Some 225 million years ago a dense forest with a tropical climate was flooded by rain storms that sent mud and sediment washing it to the lowlands. Conifers 200 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter lived and died there. Volcanic eruptions blanketed the area in ash and debris, causing oxygen and insects to mix with ground water and form silica. This became known as “Chinie Formation”, or as we commonly call it – The Petrified Forest. (1)
In these formations scattered across the U.S. we find petrified rock. Let’s review what exactly that stuff is.
Petrified rock is a fossil that is formed when a plant material is buried by sediment and protected from decay due to oxygen and organisms. Ground water flows through the sediment and replaces the plant material with silica, calcite, and pyrite. The result is a fossil of the original woody material that displays details of wood, bark and cells.
Often petrified wood are such accurate perservations, people don’t realize they are fossils until they pick them up and find them to be very heavy. (1)
“Why should I care, Deb? What’s with the geology lesson?” you may be thinking.
There once was a group of devoted followers of the Teacher, who had just witnessed Him feed 5,000 men with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. Immediately following that, those same devotees were caught in a perilous wind storm at sea while they were in their boat. Peering over their port side they saw the Teacher walking on the water, in the midst of the wild winds. He got into their boat, while the winds and waves ceased. Their recorded response was “they were utterly astonished”. Mark 6: 30-51
But that is not all that is recorded about their response, here’s what the rest says:
for they did not understand about the loaves, their hearts were hardened.”Mark 6:52 ESV
but in fact their heart was hardened, being oblivious and indifferent to His amazing works.”Mark 6:52 The Amplified Bible
the Teacher feeding the 5,000
Here were devoted, Jesus followers whose hearts were hardened. Even though they had seen the miraculous on at least these two occasions, they were still oblivious and indifferent to Jesus’ deity and power. In fact, the word in the Greek for “hardened” is “poroo”, from “poros” – “a kind of stone; to petrify, ie (figurative) to render stupid or callous).” G4456 Strongs Concordance
Let me repeat that – in this account, Jesus’ disciples were oblivious to His power because their hearts were petrified. Their hearts had become calloused to His miraculous works. They were indifferent to the healings, demonic evictions, new births, feeding of 5,000 and stormy seas being calmed. Their hearts were hardened. Their hearts were petrified.
They had somehow allowed the seed of God to become buried by worldly sediment, cultural volcanic ash, and perverted debris. The life they once had, was replaced by hard and crystallized silica that presented a heart that looked vibrant, but indeed was heavy and pertified.
Their heart was a fossil. The seed of faith was stuck in that amber, egg muck of Jurassic Park. They were astonished at the Teacher’s abilities, yet unmoved, and oblivious to His deity and power.
I dare say, that is the condition of many hearts today. They are indifferent to what they have for years, seen and heard about Jesus. They are oblivious to the miracles that surround them every day. They see one astonishing event (a dead football player being revived by medicine and prayer for example), and yet don’t understand that same God is able to resurrect their own dead dreams, marriage, or hopes.
A hard heart begins as callous – a hard, thick area in our spiritual heart that has developed over time from friction or irritation. That callous, when fully developed will leave the heart less sensitive to touch. A callous heart feels little to no emotion and shows no sympathy for others.
The callous heart no longer listens for or hears God’s voice. The heart no longer desires God, the eyes no longer see His hand and the ears no longer hear His voice. Eyes but not seeing (Him) and ears but not hearing (Him). This is the picture of a hardened heart. This is a petrified, spiritual heart. Matthew 13:14-15
I made a list of things we are told that a hard heart does to us. You will find these phrases in these verses: Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3:14; Matthew 19:8; Mark 3:5; John 12:40; Hebrews 3:13; Proverbs 28:14; Romans 2:5
- alienates us from God
- darkens our understanding
- cages us in ignorance
- opens us up to sensuality
- opens us up to greed
- opens us up to every kind of evil impurity
- keeps a veil on our understanding
- opens us up for divorce
- grieves God
- petrifies our faith, we can’t believe
- deceives us about sin
- gets us into trouble
- brings on us God’s wrath
It is with our heart that we believe. If that heart is hard, petrified and calloused, then belief, faith, trust, hope, happiness, and confidence in God and His abilities is impossible. The debris of the Chinie Formation has sealed that faith seed and sealed our fate as well. Without a drastic change, we become petrified rock. Stony, hard, and insensitive to God and His voice. A hard-hearted generation, indeed.
We need not look far to see people walking around who appear to be vibrant, passionate, and even colorful. But let’s not be fooled. They are fossils. Petrified, wooded soldiers insensitive to God, oblivious to His miracles, and indifferent to His will. The have hard hearts and their actions prove it.
Even though those followers of the Teacher found themselves petrified, unmoved, and oblivious to His divine power working right in front of them, it was temporary. Thank God! For within 2 years, they were the one’s who were said to have “turned the world upside down”.
A hard and petrified heart is fixable. The cost is repentance.
It is turning back to God and admitting that you have not been listening to His voice. It is admiting that you have not been looking for Him. It is talking to Him about it all. Being real with Him and expecting He will show up for you, forgive you and heal your hard heart, and begin the work of softening it back up.
The Petrified Forest wasn’t built in a day and neither will your soft heart be. But each day you respond to God’s voice, works and people, will be a day you live with a softer heart than the day before. Until finally you begin to feel again. To see again. To understand more. You will have a heart of flesh again and not a heart of stone. Ezekiel 36:26
The Pertified Forest in Arizona, USA
I have lived this. The disciples lived it. And so can you. Your heart can be transformed from a petrified rock, to soft, supple and faithful.
Let’s change the world with our soft hearts,
1. Geology.com/petrified rock
Valentine’s Heart Wishes
As I am writting this day, February 14, many will “celebrate” Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day. Our family exchanged gifts and sentiments and perhaps yours did too. Whether or not you do, the health of your heart matters.
Please check out my brief video (1 min. 18 sec.) to see what I mean and why it matters to you today.
Our heart is the most valuable thing that we have to give away. To receive another’s heart is the most valuable treasure that we can possess. For in that heart we find not a cardiovascular muscle that pumps blood through the body, but the essence of one’s mind, will and emotions. The very center of a person, the core of who they are.
To be entrusted with such a gift is humbling, fearful, fulfilling, and joyous. And if that heart is a whole, healthy heart, the years ahead for that relationship are likely to be many. If that heart is less than whole – a hard, hallow or half heart, challenges will ensue. Softeners will be needed for the hard heart, meaningful substance is needed for the hallow heart and obstacles as well as distractions must be removed from the half heart.
Each heart requires tending and careful grooming for wholeness to occur. It is a process, one that each of us must chose to commit to for wholeness.
I trust that you have and will continue in that process of having and sharing a whole, healthy heart – not just today, on this day of hearts, but everyday.
Happy heart day,
Time For the Showdown
AKA – Make Up Your Minds
This is the mic drop, epic ending to our series “Serving our own gods” that we have been in for the last 4 weeks. (Check them out in the archives.)
As mentioned last week, there is quite a caseload of precedent for what happens when people serve their own gods and there is ample evidence from history of the results. So, let’s conclude with a massive smackdown between The Lord – Jehovah God and Baal.
In this senario, we find a man of God, under the inspiration of the Lord , calling the prophets of Baal to a showdown with the stated purpose:
How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow Him; if it’s Baal follow him. Make up your minds.”1 Kings 18:21 The Message Paraphrase
You see, I believe that this is the clarion call today as well. The fence sitters are being called to take a side. Yoke up with their god or yoke up with the “only wise God.” The fence is coming down and minds must be made up.
You may remember the rest of the story. The God who answers by fire is the true God. 1 Kings 18:24
The 450 prophets of Baal build a stone altar, cut up a bull, and lay it on the wood-covered altar. Then they begin to call on Baal- their god, to come as fire and consume their offering. They pray all morning, shout, cut themselves, dance and jump, asking for Baal to come and show himself strong for them. But nothing happens. Not a breeze, not a voice not even a spark.
Then the Lord’s prophet, Elijah, does the same. He repairs the altar, cuts up his offering and lays it on the wood that is upon the stone altar, but he also digs a trench around it. Adding insult to injury for Baal’s prophets, Elijah pours 4 jars of water over the offering, the wood, and the altar, filling the trench to the top.
Then Elijah set himself to pray to his God. As he prayed, he said,
Answer me , O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord are God…”1 Kings 18:37 ESV
“Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” 1 Kings 18:38
My friend, the Lord is THAT God who answers by fire, performing miracles and revealing Himself the God of God’s and Lord of Lords. He is THAT God who shows up in power to expose all other gods as impotent. He is THAT God who shakes men and women off of their fences and calls them to make up their minds.
I have no hesitation in saying that these days are showdown days. The gods of this world and those who represent them are being called upon to show their strength, and reveal themselves. And isn’t that what we are seeing on our screens, in our Capitol buildings, school campuses and businesses?
A showdown is mouting.
The followers of Baal and the followers of The Lord are about to face off, because the Spirit’s behind each of those are in mortal combat for the prize of dominion. But the Good News is, The Lord has already secured the ultimate victory, just like in the example of Eijah. He has purchased our freedom by His death on that wooden cross, where he became our sacrifice. He triumphed over death by coming to life after three days, and He answered by fire, as seen on the Day of Pentecost, in the first century church.
The spirit behind Baal and other false gods hope to distract you from that truth because they know The Lord and they fear Him and His power. They know they are losers. Mark 1:21-24; James 2:19 They know that The Lord has already won the great showdown.
The purpose of sharing these things is to call a people out and up, away from their own ways and gods, to the only Wise God, Creator of all things, the Great Jehovah God of the Bible. The Lord is The Lord yesterday, today and forever and wise is the one who gets off the fence and makes up their mind to serve Him.
There is grace, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, love and acceptance to the one who responds to The Lord. But not all will.
In the end, just like those prophets of Baal were slaughtered, those who refuse to yield to The Lord will also meet their eternal end, their eternal judgment. There is much more after this life, and The One True God is the One sitting on that judgment seat in that life. Our relationship with Him here, in this life, is the basis for our eternal life – with or without Him.
In the showdown, whose side are you on? What God are you serving?
You must make up your mind.
Results of Serving Our Own gods
For the past couple of weeks we have been looking at this idea of “serving our own gods”; what it might mean to us, and if indeed we really are serving our own gods.
Today, let’s dive into what the results of doing so would be, based on precedent. The most vivid example to me, would be that of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt in 1446 BC.
After 80 years under the oppression of Pharaoh Thutmose III (aka, The Napoleon of Egypt), there was a show-down between the gods of Egypt and Jehovah God, of the Jews.
In this show-down, smack-down, Egypt’s gods of earth, sky and health were confronted, as displayed by what is referred to as The 10 Plagues of Egypt. According to ancient writings, the purpose was three-fold:
- opportunity to repent
- divine judgment
In the end we see that in fact the plagues did discredit the false gods of Egypt and reveal each one as absolutely powerless. But, I digress.
First, let’s remember that these Jews, for decades had believed that Jehovah existed, but they did not believe He could set them free. They questioned His power and love for them, after what seemed to be an eternity (80 years) of unanswered prayers for help and deliverance. The Jews saw themselves in bondage and servitude all the while they saw what appeared to be the provision of the gods upon the Egyptians, ie: the Nile overflowed, the crops grew, the sun shined and their families were growing because children kept coming to them.
Where was Jehovah’s provision for THEM? His seeming absence was noted by the Egyptians too. What god would allow his people to be oppressed by enemies? Certainly that god was no god at all, many Egyptians must have believed. Look how our gods bless us!
When the Patriarch went before the Pharaoh and told him to release the Jews so they could go and worship Jehovah, Pharaoh’s response was –
Who is the Lord? I don’t know him.”Exodus 5:2 ESV
There were many gods in Egypt that were worshipped, but Jehovah was not one of them and was not even recognized by Pharaoh. Hence, the show-down ensues.
Multiple times the eighty year old Patriarch, and his eighty-three year old brother go before Pharaoh saying, “The Lord says, “Let my people go so that they may worship me in the wilderness.”” And multiple times their request is denied by Pharaoh. Even after a miraculous demonstration of a staff becoming a snake that eats up all the magicians staff/snakes. Exodus 7:1-13
What were the results of serving those Egyptian gods?
Plague #1 – The waters (of the Nile River, all ponds and lakes) are turned to blood. Exodus 7:14-25 This is the confrontation with and judement upon “Hapi” the Egyptian god of the Nile.
The Nile represented the commerce of Egypt. Egypt’s lifeblood. Everyone’s life was dependent on the Nile – for transportation, irrigation, drinking water, food and even setting the calendar. The Nile was worshipped as the Egyptian’s sustainer and creator. Along with Hapi, there were other gods associated with the Nile as well.
This blow to the Nile rendered their gods powerless. There was no escaping the blood instead of water. And even though Pharaoh’s magicians were able to duplicate this miracle, they could not undo what Jehovah had done, nor the judgment He had brought to their culture.
Plague #2 – Frogs Exodus 8:1-15 This was a confrontation with “Heket”, the goddess of fertility.
Frogs were sent by Jehovah and they overran the entire nation. In the bedrooms, kitchens, ovens, kneading troughs. These annoying frogs were literally everywhere. And because frogs were a symbol of fertility and because they lived on land and in water they were considered sacred and could not be killed. Imagine, not being able to kill these invaders. But Jehovah did kill them in their houses, courtyards and fields. This plague also was copied by Pharaoh”s magicians.
Plague #3 Gnats Exodus 8:16-19 This dealt with “Geb” the god of the earth.
The dust of the earth was atruck by Aaron and it turned to gnats, or lice as another translation says. You know the power of lice. Once they land on your hair, they are all over, and these lice infected both man and beasts. Because the Egyptian priest’s duty was to perform purity rites, they were considered impure if they were infected with lice. Isn’t it interesting that now these priests could not even perform their rituals in the temples because of the lice on them. Perhaps that is why the priests confessed to Pharaoh, “THIS IS THE FINGER OF GOD.” verse 19
Plague #4 Flies Exodus 8:20-32 Of course there is a fly god in Egypt, and this was to bring him down. He was “Uatchit”.
Although the flies invaded Egypt. and the smelly, decaying frogs and the bloody, deadly, fish were swarmed by them, this is the first time that God makes a distinction between His people living in Goshen and the rest of Egypt. In Goshen there were no swarms of flies.
Plague #5 Livestock die Exodus 9:1-7 The Egyptian god of cows was “Hathor” and this was his judgment.
All livestock – cows, horses, donkeys, camels, sheep and goats died. Every sacred cow the Egyptians had was now being judged by Jehovah God. BUT THE LIVESTOCK OF ISRAEL did not die.
As you can imagine, Egypt was in crisis. It was devestated. And remember, part of the reason for this is to give it’s people an opportunity to repent and turn to Jehovah. These plagues were not only judgments on their gods, but warnings to turn from serving their own gods and turn to Jehovah. What would have happened in Egypt had that happened? One can only guess.
But the plagues continued. Even after the priests declared this is the finger of God, Pharaoh and his people remained steadfast in their idolatry, hardening their hearts to the call on Jehovah.
Plague #6 Boils Exodus 9:8-12 Judgment of “Sekhmet” the goddess of medicine and peace.
With this health epidemic on both man and beast we are told “the magicians could no longer stand before Moses because of the boils.” v. 11
Plague #7 Hail Exodus 9:13-35 Judgment here was upon “Nut”, the goddess of the sky.
And with this historic thunder, lightening fires, and hailstorm, Pharaoh’s officials were divided into two groups: those who feared the word of the Lord and those who did not pay attention to the word of the Lord. The whole land was destroyed except for in the land of Goshen.
Plague #8 Locusts Exodus 10 1-20 The Egyptian diety “Serapia” whose jurisdiction was to protect from locusts was thoroughly defeated. The vegetation that remained in the land was eaten by invading locust armies.
At this point, even Pharaoh’s servants spoke up and pleaded with him to let Israel go because their whole land was ruined. v. 7
Plague #9 Darkness over the whole land Exodus 10:21-29 “Ra” the feared sun god of Egypt was targeted here.
This was a darkness that could be felt and it blanketed Egypt for 3 days and nights. They could not see their hand in front of their face and no one left their home for 3 days. However, all the people in Israel had light where they lived. v. 23
Through all of these plagues, Pharaoh never relented or released Israel to go and worship Jehovah outside of Egypt’s confines. Over and over we see Jehovah reminding Pharaoah and his cabinet through the voice of Aaron that
I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”Exodus 9:16 ESV
But Pharaoh remained firm and unchanging, choosing not to repent nor receive the Lord’s warnings. Therefore, there was a tenth and final plague.
Before the 10th plague, The Passover was instituted. Read Exodus 12 for the details. But a sacrificed lamb and it’s blood on the door posts of Israel’s homes provided a truly safe space for them during the 10th plague.
Plague #10 The death of the firstborn Exodus12:29-32 Judgment on all of the gods of Egypt, including Pharaoh himself who was considered a god by his people.
No family was exempt from this devestating death blow, from the palace to the poor, wailing was heard at midnight, when the death angel passed over every home, looking for the blood of the lamb. Those homes without the lamb’s blood on the door, were smitten with their firstborn child being killed. The firstborn represented judgment on Pharaoh’s rising leaders and his kingdom. This death blow was excruciating.
Pharaoh now knew Jehovah God and His power. The people of the land also knew His power and might. And the Israelites worshipped Him in fear and greatfulness. Pharaoh sent them away from Egypt to “serve the Lord”. And he added, “be gone, and bless me also!” v. 32
These plagues on the gods of Egypt did their job.
They warned all of the fearful, awesomeness of Jehovah God.
They provided anyone who wanted an opportunity to repent and believe in Jehovah God.
And they pronounced judgment on the gods of Egypt in an undeniable way.
Are the results of serving our own gods any different today than we see in this precedent from Israel?
I think not. The end game is still:
Warning to those who serve their own gods.
Opportunity to repent and turn to the Lord.
Because divine judgment will one day come upon all other gods.
This isn’t Egypt, but there are gods whom we have trusted in and the warning is powerfully clear. Let’s take action, because judgment is coming.
Learn Religions- What Are the Ten Plagues of Egypt; Mary Fairchild 6.2020
Got Questions,org, What’s the meaning and purpose of the 10 plagues of Egypt
BibleCharts.com, The Ten Plagues of Egypt
The Ten Plagues: God’s Judgment and His Mercy
The Holy Bible
Serving Our Own gods – part 3
AKA – What we know about the God of the Bible & why it matters
In two recent blogs by the same title (part 1 and 2), we discussed the similiarites between our day and ancient days of pagan influence. We saw the parallels between those days of idolatrous practices and ours. We understood the spiritual mixture in those people and times of days gone by and the spiritual mixture today. And we realized that we too, find ourselves serving our own gods, just like men and women have for thousands of years.
But what’s the alternative?
If one were to adhere to the teachings of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, we would see the picture of One God, called The Lord, Yaweh, Jehovah. This God, was the God served by Old Testament persons, all the while they also served the gods of the nations surrounding them as well. But this God, called for their exclusive love. This God called for their whole heart. This God called for all of their passions, not just a swath of a bigger piece. This God called for a focus of their mind and not forgetful of their oaths.
The New Testament offers a similiar picture. One in which we see Jesus, called The Christ, who was called after His Father, The Great I Am, also calling for His followers to :
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.”Matthew 22:27; Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30 ESV
The alternative offered by the God of the Bible is to offer your heart, mind, soul and strength to Him. Exclusively. Solely. Without reservation. And permanently. Sorta like one does in marriage. Because THAT is exactly how the God of the Bible sees humanity – whom He loves. He sees believers collectively as a beautiful bride for His only, begotten Son. Revelation 19:7
He loves the whole world and all humans in it. Each of them created by Him, in His image, for His pleasure. (Genesis 1:26; Revelation 4:11) A God of love (1 John 4:7-8) simply longing to share that love with His creation, His sons and daughters.
He is not a piece of hard, cold metal like that of idols. He is not a piece of man-hewn wood, like that of idols. He is not an imagination of man’s heart or mind. He is not subservient to or in alliance with any other god of the past, present or future. He is not a god who is afar off or uninterested in the affairs of men. Not the God of the Bible.
The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.”Exodus 34:6-7 ESV
This is Jehovah God.
His Son Jesus, who came to Earth on His behalf, to redeem humankind back to a loving relationship with Father-God, exemplified these qualities. With compassionate love, He sought to unite the people of His day with His Father – God, and then called all those after to “Go and do the same”.
The alternative to idol worship, self worship or sin worship – whatever you call it, is the worship of Almighty God. Who tangibly reveals Himself, comforts, strengthens, corrects, inspires, guides and enjoys His people.
This matters more than anything else in your world. Your relationship with the God of the Bible matters, for in it you find purpose, security, happiness, hope and value. The idols of self-pursuit and happiness, money, sex, or man’s approval have no such things to offer you. They leave you empty, seeking and hopeless.
“If we find God to be so boring or so neglible that we must put other things in his place that really satisfy us more than He does, then we offend Him and we destroy ourselves.” John Piper
And there is a huge problem with offending an Omnipotent God.
Put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”Colossians 3:5-6 ESV
You see, the same merciful, slow to anger and loving God is also the God who’s wrath will judge our idols. He seeks our exclusive love and if we have idols keeping us from Him, His judgdment will fall one day, not just on them, but on us. That is why we forsake them, tear them down and pull them up by the roots in our life because they are what causes His wrath to fall. The consequence of keeping idols in our life matters to your children and your grandchildren. There are generational idols that must be torn down or they will take over and incur the wrath and judgment of Jehovah God.
This is the truth of the God of the Bible. And this is why it matters.
Therefore, may it be said of you and me –
You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven…”1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ESV
Because nothing else really matters if we don’t get this right.
- John Piper