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Spring’s Declaration of Our Everlasting Hope

Living in Minnesota, the winters can seem rather long. In fact, some can seem forever. The sky is often gray and dismal, and the temperature biting. “Seasonal depression” is not uncommon here.

March and April can be taunting months. Warm, sunny days and melting snow—then comes another snowfall. Repeat the process. I remember one year this happened several times, and one could sense the irritability in many people (including myself). Although the blustery, lifeless winters would appear to have a stranglehold, spring proves to be victorious as life bursts forth throughout the landscape.

In his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis tells of the evil white witch who brought perpetual winter to the land of Narnia. Yet, certain citizens (i. e., the Beaver’s) remained steadfast in their hope in Aslan and his promise of the coming spring. Mr. Beaver quotes the ancient rhyme:

“Wrong will be right,
when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar,
sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth,
winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane,
we shall have spring again.” [1]

Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia, is an allegorical story of Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. The winter wonderfully portrays the brutal coldness of the witch’s heart, as well as the barrenness and harshness of the ice and snow. These capture well the absolute evil of the adversary (the devil), and the  impoverishing effects of sin: loneliness, guilt, greed, violence, evil, and death. I know Hollywood makes entertainment of these, the education system scoffs at the source of them, and Washington and world leaders make use by exploiting these. Regardless, the reality of these is before us continually.

The situation, indeed, appears hopeless. However, just as the Beaver’s held to the promises of ancient rhymes, we also have ancient promises we can hold onto with confidence.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~ Romans 8:18-25

Because of sin, creation was subjected to bondage, corruption, and futility. For centuries, for millennia, creation has been groaning—left to suffer in the ever bitter winter. However, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the sunlight has pierced the dreary skies. The temperature is rising, and the snow and ice are melting. Although the winds still bite, the eternal Spring draws ever closer! At that time,

A new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:1-4

Although the devil and wicked men sought, and continue to seek, to silence Jesus, His Gospel continues on and will not stop.

As Lewis writes, in a manner as only he could,

“‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards’” [2]

Darkness will continue to try to smother the light; evil will continue to resist the good; and the wicked will continue to persecute the righteous. These would forever perpetuate the winter; however, the light of Christ has already dawned. Even now the ice is melting. Although the blustery, lifeless winter of sin at times seems to have a stranglehold, when Christ returns His Eternal Spring will prove to be victorious as life bursts forth gloriously throughout the landscape—to never succumb to another winter again.

Notes:

[1]  C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1950), 74-75

[2]  Ibid., 159-160.

The Splendid Sound of Silence

In my last post I had mentioned that ours is a society that not simply loves—but is addicted—to noise. There are many who cannot bear the sound of silence—especially when it is broken by the sounds of their own thoughts and questions.

What is it about silence that is so unnerving? For prolonged periods of silence (and lack of distractions) we must wrestle with questions of deeper issues:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Why am I here? Do I have significance?
  • Is there a God? If so, What is He like?
  • What happens after I die?

Such questions are quite natural. The writer of Ecclesiastes notes, “[God] has put eternity into man’s heart.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Mind you, when I talk about silence, I am talking about healthy, essential periods of quiet solitude. I am not encouraging unhealthy, debilitating isolation. We are social creatures. Yet, consider the following:

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. ~ Psalm 145:5

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” ~ 1 Kings 19:12-13

What might we hear if we take the time to be still, to be quiet, to hear—to actually listen—in the silence? In his book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer discusses “The Speaking Voice.” This Voice, the voice of God, is constantly calling, forever pursuing, people.

“It is spiritual responses for which this Wisdom of God is pleading, a response which she [in Proverbs Wisdom is referred to in the feminine] has always sought and is but rarely able to secure. The tragedy is that our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear.”

Tozer later writes,

“When God spoke out of heaven to our Lord, self-centered men who heard it explained it by natural causes, saying, ‘It thundered.’ This habit of explaining the Voice by appeals to natural law is at the very root of modern science. In the living, breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something, too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand. The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, ‘God.’ The man of earth kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to be living in a secular age. Our thought habits are those of the scientist, not those of the worshiper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. ‘It thundered,’ we exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.” [1]

The Voice continues to speak that we might gain wisdom, discernment, and life. Yet, how often do we miss it due to all the noise? The psalmist tells us:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. ~ Psalm 19:1-4

The writer of Hebrews tells us:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. ~ 1:1-2

If we learn to listen we might learn to delight in the sound of silence, for its in the silence we can begin to hear the Voice. Nevertheless, I am sure many will be apprehensive. Tozer writes:

“The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need to fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it. The blood of Jesus has covered not only the human race but all creation as well. ‘And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven’ (Colossians 1:20)….

Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven…. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10), and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.” [2]

May the Voice break our addiction to noise and may we come to delight in the splendid sound of silence—being broken by the Voice of the God who so loves us!

__________

[1]  A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, (Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1993), 64-66.

[2]  Ibid., 67-68.

The Detriment of Distraction

Ours is a society that not simply loves—but is addicted—to noise. From getting up in the morning to going to bed at night we are bombard with noise: Radios, podcasts, television, news, sounds from traffic, from the workplace, from school, and from people all around us.

Sadly, we are not encouraged to truly think for ourselves. News media, celebrities, politicians, and “educators” often try to tell us what to think and how to feel—regardless   how illogical. With the passion of a bushfire, but sometimes intelligence equivalent to that of a bowl of mashed potatoes. Yet, many will mindlessly agree.

Daily we are blasted with such messages: anyone who disagrees is  a bad person, hate-monger, racist; corruption and lies are okay in politics, these simply come with the territory; hypocrisy is only wrong in religion; truth is relative; those who hold to values are dangerous; because there is evil there is no God; humility is for the weak; do what thou wilt, let the chips fall wherever they may—THINK LIKE THE SYSTEM—DO NOT QUESTION IT. LEARN WHAT IT TEACHES; FEEL WHAT IT INITIATES (TO HELL WITH CONSCIENCE); BECOME ONE WITH THE SYSTEM. YOU’RE AN INDIVIDUAL—BUT REALLY YOU’RE NOT!

We have become so accustomed to noise and distractions that many people literally cannot handle periods of getting alone to think and ponder the deeper things in life. What should bring a measure of clarity is thought to be too boring and unnerving, instead. Many people do not know how to handle the combination of silence, stillness, and the triggering of their own thoughts. Furthermore, we have become so adapted to the system (i.e., the world) we do not even realize how much it seeks to manipulate us.

Let’s question the system for a moment and consider:

  • You disagree with persons, sometimes with your closest friends. Are you, therefore, a bad person? A hate monger? A bigot? Are your friends with whom you disagree?
  • Is lying and corruption to be permissible in politics? Do we not resent liars, thieves, and backstabbers when we find them in our midst? So why are these applauded in politics?
  • Why is hypocrisy only shunned when it is found in churches? Why is it not shunned in politics, business, schools, and Hollywood? Many claim to not go to church because of “all the hypocrites,” but the aforementioned have the church beat by far when it comes to hypocrisy.
  • Is truth relative? If so, then how can anything truly be right or wrong? If truth is relative, then all is mere opinion; and things like bigotry, slavery, and oppression are merely neutral. If truth, indeed, is relative, who is anyone to condemn anything?
  • Are those who hold to values (virtue) dangerous? Borrowing from the illustration of another, if you were walking a street at night, who would you rather see? A group of thugs who mock values or a group of people who try to live by values?
  • Because there is evil there is no God? If there is no God, then there is no Standard by which we can discern good or evil. “Good” and “evil” become mere empty words we assign false meaning to. If there is no God, then evolution might be true. If so, then we merely witness “survival of the fittest” when it comes to oppression—simply nature running its course (IF evolution was true).
  • Is humility a sign of weakness? Without humility we cannot truly show genuine respect to one another. Humility is required to recognize and respond to the value of others.
  • Do what thou wilt? This is precisely why our world is in the mess it is in—people living as they will, doing “what is right in their own eyes.” Every action has a reaction. Every choice comes along with consequences.
  • One other thing I will mention concerns slavery. Constantly media and education reminds us of the slavery in our nations past, and the evil thereof; however, for all the supposed hatred of slavery, how come there is not a unified outcry against modern slavery—human trafficking? For all the outcries against the oppression of women and minorities (which are the majority of the victims in human trafficking)  c there is relatively little outcry. Interestingly, some in Washington, Hollywood, and the sports world are known to have profited from slavery. Strangely, for all the outcry against the slavery of the past, too often a blind eye is turned away from today’s slavery!

If, indeed, there is truth to be known, is it good or wise to scornfully sacrifice the quest of it in order to indulge in our pleasures, greed, and pride?

The writer of Ecclesiastes, in his quest for happiness and purpose, indulged himself in pleasures, entertainment, work, education, prosperity, etc. He admits that in proper moderation many of the things he enjoyed are good—but not when they distract us from our deeper purpose. He ends the book with these words:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ 12:13-14

The writer of Proverbs writes:

Let the wise hear and increase in learning…. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction…. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? … Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. ~ Proverbs 1:5, 7, 20-22, 29-32

Be Not Afraid

We are living in turbulent times. This should not come as a surprise, since the Scriptures tell us:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. ~ 2 Timothy 3:1 (KJV)

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” ~ Hebrews 12:26 (ESV)

The closer Christ’s return draws near the more difficult things are going to become (see also Matthew 24). Nevertheless, the people of God do not need to be paralyzed with fear.

With the recent concerns of the Coronavirus, many have gone into an irrational panic, while others have tried to exploit the situation.

I question the chaos around me. Is the panic, closings, etc. truly warranted? What I do know is I am not in control—but my God is. Furthermore, whether by a virus or something else, I am going to die someday. What good is all the toilet paper and supplies worth, then, if I didn’t have Christ? Therefore:

I will not live in fear, what’s going to happen is going to happen. I will do the best I can day by day.

I will be thankful. Tomorrow I might not have a house, food, job, etc; but TODAY I do.

I will not hoard. I will purchase as I have need of just as I always have.

If my family, friends, or neighbors are in need, I will not close my heart to them if they need me. God knows that there are times I need them.

I will remember the poem, “If,” by Rudyard Kipling, for it is an excellent reminder of what it truly means to be a man in difficult times.

And I will try to not be so cynical of panic, hoarding, and attempts to exploit that I am aware of. How else should human depravity be expressed? Any peace, goodwill, or benevolence I might have simply comes from my Lord Jesus Christ. How truly arrogant of me whenever I think otherwise!

My friends, whatever may come, May we not be afraid. May we find comfort in God, and through Him support and comfort one another.

Several years ago I wrote the following song. I hope it may be of encouragement and comfort to your heart, mind, spirit.

Be Not Afraid (I’m Watching Over You)

Be not afraid, though nighttime approaches;
Though shadows stir within the dark.
Be not afraid, for I am your Starshine,
And I will be shining within your heart.

Be not afraid, though storm clouds might gather,
And tears might fall down like the rain.
Be not afraid of thunder and lightning,
Know that the daytime will come again.

Chorus:
Be not afraid, dear child,
You’re not alone;
Be not afraid, My child,
I am with you.
Be not afraid, dear child,
Though you can’t see Me;
I am your God, My child,
I’m watching over you.

Be not afraid, though winds might be howling,
Taunting you within the dark;
Be not afraid, for I will be whispering
My love and peace into your heart.

(Repeat chorus)

Be not afraid, no, be not afraid;
Be not afraid, dear child, be not afraid.
Be not afraid, no, be not afraid;
Be not afraid, My child, be not afraid.
I am your God, My child, I’m watching over you.

~ G.P.

To God be the glory. Peace to you. You are loved!

Heaven (Part 3): R.S.V.P.

Not everyone will enter heaven. What a sad and fearful thought that many church members—even persons of the clergy—will be denied entrance. Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” ~ Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

Only those who repent of their sins (each of us have sinned) and believe on Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins. Some will argue this is unfair, but consider the following:

  1. God is perfectly holy and pure. By His very nature and essence  He cannot, and will not, permit sin in His presence and heaven.
  2. Those who love sin would not enjoy heaven. The immoral, nefarious, and maleficent would abhor the absolute purity of heaven. Make no mistake, heaven would not be a paradise for those whose hearts are not changed by the Gospel and Holy Spirit.
  3. Some argue the Gospel is too “exclusive,” but God offers His salvation to every individual, regardless of their age, background, gender, color, or nationality. He will not force anyone to accept, but why would a person not want to?

If a deadly virus began ravaging the world, would you resent hospitals for saying there is only one cure? Would you refuse it because of its exclusivity? Yet, God says the only Cure for our dire spiritual predicament is to believe on His Son Jesus who died for our sins. Many are offended by this, and thus, forfeit heaven and every spiritual blessing that could be their’s in Christ.

Heaven (Part 2): The Beautiful City of Holiness

While a measure of rest can be had in this life, the true rest is in the life to come—heaven. What does the Bible say about heaven?

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:2-4

Heaven will be a beautiful place, like a stunning, breathtaking bride!There will be no suffering, crying, or death. There will no longer be feelings of distance or disconnect from God. There will be no violence, betrayal, corruption, or oppression. There will not be racism. In fact, we are told,

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~ Revelation 7:9-10

Heaven (Part 1): The Christian’s Longing

The world mocks the concept of sin; nevertheless, we see and experience its ravaging effects through violence, crime, addictions, betrayal, heartache, loneliness, weariness, sickness, suffering, and ultimately, death.

Life can be very dark and wearisome—even for the people of God. The Scriptures are neither shy nor vague about this. Jesus says,

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Paul writes:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. ~ 2 Timothy 3:12

Even the people of God can grow weary and discouraged. The author of Hebrews writes to such individuals:

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. ~ Hebrews 10:35-36