Category Archives: Thankfulness

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Here is a bonus blog entry for the week. I don’t normally deal in the realm of science because it not my field of expertise. However, I am fascinated the world and universe in which we live. I see the complexity and diversity of the creation and I am amazed by the work of God. I don’t care what many in our world say. I cannot look at our world and universe and see anything but the intricate design and majesty of God. God’s fingerprints are all over what we can see and even those things which are beyond our vision, both near and far or tiny and large.

This week, research results were published from the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) Consortium, which is an international collaboration of research groups funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). The goal of ENCODE is to build a comprehensive parts list of functional elements in the human genome.

Below, I have provided a series of quotes, in no particular order, from articles that I read about the findings they have released. There are no comments from me contained below. These are direct quotes from the articles. Following the quotes, I have provided links to the articles, in case you want to check them out for yourselves.

As you read through these comments, I pray that you will all be able to say, along with King David:

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16 ESV

Together for His glory…

Articles’ quotes:

A colossal international effort [ENCODE] has yielded the first comprehensive look at how our DNA works, an encyclopedia of information that will rewrite the textbooks and offer new insights into the biology of disease. For one thing, it may help explain why some people are more prone to common ailments such as high blood pressure and heart disease. The findings, reported Wednesday by more than 500 scientists, reveal extraordinarily complex networks that tell our genes what to do and when, with millions of on-off switches.

“What we learned from ENCODE is how complicated the human genome is, and the incredible choreography that is going on with the immense number of switches that are choreographing how genes are used,” Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (which ran the nine-year-long ENCODE project), told reporters during a teleconference.

ENCODE’s scientists knew that certain regulatory mechanisms dictated when and where certain genes were expressed and in what amount in order to give rise to the diversity of cells and tissues that make up the human body, but even they were surprised by just how intricate the choreography turned out to be. “Most people are surprised that there is more DNA encoding regulatory control elements, or switch elements for genes, than for the genes themselves,” Michael Snyder, director of the center for genomics and personalized medicine at Stanford University and a member of the ENCODE team, told Healthland.

Junk. Barren. Non-functioning. Dark matter. That’s how scientists had described the 98% of human genome that lies between our 21,000 genes, ever since our DNA was first sequenced about a decade ago. The disappointment in those descriptors was intentional and palpable. The Human Genome Project finally determined the entire sequence of our DNA in 2001, researchers found that the 3 billion base pairs that comprised our mere 21,000 genes made up a paltry 2% of the entire genome. The rest, geneticists acknowledged with unconcealed embarrassment, was an apparent biological wasteland. But it turns out they were wrong. In an impressive series of more than 30 papers published in several journals, including Nature, Genome Research, Genome Biology, Science and Cell, scientists now report that these vast stretches of seeming “junk” DNA are actually the seat of crucial gene-controlling activity — changes that contribute to hundreds of common diseases.

Only about 1 percent of the genome codes for proteins, however, and the challenge has been to figure out the function of the other 99 percent, which for years was termed “junk DNA” because it did not code for proteins. The ENCODE scientists are biology’s version of the Occupy movement, said Mark Gerstein of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., who led one of the ENCODE teams: “For years everyone focused on the 1 percent. ENCODE looks at the 99 percent.” In examining the overlooked part of the genome, the ENCODE scientists discovered that about 80 percent of the DNA once dismissed as junk performs a biological function. Primarily, the not-so-junky DNA constitutes the most sophisticated control panel this side of NASA’s, with some 4 million bits of DNA controlling all the rest. “The ‘junk’ DNA, the 99 percent, is actually in charge of running the genes,” said Gerstein.

How complicated is the genetic regulatory system? There are nearly 4 million gene switches in the major human organs, with about 200,000 acting in any given kind of cell, such as in heart muscle. “Our genome is simply alive with switches: millions of places that determine whether a gene is switched on or off,” said Ewan Birney of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute and one of the leaders of ENCODE. Scientists also mapped more than 4 million sites where proteins bind to DNA to regulate genetic function, sort of like a switch. “We are finding way more switches than we were expecting,” Birney said. “It’s worth reminding ourselves that we are very, very complex machines,” Birney said. “It shouldn’t be so surprising that the instruction manual is really pretty fearsomely complicated.”

When the human genome was first sequenced, scientists were surprised that its structure—based on fewer-than-expected genes—seemed uncomplicated, said Chris Ponting, a professor of genomics at the University of Oxford who wasn’t involved in the latest research. “Encode shows us how extraordinarily decorated the genome is,” Dr. Ponting said.

Scientists have determined that there are 4 million sites in the genome where specific biochemical events occur, most of which have been discovered with ENCODE. That means if you got your genome sequenced, there could be as many as 4 million differences between you and the person sitting next to you, Michael Snyder, a Stanford University professor who is the principal investigator for ENCODE, told CNN.

Articles quoted:

Secure in Christ

I have not written lately, as life has been rather crazy. But I wanted to share something with you this week.

As of late, I have been struggling some. Birthdays have never really bothered me. However, this year, as I approach a “milestone” year, I have been taking stock of where I have been, where I am, and where I am going. I look back, and I see a lot of failures and missed opportunities. I look at the present, and it does not look the way that I thought it would. I look to the future, and it is filled with uncertainty. It is easy to be pulled into a feeling of hopelessness and despair.

Then, I open God’s Word and I read:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

My past, present, and future is cradled within the arms of the eternal God, Who has purchased me for Himself with the very life of His Son. That Son, Jesus, now risen, ascended, and reigning at the right hand of the Father, intercedes for me before the throne of God. God is for me! Who can be against me? He has promised that there is absolutely nothing that can separate me from the love of God in Christ. I am secure. My future is secure.

However, the brokenness of the past, the struggle of the present, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead is still before my eyes. It taunts me and my enemy jeers at me and tells me to give up hope. And yet, if I look closely, the broken pieces of the past have begun to be assembled into something I did not expect. It was not what I had foreseen or planned, but it has become the foundation of many of the blessings and opportunities that I have today. And it has been assembled by the loving and sovereign hands of my God.

The picture is not yet complete. I still see broken pieces lying around. But in the same way God crafted something amazing out my broken pieces of the past, He will do the same the pieces of the present. And the future that is unclear, can become a masterpiece of God. It might not look like what I envisioned, but it will be better, because it will be created by God.

For me, His call is the same. He calls me to trust Him, just as I did in the beginning, when I gave my life to Him. Every day, I must give myself to Him and trust that He will accomplish His purpose in my life, my family, my church, my community, and my world – one piece at a time. God is on His throne. I am His son. I am secure in Christ. And there is absolutely nothing that can separate me from Him. That promise alone is enough to smile at the future, no matter what comes my way. This future is yours as well, if you will place yourself in the hands of God, through Jesus Christ.

Together for His glory…

Spotted Dishes and Wrinkled Shirts

Yesterday and today, I wore a wrinkled shirt. Seems kind of strange, I know, but I had my reasons.

Earlier this week, my wife and I spent a day out, going to lunch and doing some Christmas shopping. Our oldest son graciously agreed to stay at home with our youngest son, Caleb, so we would have the day out together. I have always been very thankful for how our older sons, and now also our daughter-in-law, have been so willing to spend time with and care for their brother. Even though they have busy lives, they will help out with “man-sitting” whenever they are able. “Man-sitting” is, of course, another one of those Caleb coined phrases called “Calebisms.” It was first used a number of years ago, when he did not appreciate the term “baby-sitting” being used to refer to someone taking care of him for a day.

Returning to the topic, my wife and I were spending the day out together. When we arrived back home, we walked in the door and noticed the dishes were all done. Our oldest was sitting on the couch and my wife asked if he had done the dishes. He said that Caleb had done them. He then proceeded to tell us that Caleb had also done a load of laundry. He had decided to wash our dress clothes. I walked back to our room and saw the pile of clean clothes on the bed. Normally, when our hang-up clothes come out of the dryer, they go straight to the hanger. However, Caleb, not being a normal part of doing the dress clothes, did not do this. So, the clothes were in a big, wrinkled pile.

My wife said to me that she would re-do them, but I told her not to. I would wear the shirts wrinkled. It would be a reminder that our son did something special for us. Besides, what are a few wrinkles, right? She did, however, rewash the dishes. There were quite a few missed places. But the point is, however, Caleb was trying to do something special for us and it was meaningful to us.

As we go through our lives as Christians, I think there are many times when we try to do things for God. For some, they may do this out of obligation, only because they think they have to or because they think it earns them points with God. Neither of these attitudes is reflective of what God wants for our lives. But when we, out of love and gratitude for God, respond in celebration and service to Him and others, it reflects a genuine life that wants to be a part of doing something special with and for God.

And yet, we are limited and flawed human beings. How can we offer anything of value to the eternal God Who possesses everything? The same way our children offer something to us, such as taking care of their brother or trying to wash dishes and do the laundry. They demonstrate their love for us. When we think of all of the things we have tried to accomplish over the years as Christians, it must be a wonderful assortment of spotty dishes and wrinkle shirts in God’s collection.

I don’t know how God fully operates, for Who can fully know the mind of the Lord? However, I know from His Word that He delights in His children and rejoices when they rejoice in Him. We can never earn His favor or approval through good works. But we can express our love and gratitude for Him through a pursuit to know Him better and living to glorify Him and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. No, our human efforts will never be perfect, but when done out of love for God, I believe they are a fragrant offering to Him, just like a wrinkled shirt.

Together for His glory…

Am I Really Thankful?

This past Sunday, our pastor taught on contentment from Psalm 131. I have been thinking about it ever since. One statement he made has particularly remained with me. He said that if we are not satisfied in God alone, we will not find contentment in anything else. I think I am paraphrasing a bit, but this was the general idea. The question I have been asking myself ever since is “Am I satisfied in God alone?” And if not, why?

When we moved back to St. Louis over 20 years ago, we had virtually nothing. We pulled up to my parents’ house with about $5 in our checking account and very little possessions. The next several years were pretty lean, as I worked seasonal and temporary jobs. As the years went on, I found more consistent employment and our financial situation became less erratic and more secure.

However, as the years have progressed and God has provided for us a family, I have not found that I have become more content. When we were poorer, I was actually more content. One of the reasons is because I think I trusted God more when we had less. I had nowhere else to put my trust. I certainly could not put in my ability to make money!

In addition, my satisfaction was found more in God than it was in other things. I think this is partly because I knew most things were completely out of my reach then. Now, they are still out of my reach, but they are close enough to see and almost touch. You know the things I am talking about. Those possessions or opportunities that your friends or family or other churches have. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just…? You fill in the blank.

I believe that we will find no true satisfaction in life apart from God. The problem is that I don’t really believe it. Huh? How can I believe something and yet not believe it? Well, I believe Scripture teaches that there is no satisfaction in life apart from God. However, my actions and desires prove that I don’t really believe it. I think if we are honest, many of us could say the same thing.

We think that earthly things will bring us satisfaction. There are so many things to turn our gaze from God and away from the things above. Even though we acknowledge that those things will not satisfy our heart’s desires, our pursuit or longing after them says otherwise. Whether its homes, cars, vacations, a different job, sex, money, power or influence, relationships, or any number of things we could list, we think they will bring us satisfaction in life. But they won’t. Once we have obtained them, the hole we were trying to fill is still there. Only God, through Jesus Christ, can fill the void in our lives. There is a love that surpasses knowledge and that alone will fill us completely, with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

We don’t believe God will provide for our situation. I think that we sometimes get sucked into a martyr complex. This is not to disrespect those who are truly suffering for their faith around the world. However, some of us make ourselves into martyrs and unjustifiably so. We look at our circumstances in life and just resolve ourselves to the fact that God is going to leave us unfulfilled or not provide us with a path to victory in our situation. This happens when we focus on our circumstance instead of God. We look at the bigness of our circumstance instead of the bigness of our God. We need to remind ourselves that we serve a God Who is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). How much can you ask or think? God can do far beyond that.

We are not thankful. In the end, a lack of contentment reveals an unthankful heart. I confess that my lack of contentment reveals this in my life. I grumble about the things in my life that I want to change. I forget the abundance that I already have. I forget that, although I deserve absolutely nothing except judgment and hell, I have been given an eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus my Lord. It will never spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-4). Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:31-39). God has promised to take care of us and loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 7:11). God’s wisdom is perfect. He knows what is best for us, always. We can thank God and trust in Him to bring to pass those things that are for our good and His glory.

I want to strive for more contentment in my life. I know this will only come as I find my satisfaction in God alone. Nothing else will provide this. If you are pursuing contentment in anything but Jesus Christ, you will not find it either. So, let us draw near to God and thank Him for His indescribable gift of Christ and the salvation we can receive only through Him. His unfailing love is better than life (Psalm 63:3).

Together for His glory…