Ark Encounter

Dubbed the Ark Encounter, this full-scale Noah's Ark attraction and theme park opened on July 7, 2016 in northern Kentucky.

Constructed with the dimensions described in the Bible in the book of Genesis, the life-size Noah's ark replica sits in Williamstown in Grant County between Cincinnati and Lexington on I-75. It is the only Noah's Ark theme park of its kind in America.

In August Karen and I visited the Ark Encounter in Williamston, Kentucky. Go experience it. But when you do, be prepared to leave it with a whole lot more questions than you had when you left home. It’s impossible to spend three or four hours in this full-size “replica” of the ark and not have many of your Sunday school paradigms shattered. You are forced to consider numerous realities that your Sunday school teacher didn’t cover when she was putting up those flannel-graph cut-outs of the ark and the zoo animals marching in two by two. And if you read the Genesis account (Genesis 6-9) carefully before you go, what you will experience in Kentucky, and what you were prepared to see, hear, and read will send you back to your Bible and probably searching the internet for authoritative support for, or a refutation of what you saw.

Prior to my visit to the Ark I had really given very little consideration to what Genesis 6:5-8 meant when it said: Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

What was the world like prior to the flood? How advanced was culture and technology? The Ark Encounter is going to force you to rethink your own historical knowledge. You’re going to have to ask yourself from whom did I get my concept of what life was like BC? One of the displays in the Ark suggested that the time from Adam until Noah could have been as much as 1,600 years. That made me wonder what secular historians would say was happening in the world at that time. Christian historians mark the date of the flood to be around 2300 BC.

What is your perception of life on earth around 2300 BC? What were the tools like, what were the engineering skills, how about art and culture? Now with those concepts in mind, what’s your “mental picture of the ark?

The “replica” of the Ark is indeed awe inspiring. Its size alone is jaw-dropping. And everything about the ship and the park surrounding it is “Disney-worthy.” But that’s one of the problems I had with it. The promotions for the Ark call it a “Life-sized replica of Noah’s ark.” By definition a replica is:

“An exact copy or model of something. A duplicate of an original artistic work. Synonyms are: copy, model, duplicate, reproduction

With that in mind, I went to Kentucky expecting to see an ark that matched my concept of what a ship that was hand-built with the tools and materials available in 2300 BC would look like. What I saw was hard for me to believe. The whole ship seemed to be too technically advanced, too extravagant, and too chic to be believable. It felt like some of the rooms had been decorated by Joanna Gaines of Magnolia Farms. Check out Noah’s living quarters:

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Living Quarters: Find out how Noah and his family might have lived on the Ark, from cooking food to sleeping, recreation, and even gardening!

And I felt like there was far too much supposition and speculation regarding technical innovations. Take, for instance the Ark Encounter’s explanation of how the animal waste was removed from the ship. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6v5dKEJRRM

I don’t want to criticize anyone’s desire to share the gospel, and advance the Kingdom of God, and that is definitely what the Answers in Genesis organization intended to do through the Ark Encounter. But their attempt to give explanations and scientifically acceptable solutions to many of the big questions about the flood and life in the ark, will actually cause more people to scoff and have doubts because they’ll have difficulty accepting what they see.

The “Encounter’s” attempt to rationalize and give speculative explanations drove me in the opposite direction. I wish that more emphasis would have been placed on “faith.” Faith that the God of all Creation, simply, miraculously “took care of” all the details, not leaving them up to Noah to figure out.

The Ark Encounter isn’t that far away (about 360 miles)—a nice weekend road trip. So you really should experience it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. But one thing I do know. You will be thrilled by the Answers in Genesis’ display that uses the Ark experience to present to visitors (of all spiritual stances), the clear and simple Gospel in an understandable, undeniable way.

How Is Christ like the Ark?

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11).

As God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ is like Noah’s Ark. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Just as Noah and his family were saved by the Ark, rescued by God from the floodwaters, so anyone who believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior will be spared from the coming final judgment of mankind, rescued by God from the fire that will destroy the earth after the last days (2 Peter 3:7).

Noah and his family had to go through a doorway into the Ark to be saved, and the Lord shut the door behind them (Genesis 7:16). So we too have to go through a “doorway” to be saved so that we won’t be eternally separated from God. The Son of God, Jesus, stepped into history to pay the penalty for our sin of rebellion. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

Written by Jim De Horn

Trust Him to Bring You Safely Home

As we continue in our “Hard Questions” sermon series, let me share just a few more thoughts about “Assurance” from Dr. Greg Gilbert’s amazing book entitled, “Assured.” What follows is from Chapter 9, “Striving for Assurance.”

When it comes to questions of assurance, so many Christians get lost in a vortex of abstractions. “What’s the philosophical nature of faith?” “What does it mean to believe that you believe, or trust that you’re trusting?’ “Can there be quantities of faith?” “Are there different textures of believing?” “Is my joy strong enough?” To be sure some of those are interesting questions, and there’s a place for them. But that place is not in the rubble of a Christian heart whose faith and assurance are collapsing. When that happens, what you need is bed-rock, not clouds. Concreteness, not abstraction.

One of the most useful practices I’ve found for settling my faith and sense of assurance is to go right back to the foundation of my faith by asking myself (and answering) the very first questions. Doing so has the effect of planting my feet on the rock again and allowing me to build up from there. So, for example, when you feel your faith is failing, start like this and answer honestly:

• Do I believe there is a God? Yes, I do.

• Do I believe Jesus of Nazareth really existed? Yes, I do.

• Do I believe He is the Son of God? You know what? I do. I really do.

• Do I believe He died on the cross? Yes.

• Do I believe that when He died, He was dying in the place of sinners? Yes.

• Do I believe He really, truly, bodily rose from the dead? I do. Against all odds, I actually do.

• Do I believe I’m a sinner who needs to be saved? Yes.

• Do I believe Jesus when He said everyone who trusts in Him will not perish? Yes.

• Do I believe God when He said everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved? Yes, yes, yes.

You see? As you ask questions like those, you can actually ground your faith in the concrete truths of who Jesus is, what He did, and what He promised. You can build it from the ground up and feel it strengthening as you answer “yes, yes, yes” again and again. And what if you run into a question to which you can’t answer yes? Then keep asking questions. Why do I hesitate to answer yes to that particular question? Is it because I can’t quite believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Is it because I may harbor an idea that God may save others, but I’m too far gone? Sometimes, chasing down the answer to why you can’t answer yes will uncover a deep-rooted problem that, once identified, you can address clearly and directly.

If you struggle with assurance of salvation, don’t spend any more time swimming around in abstractions. Certainty isn’t found in abstractions. It’s found in the concrete realities of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as well in the promise of God to save those who trust in Him.

Gilbert concludes the book with the following statement:

If you’re a Christian, then God intends for you not to be racked by fear and doubt, but to be able to rest in the arms of your Savior as you trust Him to bring you safely home.

Submitted by Jim De Horn

Assurance

I am so grateful to Pastor Shawn and the Worship Team for our current sermon series, “Hard Questions.” Today’s blog deals with this week’s topic: “How do I know I’m really saved?”

We’re going to start with an analogy. No analogy is perfect, but I think that this might serve as a useful reference later in the article.

In our cars, there are two very different devices that deal with the speed of the vehicle. One is designed to “drive” or increase the speed, and the other’s purpose is to “confirm” the speed. The accelerator and the speedometer have entirely different purposes. If we want our car to go faster we push on the accelerator, we put weight on it, and the vehicle’s speed increases. Now, of course, when we do that, one of the results is that the speedometer indicates or confirms that we’re indeed speeding up. The speedometer is a sign of speed, not a source of speed. We know that if we want more speed, pushing the needle of the speedometer is not going to get us to go faster. To get speed we have to focus on, and put weight on the source of speed, not the indicator. So what’s the point of having a speedometer? The speedometer shows us if we’re putting weight on the accelerator correctly. If the speedometer is reading at “0,” then we’re most likely not putting any weight on the accelerator at all.

Maybe you can already see how our analogy applies to the question of salvation, more correctly, to our assurance of salvation. I’ve recently read a book by Dr. Greg Gilbert entitled, “Assured.” In it, Gilbert says:

I believe the Bible reveals four main sources of assurance: (1) The Gospel of Jesus Christ [The Gospel assures us because it’s Jesus that saved us not anything we’ve done, so we know it’s been done completely]. (2) The promises of God [God has promised us that those He has saved He will never lose]. (3) The witness of the Holy Spirit [The Holy Spirit is a supernatural source of assurance that gives a deep and profound sense of security in our souls]. And (4) The fruits of obedience [Our evident and unending sanctification process gives assurance; assurance comes from seeing the visible results—the living out, of our growing Spiritual maturation].

Dr. Gilbert then goes on to say that we need to realize that these four sources of assurance don’t all function in the same way, and we’re not meant to treat them in the same way. He explains:

The best way to think of it is that two of these sources of assurance—the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Promises of God—are held out by Scripture as driving sources of assurance…the deeper we press into them with understanding and faith, the greater our sense of assurance will be. As for the witness of the Holy Spirit, and the fruits of obedience (our good works as Christians), they seem to be held out by Scripture not as driving sources, but as confirming sources of assurance.

Now let’s go back to our car analogy. If we desire a stronger assurance of our salvation, we don’t do that by fiddling with the indicator or the confirming mechanism (the speedometer). Doing a few more good deeds or a few less bad ones so that we can feel more worthy of going to heaven is like pushing the speedometer arrow in order to increase our speed. The appearance of fruits is not a driver; it’s a confirmer. But sadly, many Christians think that the way to feel more sure about their salvation is to focus on their good works, or their sinful behavior—which is, of course, putting the assurance of their salvation and the security of their salvation on themselves and not on God’s grace alone. The real way to respond to a lack of assurance is to focus on, and put weight on, the true driving sources of assurance—which we pointed out earlier are the promises of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we do that we’ll develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with our Lord, and the resulting confirmation from the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Gilbert used a different analogy to explain the point.

The fruit on a tree can be an indicator of the tree’s health, but to achieve a healthier tree, the solution isn’t to make the fruit look better. Rather, it’s to tend to the root which drives and creates the tree’s health. In the same way, the fruit of our lives can be an important indicator of our spiritual health, but we won’t be able to increase our sense of assurance and confidence in our salvation simply by trying to make the fruit look better. Duck-taping apples to a sick tree, or painting rotten apples red, doesn't make the tree healthier. No, we have to tend to the root, and then the fruit—the indicator of health—will improve.

Our Savior has promised us that our salvation is sure. Romans 8:29-30 provides the Golden Chain of Assurance: “ For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” Our God’s promises are Absolute.

Joyful assurance is God’s loving gift to all of his children.

Written by Jim De Horn

Bring Your Bible to School Day

Thursday, October 3, is “Bring Your Bible to School Day.” This is an annual event that was initiated by Focus on the Family a few years back. I’m including the promotional site produced by Focus…so you can see what a cool thing the event is.

www.bringyourbible.org

And I’m also including the post put out by the “Daily Wire” regarding what happened when New Orleans Saints’ quarterback, Drew Brees, was featured on the video promoting “Bring Your Bible to School Day.“

www.dailywire.com/news/51465/watch-media-smear-drew-brees-bring-your-bible-amanda-prestigiacomo

I was not aware of B.Y.B.S. day until I heard a news report about how the media was blasting Brees for his promo of the event. But having researched it, I think it’s a beautiful idea. Karen and I have sent the promotional materials to our grandkids and have encouraged them to participate at their respective schools: Caledonia, Hudsonville, and Hamilton. It’s going to take a little bit of courage, especially for the older ones, but we think that it’s an excellent way for them to be a testimony to their classmates.

Why don’t we all share the information with our children or grandchildren, then encourage them to bring their Bibles to school on October 3.

Sola Scriptura.

Written by Jim De Horn

A Discipleship Lesson from Randy Travis

God uses a wide variety of sources to teach us life lessons and to amaze us with His providence over every detail in our day to day lives. Yesterday, I heard a song by Randy Travis that started out being nothing more than background noise coming through my earbuds while I was fishing on Elmwood Lake. But then the lyrics began to grab my attention. I thought they went something like, “when you leave this world, it’s what you leave behind that matters.” So I started listening more closely, and although I hadn’t really heard the beginning of the song, the story it was telling fascinated me. So I reeled in my lure, pulled my phone out of the armband case, shut off Pandora, and googled what I thought was most likely the title, “Three Wooden Crosses.” I guessed right. That was, indeed, the title and the singer was Randy Travis.

If you’ve never heard this song, I’m not going to spoil its “cosmic irony” for you, but I think it’s pretty cool the way the Lord is revealing, to a secular audience, the loving way He works through events that to the world seem to be simply incidental, chance occurrences.

I would suggest that you listen to the song first, then read the lyrics again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUhmZBewpzE

Three Wooden Crosses

Randy Travis

A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher

Ridin' on a midnight bus bound for Mexico

One's headed for vacation, one for higher education

And two of them were searchin' for lost souls

That driver never ever saw the stop sign

And eighteen wheelers can't stop on a dime

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway

Why there's not four of them, Heaven only knows

I guess it's not what you take when you leave this world behind you

It's what you leave behind you when you go

That farmer left a harvest, a home, and eighty acres

The faith and love for growin' things in his young son's heart

And that teacher left her wisdom in the minds of lots of children

Did her best to give 'em all a better start

And that preacher whispered, "Can't you see the Promised Land?"

As he laid his blood-stained bible in that hooker's hand

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway

Why there's not four of them, Heaven only knows

I guess it's not what you take when you leave this world behind you

It's what you leave behind you when you go

That's the story that our preacher told last Sunday

As he held that blood-stained bible up

For all of us to see

He said "Bless the farmer, and the teacher, and the preacher

Who gave this Bible to my mama

Who read it to me."

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway

Why there's not four of them, now I guess we know

It's not what you take when you leave this world behind you

It's what you leave behind you when you go

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway.

Isn’t it remarkable that the Sovereign Creator of the Universe is providentially guiding every detail of our lives! May we all leave behind the inheritance of eternal life given to us, through grace alone, by our Lord and Savior.

Submitted by Jim De Horn