The Temporary Joys of Camping

Early in our marriage, my wife and I learned the joys of taking camping vacations. We had recently purchased a brand-new red 1983 Honda Civic hatchback edition. We bought some basic camping equipment including a small three-person backpacking tent. We borrowed a Coleman white fuel, pump camp stove from my father-in-law, and other equipment. Then we loaded our ice chests with food, and packed all our gear in the back of that new car. Then we headed for the mountains of Colorado.

We arrived at a campground with no amenities near Wolf Creek Pass, located the most level place we could find to set up our tent, and began to make ourselves at home before the sun went down. Even in the summertime, the evenings were quite cold, even while huddling together in a three-person tent. On top of that, it rained almost constantly the whole time we were there. We couldn’t hike in the rain. Being on top of the mountains also posed a bit of danger due to the occasional lightning. So we spent most of the time sitting together in our tent, talking, reading books, and dreaming about our future together. Having only been married for two years, we were still newlyweds.

We could not cook inside the tent as it was too small and too dangerous. We opened the hatchback of our new car, and stood under that to cook our meals from the back end of the car. We ate there, washed our dishes there, and then ran back to the tent to get out of the rain. The days were cold; the nights were even colder. Since we were newlyweds, it was all great fun!

While it was a memorable time in our lives, I couldn’t imagine living that way for very long. The tent got dirty. We were cramped together. And we were cold. Looking back now it was a great adventure, but thank God it was only temporary. Toward the end of our week, the sun came out, and we were able to finally take a hike. We bathed in the nearby stream with no hot water. After nearly a week it was good to get clean again. Finally, we packed all of our gear into the back of our new car, and we drove all the way back home. I still have fond memories of that trip.

The Jews had an annual observance very similar to that camping trip. It was called the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. In Hebrew it was known as Sukkot. God commanded this observance as a reminder of the temporary dwellings they inhabited while wandering through the wilderness for forty years. They were to make temporary shelters out of branches and leaves. It reminded them how God provided for them every day for forty years. They had water, and bread to eat every day without having to plant or tend to it. Their feet did not swell (Nehemiah 9:20-22). Their clothes did not wear out (Deuteronomy 29:5).

In this life we are nothing more than pilgrims or sojourners. We are temporary residents or aliens in this life. No matter what we do, we cannot stay here forever. This life is temporary. It is like a tent, if you will, in which we dwell temporarily. And just like a camping trip, the vacation comes to an end, we fold the tent up, put it back in its case, and return to our permanent home. In Second Corinthians 5:1-2, the apostle Paul compared the human body to a Tabernacle or a temporary dwelling. One day we will fold up this temporary dwelling, place it in a box, and move into our eternal home, a home not made by human hands. It will be a permanent place. It will be a beautiful place. It will be a perfect place because God himself will be there.

Too often we become too attached to this world. We act as if we’re going to live here forever. We act as if nothing is ever going to change. But it does. Some sooner, some later, but all of us will one day leave this world. Everything that we think we possess we will leave behind. We will go to our eternal abode. The question remains, however; where will that eternal abode be? Will it be with God forever, or will it be separation from him forever?

The answer to that question depends on how you relate to his son, Jesus Christ. First John 5:12 states, “He who has the Son has the life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Do you have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If so, how would anyone know that Christ dwells in you? Does your life reflect Christ in all aspects, or do you have just a Sunday-morning religion?

No matter how well you take care of this tent, it will one day wear out. Someone will pack it away in a box, and you will go to your eternal dwelling. Hold loosely to this world because you can’t hang on forever. Remember that you are nothing more than a pilgrim here.

Life on Mars? What If?

NASA’s big announcement about finding liquid water on Mars, let me re-phrase that, possibly finding liquid water on Mars, caused quite a stir this week. Finding possible rivulets on Mars that might contain salty water at certain times of the year on Mars opened up the question of maybe finding life on Mars either in the past or the present. What if scientists find “microbial life” on Mars either in the past or in the present? What difference would it make theologically?

Notice I used the words “possibly” and “might” here. When reading such articles about extraterrestrial life, notice how often the authors use words like possibly, may, or might. They write with great scholarly certainty, but then qualify themselves by using these “out” words. That way when their theories fail or change, they say, “Well, I never said it was certain.”

Articles will say there might possibly be or have been life on Mars at one time. If so, what difference will that make? Several times biblical skeptics have asked me how I would feel if scientists discovered any kind of life on Mars, or any other planet. I do not believe that it would in any way affect the way I view the Bible or alter my belief in God. Some scientists desperately want to find evidence of life elsewhere in the universe. Many believe that such a discovery will discredit the Bible.

Before we tuck the Bible away as outdated and full of myths, let’s evaluate the assumptions scientists make. Life evolved in water on earth, although there is no known mechanism for it to have done so. The Miller-Urey Experiment in 1952 failed miserably to provide any mechanisms whereby lightning passing through the atmosphere over the primordial sea could produce simple amino acids that could produce proteins leading to life. Nevertheless, they surmise that if there is liquid water on Mars, life may have evolved there too. Maybe it has already gone extinct, or maybe it has not developed as much as life on earth. Notice in the photos from Mars you do not see anything at all that looks like the abundance of life on earth. Even the most desolate landscapes on earth show evidence of life.

The unanswered question? What caused life to evolve from non-life on Mars, Earth, or any other earth-like planet? One of the fundamentals of all basic biological studies is that “all life arises from pre-existing life.” Scientist have yet to explain where that first life came from. They want to exclude any hint of the supernatural from being involved in the process. The chicken or the egg question does not discredit the Bible at all as some flippant skeptics propose. A more difficult question is how did that supposed first cell arise? The next question is, “What did it eat?”

Once a “simple cell” evolved, how did its DNA sequence acquire more information to move it from a single-celled organism to a multi-celled organism? Natural selection cannot cause that acquisition of information. All natural selection can do is weed out DNA. Natural selection actually decreases the information in the DNA pool rather than increasing information.

The other explanation for evolution is that mutations caused evolution. The theory supposes that in the reproduction of the DNA in the chromosomes, mutations caused by chance are passed on to the next generation. However, mutations rarely prove beneficial. Think of it as making photocopies of a text containing information. You take the original text printed on a sheet of paper, place it in a copier, and make a copy. At first you cannot tell much difference in the copies if you have a good copier. Next take the copy, and copy it. Then continue to copy each copy and so on. Before too long you will notice that the final copy varies greatly from the original. Some letters may be blurred and hard to read. Information is lost. Copying has not improved the original, but has actually worsened the quality.

There is no known, scientifically-proven mechanism that can explain the origins of life on this planet. Simply moving the origin of life to another planet and then having it somehow seeded to this planet, i. e. somehow riding a meteoroid to earth millions of years ago, cannot explain the fact that life exists anywhere. It cannot explain how an inanimate, lifeless universe produced any form of life. It cannot explain how a non-intelligent, impersonal universe could produce intelligent, personal life on this or any other planet.

Far from destroying my belief in God, the more science discovers, the more I believe in the presence of a personal, intelligent God rather than blind chance. Furthermore, from reading the Bible I believe that that God is also loving and merciful. I believe that he loved his creation enough to take on human flesh and dwell among us. I believe that he died for our sin and that he rose from the dead that he might give us eternal life. That is the gospel (First Corinthians 15:3-5).

The question is not, is there life out there? The question is, do you have real life living in you? First John 5:12 says, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (NIV). Do you have the Son of God?