Ignorance is … journalism?

And this is why I’m such an advocate for reading the Bible and knowing what it really says. An article in Friday’s Daily Telegraph out of the UK states that genetic study of Lebanese people proves they’re descended from Canaanites and were not wiped out by the Israelites as the Bible says they were.

Implication? The Bible is a load of hogwash and science continues to disprove it. Next stop? The discovery of transitional species that show how apes evolved into homo sapiens and that certain dinosaurs turned into birds. And beyond? The long-undiscovered burial site of Jesus Christ.

There’s just one problem. The Bible doesn’t say the Canaanites were wiped out by the Israelites. The Israelites were commanded to annihilate the Canaanites, but the Bible says they did anything but.

However, Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth Shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam a d its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; for the Canaanites were determines to dwell in that land.

— Judges 1:27

Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; so the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them. Nor did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron or the inhabitants of Nahalol so the Canaanites dwelt among them, and were put under tribute.

— Judges 1:29

And it goes on, listing the failure of the Israelites to follow through on the command to wipe them out, and eventually leading to a declaration from an angel of the Lord that the Canaanites would continue to be a thorn in their sides.

There goes the thesis of this reporter’s story — and possibly his credibility. But someone who hasn’t read the Bible and gives that article even a cursory glance will say, “Well, chalk up another one for science against that load of hooey people still believe in!”

Last year, I saw a BBC documentary about some people searching for Noah’s Ark, in which the narrator said that the Bible states the earth was created less than 6,000 years ago.

He didn’t say, “some people interpret the Bible as saying that …”. He said, “The Bible says …”

Which it doesn’t.

The Book of Genesis is quite nebulous as to the exact time when God created the heavens and the earth. My understanding is the “less than 6,000 years” claim is based on a particular interpretation of the timeline; but the Bible itself is very un-specific on that. I’ve written before on the question of faith and the account of creation — I believe that fossils and other archeological and paleontological evidence give us proof that we can see. God tells us the things that we can’t see, so that part of our natural curiosity is satisfied and we can get on with the job of taking care of His creation — as He commands us to do.

But I digress. The fact is, the researcher who wrote that TV script and the Telegraph reporter are doing themselves and their readers and viewers a disservice by using that false premise — and people do themselves a disservice by not taking advantage of the fact that God’s Word is available to us to read for ourselves.

All that being said, it makes our job, as ambassadors of Christ, very clear: we have to keep encouraging others to read the Word for themselves so they, too, can get a handle on the promise, the glory, the hope … and the Truth.

Chip shots: knowledge, paranoia and awareness

Funny We Should Say That Dep’t

Just last week, we were talking about the fact that people ignore the Bible at their peril. “Therefore My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge;” writes Isaiah (5:13). Wednesday’s New York Times carries a story that can set your teeth on edge.

A technology company in Wisconsin is signing up its employees for a voluntary program, in which they have a microchip embedded in their hand. The chip, which uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, allows them to open secure doors or buy food in the company cafeteria with a wave of the hand.

The story tells of employees’ enthusiasm for getting this brand-new technology, although the hubris is tempered with warnings about the possibility of infection at the site of the implantation or that the chip could go AWOL and migrate to other parts of the body. The Times also interviewed an expert in privacy issues who expressed some concerns about personal information and tracking, but that was, itself, tempered with an interview with the company CEO who assured the reporter that that was not the intent.

What the story didn’t mention was this:

He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

— Revelation 13:16-17

“He” refers to The Beast — the enemy of God, the satanic missionary, who tries to rule the world and is, in fact, given that authority for a time.

The quote from the CEO suggests this is all about convenience and is quite innocent, but isn’t that the way we get sucked into things? “Come on, it’s OK: it’s kinda fun! The first one’s free, by the way.” Some years ago, a company I worked for introduced a payment card, and one of my superiors suggested that the technology it used could be applied in microchips implanted in the hand, making the card obsolete. Apparently, he had no idea of the implications.

And that’s the scary thing: people seem to have no idea of the implications, because they haven’t read The Book. The lack of knowledge means captivity. The idea of a chip embedded in the hand to make paying for things easier is so close a parallel to what’s described in Revelation — nearly 2,000 years ago — that you have to take note.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist or an end-times fanatic, and there’s a difference between noting warning signs and paranoia. Paranoia means you simply look for the warning signs and obsess on them; noting the warning sign involves considering what else we need to note.

The overriding message of Revelation is that there is a beast who is trying to rule the world; he knows he will lose, and is out to take down as many people as he can with him. Instilling fear in people’s hearts — fear that they won’t be able to buy or sell unless they have “the mark” — is his way of controlling them. It is possible that this microchip can combine with the halting baby-steps towards removing cold, hard, cash from the picture in favor of electronic commerce to create a situation in which, without that chip, you won’t be able to shop … buy food … clothe your family … pay the rent … AAAAGGGHHH!!!!

OK … I’m sounding like Alex Jones here, except for this: what I wrote above is not the “overriding message” of the Bible. That’s actually the overriding message of survivalist paranoia. I’m actually talking about awareness. Awareness gives us that “holy nudge … like a circuit judge in the brain*”, that tells us, “Um … be careful – this may not be a good idea.”

Awareness reminds us that the Bible also tells us that WE WIN and the beast goes down forever. We have to hang in there and remember that “he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

And how do we win? Through faith in God. Through staying close to Him and His Word. Through believing — knowing — that He will provide, even though some world system tries to make us conform. We win, in fact, by staying the course and remaining faithful to Jesus’ commandments:

  • love God with all you have
  • reach out to others, regardless of their faith or background — your faith can carry the can
  • be aware — the Bible is God’s Word, given to us for a reason: so we’ll know what we need to know, which includes recognizing signs, like The Mark
  • and above all, don’t worry.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

— John 14:27


*from “Spirit Thing”, by The Newsboys

A prayer for those around me

I have friends who are hurting.

They’re sick. They’re going through a rough time at work. They’re going through rough personal times. Their friends, spouses, parents are dying. They have no job. Their lives haven’t gone the way they thought they would back when they graduated from college.

My prayer for them? That they have the faith that I have.

That doesn’t sound right. The faith that I have — which is nowhere near that of others — has carried me through some tough times, too: the faith that things get better, that there are greater times to come, that if we focus on God and not on ourselves, He responds by carrying us through whatever bad scene we happen to be in — and He does so, regardless of whether we “brought it on ourselves”.

I pray that people will come to know that faith. Jesus says even faith the size of a mustard-seed, which can grow from something barely visible to the most dominant herb in the garden, can overcome the worst enemy attack.

It’s faith that rises up in the midst of our complaints (see yesterday’s entry) and reminds us to seek God in all situations and thank Him for all situations, because when we seek Him in troubled times, He will show up — and give us a glimpse of what He’s up to. When we seek Him, the troubled times have meaning and we start to see good things emerging that could not have happened were it not for the troubles.

When we seek Him, we find Him.

It’s faith that gives us the comfort of knowing that we’re not in control — even though our world these days reveres those who claim to be “in control” of their lives.

Illness happen. Deaths happen. Setbacks happen. When they do, it’s OK to be weak, to break down and grieve; because it’s at that point that the Holy Spirit comes to our rescue with the strength we need to move forward.

This is not some kind of airy-fairy, imaginary-friend-in-the-sky concept. It’s the truth. I’ve seen it happen in my own life and in the lives of others: where at their darkest moment, they’ve turned to God, called out to Him and have been pulled through the situation in ways no one could ever have imagined.

To my friends: I wish that kind of faith for you. That’s what I mean by “the faith that I have”. How can I tell you about it? How can I describe the joy that I feel, even when the world says I’m insane or don’t really understand the situation?

I guess that my prayer for me is to get the words and the opportunity.

In the meantime, I’ll just say this: you’re hurting — I’m hurting; I pray for you to find the faith that I have, and then some, and to come to know Jesus for yourself. You’ll be endlessly amazed at how much better life looks once that happens.

… that [Jesus] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledgel tghat you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

— Ephesians 3:16-19

When “No Complaining” doesn’t need a rule

no kvetch

Yesterday, we talked about Pope Francis’ “No Complaining Zone” in his private room, and the fact that chronic complaining leads to a spirit of victimhood … which basically denies our ability to overcome adversity through Christ. (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13)

The church I attend is a de facto “No Complaining Zone” — and it’s not because there’s a rule. Our congregation has quite a few older people — in fact, the average age is probably the oldest of any of the churches I’ve gone to. You often hear about churches focusing on youth and reaching out to the next generation, there’s something to be said for being in a church where so many people are one’s own age and older.

In the not-quite-three years since I started going to this church, some of the members have passed on. Others have physical ailments: diabetes, heart conditions, forms of cancer, the beginnings of dementia, general effects of aging; some come in on walkers.

The thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever heard them complain. One fellow who uses a walker usually stands during Worship, even though the Worship leader says “if you are able to” when she invites us to stand.

Another chap, who’s younger than I am, recently had a heart attack, then lost his job and had to accept “reduced circumstances” in his living arrangements. Having spelled all of that out to me one day, he then said, “But what’s important is, I have Jesus, and my family is intact!” And you could tell, those were no empty words. (Besides, speaking that aloud, out of your mouth, drowns out whatever the enemy tries to make you think.)

One lovely woman would come in, hauling an oxygen pump with her: sometimes she’d come in on a walker; eventually, the walker gave way to a wheelchair. My wife and I would chat with her, Amelia would sometimes pray with or for her. She always seemed to be smiling, even though, sometimes you would look at her and see that in her pain, she was taking it one breath at a time.

Take that, Spirit of Infirmity!

One Sunday, we learned that she had moved into hospice. I don’t think I was alone in not realizing how sick she was. We got weekly updates for the next couple of months, and then came the inevitable, “Lynn has gone home to the Lord.”

At age 61, I get a lot of joy from associating with young people. Working for university athletics, first at the University of British Columbia and now at the University of Victoria, I get to work alongside young men and women in their late teens and early 20s. Some very cool friendships have developed. But being in a church where I see people who are in their late innings and facing the next stage of their eternal existence, is inspiring.

I’m not talking about “shiny, happy Christians”, “sad faces, painted-over with those magazine smiles”, but people who are honest both about their worldly infirmity and about their confidence that no matter what the world sends to them, God promises nothing but glory and hope through Jesus Christ.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits 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; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

— Romans 8:18-21

In this age, when the world seems fixated on the idea of having personal control over when one dies, these people are ready to go whenever God calls them and running the race as well as they possibly can until that happens.

With faith like that, you don’t need a papal decree or an office policy to not complain. When I ask them, “How’s it going?” they shrug off whatever issues they have, remind me that Jesus is Lord and then ask how I’m doing. Yeah – like I’m going to complain about a bum wrist or a sore knee.

So now ask yourself: who would you rather be around? People who have something to complain about, and do; or people who have something to complain about and not only don’t, but are ready to remind you why not?

Do victims wear white?

NO COMPLAINING

This sign was spotted recently on the door to Pope Francis’ private room at the Vatican. It translates to “No Complaining Allowed”.

The rationale behind it is, on the one hand, worldly: people who complain bring everyone else down with them. As well, the Pope notes, look around at people in Third World countries or the poor parts of your own city, those who are terminally ill and those who don’t know Jesus and don’t know what hope is: they’re the ones who have something to complain about!

So … you were saying …?

I don’t think the Pope is talking about the basic “something has gone wrong and I can’t cope right now” kind of complaining. I believe he’s referring to constantly revisiting a situation, using it as an excuse for other things in one’s life, currying pity, if not favor, because of the bad hand you’ve been dealt; circling back to a hurt, as if that constitutes one’s identity as a human being.

Chronic complaining makes it a bummer for others to be around you. And there’s a deeper, spiritual aspect, too.

  • Chronic complaining denies the authority Jesus Christ has given you: you are not alone in the struggle and the Holy Spirit — the Comforter — is there to give you the strength to move forward
  • Chronic complaining keeps you looking inward, whereas Jesus calls us to look outwards and serve others, even — especially — when we are down, ourselves.
  • Chronic complaining hands the situation, and your whole life, over to the devil, because your eyes are on yourself, and not on God.

The sign also makes reference to a “victim complex”, which is antithetical to the Christian walk. Look what Jesus promises us:

“To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

— Rev. 2:7

“He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”

— Rev. 2:11

“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”

— Rev. 2:17

“He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations —

‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ —

as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.”

— Rev. 2:26-28

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

— Rev. 3:5

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”

— Rev. 3:12

“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

— Rev. 3:21

So if you consider that the chronic complainer, the one with the victim complex, is the opposite of “him who overcomes”, it stands to reason that those who stay in that state miss out on the blessings and glory that Jesus spells out: the hidden manna, safety from the second death, the new name, the white garment, sitting with Jesus on His throne.

It’s not that God is unsympathetic to victims, but Jesus’ sacrifice is about rising above victimhood and then helping others to do the same. It is one of the many things that make us a “peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14 KJV) and, as Peter puts it, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Remember, too, that the anthem of Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement  was “We Shall Overcome” — not “We Are Victims”. The benefits the world offers to victims can range from a comforting pat on the shoulder to a reduced sentence for committing a crime. But God offers us something greater when we choose not to go that route and instead say, “Thank you Jesus!”, and move ahead.

Don’t re-build Jericho!

satchel paige

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

— Leroy “Satchel” Paige, 1906-1982

A couple of weeks ago, I compared the sacking of Jericho to what we do with our own lives when we allow Jesus to come in, smashing down the walls, kicking over the tables and wiping out everything that separated us from God. There’s one more thing we need to do:

Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, “Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay the foundation with his firstborn and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.”

So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country.

— Joshua 6:26-27

OK … it’s actually something we need to not do, to wit: try to re-build on our old lives.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but when I surrendered to Jesus all those years ago, I effectively killed a career in broadcasting that had consumed my life for over 20 years. I believed I should have progressed further than I did, but suddenly — and as I think about it now, this seems to coincide with my Salvation — it was like a glass wall had appeared. Opportunities for advancement were shut off, usually in ways that seemed so, well, wrong, that it had to be God At Work.

It was only after I got hired in a job that was not in broadcasting that my life moved forward again. After I left that job, I tried to get back into broadcasting, and it was a dismal experience.

In other words, the ground of my old life was cursed, and trying to rebuild on it would be fruitless.

(In a post last week about the power of agreement, I mentioned a case where people agreed in a prayer that I should get a full-time job at one radio station. I didn’t get the job, and in fact, got fired from the one I had. But overriding that prayer was the fact that I had told the Lord before that, “this is in Your hands”; the firing was His way of taking control and also of reminding us that when we hand things over to Him, we can’t take back the wheel.)

See, here’s the lesson of Jericho. Joshua — who was, I believe, clearly in step with the Holy Spirit, declared that curse. But later, we read in 1 Kings that someone did rebuild Jericho.

In [Ahab’s] days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho.  He laid its foundation with [at the cost of the life of] Abiram his firstborn, and with [at the cost of] his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the Lord, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.

— 1 Kings 16:34

So Joshua’s prophecy came to pass: rebuilding on the old ground comes at a terrible price. And it gets better (or worse):

Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.”

— 2 Kings 2:19

Things are not going well for Jericho, are they? That’s the city in question, and since Hiel built it, even though it’s in a nice location, the water is polluted and the ground won’t produce. Fortunately, Elisha knows where to turn.

And he said, “Bring me a new bowl, ad put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the source of the water and cast in the salt there, and said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.'”

So the water remains healed to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.

— 2 Kings 2:20-22

Today, Jericho’s economy rides on two things: tourism and agriculture. Jericho is also classed as a hot desert climate. Kinda hard to have either in that climate with polluted water.

So essentially, it took prayer, declaring the Word of God, and adding salt with the offering (Leviticus 2:13) to remove the curse and heal the water. I believe Jesus Christ is represented by salt from “a new [unused] bowl” (Mary).

No invention of man could redeem that water, but the Word of God did.

The takeaway? Don’t look back. Do you really want to rebuild your life on the way you used to be? There are parts of it that can be made beautiful and fruitful, but only by putting Jesus foremost in your life.

See for yourself!

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them: and He stayed there two days.

And many more believed because of His own word.

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

— John 4:39-42

Yesterday, I noted that the world is paying a price for the fact that so many people will not read the Bible. They are afraid of it; or they reject the idea of God and Jesus Christ; or they haven’t even heard of Jesus and what He did for us; or they think it’s a load of codswallop and they’d rather be masters of their own fate.

Certainly, one has the right to choose between believing God and not; but if you look at the state of the world today and consider the warnings of Isaiah and Hosea — that the people perish because they don’t know the Word of God (and therefore don’t know God) — you have to wonder if there isn’t a connection.

The Word of God is an amazing gift from Him to us. He lets us in on His heart, His desires, and to a great extent, His plans (albeit on a “need to know” basis). There are mysteries, but no surprises; riddles, but no equivocation. And it’s been translated into pretty much every language known to man. I’ve lost count of the number of English versions of the Bible there are, and there are translations into languages as diverse as Arabic and Hawai’ian (and even Hawai’ian Pidgin). If humans ever reach Mars, they’ll probably find a Martian who can quote Psalm 23.

This means we have another choice to make. Do we read the Word for ourselves, or rely on someone else to tell us what it says?

I went for years, relying on someone else’s interpretation or recollection of the Bible. It wasn’t until I picked up the Book and started reading it for myself that any of it came to life and started reaching into my soul. Like the Samaritan men, I came to believe not because of what someone else had told me, but because I had heard Jesus for myself.

That’s important in two ways. One, is that by listening to what someone else says about the Bible — regardless of whether he or she has “Rev.” in front of their name or a string of Divinity degrees after it — we deny ourselves the opportunity to listen to God directly. And since they’re only human and can make mistakes, too, we risk compounding any mistakes they make and misinterpretations by taking what they say as, um, Gospel.

If someone’s theology is wonky, so is the worldview of anyone listening to them.

Similarly, there are those who have a negative view of the Bible and use selected passages to try to diminish Jesus and discredit His followers. There are plenty of passages that appear to condone violence or judge certain groups of people for their behaviour. Heck, in this age of “micro-aggression”, practically any “thou shalt not” can be blue-pencilled for “making someone uncomfortable”.

And the people hearing those interpretations, without their own personal knowledge of the Bible to recognize what it really says, turn off anything to do with Jesus.

I’ve often said in my sermons, “Don’t take my word for it! I could be wrong. Read it for yourselves and see.”

Because as you read it, you come to a greater knowledge of God; the Word starts to come alive in your heart and you find that, wherever you open the Bible, something will come to your attention that speaks exactly into whatever situation you’re going through. That’s why it’s called The Living Word.

And best of all, you come out of your own “captivity”.

What you know – it’s not what you think.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

— Mark Twain

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

— Hosea 4:6

Therefore My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

Therefore Sheol has enlarged itself and opened its mouth beyond measure ….

— Isaiah 5:13-14

Yesterday, I told you about a woman who, up till the age of 14, had not heard about Jesus Christ. She wasn’t from some oppressive, totalitarian regime that punishes people who teach the Bible: she was from Florida.

One of the great challenges for anyone trying to spread the Good News of the Gospel is in overcoming a total lack of knowledge. So many people think they know what’s in the Bible, but when asked if they’re actually read it, they change the subject or say, “Ehh … I know what it says.”

But they say outlandish things like:

  • All religions preach violence
  • Humans and animals were “co-created”, so animals have the same rights as humans do
  • The Bible is just there to control people
  • The Ten Commandments are just common sense
  • Jesus came to bring a sword to destroy sinners
  • God gave governments the sword

Oops … those last two were actually spoken by professing Christians. Hold that thought.

So the sad fact is, so many people, for one reason or another, do not know God, because they have shied away from the only way to get to know Him — by reading the Bible.

Many people avoid it, thinking they’ll get brainwashed or have their IQ reduced by 50 points. Others buy into that “control people” canard and don’t want to give up control over their lives. For still others, you could call it “bibliophobia” — in the true sense of that suffix: irrational fear of  (not hatred towards) the Bible. That’s what afflicted me for much of my life: I was afraid of what I might find if I read it. I was afraid I wouldn’t “measure up”, that my sin was too big for me to handle, and I was absolutely terrified of what I’d heard about the Book of Revelation.

 

 

Long story short, I was wrong — and I’ve never been so happy to be wrong in my life.

When people don’t read the Bible, they don’t know God. They don’t know that they can know God, so they don’t even try.

That’s their choice. But if they don’t get to know God, they don’t come into intimate relationship with Him. (You’ve heard people mention the “Biblical sense” of the word “know”? People usually say it with a “nudge-nudge” tone of voice, but in fact, that kind of knowledge means deep, intimate relations, where two become intertwined. That’s the kind of “knowledge” God wants us to have of Him.)

Now, take another look at those quotes from Hosea and Isaiah. Now think about the state the world is in. So many people won’t even crack the book, they miss out on the knowledge that draws them into God’s protective zone, go into captivity, and God “forgets” them and their children.

Open wide …!

I heard a powerful testimony the other night, powerful both for the description of the immediate turnaround in the life of the woman giving it, and also for a reminder of the need to step forward with our own witness to Jesus.

The woman’s life story was gripping: a “bad girl” from a bad situation who did bad things, who one day took up an invitation from a boy she rather fancied to come to a youth group. A woman was speaking about Jesus, and this girl found herself asking more and more questions. The woman talked with her one-on-one, telling her the simple story of how Jesus died to take the punishment we deserved for our sins and anyone who asks Him into their life can expect a turnaround.

The girl received Jesus on the spot.

pause

That explanation of Jesus Christ seems so simplistic, so dumbed-down, that I’d be almost embarrassed to say it to anyone.

Wait. Strike the word “almost” from that sentence. I would be embarrassed to say it to anyone. I always expect to have to go into some logical, hermeneutical, any-reasonable-person-should-understand kind of explanation to back up my belief. But all it took was “Jesus died for you and He promises new life” for a tough-as-nails “bad girl” to come to her knees.

Here’s something else to understand. The girl had no idea who Jesus Christ is. “Around our house,” she said, “‘Jesus Christ’ was a swear-word.”

It’s hard to conceive of any household in North America where there wasn’t at least a passing acquaintance with the idea of Jesus Christ, and yet this girl had grown up in total and not-so-blissful ignorance.

Therefore My people have gone into captivity because they have no knowledge; their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

Therefore Sheol has enlarged itself and opened its mouth beyond measure; their glory and their multitude and their pomp and he who is jubilant. shall descend into it.

— Isaiah 5:13-14

So it may seem awkward to declare such a simplistic-sounding message, but we need to overcome that. Do what Jesus, Philip and Peter did, and start by opening your mouth (Matthew 5:2, Acts 8:35, Acts 10:4). Sometimes, that’s the hardest part. The Holy Spirit will give you the words you need at that time.

Remember this, too: if you come across someone who doesn’t believe, it’s entirely possible they don’t even know that there is something to believe; and that revelation alone could be the tipping point for their Salvation.

Here’s the epilogue to this “bad girl”‘s story. One by one, the rest of her family — mother, step-father and two brothers — came to Christ, too, by seeing her own turnaround.

Lives are at stake when you see someone who needs to know Jesus Christ. Open your mouth and let Him start talking through you.

You never know the seeds you’ll sow!

The Eternity idea

And I’m thinkin’ ’bout Eternity

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.

— “Wondering Where the Lions Are” (Bruce Cockburn – 1979)

I have a friend who, the last time we talked about such things, stated baldly that there is nothing after this life. When we die, it’s lights-out, our existence ceases, les jeux sont faits – rien ne va plus. The late Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., described it in Slaughterhouse Five as “violet light and a hum”.

Indeed, one pastor — the son of a prominent evangelist — made news earlier this year when it came out that he was teaching students at a college where he was ministering that there is no heaven or hell and this is the only go-round we get, existence-wise. Therefore, don’t worry about sin, so long as you’re spending your time doing good works. Sounds like a very benign philosophy, doesn’t it?

But the question is, who’s really behind that thinking?

This kind of “no eternity here” thinking goes against pretty much every worldview humankind has considered since the beginning of thought, and there’s a very good reason for that.

I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

— Ecclesiastes 3:10-11

No matter where we are, what our background is, how we’ve formed our beliefs, whether we’re talking about karma, hades, sheol or heaven and hell, this idea of eternity has been placed in our hearts by God Himself.

So if God placed the idea of Eternity in our hearts, who would try to take it away?

Yes, that’s a rhetorical question — we don’t really need to answer — but let’s say it, anyway: the enemy. He’s trying to snatch away the source of hope and joy in the Lord, and he uses those old favorites, science and reason, to get people to buy into the concept that there is no such thing as Eternity.

After all, who has experienced it? Who has gone to a different plane of existence and come back to tell us what it’s all about?

That’s a trick question. We have Jesus, telling us about the Kingdom of Heaven and that He’s preparing a place for us. We also have people who have had near-death experiences and describe very similar things. Sure sounds to me like there’s something else.

 

Look at the passage from Ecclesiastes again: “no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end”. That should be the sort of mystery that keeps us going: what else is there besides the things we can see? What’s He going to do next? How will the things He’s revealed to His prophets play out? Where is He in this mess I’ve found myself in? My mind can’t conceive of Eternity, and that means there is so much more to contemplate than what I can see with my own five senses.

 

And in that contemplation, you find hope — as some kind of ecstasy gets a hold on you.