Are you smarter than salmon?

Three years ago, my family and I were able to visit the wonderful state of Washington for the first time. Among the many amazing things to see there, are the famous Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Mount Saint Helens, and the Ballard Locks. The Ballard Locks was especially interesting. These locks sit at the west end of Salmon Bay, Seattle. Their purpose is to prevent the mixing of sea water with the fresh water of the lakes. They also serve as an elevator for boats travelling from the fresh water to the salt water (and vice versa).

Integrated in the locks is a fish ladder. This fish ladder helps with the migration of anadromous fish, notably salmon. The salmon hatch in lakes, rivers or streams; they then migrate to the sea, and then towards the end of their lives they return to the fresh water (where they were born) to spawn. Simply put, the fish ladder allows a way of passage for adult salmon to move from salt water to fresh water so they can continue their life cycle. If it wasn’t for the fish ladder, these salmon would eventually die off because they wouldn’t be able to go back home to reproduce.

At the Ballard Locks there is actually a place where you can view these fish as they pass through the ladder (the months of July and August are said to be the prime months to witness this). After spending much of their life in the sea, amazingly they are able to find their way to the ladder, pass through it, and return to where they were born. These salmon are so intelligent that they are able to remember their true home and even find their way back there before attempting to reproduce.

What about us? Are we as smart as salmon? Like salmon,  do we understand where we come from and where we are going? These are things that God expects us know.

1.   God expects us to know where we come from. He expects us to know that we are His creation. In fact, we are His greatest creation. Unlike salmon or any other animal, God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).

Part of being made in the image of God means that we have eternity within us. It means that we have an eternal soul that will live on in eternity somewhere once it departs from this earthly body (Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10).

It also means that we have free-moral agency. Unlike animals we have the ability to choose right from wrong. We can either choose to serve God and enjoy His blessings or choose to rebel against God and experience terrible consequences (Joshua 24:14-15). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the Garden of Eden so that the very first man and woman (Adam and Eve) could exercise this marvelous ability (Genesis 2:15-17).

All of this means that God made us special. He made us unique and superior to anything else. Do we appreciate this? If so, then we need to acknowledge it by living our lives everyday serving our Creator and bringing Him glory (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). God being our Creator means He has the inherent right to tell us what to do and we have an obligation to obey the instructions He has given.

2.  God also expects us to know where we are going after this life. Do you know this? The Bible says you can!

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).

Notice how the Apostle John knew where he was going after this life. We can as well! When we obey the gospel we can KNOW that we are right with God and on the path to be with Him for eternity. Unlike salmon we are going to live on after this life. Unlike salmon we are pursuing something more than an earthly home (John 14:1-6).

While it was fascinating to see salmon travel through the fish ladder back to where they were born, unfortunately only a few ever make it that far. Of the hundreds and hundreds that spent their adult lives at sea, only a relatively small number make it back home. Most are eaten by predators or fall for the bait of fishermen. But hopefully we can learn from those who do make it back. Hopefully we can be at least as smart as they are and always remember who we are and where we are going.

– Shawn Jeffries

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The Answer For Hatred

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On this MLK Day it is good to pause and reflect upon the incredible life’s work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He modeled peaceful protest and cast a vision for genuine racial equality in a nation that had been framed with the words, “all men are created equal.” Dr. King died for this cause nearly 48 years ago. Sadly, recent events demonstrate that racial strife still simmers in the hearts of some Americans with occasional eruptions of violence and lawlessness in various places around the country.

What can change the hearts of men and transform aliens and enemies into brothers and sisters? The gospel of Jesus Christ can do it. That’s what every person needs. Racism and hatred is sinful. Murder, theft, and revenge are sinful. Injustice and crime demand requital. But as men seek to “even the score,” only greater inequities are achieved. Human beings are not a perfectly Just, Omniscient, and Holy “scorekeeper” to make everything right. Only God can do that. God promises perfect Justice and Righteous Judgment in the end (Acts 17: 30-31; Romans 12:19-21; Revelation 20:11-15). Yet, for today, His Word reveals grace and forgiveness that truly makes peace and allows for healing through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The answer for hatred is a changed heart and that’s something the gospel achieves. But it means we look at ourselves and our problems from a different perspective – from God’s perspective found in the Bible.

First, God created all mankind. Human life is sacred and human beings share a fundamental dignity because we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28; 9:5-7). We all have common ancestors in Noah, as well as Adam and Eve. The apostle Paul preached concerning the true God, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth…so that they should seek the Lord…” (Acts 17:26-27). No matter the nation, tribe, or language someone speaks, we are the brotherhood of humanity. And regardless if another person is aware of this Bible truth, because I am aware of it, I have the responsibility of treating that person accordingly.

Second, all have sinned. Clearly people do not treat each other like we are all one big human family. Hate, theft, murder, war, deception, evil speech, and evil surmising too often characterize our human interactions. All such evil proceeds from a defiled heart (Matthew 15:18-19). It is sinful and evidences the reality of sin – the Bible diagnosis for the wickedness we do against God and our fellow man. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Our ancestor Adam sinned by transgressing God’s rule and each of us since has transgressed the teachings of God. Cain murdered his brother Abel and such sins of hatred and violence have separated brothers from each other and from God throughout the ages.

Third, the gospel is for all. But God devised a plan wherein peace could be achieved between Him and His creation as well as brotherhood fashioned between sinners. According to Ephesians 2:11-18, God created one body, His church, the body of redeemed sinners in Jesus Christ. Brotherhood is restored there. Sins are forgiven in Jesus, by the sacrifice He made to pay for them. Sinners are reconciled to God and restored in forgiveness and salvation toward one another. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ teaches Christians (members of that body) how to treat others – with the grace and forgiveness that we have found in Him (Matthew 6:14-15). The gospel changes our mind and heart (Romans 1:16; 12:1-2). We see ourselves and the world around us differently. And we are taught to treat others differently, to seek their welfare and the salvation of their soul above all else (Philippians 2:1-11).

The evil of hatred is ancient. The answer to hatred is timeless: the gospel. But one virtue of MLK Day is to remind us how timely the gospel is to answer hatred, as well as all our sins and iniquities.

By Andrew Roberts

“A Little Lower Than the Angels” Or a Little Better Than an Ape?

 

 

 

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Where did we come from?

What could be more human than contemplating this great question? Human beings are unique among God’s creatures for pondering and debating their origin. Yet God’s true word, the Bible, reveals the simple and wonderful facts of the matter.

On the sixth day of Creation, God made all animals that walk on the earth (Genesis 1:24-25). He spoke them into existence and they came forth from the earth. Then God created man separately, in His own image (Genesis 1:26-8). God intended man to have dominion over all of the earth and over all of the animals. Man is not (and never was) just another animal. Man is superior to animals. He did not descendant from them.  In the details recorded in Genesis 2:7, 18-24 it is clear that Adam found no animal comparable to him. Without Eve, Adam was alone, though he was surrounded by animals.

People are not animals. Some people teach that they are simply animals. Some people act like a bunch of animals (to their shame). But the Bible is clear. “All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds” (1 Corinthians 15:39).

Consider Jesus Christ. Part of His unique role in God’s redemptive plan involved dying to pay for our sins (make propitiation – 1 John 4:9-10). In order to die, He shared in “flesh and blood” with all the people (Hebrews 2:14). He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He “came in the likeness of men” and was “found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7-8). “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death…” (Hebrews 2:9).

You see, He was fully God and fully Man at once. I’m comfortable saying with Paul that it is a great mystery how “God was manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). But I believe it. And to be man – flesh and blood human – is to be a little lower than the angels; not a little better than an ape. Humanity is not equal to the animals. Humanity is closer akin to spiritual beings than terrestrial beasts. We are a little lower than the angels.

But some people don’t see aspiring angels in their fellow man. They only see lucky apes. They approach life from Old-Earth-Evolutionary presuppositions. The planet is a billion years old. The dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago. Some ape-like creature was transitioning into modern humans over the past 2 million years. Here we are today trying to figure out which apes or ape-like creature people descended from.

I read about a cartoon where a princess kissed a frog in one frame and in the next frame she is kissing her prince charming. The caption read: “If a frog instantly transforms into a prince that is a fairy tale. But if a frog transforms into a prince over 300 million years, that is Evolution.”

Well, the October issue of National Geographic details the latest find of a supposed missing-link ape-like creature called Homo naledi. A cache of fossilized remains was discovered in a cave system in South Africa in 2013. It is thought that between 15-18 specimens are being reconstructed from the extant fossils. No one knows how old the bones are or how they came to be in the cave.

While the magazine offers beautiful photographs of artistic models and paintings of what Homo naledi looked like, the artists had to use imagination to fill in the gaps of fossil evidence. Page 37 says, “While primitive in some respects, the face, skull, and teeth show enough modern features to justify H. naledi’s placement in the genus Homo.” But when one sees the fossils pictured on pages 44-48 it is clear that there is no complete skull at all, and the face bones themselves are missing. Only the top of skulls, one lower mandible and partial upper teeth plates have been recovered. Thus there is no way to know if the creature had a “flat” face like a human being or the more elongated and sloped face of an ape.

According to the article, Homo naledi has shoulder blades, a flared pelvis, and long curved fingers all consistent with apes. It also has a small braincase consistent in size with smaller extinct apes. But its legs are long, its hand could probably hold a tool, and its foot looks pretty human. Their working hypothesis is that Homo naledi is a transitional fossil and probably the root of the human family tree. Thus today, humans are a little better than an ape.

I think this is a fascinating story of paleontology and discovery. It is neat. But I’m not persuaded this is the missing link which finally demonstrates Man’s evolutionary chain. Currently, the evidence would also support the hypothesis that a new species of extinct ape has been recovered or perhaps it shows there was more variation in the extinct ape Australophithecus afarensis (“Lucy”) than previously realized.

Ideas have consequences. If people accept the opinion that humans are evolved from animals – just a better breed of ape – it can impact them negatively. But when we remember that we are created in the image of God, and closer to angels than animals, it informs the way we look at life positively.

  • Human life is sacred. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6).
  • We are responsible to treat our neighbors, animals, and the environment “humanely.” We have dominion and the stewardship that comes with it (Genesis 1:26, 28).
  • We can look up, knowing that we aspire to be God’s servants and to exist with Him in heaven.

We’re only a little lower than angels! Let’s remember who we are and live like it this week!

By Andrew Roberts