Simply Miraculous

Last semester, my psychology professor repeatedly declared that “the existence of something so perfectly intricate as the eye is simply miraculous!”  The fact that he, a nonbeliever, would use the word “miraculous” stuck out to me, despite his disclaimer that he was not referring to a supernatural God.  What else could miraculous mean?  Natural, beautiful complexity points to an intelligent designer.

Have you ever had one of those moments when a piece of creation takes your breath away?  Maybe you were lying on your back at night, staring up at the sparkling little jewels of stars.  Or maybe you were walking alone on the beach, enjoying the waves ticking your toes and the wind playing with your hair.  Maybe it was while you watched a newborn breathing gently against your skin as he slept peacefully on your chest.  Or maybe it was when you lost yourself in the infinite blue of the sky.  Whatever the moment, you suddenly saw God through it in as real a way as the scene surrounding you.

Psalm 19, which C.S. Lewis describes as “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world,” describes these moments as a testimony of God’s existence:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;

no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,

like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens

and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is deprived of its warmth.”

The testimony of God’s creation is continuous, abundant and universal.  “Day after day” and “night after night,” there is never a moment in which God’s creation takes a break from glorifying Him.  This message is not whispered, but “poured out” —God was not stingy in creation.  There is no language barrier withholding the message from anyone even to “the ends of the world” – even those without the ability to see or hear can experience creation with their other senses.  Everyone witnesses creation, and creation declares that there is a God worthy of praise.

Aristotle: “Should a man live underground, and there converse with the works of art and mechanism, and should afterwards be brought up into the open day, and see the several glories of the heaven and earth, he would immediately pronounce them the works of such a Being as we define God to be.”

Albert Einstein: “I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”

Robert Jastrow, a leading NASA scientist: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Let us not overlook or undermine the importance of creation as we seek to grow in our faith.  Just as we learn about an artist from his painting, we learn about God through the “general revelation” of His creation.  Romans 1:20a says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”  (Note: Remember that at present, creation is distorted by sin.  Not everything seen in nature directly reflects God.  For example, the existence of diseases does not point to God as being evil and twisted.)

Just as you spend time in God’s written word, spend time in His creation.  Be intentional about finding pieces of his work—big and small—to take your breath away and ask yourself how they reflect the One who created them.  Remember the ways that God has spoken to you through them in the past and realize that at every second such moments are being bountifully repeated across the globe.  Praise Him for His glory witnessed in everything around you!


In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

If you pray as a Christian, you probably use the phrase “in Jesus’ name” multiple times a day.  But be honest with yourself: don’t you tend to slur these words together as the transition from your prayer to whatever comes next?  (I know I do.)  Do you ever even think about what they mean?  (Until today, I never really did.)

What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name”?

True Christian prayers are always in Jesus’ name, even if that phrase is not used.  John 14:13-14 says: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (see also John 15:16, 16:23-26).

Doing something in someone else’s name means that you 1) come in the other person’s stead, and 2) come by his authority.  When you pray in Jesus’ name, you are approaching God the Father with a prayer that Jesus himself would pray.  In a sense you are saying: “Jesus told me to pray this prayer.”

How do I genuinely pray “in Jesus’ name”?

To genuinely pray in Jesus’ name, you must pray based on who Jesus is.  Because you are claiming his authority, you had better be praying for what he would authorize.  Your requests must be focused on bringing glory to him, not yourself.

If your prayers are sinful, you are not genuinely praying in Jesus’ name.  This is not to be taken lightly: It is spiritual forgery to sign Jesus’ name to prayers he would not approve.

When I say “in Jesus’ name”, what am I really saying?

First, you are confessing that Jesus is the only way to God.  Hebrews 10:19-20 says: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (see also I Timothy 2:5).  If Jesus had not died for us, God would ignore any prayers we might offer.  By saying “in Jesus’ name” we are clinging to our salvation through Christ and the promise that through him we have the right to communion with God.

Second, you are acknowledging the superiority of Jesus’ name to your own — or anyone else’s.  You depend on Jesus alone (and the salvation he has brought to you) to be heard by Almighty God.  Acts 4:12 says: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Third, you are submitting your will to Jesus’, asking that God be glorified through the answers to your prayers.  Jesus himself prayed: “Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You” (John 17:1).  Note: When you genuinely pray “thy will be done”, you are saying: “God, I believe that my requests align with what Jesus would ask of You.  But I am only human, and am often mistaken.  Please ignore the requests that I wouldn’t have made if I could see everything from Your perspective.”

How should understanding this transform my prayer life?

Take your prayers more seriously.  Pray for God’s glory, not your own gratification.  Ask yourself whether you truly want what Jesus wants.  Finally, be confident — God promises to hear you! 🙂

Free to Choose

Even though I didn’t write this, I can’t help sharing it here.  The more these words become ingrained in my mind, the better my attitude is from day to day. (It’s hard to be impatient when “thank God for a moment to pray” is stuck in your head!)

I dare you to read this piece every morning and watch how it affects your life.

by Max Lucado

It’s quiet. It’s early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming.

In a few moments, the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met. For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now I must make a choice. Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose….

No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical…the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clenching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. I will be kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

Today I will keep my promises.
My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My spouse will not question my love.

Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it only be of myself.

I am a spiritual being… After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

Safe in You

~Isaiah 43:1-7~

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth —
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made. ”

No matter how many times I flip to this passage, it always brings me great comfort.  It is incredibly personal, brimming over with love and the reassurance of God’s competent presence.  Whether I am mildly distressed or completely broken, these verses are like a hug from God.

God promises to be present and protecting.  Verse 2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Have you ever been overtaken by a storm or come across rapids while kayaking alone?  Suddenly, you can’t paddle straight and waves start washing into your boat.  You are at the mercy of the currents.  Life can be like that, driving you in directions you never planned and can’t steer away from.  Maybe, despite long hours of dedicated work, you couldn’t achieve the grade you really wanted.  Or maybe you lost someone you depended on.  But no matter how out of control your life feels, God is still in control of it and promises that He is actively protecting you.  The waters “will not sweep over you.”

Now imagine being surrounded by fire; it is in searing contact with every inch of your skin.  There’s no putting it out—all you can do is keep walking through the pain until you escape the flames.  Life can be like that: Just because you are on your feet and on track doesn’t mean you won’t encounter suffering.  We all experienced a small piece of this during the sleepless nights of finals.  On a much larger scale, many are persecuted for their faith.  But through all this as well, God promises that He is present and that we “will not be burned.”

The Depth of God’s Love.  Verse four gives the reason for this promise: “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.”  This is so straightforward, but so hard to grasp!  Not only does the King of Kings literally know my name (verse 1), but He considers me precious and worthy of honor.  He loves me.  My mind is blown!

As if that wasn’t enough, the verse continues: “I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.”  Lives are priceless, but God is willing to give everything for us.  He gave up even His own son in exchange for us; He purchased us dearly.  And finally, verse 5: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring our children from the east and gather you from the west.”  With God, we need not even fear the impossible.  He will work miracles for us and give us joy akin to a father being united with his child.

These promises are meant for me.  Often when I read God’s promises, I don’t quite understand how personal they are to me.  It is as if I am worried that they are meant for those who follow God much more faithfully than I do.  But that is utterly ridiculous!  This passage was directed towards people who were at the time anything but faithful to God (Read about them in Isaiah 42).

If you are in Christ, no matter where you are in your walk, He will be with you and preserve you.  You are precious and honored in His sight.  He loves you.  This truth is so incredible; respond in joy and obedience and love.

A Road I Regret

Two weeks ago, I was thoughtlessly laughing along to a show when I suddenly had a flashback to the first episode I had watched, less than half a season earlier.  Although it could be considered a relatively clean show, I had felt pretty uncomfortable with some of the jokes and morals of the main characters.  This memory was an obvious poke from God, leaving me nothing to do but stop and think: Why do I feel so comfortable watching this now?

Considering the accuracy of God’s timing, it shouldn’t have surprised me that His second poke was so soon to follow.  This time it was through a senior at PEF who quoted Thoreau: “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

The fact that I thought that I was sufficiently protecting myself by avoiding the worst movies and shows only proves that I had not put real thought into the matter at all.  It is not only these that would scar my mind.  The “pretty clean” shows that gave only small pricks to my conscience have proved just as dangerous because through repeated exposure, I stopped being bothered by them at all.  This step-by-step attack on my subconscious requires my conscious attention.

Realistically speaking though, although I must be much more careful than I have been, I cannot possibly escape many of the negative messages thrown at me from the internet, from my peers, and even from Princeton itself.  To combat them, I can only build such highways of Godliness in my mind that will completely dominate the little dirt paths of Satan.  I have to actively think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,” and whatever is worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).

…which is going to be easier said than done!  So if you’re reading this…you could pray that I learn to have a steadfast mind! 🙂


“You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

“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)

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5)

“Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” (Hebrews 3:1)

Freed from Grief

One year ago, I lost a close friend. Those months were really hard for me and I mostly just wanted to fly far, far away from everything and everyone until I had time to heal. Now, 365 days later, I wanted to share the testimony of my firsthand experience of God’s faithfulness and love. His plan is perfect even when it seems absolutely wrong.

~~I never wanted to go to an ivy league. Going to a school with such high demands on my academic and spiritual life seemed too risky. Although I would miss out on experiences because of my insistence on playing life safe, I was willing to sacrifice for control over my life.

Less than a year ago, I hoped to go to Grove City. Today I am thriving at Princeton, convinced that this is where I belong. What happened to so drastically change my mindset? What happened to so drastically change me?

During my senior year of high school, a lot happened that I had definitely not planned for. One of my close relationships was shattered. A friend was shot. Finally, one weekend, every perception of my ability to control my life was ripped away.

That year, soccer was a huge part of my life. I captained the team with my two best friends and embraced my role as a big sister to the younger players. As for Coach—he was so much more than my coach! He was that one special adult that I could talk to about anything. He was proud of who I was and gave good advice as often as I asked. Whether I was a mess over some little trauma in my life or just felt like a laugh, whether it was during his work hours or one, two, three o’clock in the morning, I could always count on Coach to be there for me. He beat me in Shakespeare quoting contests, bought me Belgian chocolate to beat me in a bet, and really just adopted me as an extra daughter. He was my extra dad.

One Saturday, minutes after our game started, Coach went down, clutching his side. From the distance to which some adult pushed me, I hugged my teammates and cried for Coach’s pain and for my own helplessness, but it never crossed my mind that I was watching him die. I don’t care to remember the details; I just remember everything happening so slowly. The long wait for the ambulance. The long wait at the hospital. Then my world shattered, erupting in tears from deep inside me.

I had never cried like that before. Over the next weeks, I became numb in my feelings of loss and hurt and anger. I was afraid to sleep and dream; I didn’t want to anything except run away from everyone who insisted on asking if I was okay. I needed to figure out why God would let something go so wrong. Could God make a mistake?

I was upset for what I now see as self-centered reasons. I had confidence from the beginning that Coach was far better off in heaven than he could ever be on earth. Still, I was angry that he could not be there with and for me anymore. Coach had helped me grow even in my faith—so why would God take him from me?

Ironically enough, as I questioned God over the next months, I became increasingly impressed by Him. Although I hated to think of anything good coming from Coach’s death, I had to acknowledge that my non-Christian teammates were becoming open to God as we grieved together. I witnessed radical changes in the way I myself understood the world. God was working, even through our loss.

Eventually I began to realize that I had never had any real control over my life. I too could die at any moment. No longer able to place trust in my own plan, there was only God to turn to. As I brokenly searched the scriptures for answers, He impressed me by His power and foresight and promise to always watch out for me. Isaiah 43 became my favorite passage: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God.”

As I witnessed the truth of these words firsthand, they obtained powerful new meaning. God promised that His plan for me was perfect, and I came to believe Him in a way that I never had. I truly had nothing at all to fear. I did not have to play life on the safe side. I could be passionate about life, I could jump at every opportunity, I could take risks. I could live full of life for God because I trusted Him to guide me through it.

It took me awhile to discover all this, as my eyes were only gradually opened to the peace and truth in God’s promises, a “slow falling-into-place of previously disconnected elements” (Hine). Neither was I was not direct and sure as I traded insecurity for confidence. As Whitaker Chambers wrote, “We are cripples…[until] the soul’s new proportions are defined.” I was crippled, but it was only through this that I learned to see the world from a whole new perspective.

I still miss Coach and I never could bring myself to take his number out of my phone. I think of him every time I see a blue jeep, go out for pizza, or hear someone call me “Emmers”. But now I can smile at the memories, and thank God for the perfect plan He has. A plan that once I questioned, and now trust in a way that has radically changed my worldview. I don’t have to play life on the safe side to ensure that I get the life that I want. I can leap outside my comfort zone, confident that no matter where I end up, that God is guiding me through a plan to prosper and not to harm me, to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).