Monthly Archives: December 2014

Colonel Davenport and the End of the World

People peered out the windows in astonishment.

Everything seemed enveloped in pitch blackness.

No one had ever witnessed such a thing before.

It was twelve noon, May 19, 1780.

This was some sort of natural phenomenon – an abnormal darkness had descended upon all of the New England and parts of Canada. Historians believe it was due to a rare combination of smoke from forest fires and a thick fog.

The darkness that day was so great that candles were required from noon until midnight. Witnesses said that in some places it was so dark that persons could not read common print at midday in the open air.

The birds went silent and disappeared. An ominous hush fell over the land.

One observer wrote later:

“If every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable shades, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete.”

The fledgling thirteen colonies of America were in the fifth year of their monumental struggle for independence.

In Hartford, Connecticut the legislature was in session. Anxious word spread that it was the Day of Judgment and there were many fearful calls for adjournment.

But then Colonel Abraham Davenport rose to speak. Slowly and deliberately he stood up. The chamber fell to a respectful silence.

“Gentlemen,” Davenport said, “I am against an adjournment. The Day of Judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

And so they were. The Connecticut legislature finished its work. The American colonies, against all odds, won their freedom from Great Britain.

It was not the Day of Judgment. The world did not come to an end.

The darkness dispersed and at midnight the stars could be seen.

New England’s Dark Day was over.

Today, millions of Americans hold their collective breath as together we prepare to step across the threshold of a New Year. Hope is in the air; it’s in our hearts and minds; it stirs our souls.

This is a time when we want to be expectant. We want to embrace a brighter future.

We may look back upon this past year – with all its violence and war; its heartache and strife – and wonder what in the world is happening and what will the New Year bring.

It has been said that the optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds – and the pessimist fears that this is true.

I sometimes wonder if we Christians are too apocalyptic for our own good.

We’re just too down in the mouth about the future. We wallow in fear and catastrophe as if there were no God. Or as if he were an incompetent politician making it up as he goes along instead of reigning as the omnipotent Ruler of the universe.

This is very far from being the best of all possible worlds, that’s true, but God did make this world. He controls it, he has a plan for it and his purpose will never be thwarted – by anyone or anything.

And beyond this truth, stands another – grander far than mere mortal imagination can see.

The new heaven and the new earth God will create will be “the best of all possible worlds.”

That’s the future for all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

The end of this world will only be the beginning of a world without end.

If God’s so gloriously optimistic about our future, why shouldn’t you and I be perennially hopeful and exulting in joy about what he has planned for those who know him?

You and I have a choice.

We can curse this present darkness. Or we can choose to light a candle.

We can fear the future or we can embrace it. We can be a light or we can hide under a bushel. We can throw up our hands or we can make a difference.

Paul told the Ephesians that since they had the light of Christ within them by faith, they should “live as people of light!” (Ephesians 5: 8, NLT).

He told the Philippians that rather than complaining or arguing they should “live clean and innocent lives as children of God” (Philippians 2: 14-15, NLT).

They were to be, he wrote, like bright stars shining “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” – a world of spiritual and moral darkness (Philippians 2: 15, KJV).

You and I must be bright lights of hope and joy and love and decency – shining before our friends and neighbors; our colleagues and co-workers; our husbands, our wives and our children.

Let us resolve to do this in 2015.

This world may be nearing its end or it may not. Only God knows that. Only God knows the end from the beginning. If it is not the end of the world, there is no cause for alarm or concern. And if it is, then let us choose to be found doing our duty when Christ comes.

The world hasn’t ended – not yet.

Let candles be brought. Let them be lighted. And let them shine.

May God bless you and your family.

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What About You? The Cosmic Christ: Part IV

The gentle breeze bent the flickering fire only slightly.

The stars were bright against the clear black sky.

It was one of those pleasant evenings that seems so perfect it offers its own peaceful exhilaration.

Having eaten, the men now sat around the fire in low conversation. They spoke of what they had seen and heard – reflections on their recent travels.

They were happy and excited. They had never experienced anything even close to this.

The response of the growing crowds, the teachings, the miracles – four thousand men, not counting women and children, all fed with only seven loaves and a few fish. And there were seven full baskets left over!

What had taken place in Decapolis, near the Sea of Galilee, was incredible. Hundreds of eager people seeking to be healed came to him: the blind, the dumb, and the crippled. Others brought loved ones.

It seemed to the men a sea of suffering humanity crying out to be lifted up.

He healed them all.

He had not sought fanfare and tried to contain it but the more he told them not to tell, the more they did.

And of course, there were the adversaries too. The Pharisees badgered and challenged and lectured and fumed. They laid verbal and theological traps.

He sprung every one. The legalists never even came close to cornering him.

For the twelve, it had been one heavy head trip.

They stood amazed in his presence.

They didn’t expect it, couldn’t explain it and wouldn’t have believed it – had they not seen it with their own eyes. One of them would later write:

“We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life” (I John 1:1, NLT).

That was the impact of the experience; the affirmation of one who had been there; of one who had been with him.

And so tonight, it came.

It was the moment he had been leading them to. Everything he had said, everything he had done, had helped to prepare his close circle for tonight – this time and place of decision.

On a hillside in Caesarea Philippi.

He knew that eleven of these men would have a rendezvous with his destiny that would transform and shape the rest of their lives.

They would never be the same. The world would never be the same.

He had returned from a time of prayer alone. And while they talked among themselves, he had remained pensive. Now suddenly he broke into their private conversations for a group discussion.

Jesus looked at them intently, one by one.

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16: 13, NASB).

They were silent. They looked at each other.

Andrew spoke first.

“Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah.”

Thaddeus added: “But still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16: 14, NASB).

Jesus nodded his understanding and smiled. He knew there would always be conflicting opinions.

Then he looked at them and asked:

“But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” (verse 15, NIV).

Again there was silence.

Several of the men looked down, as if searching for the right words in a heart put on the spot.

Then Peter spoke – only for himself with such assurance. But it turned out he was also the spokesman for those who would soon join him in turning the world upside down.

He spoke with slow deliberation, as if startled by his own declaration.

“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16: 16, KJV).

Jesus asked the central question of Christmas. Peter gave the only answer possible for the follower of Jesus.

To succeeding generations – including many of our sons and daughters and our grandchildren who are skeptical of the deistic and exclusionary claims of historic Christianity in an age of tolerance and pluralism – let us press those claims without apology or compromise.

He is the Christ – and the only Christ.

He is the Son – and the only Son – of the living God.

Jesus is the Word of life, John wrote, the one who is from the beginning.

Jesus is the Savior of the world – and the only Savior.

Ask the prophets who foretold his birth.

Ask the angels who announced it – to Joseph, to Mary and to certain poor shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night.

Ask Simeon who held and blessed him in the temple.

Ask Zechariah whose loosened tongue heralded the coming Messiah.

Ask the wise men who bowed down and worshipped him as their king, though he was but a child.

Ask Handel, Watts and Wesley who wrote the immortal songs that triumphed his coming.

From beginning to end, the Bible’s theme is Jesus Christ.

His birth in Bethlehem is the uniquely orchestrated, impressively detailed, compellingly accurate, beautifully expressed and amazingly fulfilled prophecy of the Old Testament.

The true meaning of Christmas is the thoroughly persuasive validation of the truth of the Bible and the truth about Jesus Christ.

He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

What about you? Who do you say that he is?

Who do you dare to tell?

May God bless you and Your family.

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Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: The Cosmic Christ: Part III

It seems to mock the harsh reality of the world as we know it.

As we’ve always known it, from the very beginning.

In this season of hope, we’ll hear and see the words again and again – this joyously triumphant declaration sent from heaven itself.

First spoken by angels to frightened shepherds in the middle of a night suddenly ablaze with the glory of God, they reach the deepest yearnings of man’s highest aspiration.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Peace on earth?

Were the angels being intentionally ironic?

Were their words a wish, a hope or a prophecy?

In the midst of the Civil War, Longfellow wrote in his Christmas hymn, “And in despair I bowed my head. ‘ There is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’”

For Americans, 2014 has been an almost daily reminder of the strength of hate and the turbulence of war. Strife has been written in the headlines and announced at the top of the hour so often it has numbed us to the horror of its carnage.

Violence has become a grim expectancy.

Time and again throughout history the song has been mocked.

Woodrow Wilson’s “War to End All Wars” and his League of Nations were supposed to bring peace on earth. A generation later, the United Nations was intended to do the same.

The twentieth century was the bloodiest in history. The twenty-first has been gruesomely persistent. Wars engulf much of the world. In Iraq and Afghanistan, in Syria and Somalia; in Nigeria and in Pakistan, men are fueled by a mindless hostility that is snuffing out the lives of thousands every year.

Peace has been the elusive dream of humankind – and the tragic illusion of idealistic dreamers.

This is not to say we should not pursue peace, work for it and pray for it. Christians of all people should want to see peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

But Christmas reminds us that we must put peace in a much larger context.

When the choir of heaven’s angels heralded their vision it was to celebrate the Savior’s birth: “a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 11, KJV).

Peace apart from Jesus is impossible.

The announcement was delivered to those with whom God “is well-pleased.” Peace can come only to men and women “of good will, of His favor” (The Amplified Bible).

For all man’s good intentions and earnest endeavors, peace on this earth will always prove to be a fragile and transient thing.

The angels added the promise because the arrival of Jesus Christ was the confirmation that someday peace would come to earth and when it did it would be lasting because he would bring it.

The Jews call it Shalom.

This is much more than the absence of conflict. It includes the security and wellness of the whole community. Isaiah names the coming Messiah “The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, KJV). The Message aptly describes him as “The Prince of Wholeness.” True peace, in the biblical sense, includes that meaning.

Only this Prince can bring that kind of peace.

For the follower of Jesus, peace need not be limited to a future millennium.

“Peace I leave with you,” Jesus promised his disciples on the night he was betrayed, “my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27, KJV). This would not be like the peace sought, negotiated or simulated by this disturbed world. It would go deeper, rise higher and stay longer than the world’s illusions.

When the great British statesman William Gladstone was asked how he maintained serenity in the midst of global turmoil, he said that a verse placed at the foot of his bed reminded him, every morning and every night, of the true source of peace:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV).

It was the prophet Isaiah who foretold of the day when The Prince of Peace would judge among the nations of the earth. He saw a day when “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4, KJV).

Instead, the peoples of the world would “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (verse 4, KJV).

The weapons of war will be melded into the instruments of peaceful renewal. Cultivation and harvest will replace destruction and violence. The celebration of life will replace the specter of death. The joy of a new day shall forever still the mournful cries of “Rachel weeping for her children” lost in battle.

And “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:7, KJV).

Men will study war no more.

This is not some idealistic fantasy dependent on fallen man’s fond hopes, fruitless follies and broken treaties.

This is the eternal promise of God himself.

To know Christ is to know peace.

Not only peace in our hearts and minds but someday peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

May God bless you and your family.

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The Truth of Everything: The Cosmic Christ: Part II

We should all see it.

Few accounts of a life are more remarkable than this man’s incredible journey from heartbreaking disability to globally recognized brilliance.

The movie The Theory of Everything is one of those rare films of emotion and substance that you know you’ll be glad you saw before you enter the theater.

It tells the inspiring story of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, his intellectual giftedness and his battle to overcome a rare motor neuron disease that ultimately robs him of mobility and speech.

His amazing genius as a cosmologist has earned Hawking an imperishable place in the history of science. The film depicts how much he suffered and his struggle to persevere against grim prognosis. In the end, it shows us the strength and possibilities of love and hope.

Impressed with Hawking’s courage and achievements, we may be disappointed in his theories.

It’s ironic that such a story of personal faith – and of hope – would lead to scientific conclusions that omit God and the glory of his transcendence.

Conclusions that seem, in the end, so hopeless.

In his book, The Grand Design, Hawking argues that our universe “can and will create itself from nothing.”

“Can and will” are dogmatic words – especially when exploring the mysteries of the universe and its origin.

Mr. Hawking has moved from the doubt of agnosticism (earlier writing, for example A Brief History of Time, left open the possibility of divine design) to the certitude of atheism.

Hawking asserts that “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing…It is not necessary to invoke God to…set the universe going.”

This is The Theory of Everything.

 In its truest sense it’s also the theory of nothing.

Perhaps the Christmas season is a good time to release this film about Stephen Hawking. After all, this is the greatest annual celebration of spiritual faith – and of love and hope – that the world knows.

Christmas rejects the meaningless idea of nothingness. It embraces the true Grand Design.

Christmas rejects “spontaneous creation” and instead joyfully marvels at and worships the Creator who planned and designed it all; who “set the universe going.”

Christmas presents a gloriously hopeful narrative of cosmic existence as the alternative to the drab and ultimately untenable explanation of science without faith, and therefore without meaning.

Creation from nothing means nothing. It is without hope.

Creation by a Creator means everything. It is the source of hope.

Science accounts for so much of the progress of the human race. For this we honor it and give thanks for its discoveries. It is only when science demands that we exclude God that we must renounce its arrogant tyranny over the mind and spirit of man.

Christmas points us not only to a Savior. Christmas invites us to bow before our Creator and celebrate The Truth of Everything.

No one declares so clearly and powerfully – so incontrovertibly – the supremacy of Jesus Christ in creation than does the apostle Paul in the first chapter of his letter to the Colossians.

It is truly beautiful. It lifts our souls in ways that mere science cannot do.

He is “the image of the invisible God”, Paul writes (Colossians 1: 15, KJV).

Paul insists that Jesus “is the exact likeness of the unseen God” (The Amplified Bible).

Don’t ask to see God, Jesus told Philip. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9, NLT).

Could Jesus have made his deity any more plain?

Paul writes with encompasssing majesty:

“For by him [Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1: 16-17, KJV, emphasis added).

Jesus created everything.

Jesus is before everything.

Jesus holds everything together.

Not only, says Paul, is Jesus the head of the church but he “is the beginning …that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1: 18, KJV).

Why?

Because God the Father was “pleased” that in his Son “should all fullness dwell” (verse 19, KJV).

He was, renders The Message, “supreme in the beginning …and he is supreme in the end … towering far above everything, everyone …Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies” (verse 17-20, The Message).

With Jesus Christ, as theologian R.C. Sproul points out, “there are no random atoms.”

This is Christianity’s answer to science on the origin of the universe.

How smothered with glitter Christmas has become – and how weak, helpless and distant the world has made the Christ child at Christmas time. Oh that Christians would contemplate the triumphant Cosmic Christ – King of all kings, Lord of all lords!

“O, come let us adore Him!”

Our Creator God.

This is the miraculous Truth that science can neither explain nor defy.

Science postulates theories. The Bible proclaims Truth.

Jesus is no theory. He is our eternal reference point.

Jesus Christ is The Truth of Everything.

May God bless you and your family.

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Inextinguishable

He looked at the pitiful man who sat before him.

The man was blind.

Shut off from the world by total darkness. This was his life; the only one he’d ever known.

His blindness had meant a meager and humiliating existence. He was poor. He begged. He survived only by the benevolence of others.

But today everything for him would change.

The disciples were curious.

“Rabbi,” they asked, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:2, NLT).

There had to be an explanation for everything. Misfortune was explained as the result of someone’s sin.

Jesus continued to stare at the man. Then he spoke with a gentle determination:

“’It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins, ‘Jesus answered. ‘ This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.’” (John 9:3, NLT).

Ah, so then there is a redemptive purpose in human suffering. There was at least a reason for this man’s suffering- and it had nothing to do with anyone’s sin except Adam and Eve’s.

The reason for this man’s blindness – and on this day his appointment with destiny – was so “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (verse 3, KJV).

The power of God for the glory of God was about to be shown – in a poor blind beggar! Jesus – God’s Son and God in human form – would do this.

“I must work the works of him that sent me,” Jesus says (verse 4, KJV). Then, as he stoops to the ground and looks at the sightless eyes of this blind man, Jesus says:

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (verse 5, KJV).

It is an amazing declaration; an extraordinary claim. It’s powerful here in all its ironic relevance.

No prophet, no statesman, no king, no religious leader has ever said this of himself.

In the previous chapter of John’s gospel, as Jesus has just forgiven the adulteress and told her to “sin no more”, he says to the crowd:

“I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, NKJV).

Jesus does not say he gives the light of the world. He does not say he has the light of the world.

Jesus declares categorically that he IS the light of the world.

Jesus made many claims about himself that are unprecedented, incomparable and superlative. It is impossible to rationally consider them and deny his deity.

Jesus’ claims may be described as a perfectly justified and authenticated divine audacity.

He’s triumphant, transcendent and omnipotent.

He is the cosmic Christ.

His coming is foretold in scripture with a bold eloquence.

Seven hundred years before his birth, the prophet Isaiah wrote that the time would come when Galilee would be radiant with God’s glory:

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light shined” (Isaiah 9:2, KJV).

Zechariah said that his new-born son would prepare the way for the One who would “give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins” and “through the tender mercy of our God” would “give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 2: 77-79, KJV).

John the Baptist “was not that Light, but was come to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:8-9, KJV).

This is Jesus: Redeemer, Savior, Messiah and the true Light of the world.

“In him,” writes John the apostle, “was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4, KJV).

We face increasing cultural pressure to accept the false notion that all religions – and all gods – stand on equal ground. To embrace this political correctness is to deny the supremacy of Jesus Christ. To adopt this view in the name of a misplaced tolerance is to deny our faith, the Bible and the truth of God himself.

For the believer, this must never be.

To walk down this road of accommodation is to place popular convention above historic Christianity.

Jesus Christ is not just another god. He – and he alone – is God among the gods.

Jesus spit on the dirt. He made clay. He put the mud on the blind man’s eyes and told him to wash them.

The blind beggar obeyed. And seeing the glistening waters of the pool of Siloam for the first time, the man was transformed.

Just like you and me, he was changed forever.

He who had sat in the darkness and the dust his whole life had suddenly seen a great light. Upon him, the light of the world shined.

“Once I was blind,” he shouted with joy, “and now I can see!”

He believed in Jesus and became his follower.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5, NLT).

This Christmas let us celebrate the Cosmic Christ.

May God bless you and your family.

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