them for praise and fame
In every land where they were put to shame.
At that time I will bring you back,
Even at the time I gather you;
For I will give you fame and praise
Among all the peoples of the earth,
When I return your captives before your eyes,”
Says the Lord. (Zephaniah 3:16-20)

God tells us “do not fear” because we’d really like to be afraid. God does not just warn us away from those things that we’d really like to do. “Do not eat the dirt,” is an unlikely commandment. But there are other things equally unpleasant, that appear desirable or reasonable at first glance. Fear is that way, and certainly for Jerusalem they had many things to fear. Zephaniah prophesied during a time of revival, but the international situation was in flux: the balance of power was shifting to Babylon and the revival had touched but few: the rot in the heart of Israel remained festering with no solution left but exile. Captivity was inevitable, the destruction of Jerusalem guaranteed. How could there be no fear facing that?

But Zephaniah pointed out that someday their punishment would be past tense. In that day, Jerusalem would stop being afraid. In that day, God’s love would quiet them instead of punish them. Their hearts would grow calm and then turn to joy. The captives would come home. Whether times are good or times are bad, we are still with God. We do not need to be afraid. With God, we can capture the attitude of joy we will have tomorrow when the pain of today has become yesterday.

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Good Times Coming

“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
he who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere youth;
he who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the works of their hands.
They will not toil in vain
or bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:20-2)

People had lived a long time on the wrong side of morning. But the dawn finally came. The last of Isaiah’s prophesies predicted a new heavens and a new earth, a time when weeping would cease, when infants would not die shortly after birth, when people would live well into old age, when they would build houses, plant vineyards and harvest the fruit produced and keep it all for themselves instead of giving it to others. When we hear God telling his people about “new heavens and new earth” we are tempted to imagine that God is talking about the eternal kingdom. When we see the wolf and lamb feeding together, the lion eating straw, and dust becoming the food of serpents, it is hard to think of anything else. But in between those words, God spoke of people dying: that those who died at a hundred were dying young. God spoke about babies being born. Neither death nor babies being born seems to fit the normal notion about the Kingdom of Heaven. So what to make of the passage, then?

Are the blessings of the passage literal, or are they analogical? A clue comes from remembering that God chose to speak in poetry. The purpose of the passage is to tell us of the hope that is to come when God truly reigns in the lives of his people. The serpent eating dust takes us back to the curse in Genesis following Adam and Eve’s first sin. God proclaimed victory over the old.

In Christ, we become new creatures. The old has passed away. All things become new. The strength and power of sin are gone, the strong no longer prey on those who are weak. God spoke of the healing of old ills, of joy and life, of security and fellowship with him and harmony in the creation that comes to us in Christ. The kingdom of heaven even now lives in our hearts. No matter what the world may throw at us today, God still reigns.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 First Stage Recovery Test

From a chase plane:

From the booster:

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Bigelow BEAM

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

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Star Trek Technology

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He Has His Ways

He said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you: ‘Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them; they will come up by the ascent of Ziz; you will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

Then Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. (2 Chronicles 20:15-1)

God has his own ways of taking care of things. No matter what methods he happens to use, all that God’s people have to do is believe him and do what he says. Somehow, God makes it all work out.

Jehoshaphat was facing an invasion of the Moabites and Ammonites coming from Edom on the other side of the Dead Sea. He was the king. This was his responsibility. It was his job to do something. But Jehoshaphat didn’t have any way of stopping the invasion. So he called all the people to fast. The people of Judah and Jerusalem came to Jerusalem and sought for help from God. Jehoshaphat led them in prayer, concluding that “we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

God’s spirit came upon one man, a Levite named Jahaziel and God told him what to do. Jehoshaphat and the people responded by bowing down, worshipping God and thanking him, then Jehoshaphat sent his army to face the enemies approaching Jerusalem. At the front of his army, he had people singing and praising God. And his army never had to face the enemy. Instead, God made the enemies fight among themselves. They destroyed one another. All Jehoshaphat’s army had to do that day was gather the plunder left behind.

If God has given you a job to do, then do it. God will make sure it works out if you do as he instructs, ever depending and trusting in him. Even when it seems hopeless.

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Righteous, David-Style

These are the last words
of David the son of Jesse.
The God of Jacob chose David
and made him a great king.
The Mighty God of Israel
loved him.
When God told him to speak,
David said:
The Spirit of the LORD
has told me what to say.
Our Mighty Rock,
the God of Jacob, told me,
“A ruler who obeys God
and does right
is like the sunrise
on a cloudless day,
or like rain that sparkles
on the grass.”
I have ruled this way,
and God will never break
his promise to me.
God’s promise is complete
and unchanging;
he will always help me
and give me what I hope for.
But evil people are pulled up
like thornbushes.
They are not dug up by hand,
but with a sharp spear
and are burned on the spot. (2 Samuel 23:1-)

God doesn’t love us because we’re good. David was good at killing Philistines, but he was not good at raising his children: Amnon raped his sister Tamar; Absalom killed Amnon. Then Absalom rebelled against David, precipitated a civil war, and both he and many Israelites on both sides of the issue died in battle. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then saw to it that her husband was killed in battle. Just before he died, like a mob boss, he told his son, Solomon—the crown prince born to the woman he had committed adultery with—to settle accounts—old grudges—with everyone who had ever wronged him. But at the end of his life, David looked back on it all and said that he had been a king who obeyed God and did what was right.

How can we reconcile David’s life with his claim to righteousness? By remembering that all human righteousness is nothing but filthy rags and that salvation is by grace: the consequence of Jesus’ death on the cross. David did not need to fear the wrath of God because God’s wrath had been—or in David’s case—would be directed at the ultimate sacrifice. David was forgiven and declared righteous by God. That’s how David could know he was a good man: his goodness was in Jesus, not in himself. It’s the same way we know we’re righteous today.

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Eat Up

Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Allow us to detain you, and prepare a kid for you.” The angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat your food; but if you want to prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) Then Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?” But the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name? It is too wonderful.”

So Manoah took the kid with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to him who works wonders. When the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground. The angel of the LORD did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” (Judges 13:15-23)

God is not a bean-counter. He is not a bureaucrat shuffling forms, concerned that all the paperwork is in order, every box filled in. And he’ll repeat himself over and over if need be.

Samson’s father Manoah was a member of the tribe of Dan. His wife was sterile and thus unable to have children. But one day an angel appeared to her and told her that she would have a son. She told him that the angel said he had to be a Nazarite from birth. Manoah then asked God to send the angel back again with instructions on how to raise him. So, the angel returned, repeated to Manoah what he had said to his wife—who was never named in the story. Manoah then offered to give the angel a nice meal. Unlike the angels who had come with Yahweh to Abraham and ate a nice meal with him, this angel refused, suggesting instead that he offer a burnt offering to God—which he promptly did.

This, despite the fact that he was not even a Levite, let alone a descendent of Aaron. But God accepted his offering, anyhow. Manoah was understandably frightened, fearful that he would drop dead for having seen God; his wife reassured him, pointing out that they’d already be dead if that had been God’s intent, and besides, God had accepted the offering and given them a promise about having a son, which would be hard for him to accomplish if they died.

God seemed more concerned with attitude and sincerity than he did with the details of the law: a reminder that the law boils down to two things: loving God and loving people. Do that, and the details will take care of themselves. God is more concerned with people than with rules.

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Short Story for GISHWHES

Since Saturday (August 9, 2014) was the last day of GISHWHES for this year–and due to popular demand (okay, my sister-in-law Misti Williamson asked for it)–here is the 140 word short story I donated to the one team who asked for it:

First Contact
by R.P. Nettelhorst

Lost, hungry. And his dad would ground him over the dented warp coil. But at least they weren’t pressing charges.

An ugly local pushing a shopping cart stopped and lifted a purple toy up to its face. “Do you know him, Elopus?” The universal translator descrambled its words. “Is he one of your relatives?”

Loton smiled. “I’m looking for a good restaurant.”

“Misha, Queen of England, at your service.” Misha bowed extravagantly. “And this would be my loyal retainer, Elopus.” It patted the furry stuffed animal.

“A robot?”

“When a mommy octopus and a daddy elephant drink lots of whiskey—” began Misha.

“I just need some food.”

“Don’t eat out much—got my crown jewels, but cash is tight.” It rummaged through its cart. “Like a scepter?” It held up a bent coat hanger. “All yours if you’re buying.”

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Pluto’s Five Moons

Next summer, New Horizons will arrive in the Pluto system.

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

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