Assurance of Guidance

The shepherd psalm, the twenty-third, has a familiar and important phrase: “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake”(v. 3). The psalm pictures a shepherd who leads his sheep to places of security and well-being. King David, who wrote the psalm, was expressing his need for the divine guidance of his heavenly Shepherd.

Decision-making and guidance can be a complex business. If they involve big changes, decisions can be unsettling and stressful. There may be conflicting options. Do we go this way or that? Our decisions effect the lives of others, adding to their weight and gravity. We do not know the future, and how our decisions might work out. Thankfully, our Shepherd is there to guide us.

This week I read a helpful article on guidance by Marcia Hornok. She based her thoughts on Paul’s description of the decision-making process in 1 Corinthians 16:5-16. She explained how Paul, Apollos, and Silas used God-given common sense to evaluate circumstances and to decide what to do. In this process they were confident that they were being led in God’s will.

“Divine guidance is not some sentimental theory,” wrote R.T. Ketcham. “It is a blessed reality.” God’s guidance can be a reality for us if we are paying attention to what it says in the 23rd psalm.

There are two persons mentioned in Psalm 23:3, “he,” and “me.” The “he” is the Lord, the Good Shepherd. The “me” is the believer who trusts the promise of the Shepherd who said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). Between the two personal pronouns is the word “guides.” Here is the promise of the Lord’s guidance.

The scriptures are filled with such promises. One is Psalm 32:8 where the Lord says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Sensible people take such promises seriously and pay attention to the voice of the Shepherd, staying close to him. He can lead them of they stay close to him.

I have read that in the ancient Near East shepherds would entice the sheep to follow by giving a piece of fruit to the one that was following the closest. The other sheep would also crowd in close behind the shepherd to try to get a juicy morsel. The sheep would learn to follow the shepherd who provides and guides.

He guides the sheep along the right paths, paths which he himself has scouted and knows. These paths lead to the pasturage and quiet waters that are just right for the sheep. In our decision-making and life choices we may trust the Shepherd to guide us to the right outcomes as we seek him in prayer and humble dependence on his will.

“You have made known to me the path of life,” David wrote in Psalm 16:11. Proverbs 4:18 says, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter until the full light of day.” These promises mean that the Lord will always lead along righteous paths that conform to his moral will and lead in the right direction.

“For his name’s sake” means that we live on this earth for the Lord’s glory and honor. The Good Shepherd guides his sheep and they follow him to exalt his character and honor his reputation.

As a young Christian woman, Dorothy Burroughs was preparing herself to become a foreign missionary. She was a talented musician, poet and Bible student. She was suddenly stricken with a serious illness which took her life. Among her possessions was found the following poem which she had written about knowing and doing the will of God.

“I asked the Lord for some motto sweet, some rule of life to guide my feet;/  I asked and paused and He answered soft and low –‘God’s will to know.’

“With knowledge then sufficed, ‘Dear Lord,’ I cried. But ere the question into silence died,/ ‘Nay, this remember too — God’s will to do.’

“Once more I asked, ‘Is there no more to tell?’ And once again the answer sweetly fell:/ ‘This one thing above all other things above — God’s will to love.'”

The Good Shepherd knows the future. He knows us. He knows what is best for us. As we seek to know, to do and to love his will, we may trust him to guide us as we make important decisions along the path of life.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


The Shepherd’s Care

One of my favorite parenting memories is of my children reciting the Twenty-third Psalm. When they were very young their bedtime ritual often included kneeling for prayer and reciting the psalm in the venerable King James Version: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” That’s a good memory for an old dad.

I have been meditating on this psalm since I received my diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease a few weeks ago. This little masterpiece of scripture is a favorite of many Bible readers, and for good reason. It is a reminder of the Lord’s tender care of his people through the circumstances of life on earth. It encourages us to hold to the promise of eternal life “in the house of the Lord.”

I am writing these meditations on Psalm 23 during the weeks leading toward the celebration of our Lord’s death and resurrection. As you prepare your heart for Passion Week, I hope this will contribute to your faith and assurance that the Lord is indeed your Shepherd.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:1-2).

Here is a picture of quietness, contentment and peace. How is this possible in a time of anxiety when trouble reaches us? It is possible because the Shepherd is near. He owns his sheep. He knows his sheep. He calls each one by name, In the catacombs in Rome, there is an epitaph used by the early Christians: “In Christo, in pace;”  (In Christ, in peace). The early believers were comforted by the presence of the Good Shepherd who was with them in death.

At this time in my life, as I face the coming limitations and dependency imposed by Parkinson’s, I am comforted by the assurance of the Lord’s presence. “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you,” is the Shepherd’s promise (Hebrews 13:5). “The Lord is near”(Philippians 4:5). “You are with me,” the psalm declares, in life and in death.

Furthermore, the Shepherd provides for his sheep. King David, who wrote the psalm, had been a shepherd in his youth. The Bible records how he protected his father’s sheep from predators, wild animals who threatened the sheep. The shepherd’s “rod and staff” could be used to defend the sheep, as well as to guide them.

The Near Eastern shepherd also provided food and water for the sheep. He would lead his sheep from one green pasture to another. C.H. Spurgeon, in his classic work on the psalms The Treasury of David, applied this to the Christian’s need for spiritual nourishment. He wrote: “What are these ‘green pastures’ but the Scriptures of truth — always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted?” We are fed spiritually when we hear, read, and reflect on God’s Word.

Psalm 23 reminds us how the Shepherd guides. The phrase “he makes me lie down” is not as abrupt and forceful as it sounds in the English language. The original connotation is of gentle leading and setting in a good place. The shepherd guides to a place of rest. He is aware of how his sheep need calm security as they assimilate the food they have received.

Phillip Keller was a sheep herder and pastor. In his book on Psalm 23 he said that the Eastern shepherd would lead his sheep to quiet waters that he himself had prepared by creating stilled pools in flowing streams. According to Keller the sheep would be afraid of rushing water. So the shepherd, ahead of time, would dam the streams with rocks to make sure the sheep had quiet water that they would drink.

All of this imagery pictures the personal care of the shepherd for his sheep. Psalm 23 was written to assure us that the Good Shepherd, Jesus, cares for his own sheep in the same way (John 10:1-15). I do not know all that is ahead for me, but I am relying on the Shepherd’s presence, provision, and guidance.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

My Shepherd

A long time ago I read a story about the Twenty-third Psalm. It is inspiring whether or not it actually happened as described. According to the story, two men were invited to recite the psalm before a large audience.

One of the men, a young orater, was especially skilled and polished in his delivery. He gave the words of the psalm with rhetorical flair and dramatic inflection. When he finished, the crowd erupted with sustained applause and cheers. They called for an encore.

The second speaker was an elderly gentlemen who leaned on a cane as he shuffled to the podium. In a muted, trembling voice he uttered the words of Psalm Twenty-three. This time the audience responded with reverent silence. They were awestruck by the power of the words. The people seemed to pray.

As they sat in silence, the younger man got up again. “Friends,” he said, “you asked me to come back and repeat the psalm in an encore. But you remained silent when my friend here sat down. Do you know the difference? I will tell you. I know the psalm. He knows the Shepherd.”

King David knew the Shepherd. When he wrote this psalm, presumably near the end of his life, he was expressing his personal relationship with God. “The Lord” is our English Bible’s euphemism for Yahweh, or Jehovah, or the I AM. It was the name by which God revealed himself as the eternally self-existent God, the One who was, and is, and always will be. David was saying, “this God is my personal Shepherd.”

In different ways, our Lord Jesus took this identity upon himself. When he declared in John 8:58, “before Abraham was born, I am,” he was claiming to be God. When he said in John 10:11, “I am the Good Shepherd,” he was claiming to be the Lord, the Shepherd of whom David wrote. Can you say with certainty that the Lord is your personal Shepherd? You know the psalm. Do you know the Shepherd?

The New Testament refers to Jesus as the Shepherd in three ways. John 10:11 says that “the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The Good Shepherd died for our sins. In Hebrews 13:20 our Lord is called the Great Shepherd of the sheep who “was brought back from the dead..” The Great Shepherd was raised from the dead for our justification. 1 Peter 5:4 refers to the Chief Shepherd who is coming again to reward those who have faithfully served him.

Do you know the Shepherd in a personal way as the One who died for your sins, who was raised from the dead, and who is coming again? You may know him as King David did. It is a matter of faith. Believe what the Bible declares to be true about Jesus the Shepherd. He said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28).

Elizabeth Elliot told the story of a little girl who was desperately ill and not expected to survive. Her caregivers taught her to be comforted by trusting in the Good Shepherd. The little girl learned to recite the Twenty-third Psalm on her fingers. Starting with her small finger, she would clutch each finger as she said each word, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” As she said the word “shepherd,” she would clasp her thumb in recognition of the Lord’s care for her.

One morning, after she had fought her illness for a long time, her attendants found her dead. She left a silent witness. Her lifeless hand was clasped around her thumb.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


I Shall Not Want

Last week I met with a friend who has been diagnosed with incurable cancer. She has been receiving hospice care. Before we prayed together, her husband, she and I joined hands and recited Psalm 23 as we remembered it from our childhoods. There was no better spiritual therapy for us in that moment.

This is why the 23rd Psalm is a favorite of many people. It is a source of strength for people who are troubled by anxiety, overwhelmed by difficult circumstances, or facing the reality that life is coming to an end.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalm begins. This is personal. This is relational. King David, who wrote the psalm, wrote from his personal knowledge of the Lord. He had been a shepherd boy in his youth, and he knew what it was like to care for sheep. He knew how dependent the sheep were on the shepherd’s care. As king of Israel, he knew he needed the guidance and care of his (“my”) heavenly Shepherd.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The sheep need nourishment, rest and protection. God’s people need spiritual nourishment from the Word and regular times of fellowship with the Lord in prayer. David knew this and his psalms are filled with prayers and praises. “He restores my soul” expresses the healing, renewal and forgiveness we experience when we come to God in transparent faith and honest confession.

“He guides me along the right paths.” I have read that there are animals that have a homing instinct and they are able to find their way back home even over many miles of separation. This is not true of sheep. They have no internal compass, no sense of direction. Sheep can only find the right places if they follow the shepherd. The psalm is teaching us to follow in the steps of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

“I will fear no evil.” When facing the last enemy, death, that lonesome valley will hold no terror for the believer who knows and follows the Shepherd. Even people who do not think of themselves as especially brave, are promised supernatural courage because in that in that dark and lonely place they discover they are not alone. The Lord Jesus himself is with them.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” The believer who lives by faith and daily dependency upon God will find that his promises are faithful and true. He takes care of his own sheep, loves them and provides for them. David is describing the personal relationship of the sheep to the Shepherd. All through this psalm we see the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my,” teaching us that the Shepherd wants us to know we are significant to him and that the concerns of our lives are important to him.

“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This assurance of an eternal home with the Lord is the reason the psalm opens with the phrase “I shall not be in want.” I shall not want for provision, guidance and care throughout life. I shall not want for the protection and presence of the Good Shepherd in the hour of death. And after death, I shall not want for the comfort and security of a home with the Lord.

I enjoy singing in the choir at church. We are preparing an anthem based upon Psalm 23, “Shepherd Me, O God,” by Marty Haugen and Mark Hayes. It is beautiful and its message is strong: “Shepherd me O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”

One reason this is important to me right now is that just this week I received the unwelcome news from my doctor that I have Parkinson’s Disease. Obviously this means that Connie and I must begin to learn a whole new way to live. To paraphrase Michael J. Fox, I have no choice about whether I have Parkinson’s, but Connie and I have lots of choices about how we respond to it.

I choose to respond by following and trusting my Good Shepherd. His goodness and love have accompanied me for 75 years, and I know he will be a faithful Presence in the major adjustments and limitations that lie ahead. I shall not be in want.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


A Prayer for Peace

O God of love, O king of peace/ make wars throughout the world to cease;

Our greed and violent ways restrain./ Give peace, O God, give peace again.

Remember, Lord, your works of old,/ the wonders that your people told;

Remember not our sins’ deep stain./ Give peace, O God, give peace again.

Whom shall we trust but you, O Lord?/ Where rest but on your faithful word?

None ever called on you in vain./ Give peace, O God, give peace again.

Where saints and angels dwell above/ all hearts are joined in holy love;

Oh, bind us in that heavenly chain, / Give peace, O God, give peace again.

— H.W. Baker (1861)


Living with the End in Mind

Last Sunday Connie and I heard a brilliant exposition of 1 Peter 4:7-11. My friend Pastor Mike Philliber talked about how we are to live in uncertain times. As he taught, my mind went to some of the uncertainties of our day: the threat of war in Eastern Europe, the ongoing pandemic, the divisions in our nation, and recent increases in violent crime.

“The end of all things is near,” wrote Peter. The apostle’s readers may have had in mind the changing social and political norms in the first century Roman Empire. They may have thought of the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish people in AD 70. Their world was in a state of upheaval. Also, it is possible, even probable, that readers of Peter’s letter would have associated his words with the imminent return of Jesus. The New Testament writers (including Peter) continually emphasized the return of Christ to influence the believers’ attitudes, actions and relationships.

Pastor Mike carefully explained Peter’s words written to the first century church. They are relevant to our present time too. If we take seriously the possibility of “the end of all things,” then it will certainly influence how we live. “Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray,” said Peter. “Be steady,” said Pastor Mike. “Let there be no panic, no hysteria, no alarm. Instead be self-controlled and prayerful.” Good words to American Christians who are tempted to surrender to anxiety.

Peter wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply. . . . Offer hospitality to to one another without grumbling.” Pastor Mike explained that this kind of generous Christian community must be a priority: “Above all!” Some of the people to whom Peter was writing were persecuted, suffering refugees (1 Peter 1:1, 6). Their very survival depended on the willingness of other church members to take them in and to care for them. This kind of love is being practiced in places around the world today where believers in Jesus are persecuted for their faith.

Peter went on the say that, in light of “the end of all things,” believers should invest their lives in serving God using the abilities and opportunities God has given them. He wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Every Christian has been endowed with some spiritual gifts (abilities). Some of our Lord’s parables about his second coming remind us to stay faithful in serving him by serving others as we anticipate his coming (Matthew 25:14-30).

Doing this is an act of worship to God. “So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” This is to be our motivation as we live in expectation of the second coming of Jesus and live today in a world where life as we know it is ending and changing before our eyes.

The present troubles of the world do not prove that the Lord’s return must be near. The scriptures have always taught that the Lord’s return could be near (at any time. This is the meaning of the word “imminent.”) And there have always been troubles in the world. But today’s troubling circumstances remind us that this world is not the Christian’s final home. We are to live in anticipation of Christ’s return. Peter’s letter is telling us how to do that and do it well.

John Macarthur wrote, “That’s why it’s so important to cultivate a watchful expectancy for the imminent coming of Christ. The point is not to make us obsessed with worldly events. In fact, if your interest in the return of Christ becomes a consuming fixation with what is happening in this world, you have utterly missed the point. The knowledge that Christ’s return is imminent should turn our hearts toward heaven, ‘from which we also wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 3:20).”

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Why Worship on Sunday?

Christian practice has been to worship God on Sunday, the first day, not on the Sabbath, the seventh day. Why?

The Sabbath principle has always been a part of God’s law and the law has not changed. Indeed, all of the requirements of the moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments are reaffirmed in the New Testament, except one, the requirement to keep the Sabbath.

There is no evidence that the first century Christians were required to worship on the Sabbath, as the Jews had done. The scriptures indicate that very early in the Christian era, followers of Jesus began to worship on the first day of the week, rather than on the seventh. Yes, the apostle Paul attended Jewish services on the Sabbath. He did this as a part of his policy “to become all things to all people” in order to influence his fellow Jews to believe in Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:20).

When he wrote his letter to the Colossians, Paul made it clear that Christians are not obligated to observe the Sabbath, any more than any other of the dietary laws or religious observances of the Jews. “Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).

When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he was writing to Jews and Gentiles who shared a common faith in Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 he told these believers how they were to support the Lord’s work financially. “On the first day of the week” they were expected to bring their offerings which had been set aside for this purpose. Presumably these offerings were to be collected when they came together for worship on Sunday.

In Acts 20:7 Paul and his travelling companions met with the Christians at Troas where they stayed for seven days. “On the first day of the week” they gathered to break bread. This is no doubt the observance of the Lord’s Supper, a vital part of Christian worship. This meeting also included a long discourse by Paul, as he taught the word of God.

Christians gather to worship the Lord on the first day of the week in honor of Christ’s day of resurrection (Matthew 28:1, John 20:1). The church of Jesus Christ was born on the first day of the week. The Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost, which always fell on the first day of the week, exactly fifty days after the Passover Sabbath (Leviticus 23:15-16).

Sunday worship is a Christian celebration before a week of work, symbolizing that we are saved by grace and not by works. Hebrews 4:9-10 says that believers cease from all efforts to gain salvation by  their own works and rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. He is our Sabbath rest. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for any one who enters God’s rest also rests from their works. . . .”

The Jewish Sabbath, on the seventh day, always followed a week of work. This may be seen as symbolizing obligations of the law that had to be fulfilled before an individual could experience rest.

The first day of the week has become, in Christian practice, “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10), a voluntary setting aside of one day in seven for the glad praise and worship of God,  for instruction in the word, and for faithful service to Jesus.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Self-giving Love

With St. Valentine’s Day approaching, our thoughts turn to love. Many thinkers have offered opinions on the subject. Ambrose Bierce said it is “a temporary insanity.” Jeremy Taylor described love as “friendship set on fire.” It is “a hole in the heart,” wrote Ben Hecht. John Ciardi said love is “the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the habituation of the middle-aged, and the mutual dependence of the old.”

It is “not getting, but giving,” said Henry Van Dyke. Peter Ustinov described human love as “endless forgiveness.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said love is “a synonym for God.”

Perhaps Emerson was alluding to the New Testament where we read that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Love may be the most basic of the moral attributes of God by which we understand and define him. Love is God’s eternal self-giving, self-sacrificing action.

I believe that the love of God is one of the best evidences for the Trinity, or the tri-unity of God. Love, to be expressed, must have an object, or recipient. So in eternity, before time and creation, God was love. The Father loved the Son and the Spirit. The Son loved the Father and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit loved the Father and the Son. Each of the persons of the Godhead reciprocated in the giving and receiving of pure, joyful, eternal love. For this giving and receiving God needed nothing and no one outside of himself. God was love before there were any created beings.

The act of creating the heavens and the earth was an act of self-giving love. “The earth is full of his unfailing love. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made. . . . He spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm. . . . But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:5-6, 9, 18).

To say that “God is love” is not to say that “love is God.” Love is much more than abstract thought or mere emotion. C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “The words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, he was not love.” Lewis went on to describe the eternal love of God as “a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.”

The giving and receiving we call love is possible for and in us because God loved us first. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we ought to also love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us; He has given us of his Spirit And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:9-16).

There it is, the self-giving, sacrificial love of the Trinitarian God. The act of sending his Son Jesus into the world to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins was an act of God’s self-giving love. Those who receive his love in receiving Jesus Christ, are said to be capable of giving Christian love to others. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

On St. Valentine’s Day as we give and receive expressions of love, let’s remember where love originated.

Pasto Randy Faulkner

Science and Faith are Friends

There exists in the popular imagination a cultural divide between science and faith. The rants of the new atheism have convinced some that science and the Bible are incompatible, that religion is a dangerous influence, that blind chance has replaced God, and that science has somehow disproved Christianity. So it is not surprising that some are suspicious of science.

Some are seemingly afraid of science because they feel ill equipped to engage in conversations about it. Debates about creationism, the origin of matter,  and the age of the universe are beyond them. They’d rather avoid getting caught up in discussions that are best left to physicists and philosophers.

The coronavirus pandemic has not only killed thousands of my fellow Oklahomans, but it has messed with the minds of many others. The same people who will trust science when it comes to boarding an airplane or submitting to anesthesia are skeptical of public health professionals’ recommendations. Many people (some of them are Christians) are unwilling to trust the science.

How might the church respond? First, by boldly declaring the truth that God is the creator and sustainer of the physical universe. Science supports the teaching that the universe is designed and fine-tuned for life to flourish. Belief in a creator God is a better foundation for science than is atheism. The only basis for valuing human life (as expressed in human rights declarations, for example) is a biblical understanding of human dignity. The scientific method was discovered and promulgated by scientists who believed in God. The history of science provides many examples. These facts should be emphasized in Sunday School lessons and sermons. True science is not in conflict with biblical faith.

Second, the church might respond by appreciating its members who are engaged with science in their work every day. It is easy to forget that there are faithful Christians in our churches who are engaged in scientific research, teaching, medicine, engineering, and agriculture. They should be encouraged as they integrate their faith with their vocations in the sciences.

Third, churches should be willing to explore how to help Christians engage in creation care. Environmental issues are in the news every day and are at the top of the cultural agenda. Just yesterday I was reading about a village on the North Sea coast of The Netherlands where industrial pollution from a steel plant is introducing hazardous materials into the soil, air, and surface water. This is endangering the health of the local people. Surely situations like this are a call to Christian advocacy when local circumstances are in conflict with biblical ethics. This is one way churches can help people understand how to apply spiritual principles in the physical world.

Fourth, Christians may set an example of humility and grace when it comes to difficult questions and controversies. We may take our stand on the authority of scripture and the gospel of Jesus Christ without demonizing those who disagree with us. For example, differences of opinion about the proper role of government in the current public health emergency have taken on the features of a culture war. They have found their way into churches, political platforms, and families. Sometimes they have exploded into open conflict. This is not the result of an honest discussion about science. It is prejudice.

Should Christians trust science? Not if it is pseudo-science. Not if it makes claims about God that lie outside the realm of science and cannot be demonstrated scientifically. But if scientific knowledge advances human civilization, health, and prosperity, it may legitimately be said to be a gift from God, and should be appreciated as such. Science and biblical faith are not  incompatible.

Science and biblical faith are not enemies. One of the key figures in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic has been Dr. Francis Collins, soon to retire as the director of the National Institutes of Health. About fifteen years ago I read his book, The Language of God. In it he told of his work as the head of the Human Genome Project which has laid the foundation for many beneficial applications in science and healthcare. He also gave his testimony as a Christian. He became a believer when he began an exploration, as a scientist, which led him to put his faith in Jesus as savior. In the book he said that he now believes that “the God of the Bible is also the God of the genome.”

Christian writer and apologist Rebecca McGlaughlin lives a short distance from the campus of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has friends who are teachers and researchers there. In her book Confronting Christianity, she said that “the roll call of Christian professors at MIT is impressive.” She named several of these distinguished individuals, along with their scientific and scholarly credentials.

She wrote, “The list goes on. And it extends far beyond MIT to leading Christian scientists across the world. If science has disproved Christianity, no one has thought to notify them!”

Science and biblical faith are friends.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Heart Knowledge over Head Knowledge

As a boy growing up in the 1950s, I felt the fear that many of my contemporaries felt when we were reminded of the threat of atomic war. I had nightmares. Sometimes tears flowed. The reminders were pervasive. Preachers described doomsday in terms of nuclear annihilation. Our teachers told us to hide under our desks. Newspapers calculated the travel time for missiles coming from Russia. Little wonder I was a scared little boy.

That is until I read a verse in the good old King James Bible, “The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25). I memorized that verse. I recited it to myself over and over. I cannot explain how it happened, but those childhood fears evaporated. I can only attribute it to the power of God’s word planted deep within.

Christian counselor K.J. Ramsey attributes this to “heart knowledge.” She described her own battle with fear when she had a serious illness. Writing in Christianity Today she said, “In that suffering the word hidden in my heart started countering my fear. I was confused and craving comfort, but God’s story was alive inside of me, welcoming me into the wonder that I am loved at my weakest.”

She quoted researchers in neuroscience and education who describe memory in two ways. “Heart knowledge” is embodied, autobiographical memory. “Head knowledge” is less related to lived experience. It is like the difference between rote learning and applied knowledge. She said, “The word has to be experienced and embraced as living, active and relational to become a lasting part of our autobiographical memory.”

This may be what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the believers at Colosse, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). “The word” is God’s revealed truth, his message, holy scripture. “Dwell” means to live in or to be at home inside of us. “Richly” could be translated abundantly, or overflowing.

If I do this, it means that my Bible reading and memorization will be a response to the living God, hearing from him and treasuring his word. I will then learn his word with heart knowledge by applying it in my decisions, behavior, and thoughts. I will put to use the scriptures I am reading and memorizing, by praying them, sharing them and living them.

If Ramsey is right, there may even be a redemptive quality in my frustrations, anxieties, and pain. She cites brain research which tells us that learning is optimized in suffering. “When we come up against the limits of our knowledge of God and life, when we realize we are not in control . . . God has wired us so that our bodies release the very hormone we need to form new neural connections.” It is then that the implanted word is “rooted in our autobiographical memory,” our lived experience.

Proverbs 19:25 is still precious to me. It is a part of God’s word which has helped to shape my spiritual autobiography. Now when I am fearful or anxious about world events, it is comforting to remember the promise I hid in my heart over 65 years ago. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (NIV).

Pastor Randy Faulkner