The Tone of a Shepherd's Voice


Following the miracle feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14, Jesus sends his disciples across the Sea of Galilee while he remains behind to pray. Along the way, a substantial storm develops, buffeting the boat with wind and waves. In the night, the terrified disciples spot a figure walking towards them. After Jesus announces himself, Peter challenges his Lord to confirm his identity by asking Peter to walk towards him. Jesus does so and Peter climbs out of the boat, miraculously walking on top of the waves – until he averts his gaze to the terrors of the storm and plunges into the sea. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).

Now stop and ask yourself – what did Jesus sound like in your head when you read that?

Did you hear, “How darest thou doubt my sovereign divinity as you traversed over the waves in a physically impossible feat that I mercifully orchestrated!”

Or do you hear something more along the lines of, “Bro… come on…you know that I got you. I’ve always got you.”

…What is the right way to read it?

You know what? I’m not sure if I can answer that question. As someone who has been diligently spending time attempting to enhance their theological knowledge, that it is a rather difficult thing for me to admit.

Think about it though. What was it like to have a conversation with God in His incarnate flesh?

After simply having Jesus over for dinner, Zacchaeus – the notorious tax collector in Jericho – vowed to sell off half his wealth to the poor and spend his life making restitutions for all his wrong doings.[1] I think that’s a pretty clear testimony for the radical power Jesus commanded as a conversationalist.

And why not? Every time a particle of speech leaves his lips, the intentional word of God is spoken. That fact makes it vitally important to hear the correct emotion in his written voice – the joy, the sadness, the seriousness, the humor[2]. Take, for instance, his employment of exaggerations and puns:

 “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24).

Translating the phrase into Aramaic – the common language that Jesus spoke – reveals an apparent word play between gnat (qamla) and camel (gamla).[3] Taking this interpretation, one finds Jesus deliberately including a pun as he grills the Pharisees and scribes for being hypocrites.

When I read the rest of his speech, it is easy for me to visualize passionate condemnation as Jesus spits out labels such as “snakes” and “brood of vipers”. The scene takes on quite a different appearance, however, if I picture the crowd doubling over in laughter when Jesus delivers his one liners with a drum beat and cymbal crash. So… which is it? Perhaps it’s some of both.

Have you ever misread the intention behind a text or an email? That door swings wide open when the subtleties of conversation via tone of voice and facial expressions are removed from the picture. I have found, however, the better that I know a person, the easier it is for me to read a message as they intended it to be read. Otherwise, I am simply reading into it what it would mean if I had written it – and that is a byproduct of my own unique personality and life experiences.

In the same way, I feel it important to analyze what I am using as the basis while constructing the tone of Jesus’s voice in my head. Is it based off actual knowledge of him, or is it a reflection of myself and past authority figures in my life?

The question beckons me to shift my focus from the knowledge of God’s works towards an understanding of His character. This does not necessitate an abandonment of the analytical mind that God gave me. It means to apply it appropriately – never letting thirst for knowledge supersede my pursuit of a more intimate relationship with God.

My prayer is for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reveal the ring of His divine attributes - love, mercy, grace, patience, holiness, justice, righteousness, jealousy, wrath - in all of the appropriate places in the written words of His voice. The same voice that declared blessings over children, taught his disciples day in and day out, declared prophecy, and spoke miracles into existence.  The voice that spoke at parties, delved out forgiveness, scolded hypocritical religious thinking, and cried out from the cross. The voice of the “Good Shepherd” that calls his sheep by name - for whom he laid down his life.

- Nicolas C. Day

[1] Luke 19


[3] Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 23:24". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

An excellent book for further elaboration around the character of Jesus is "Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus " by John Eldredge. You can buy it from The Christian Book Distributors through the following affiliate link:

525706: Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus

Note that we will make a small commission that goes towards the efforts of maintaining the blog. There will be no additional charge to you. There are several other products and resources that I have found helpful in navigating the waters as a Christian and a parent on the Fervent Recommendations page.  

Science & the Age of the Earth


I had a reservoir engineering professor in college who used to say that “the only thing we know for certain about a model is that it is wrong.”  His point being: when we attempt to develop a model for natural phenomena, the best we can hope for is to be “as least wrong as possible” – we simply just don’t know all the variables. Let’s visualize this at an extremely high level. Say I see a napkin with “2…2 = 4” scribbled on it. I could fill in the gap with a “+” sign and reach a perfectly viable solution: 2+2=4. But I could have just as easily plugged in a multiplication sign, declaring 2 x 2 = 4 or even 2^2 = 4 and still hold a defensible position. Obviously, the natural world is infinitely more complex than this, but the idea here is that there are many ways to connect dots of evidence to reach a desired outcome.

Anyway, I say all that to set up the following question: how old is the earth?

Tracing the chronologies back to Adam and Eve and taking the biblical account of creation as a literal week, the calculated age of the earth is approximately 6,000 years. I think that makes some Christians uneasy because it doesn’t fit the predominantly championed view of the universe. Hey, I get it – I was uncomfortable too.

What really opened my eyes, however, were the issues within many of the contemporary scientific points of view – such as the presence of Carbon 14 isotopes in organic matter that is supposedly “millions of years old” (despite the fact that its 5,730 year half-life decay rate should render it completely undetectable).[1]

Well…what about the stars and stuff? Aren’t those like…billions of years old? How the heck would we see them if the earth was only 6,000 years old?

Let me point you back towards another model – Einstein’s theory of relativity. A fundamental component of the theory is time dilation as matter of various masses and velocities causes curvature in a space-time continuum. To make 6,000 years on Earth correspond to millions of years elsewhere in the universe, it becomes a matter of tweaking the equation.[2]



Of course, there are many apologists on the other side of the fence that take an old earth stance in compliance with traditional science and there is a whole lot of arguing back and forth wading around in the minutia of incredibly complex details. But back to the point at the beginning – all models are wrong because we are limited to our own understanding. If you pick deep enough, you’re going to find an issue – until our understanding is increased and it can be explained.

The biblical account of creation does not go to a subatomic particle level of detail. I suspect it would be very hard and pointless to cram that sort of information into a text which is already perfectly sufficient to make us aware of our sinful nature and need of Jesus’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross to bring us back into a personal relationship with God.

Ultimately, my greatest evidence of God is the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in my life - not the scribbling on a napkin to satisfy a theoretical mathematical model. That being said, I am forever grateful for the relentless work of apologists, tireless defending the truth to illustrate that you CAN draw a reasonable, rational model that fits the biblical account of creation – and that is enough for me.

- Nicolas C. Day

Note: Whatever stance you take on the age of the earth, I see no reason to argue – as long as it doesn’t compromise your faith in Christ. If you are struggling with God from a scientific point of view (as I once was), I encourage you to check out the apologetic resources I have listed in the recommendations page.



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3 Extreme Encounters with the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament


The references to the “Angel of the LORD” in the Old Testament (mal-‘ak Yahweh מַלְאַךְ־ יְהוָ֖ה) are variously interpreted as consisting of several different angels, the same single angel (perhaps Michael the archangel), or even the pre-incarnate Jesus. Given that the answer still isn’t 100% crystal clear after 2,000 years of the Christian church I don’t anticipate to be able to crack that nut here – I’ll ask when I get to heaven. I will say a strong argument could be made for the latter case in Genesis 31:13 where the Angel of the Lord tells Jacob “I am the God of Bethel.” Being that there is only one God consisting of three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) one could logically conclude that this is Jesus (for more information on this, check out On the other hand, perhaps it is an angel simply speaking word for word the direct message of God – again, don’t know, not going to try. What I do want to share, however, is three awe inspiring examples in the bible where the “Angel of the Lord” appeared.  

1. The Angel of the Lord Says His Name is Incomprehensible and Ascends to Heaven in Flames (Judges 13)

In Judges 13, the Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife and tells her that though she is barren, she “shall conceive and bear a son” (Samson) and that “no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”[1]  Manoah prays to God for the angel to come back and he does so – appearing to his wife in the field. She runs and retrieves Manoah and dialogue is struck between them. Towards the end of the conversation, Manoah asks for his name. The Angel of the Lord responds thusly:

18 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”[2] Judges 13:18 NKJV

The Hebrew word translated in the NKJV as “wonderful” is p̄e·li (פֶֽלִאי), which according to Strong’s concordance means: wonderful, incomprehensible.[3]

The NLT thus translates the phrase like this: “It is too wonderful for you to understand.”

Now that’s a concept – the Angel of the Lord can’t even share his name because it would blow Manoah’s mind. It blows my mind just trying to imagine what kind of name would have that impact.

The Angel of the Lord declines Manoah’s offer for food, suggesting he offer the goat as a burnt offering instead. Manoah does so, then watches in awe as the “Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar”. Quite understandably so, “When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.”[4]

2. The Angel of the Lord Makes a Donkey Speak (Numbers 22)

As the horde of Israelite slaves navigated the desert after their God-arranged escape from Egypt, their sheer size invoked fear in the surrounding nations. Balak – the Moabite King – was no exception. After seeing the Israelites crush the Amorites[5], Moab sends for Balaam to speak curses over the Israelites. As Balaam sets out with the Moabites, the Angel of the Lord appears three times along the trail – spooking Balaam’s donkey. The first time, the donkey turns away and runs into a field. Balaam beats the donkey and sets in back on the path. The second time, the donkey attempts to get to the side of the path, crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall. Again, Balaam beats the donkey. The third time – with nowhere to go on the narrow trail – the donkey simply lays down. Furious, Balaam beats the donkey with his staff. The donkey reacts accordingly:

 "Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?'” Numbers 22:28 NKJV

Woah. Balaam responds:

29 "And Balaam said to the donkey, 'Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!'” Numbers 22:29 NKJV

Interesting. I would have responded – Oh snap! A talking donkey!

The donkey replies back:

30 "So the donkey said to Balaam, 'Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?'” Numbers 22:29 NKJV

Now that’s a polite donkey.

At this point in time God opens Balaam’s eyes to see the Angel of the Lord standing in his way with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bows his head and fell flat on his face (see a pattern here?). He admonishes Balaam for beating his donkey, saying that he would have killed Balaam were it not for the donkey turning aside. Balaam confesses his sin and listens to the instructions to speak only what he is directed concerning the Israelites. Thus, when he arrives to speak curses over the Israelites, he instead declares nothing but blessings – much to the fury of King Balak.

It’s wild to think that the donkey could see the Angel of the Lord when nobody else could. Makes you wonder what’s going on when your dog is apparently barking at nothing…or when birds and animals “sense” upcoming volcanic eruptions… random speculations here. Zero theological basis.

Note: if you are confused by the apparent contradiction between God “permitting Balaam to go” in verse 20 and HIs anger being aroused in verse 22 – so was I. There’s a good article that explains it here:

3. The Angel of the Lord Grills Up Some Goat Steaks for Gideon (Judges 6)

Though Joshua did well to keep the Israelites within the protection of God’s covenant – the subsequent generations deteriorated into sin and wickedness. As the Israelites continued to depart from God’s command, God allowed the Midianites to overwhelm and oppress them for seven years – destroying their crops and livestock. It was under these conditions that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon:

11 Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Judges 6:11-12 NKJV

Note to self…encourage my wife to address me at all times as “mighty man of valor”.

The Angel of the Lord proceeds to explain that he will use Gideon to deliver Israel from the hand of the midianites. Ever the one to double check, Gideon asks:

17 Then he said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. 18 Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.”Judges 6:17-18 NKJV

The Angel of the Lord obliges, and Gideon prepares a young goat and unleavened bread, laying them out on a rock.

21 Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. Judges 6:21 NKJV

Now that’s how you could make some heavenly fire baked pizza.

Terrible pun aside, the act galvanized Gideon to tear down his father’s Baal worshipping alter and erect one instead for Yahweh – the first act of his assigned duty to deliver Israel from Midianite oppression.

So there you go! Three encounters with the Angel of the Lord. Hope you enjoyed. Certainly helps me to remember I serve a God that is so unbelievably powerful that I cannot hope to fathom all His glorious ways.

-Nicolas C. Day

[1] Judges 13:5

[2] In the KJV: “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it [is] secret?


[4] Judges 13:20

[5] Numbers 21

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Searching for "Ant"swers


Army ants are fascinating and formidable creatures. With upwards of 15 million worker ants banding together in 20m x 100m trails to form devastating foraging raids, a colony may decimate up to half a million unfortunate victims a day.[1]Being mostly blind, they rely entirely on pheromones to coordinate this murderous march – and do so quite adeptly. Should a section of the foraging party get separated, however, the result is a bizarre phenomenon known as an “ant mill." 

Hang in there. There is a point here, I promise.

“Army ants are not only good at following trails but also have a propensity to form circular mills when moderate numbers are separated from a colony and restricted to a confined area, either in the laboratory (figure 2a) or naturally in the field during exceptionally severe rainstorms (Schneirla 1971; Franks et al. 1991; Gotwald 1995). After a period of disorder, the ants all begin moving in the same direction… As more ants move in one direction, it becomes increasingly hard for individuals to move the opposite way, and this causes the ants collectively to select a (randomly determined) direction.”[2]

Once a direction is established, the ants will continue marching in an indefinite circle until they collapse and die in exhaustion.[3]

Crazy huh?

The whole ordeal is rather reminiscent of the human condition. As the ultimate “ant mill”, we – cut off from God’s intended trail by our sinful choices – are caught up in a spiral of death, in need of a miraculous intervention. Like the ants, we are not even aware of it – we are simply the “blind lead[ing] the blind.” (Matthew 15:14).

Thankfully, by God’s divine grace and the good news of the gospel – we have been given the means to be plucked out of our deadly circle through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57 NLT)

Even as a Christian, however, the army ants make me wonder. Am I holding myself back from pursuing all God calls me to be because I find comfort in following the crowd? If so, it’s time for me to cut loose from the circle, placing my trust in God over security in numbers.  

In the words of Andy Andrews: “Everybody wants to make a difference, but nobody wants to be different. And you simply cannot have one without the other.”[4]

- Nicolas C. Day

P.S. check out a video of an ant mill in action:



[2] Couzin ID & NR Franks (2003). "Self-organized lane formation and optimized traffic flow in army ants". Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 270 (1511): 139–146.



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Scriptural Wisdom Reaffirmed by Neuroscience


I love how science and scripture intertwine so beautifully. Unfortunately, not everyone perceives this to be the case. Typical objections revolve around claims that “real science” does not harmonize with the creation story in Genesis. There is a wealth of books and resources out there to address that –and I may write a post about it in the future myself. For now, you may want to take a quick glimpse here to address any questions along those lines: Anyway – all that aside, I want to shift my focus to the following verse, which popped up on my YouVersion app the other day:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

After letting the verse sink in, I wanted to find out if anything in the “secular world of science” reflected this sound piece of biblical wisdom. In my search, I stumbled across an interesting statement from an article published in the Journal of Neuroscience:

“…even if two individuals experience similar initial joy from an event, some will savor it while others will not (Wood et al., 2003). The ability to experience and sustain positive emotion is critical to daily function, well being (World Health Organization, 2013), and health (Pressman and Cohen, 2005). Positive emotion is a precursor in the recovery from psychiatric illnesses (Zimmerman, 2012). Experiencing sustained positive emotion has several other salubrious effects including lowering levels of inflammation (Steptoe et al., 2005) and may extend life expectancy (Steptoe and Wardle, 2011).”[1]

So you’re telling me…that by meditating on “…whatever things are lovely…” one may actually extend their life expectancy? Sounds perfectly applicable to me! (Note the word translated “lovely” here stems from the Greek word prosphilés, an adjective meaning “worthy of personal affection; hence, dearly prized, i.e. worth the effort to have and embrace”[2] – clearly something that would elicit sustained positive emotion while meditating over).

Another interesting note from the study is that they could actually observe the response of elongated positive thoughts in the brain as visible “sustained ventral striatum engagement.”[3] I have no idea what a ventral striatum is. Apparently it’s in your brain. Wikipedia says it’s somewhere around here:



According to the Medical Dictionary, the ventral striatum is “associated with decision, risk and reward”[4] – hence the activation in the study. Now the next time someone asks you how your ventral striatum is doing, you will know what they are talking about.

However, one thing I noticed that the study didn’t answer – was how to focus on positive thoughts (or maybe it did… there was a lot of medical jargon that I didn’t understand). That’s where I’m going to refer back to the bible again:

 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV

With God’s word as a roadmap and the conviction of the Holy Spirit as a moral compass, we are well equipped to discern what things are true, noble, just, and pure to focus on.  With prayerful surrender, God grants the ability to resist temptation and focus our eyes instead on the things that help us to better reflect Christ in this world – with an actual, measurable benefit towards our own physical wellbeing as well.

- Nicolas C. Day





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