EPISODE SIX (January 16, 2018)

HIGHWAY

Having chosen our GOAL (I assume we have) the next question to occupy our minds is how do we get there. And there is a path that leads from Eden to the New Jerusalem. I like to think of this path as a Super Highway. Super, not in the sense that it offers easy access, or that It ensures smooth sailing, but because of its ultimate goal.

That (high)way was defined by Jesus as He explained to His disciples what He had in store for them. “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). And He added “And you know the way to where I am going” (14:4). And Thomas (who else?) responded, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (14:5). Jesus responded, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (14:6). That potent statement by Jesus Describes the Super Highway.  The only possible opportunity to enter that way and to arrive at our goal is through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our being in Christ is so crucial that this truth is stated six times in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. And he repeats it several times in his letter to the Colossians. Not only are we in Christ but Christ is also in us (Col. 1:27). Jesus explained to Nicodemus that entry into this relationship is like being reborn. This occurs when we recognize that through the sacrifice of Jesus the penalty for our sin was paid. And that is the only way to our goal. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

DETOUR

You have heard the statement “All religions lead to the same place, they just take different roads to get there.” All religions, accept Christianity, (much more than a religion) do lead to the same place. But you don’t want to go there. Jesus described it as a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:48)

There is a path that seems to run parallel to the Super Highway. Centuries before Christ the author of the Proverbs informed us that  “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). Jesus described it this way, as “The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Matt. 7:13). This is where we all begin and remain until we place our faith in Jesus.

All of us have done things and made decisions that we have regretted. But we survived and most regrets are short-lived. If we fail to make the decision to enter God’s Way we will one day experience regret that will never diminish. That may be the least of the punishments of hell.  But it alone would be sufficient.

GET ON BOARD!!

INTERMISSION (January 2, 2018)


Serious thinking is never without some pain. And serious pain makes thinking difficult. Having had some of the later this past week I haven’t produced many thoughts, before or after. But more will come soon so hang in there.

ADVENT (December 18, 2017)

It is amazing to realize to what extent the truth of God is explained to us through types, symbols and stories (parables). To respond positively to the Gospel is like building a house on a sound foundation (rock, Ma. 7:24). And we learn of different responses to the Gospel from the sower parable (Ma. 13:3). Moses’ tabernacle (replaced by Solomon’s temple) with its multitude of symbols helps us understand the beauty of the one we honor in this Advent Season.

I believe that deserves a little special focus. The brazen altar at the entrance of the sanctuary where the sacrificial animals were slain, was a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ Himself for our sin at Calvary. Inside the building was the table of Shewbread, a symbol of the one who would be “bread of life” (John 6:35), and provide spiritual nourishment for all who believe. The lamp in the tabernacle was a symbol of the one coming as “the Light of the World” (John 8:12). And the incense points to the tremendous potential in prayer since we have an Advocate at God’s right hand (1 John 2:1) (are we taking advantage of this?)  There are many more symbols revealing the beauties of the baby in the cradle. He was living water (John 4:10), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), The door (John 10:7), and the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

And symbols help us understand the significance of the advent event. The manger, which we have interpreted as cradle, is an explicit symbol; something visible. It is greatly significant in that it reveals Jesus’ true humanity. He came into our world like all other babies. That made Him eligible to be the perfect sacrifice to give His life bearing our sin.

There are also some implicit symbols surrounding this event. Unseen to the human eye, but perhaps not to the mind, was the cross. His death at Calvary was the ultimate purpose of this birth. Mary perhaps had some idea of this as she “pondered” these things “in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Simeon was considerably more explicit in his understanding. “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:34,35). There was also an unseen crown in the background. This was the Son of David, the promised Messiah. He will one day assume the crown of David and reign as King over all the earth (Phil. 2:9-11).

The word “cradle” is also used in a different and yet similar sense. Archaeologists, theologians, historians and others have through the years attempted to locate the “Cradle of Civilization”. The consensus seems to be it was in Mesopotamia, where Abraham originated. I am tempted to say it was born here in this cradle in Bethlehem. It was actually born in Eden (read the beginning of this blog). But in this cradle in Bethlehem it would take a giant leap toward improvement.

And that improvement has taken the form of a new life available, dictated by the Spirit and not by the flesh (human desires). Jesus explained this to the Pharisees by stating “I came that they (His followers) may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

And He made good on His promises. Paul stated it like this, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Cor. 5:17). And he described this new civilization to the Galatians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22,23). Can’t find much fault with that. Unfortunately, we often come short of the ideal and often provide reasons for unbelievers to criticize the Church. But the potential for life in this civilization is available.

Along side this civilization made available to us by the Babe in the cradle, is another civilization. Paul also describes this one, dictated by the flesh, to the Galatians. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21). Sounds like Paul is just piling on, but have you been reading the paper or listening to the national news recently? I think Paul has amazingly accurately described our culture! To remain in this civilization is like riding a speeding train heading toward a fallen bridge.

It's time to abandon this civilization and get on the one with the light at the end of the tunnel. And God has prepared a way to span the gap between the two. And that began in this cradle in the little town of Bethlehem. God provided a perfect sacrifice in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, who could bear the punishment of our sin. And that’s why we who have trusted in Jesus can sing with passion, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!” Questions or comments will reach me at desau@cox.net

ADVENT (December 12, 2017)


Our local merchants have not let us forget that we are in a special season. The “Christmas” season is for them a time of anticipation. If their merchandise doesn’t disappear rapidly during this season they will have had a bad year financially. So they approach this season with mixed feelings. It may be very good or not so good.

And their reminder should also emphasize to us that as believers we also are in a special season. We refer to as ADVENT. Our concern is not for merchandise disappearing but for some special “appearing”. The season is so important to us that I will let my “Story” rest while we spend a few weeks reviewing the importance of this season. There are a number of events in  Scripture that seem to receive a special focus. Perhaps the two most important are Easter and Advnt. All the types and prophecies of the Old Testament lead up to these special times. We’ll deal with Easter when the time comes but now let’s focus our attention on ADVENT.

There are countless references in the Old Testament, especially in Isaiah and the Psalms, pointing to this event. God has a specific agenda spelled out from creation in Genesis to the culmination in Revelation. And according to this agenda “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal. 4:4). Of this event Phillips Brooks would later affirm “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”. If you will carefully read, or sing, his Carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” I guarantee it will bring tears to your eyes. But we need to give “hopes and fears” their Scriptural definitions. “Hope” is not wishful thinking but absolute assurance. “Fear” is not dread, but reverence or respect.

As we approach Advent probably the first Scripture that comes to mind is the message of the angels to the shepherds in a field just outside Bethlehem. “I bring you tidings of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lu. 2:10,11). It boggles the mind to contemplate all the events that needed to converge  for the event to take place at this time and in this place. Caesar Augustus needed to announce a special decree at this particular time; a group of shepherds must be assembled with quick access to Bethlehem; a stable needed to be available to accommodate Mary and the newborn baby; and Micah would designate the place where all this would be accomplished.

Is your excitement for the celebration of Advent growing? One of our most popular Christmas Carols was written by Isaac Watts. It begins “Joy to the world! The Lord is come:” I have been tempted to sing “the Lord has come” because we sing of an event that took place two millennia ago. But, fortunately, it was only the beginning of a new chapter in the story of redemption. Jesus continues to come. To stay! John informs us that “the word became flesh and dwelt – actually tabernacled – among us” (John 1:14).  The tabernacle, a type of Christ in the Old Testament, was always in the center of wherever Israel set up camp, reminding them of God’s presence. And in the incarnation Jesus comes again to the nation of Israel. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11).

But He continues to invite all “to come”. His words still echo after 2,000 years,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Ma. 11:28). And again using the words of Phillips Brooks, we respond, “O Come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel” And He, our Lord, Jesus Christ, is the only source of real JOY. Jesus would one day say “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

There are a few other things that bring temporary happiness but they always depend on circumstances. JOY depends on a relationship. And a fulfilling relationship demands cultivation. May we give attention, particular in these very blessed Advent weeks, to cultivate our relationship to our source of true joy.

THE STORY - Episode 5 (December 4, 2017)


In the study of this remarkable narrative we have come to the end of the beginning. The creation of the world is complete and this world is ready to accommodate inhabitants. God has even prepared a special Garden for Adam and Eve. This Garden must have been very beautiful with its orchards and the myriad of flowers God had created. And the many animals and birds that were part of creation must have been a great source of amusement and pleasure. The fruit trees and other vegetation obviously provided delicious and nutritious food.
And it seems they also had the great pleasure of experiencing the presence of their creator. It appeared to be customary for God to be “walking in the garden in the cool of he day” (Gen. 3:8). And the first couple must have anticipated seeing Him because after they sinned they attempted to remain out of His sight.
How long they enjoyed life in the Garden before they sinned we are not told. Or what life for Adam and Eve and their posterity might have been like if they had not sinned.  I expect we will learn some day. Perhaps there will be a course in heaven entitled “Creation” which I will sign up for. Probably decades long!
That is the recorded beginning of the human story. The end of the record of this story is still many millennia in the future. And Scripture also records the path that leads from this story to the end (of the record, not the story, because it has no end). This journey that occupies most of Scripture is wrought with every conceivable activity and emotion. We will embark of this journey but before we do it might be useful to take a quick look at the goal as an incentive to give this journey the attention it deserves.

THE GOAL
With Adam and Eve settled in Eden we have come to the end of the beginning. We now give our attention to the beginning of the end. This “end” is actually a very new beginning as we will see. Most of the information we have about the end is found in the final book of the New Testament Canon. This came in the form of a vision given to the Apostle John, a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos. The introduction to this vision was the instruction to John to “write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after thee” (Rev. 1:19.
And John began to write. And his writings are loaded with symbols and unusual activities that are difficult to decipher. I have an idea that John did not understand all that he was writing about (as the prophets of old, see I Pet. 1:10-12). But his vision does make it clear that the continuing and final battle will be won by Jesus and His army.
And in his vision John saw a new heaven and a new earth. And it appeared to him as a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. There are many good things that come down out of heaven. The light and warmth of the son. The refreshing rain after a sweltering day. And I am reminded of Pater’s vision. He saw a sheet filled with animals and birds coming down out of heaven. Actually what was in that sheet was the Gospel, now available to us gentiles as it was to the Jews. And what John saw was a very large city (check the measurements) and its surpassing beauty was described as being ornamented by precious metals and Jewels of all kinds. The residents of this city, the people of God, are totally free of pain, sorrow and, obviously, sin. Righteousness will flow out like a river of pure, sparkling water. At least twelve different varieties of fruit will be available to satisfy every palate.
As I often contemplate the incredible  wonders of heaven I hope I’m not just gathering wool (google this if you’re curious). There will obviously be work to do (And I’ve already chosen my new profession). How about travel? Perhaps we will just contemplate a place and find ourselves already there. On a less elevated thought will our new bodies be so fuel-efficient that they will not produce waste”?  We can be certain that our present finite minds cannot contemplate the glories that our future “Mansion” (See John 14:2 – King James version) enfolds. Now would be a good time to reread Revelation chapters 21 and 22.
 It would be unfair to talk about heaven without mentioning its antitheses. There is also a special place for those who reject God’s offer of eternal rest. I think there is about as much written in Scripture about hell as there is about heaven. It is pictured as a place of constant torment “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). And you recall the story of poor Lazarus who survived on the crumbs  from a rich man’s table. The rich man, who had no need for God, died and was buried. In Hades his discomfort was so intense that he thought that enough moisture on  a man’s finger left on his tongue would be some comfort. A place to avoid?!! You would think there would be multitudes rushing toward the cross to obtain entrance to a better place.
My thumbnail sketch of heaven is totally inadequate, as is my understanding of hell. Paul, speaking of the man who was caught up to the third heaven saw and heard things that cannot be told. Until our minds are renewed when we reach our final destination we are unable to fathom what we have to look forward to.
Two goals. Time to think about where we want to end up!!  

THE STORY – Episode 4 (November 27, 2017)

My prayer is, and has been, that you have given some thought to the relationship within the Trinity and the similar relationship practiced within the marriage bond. I recognize, from personal experience, that it is possible (even probable) to be momentarily impressed with some Scriptural truth and then let I slip out of our thoughts with little effect on our conduct.

Upon further reflection of this relationship insight from Tim Keller, this desire to “glorify” another should  be visible in all our relationships. Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians was “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phi. 2:3) More easily said then done. And he adds “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (2:4)

You have probably noticed that in this “story” I  have made no attempt to prove the existence of God or the reality of His creative activity. With all the writers of Scripture I assume His existence and that He has accurately communicated to us how it all began. While there are many convincing evidences for God’s existence there is no absolute proof.  Men like atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens go to great lengths to “prove” the non-existence of God. But It seems to me that the very fact that they are so vehement in their arguments is in itself strong evidence that there is a God.

Many millennials when they left the nest also turned their backs on the church. And they justify their action by pointing out the hypocrisy of some professing Christians. I would remind them that God doesn’t grade on the curve. Judgement or heaven depends solely on pass/fail. Only our relationship to the creator makes the difference.   I grant you, legitimate doubts may arise over this incredible creation story. But consider the alternative. I have little confidence in “chance”! 

Many (some admittedly) “hope” that there is no God. Because if He exists we are accountable to Him, and how we live matters. And we love our sin and are loathe to give it up. The Psalmist, David. Is a keen observer of men and having had many experiences with all kinds of men concluded “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psa. 14:1). We often regard the “heart” as primarily producing our emotions. But in Scripture it is also used of the intellect, will, etc. I would paraphrase this verse, “The fool lives as though God does not exist.” Unfortunately, that also describes us believers at times. When expositing against covetousness, Jesus reminded His hearers, “For one’s life does not consist in the abundances of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15). And we (myself included) accumulate stuff just like our unbelieving neighbors. If we are actually serious about reaching the lost, we may (Must?!)  have to change our ways.

DAY 7

We have given a great deal of time to the consideration of creation and many of its ramifications. I hope you have been actively involved in allowing these truths to develop in your minds. If you have, you may have experienced some mental fatigue and isn’t it convenient that at this moment we have arrived at the Day of Rest. As we consider this seventh day we must remember that God doesn’t need rest but that He gives rest. And giving us this day is also a reminder that we need rest. Burning the candle at both ends is dangerous to believer and non-believer alike.

I think that rest is not the only value of the Sabbath. It was listed as a command in the decalogue directly after the commands concerning our relationship to God. In view of its place in the law it is reasonable to assume that another purpose of the Sabbath  was for God’s people to have a special time to meditate on the power and holiness of God and their special relationship to Him. It was also a mark of identification to set them apart from other nations. There was obviously something special about this day.

Since we are no longer under law we have no obligation to keep the Sabbath. But considering one day of the week as special seems appropriate. Luke reported that at Troas the believers gathered together to “break bread” (Communion?) on the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7) Perhaps the first day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, was becoming a special day. Although Paul seems to warn against making too much of one day with the statement “one person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike.

I remember in my pre-teens that Sunday was a very special day. We donned our Sunday clothes, the ones with the fewest patches, and observed a long list of “donts”, very much like the Jews observed the Sabbath. There was still an element of “rest” involved since many, like my father, had worked ten hour days from Monday through Saturday. Today most of us are, as Ray Stedman affirmed, like spectators at a football game. In desperate need of exercise while 22 men on the field ae in desperate need of rest.

I don’t suggest we go back to “Sunday clothes” (Thought neat and clean would be nice), or our list of “donts” but perhaps we have become a little careless about our activities and attitudes about Sunday. We should eagerly look forward to the preaching of God’s Word and be prepared to respond to it. And be ready to minister to and be ministered by our fellow believers.

Since this episode is a little shorter than some, this would be a good time to acknowledge the contributors. Lee Bright got me started and remains my publisher. I thank Pastor Tim for suggesting the link on the church web site and for Rick Camper making it happen. 

THE STORY – Episode 3 (November 20, 2017)


By the middle of Day 6 (my estimation) God had created a world that would not only sustain human life but would make that world a pleasant place in which to live. And (then) God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion .   .   .  .’ (1:26). “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground  .  .  .  .’ (2:7).

Up to this time everything had appeared in response to God’s voice. In His creation of Adam He became more intimately involved. He took dust, and I assume that required Him to stoop down, or bend over, in order to pick up the dust. And it would seem to me impossible to form anything from dust. Perhaps this was not unlike the incident recorded by the Apostle John (John 9:8). To restore sight to the man who had been blind from birth, Jesus “spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud” (John 9:6). However God prepared the dust, He “formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life  .   .   . “ (2:7).

Receiving God’s breath was not the experience of the birds, fish or animals. And it was obviously more than recycling air. We get a sense of the power of God’s breath from Isaiah who wrote “And with the breath of his lips, he will slay the wicked” (Isa. 11:4) or, from God’s own mouth, “My breath will consume you” (Isa.33:11). And in the New Testament Paul informs Timothy “All Scripture is given by inspiration” (II Tim 3:16), and the word for “inspiration” is Theopneustos, literally, God’s Spirit. The Greek pneuma is also used for spirit, wind, and breath. And the word “inspiration” is translated in the ESV as “God breathed”. And after His resurrection, Jesus in His final time with His Disciples “breathed on them and said to them, receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22).  Consequently when God breathed into Adam, Adam became a “living soul”. He was immediately placed at the Acme of God’s creation.

Apparently the first thing God did for Adam was to plant a garden in Eden and settled Adam in this garden. It was furnished with every kind of tree which certainly added beauty to Adam’s new home, as well as providing nourishing food. Among all the multitude of trees in the garden there was one Adam should avoid, but we’ll get to that later.  

And God put Adam to work. Work is one of the absolute essentials of human life. Paul was so convinced of this that he wrote to the Thessalonians “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (II Thes. 3:10). And Isaac Watts wrote “For Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do.” The US welfare system has made it possible for millions to get by without working; perhaps one of the reasons our national debt has ballooned. If we do everything for our children (often the easiest) without teaching them responsibilities we short change their maturing.

Adam began life with something to do. We were informed in 2:5 that at the end of creation “there was no man to work the ground”. And we were further informed that God put Adam in the garden “to work it and keep it” (2:15). So Adam’s initial work was gardening. His additional work was to name all the living creatures that God had made (2:19). (Was Latin the original language?). Since man was to exercise dominion it seems necessary for Adam to study the Fauna in order to give them appropriate names.

And about this time God decided, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (2:18). Pardon me for letting my mind wander a little in wondering if, perhaps, Adam had asked God for some help. That would have been the first prayer. It is interesting, and hugely significant, that God fashioned Eve from a part of Adam. And He concluded “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (2:24).

Establishing the relationship between Adam and Eve, and therefore between future husbands and wives, was another important part of the beginnings recorded in the first chapters of Genesis. The relationship God introduced was observed through all the history of Israel and repeated in the New Testament. Responding to the Pharisee’s question about divorce Jesus repeated, almost word for word, His initial description of marriage in Genesis. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” and He added “What therefore God has joined together let not man separate” (Mark 10:7-9).

This relationship is so crucial that the only similar relationship is that between Christ and His church. The two words that I think best define marriage are “respect” and “love”. The wife is to “submit” (respect) to her husband and he is to “love” his wife. Of the two, love is probably the most difficult, and, obviously, the most important. To submit, does not imply that the wife becomes the servant. Wives often are better at assessing problems than husbands. And the husband who does not listen to his wife is a fool. But In every relationship, someone must accept the final responsibility. It appears from Scripture that that responsibility is on the husband.

Many of the social problems we face today, particularly among the youth, are due to the breakup of the marriage bonds. “Till death do us part” has become “as long as you meet my needs”. And it is tragic that divorce is as prevalent among believers as with the general public. The Church with its superior message  of eternal truth should be influencing our culture and not be influenced by it. I had a military officer friend in Berlin who moved out of military housing into a German neighborhood so his children would be exposed to a new culture and learn to speak German. Some weeks later he heard one of the neighbor German boys say “keek it to me”. Rather than learning German the American kids were teaching the German kids to speak English. And I fear that rather than influencing our culture the church is influenced by the world’s decadent culture. And its total decadence is displayed when the most intimate of human relationships has become the default curse word from the gutter to the White House (?).

If we men would love our wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25) many of our social problems would be solved. May God help us to be grateful for the wonderful gift (occasionally gifts) that God gives us. Our marriages are important enough to devote generous efforts to fashion them as portrayed in Scripture. And men, that is primarily your responsibility. I wonder how much the strength of our churches is dependent on the stability of our marriages.

I have been reading “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller. (I may have recommended this book for your reading before.) In discussing the intimate relationship of the three person in one God he calls attention to john 17. In His Hight Priestly prayer Jesus prays “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1) And He goes on to say “I glorified you on earth .   .   .   . now, Father, glorify me in your own presence” (John 17:4,5). So the Son was intent on glorifying the Father, who was intent on glorifying the Son. Then Jesus promised His disciples that He would give them the Holy Spirit “he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). That was how the Holy Spirit would glorify the Son. This characterized the intimate relationship of the persons of the trinity.

I don’t blame Keller for this but as I meditated on that in view of attempting to emphasize the importance of marriage it occurred to me that that should characterize the husband/wife relationship. If the husband would “glorify” his wife, that is to constantly seek the best for her, and the same for the wife, we would without doubt experience unions made in heaven.

Try it, you might like it!