Friday, December 31, 2010

A thought at the start of a new year

We are less than a week into this new year. Something which I have been reflecting on which I want to post here on the blog is a thought about approaching life in this new year of Our Lord 2011. Several years ago, I wrote in my personal journal that I believe that the Lord had impressed upon my mind the words :"Abandon your sin."

I have pondered what it really means to abandon sin. Something which happens very rarely around the metro Detroit where I live is a sudden, heavy rainstorm in which the rain comes down so quickly, it overwhelms the ability of pumps to remove water from the local expressways. When that happens, the below ground level roadways become a system of slowly rising man-made rivers. There have been a few times when I have seen on the local news that during such times, people had to abandon their cars or face being drowned. At such times, to stay with your car could be a death sentence. To live, you must abandon.

I think our sin is like this. If we stay with it, we will die in it. Like our cars, our sins often reflect our tastes and our choices. We don't give up easily something in which we have invested time and money. Yet, when the flood comes and starts to overwhelm your car, the decision must be made. Risk staying with the car and face possible drowning or leave the car and ensure your life will be spared.

The danger of sin is not always as obvious as water rising alongside your car during a flash rainstorm. But the effects are just as sure. So, in this very new year of 2011, I will be reflecting on the sins which I need to abandon. Ask yourself what you need to abandon in 2011. Don't wait for the quick and unexpected storms of life to abandon those sins in your life which need to abandoned and left behind.

Happy New Year from the School of the Solitary Place!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holy Justice

There are a number of people who follow the blog of Tim Challies ( who are reading together the 1985 neo-classic book "The Holiness of God" by R.C. Sproul. Our reading for this week has been on the chapter entitled "Holy Justice." In it, Dr.Sproul looks directly in questions raised by many about what seems to be a very harsh God in the Old Testament and a much kinder, nicer version in the New Testament. This surface distinction is what has caused many, as early as the second century cleric Marcion to think that the God of the Old Testament and the God found in the New Testament are two completely different beings.

What Sproul does so well is to not be influenced by surface readings of the text of Scripture but brings in a broad range of cross-referencing passages to show how the God of the Old Testament and the New are truly the same and is being quite consistent throughout.

While we may marvel that certain sins were specifically listed as capital crimes worthy of being killed for (such as even kidnapping or idolatry), Sproul points out that each and every sin we commit is worthy of immediate death on the part of the sinner. He states on page 114. "The Old Testament record is chiefly a record of the grace of God." When we realize that each and every sin is worthy of the instant punishment of death, the fact that ANYONE has survived committing a single sin is truly a manifestation of God's grace.

I particularly like his treatment of this toward the end of the chapter. He points to a real life example of students of his who expected grace in the deadlines for their assignments once ANY grace was shown. Once his students had a deadline extended by grace for one paper, they assumed they would be shown the same kind of grace for other deadlines. Sproul reminds us that grace is, by definition, UNDESERVED favor.

This book is a great read and I think would be a great corrective for many in the church who assume that God's justice and not His grace, is amazing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rejoice Always

The shortest verse in the Bible is typically given as "Jesus wept" (John 13:35). However, one verse which has the same number of words (though less letters in English) is 1 Thessalonians 5:16: "Rejoice always."

I've read this verse quite a number of times over the last 26 years. Recently though, while reflecting on it, I have realized that the extreme shortness of this verse has a strong, underlying depth to it. How can one rejoice always? There are so many things in this world which bring sadness, destruction and death. We live in difficult times economically. There are those who, this day, have faced the sudden death of a loved one in a traffic accident or perhaps have met a violent end. Many around this world suffer from the pain of cancer or the pain of a relationship which has been broken by faithlessness, or adultery. The sources of pain and sadness in this world seem to be without number.

Suffering and pain in this world is not an illusion. It is quite real and should not be denied or de-valued. The world of the first century Roman empire in which the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica was no less a place of pain. Perhaps in many ways, the pain was even greater than today's. What was Paul thinking when he instructed those Thessalonian Christians to "Rejoice Always.?"

I think that the answer lies in a matter of perspective. Perhaps an analogy will be useful. Back in April of this year, my family and I had the wonderful opportunity to take a cruise in the eastern Caribbean on the Carnival Destiny (pictured above). It was an absolutely fun time. I had never been on a large cruise ship before in my life. It was the adventure of a lifetime. Seeing that huge ship in dock as we were walking aboard to begin our adventure was a sight to behold. I've never walked aboard anything that big that was capable of moving.

I could imagine that if, just before we walked onboard, I somehow got a small papercut while filling out one of the forms. Imagine what my family and friends would have told me if I would have said: "Ow. A papercut. Now my whole week onboard the ship will be ruined." My wife, my sons and friends would think I was joking. If I continued saying how the papercut ruined the cruise, they would have told me: "It's a small cut. It will heal quickly and you're going to have the time of a lifetime in the next five days. Keep things in perspective!!!"

In the same way, God's Holy Spirit could inspire Paul to write "Rejoice always" if, in the same way, there is something so much more wonderful in the things of God than any earthly pain we could suffer. In the midst of very real pain, discomfort and suffering, since the things of God are just as real but infinitely better, Paul could write: "Rejoice always". The sufferings of this time are quite real. But they are temporary. For the Christian, the glory of Christ which we can begin to behold now (in part) and the next age (in full) is the underlying basis of a joy which we can appreciate and hope for, even as tears of suffering may be on our cheek at the present moment.

Saints in Christ, rejoice always!!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spurgeon - A Man of Prayer

For the past several weeks, Tim Challies has been asking readers of his blog to read along together the book "Spurgeon - A New Biography" by Arnold Dallimore. I wanted to comment about a passage in Chapter 17 entitled "Personal Characteristics." The passage has to do with Spurgeon as a man of prayer. On page 178, there is provided the recollection of a Doctor Wayland Hoyt:

"I was walking with him [Spurgeon] in the woods one day just outside London and as we strolled under the shadow of the summer foliage, we came upon a log lying athwart the path. "Come," he said, as naturally as one would say it if he were hungry and bread was put before him. "Come, let us pray." Kneeling beside the log he lifted his soul to God in the most loving and yet reverent prayer.

Then, rising from his knees he went strolling on, talking about this and that. The prayer was no parenthesis interjected. It was something that belonged as much to the habit of his mind as breathing did to the habit of his body."

In another instance, while enjoying some humorous moments with a friend, Spurgeon said to his friend, Dr. Theodore Cuyler, "Come, Theodore, let us thank God for laughter."
Spurgeon is known as the prince of preachers, and rightly so. However, as I read through this biography, I am impressed that to his contemporaries, Spurgeon was a great preacher but an even greater man of prayer. I was moved by the examples of Spurgeon's prayer. The smallest event could be a catalyst for him (pardon the idiom) to stop, drop and pray.

The book has been a great read and I highly recommend it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Living as exiles

Last weekend, I was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula participating in a work weekend at my in-law's place. Over that weekend, I had the chance to reflect on some points regarding our Christian faith. Two of the points actually ended up interweaving with each other.

One point had to do with how some people have maintained a sense of living in their homeland, or within their home culture while physically being distant from that homeland. While I've witnessed a number of examples, perhaps the one that stood out the most for me is that of the British. Whether here in America, or in Canada, or even a Caribbean island such as the British Overseas Territory of Grand Turk, I have seen examples of those who have maintained a sense of their "Britishness" while thousands of miles from Britain.

Years ago, across the street from my first apartment, there was an individual who lived in a house across the street who prominently displayed a large British flag on the wall of his living room. At night, with no other street lights nearby, the lights from the owner's living room lit up that part of the street. With no curtains drawn in that house, one could easily see (more like not miss) seeing this very large (4 feet by 6 least) flag. It was obvious that someone lived there who wanted to maintain a sense of being British while living here in the United States.

A decade later, my wife and I flew to Montreal for a Christmas gathering sponsored by the travel agency at which my wife worked at the time. The aircraft was run by British Airways. Though I had never set foot in Britain, I felt that I was there once onboard the plane. The cabin's main view screen ran a series of pictures taken in England. The flight attendants had British accents. In addition, it was hard to miss the Union Jack motif in the cabin. I think a British citizen would have felt right at home onboard this plane, sitting on a tarmac in Romulus, Michigan, thousands of miles from home.

In my reflections from last weekend, I realized how similar this sense of maintaining "Britishness" is to a Christian maintaining a sense of "Kingdom of Heaven-ness" while here on Earth. Like a loyal ex-patriate British citizen, we as citizens of "the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10 NIV) need to maintain a sense of our true homeland. In Scripture, we Christians are likened to strangers and exiles (Hebrews 11:13). For me, the example of the British in who live in our country serves as a great example of what we as Christians should do in yearning for and living as if we were already in our homeland.

The second point I reflected on has to do with legacy and descent. Genetically, I have American, Polish and German roots. Yet, over the years, I have come to appreciate how adoption broadens our cultural horizons. The influences of a heritage into which you've been adopted can be just as powerful (perhaps even more so) as a genetic heritage. In the same way, when it comes to my spiritual heritage, it occurred to me that that heritage is overwhelmingly British. I've been strongly influenced by the Anglican Book of Common Prayer as well as the writings of Thomas Watson, Thomas Brooks, John Owen, Thomas Manton and Richard Sibbes, all of those individuals who were part of the Puritan movement in Britain in the 17th century. Jonathan Edwards was actually a British colonial subject during the entireity of his life, having died 18 years before America declared its independence. The writings of Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle, both from the 19th century, have been tremendous influences on me. Again, both were British. How wonderful it was to realize that in terms of my spiritual descent, I'm British!!!

The picture of the flag in this entry is known as the King's Colors or the original Union Flag (or Union Jack as "Jack" was a term for flag). It combined the then existing flags of England and Scotland, around the year 1606. It remained the British flag until 1801 when Ireland's flag was merged into the Union Jack we know today. As most of my British spiritual ancestors lived in the 17th century, I thought it proper to include the flag of that time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Grandmother's Disappointment

Recently, I came across a true story about a faithful grandmother which I would like to pass along to you. The story talks about how the grandson turned his back on the faith she worked so hard to instill in her son and later, her grandson. I don't have all of the details of how this happpened. However, I think I can expand a little on information which I do have available to me. I think its an important lesson about turning your back on the faith taught to you from an early age.

Based on the information I do have about this account, I think that a conversation which the grandma would have had with a friend of hers would have gone along these lines:

GRANDMA'S FRIEND: "How are you doing today? You look like you've been crying. What's wrong?"

GRANDMA: "Its my grandson. He has turned his back on our faith. I am so heartbroken."

GRANDMA'S FRIEND: "When did this happen?"

GRANDMA: "It came out after his father, my son, died recently. You know that my son was leader in our community. My grandson accepted the fact that people would look to him to take over that role. But when he seems that he lost his mind."

GRANDMA'S FRIEND: "Why? What did he do?"

GRANDMA: "First, he fired all those nice young men who served down at the worship center as the hospitality committee. It was their aim to make those attending services feel warm and welcome. Now, they're gone. But if that weren't enough, he is going out of his way to find pieces of godly art which his father donated to nearby worship centers and then....destroy them."

GRANDMA'S FRIEND: "This is terrible. Why is he doing this?"

GRANDMA: "He says it has something to do with his great-great grandfather (on his father's side, definitely not my side). My grandson learned about this guy years ago. For reasons I will never understand, my grandson thinks he was a great man. Really, that man was a religious nut. And now my grandson wants to be just like him. This is simply breaking my heart."

GRANDMA'S FRIEND: "I am so sorry. What can I do?"

GRANDMA: "Thanks for being such a good friend. What really breaks my heart is that after all those years of teaching him our faith, he wants nothing to do with me."

GRANDMA'S FRIEND: "Oh no. How do you know that?"

GRANDMA: "He told me. Remember how my son would come to me for advice about being a leader in the community? Well, my grandson told me, straight out, that he rejects my faith and rejects me. He said he never wants to ever hear any advice from me, ever again. I'm so heart-broken. How do I go on?"

Well, that sums up the account. How many of us have experienced what this grandmother did? However, if you're a Christian, you see the grandson, not the grandmother, as the hero of this story.

I mentioned earlier that this is taken from a true account. It is. The account can be found in 1 Kings 15:8-14:

And Abijam slept with his fathers and they buried him in the city of David; and Asa his son became king in his place. So in the twentieth year of Jeroboam the king of Israel, Asa began to reign as king of Judah. He reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem; and his mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. Asa did what was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father. He also put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made.He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned it at the brook Kidron. But the high places were not taken away; nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the LORD all his days.

The grandmother was Maacah. The grandson was Asa, a godly king of Judah. The "religious nut" was King David. (Hopefully, the other parallels are not too strained). The faith on which Asa turned his back was the Baal and Asherah worship embraced by his grandmother. It was most likely a family religious tradition. Asa was probably raised to think that this was proper and normal. Yet, somehow, he embraced the faith of his ancestor David.

Perhaps your family religious legacy is what the apostle Peter described as a "futile way of life inherited from your forefathers" (1 Peter 1:18 NASB). When one turns to Christ, they do indeed turn their back on the family's religious legacy if Christ was not a part of that legacy. For such a person, turning to Christ may severely disappoint your grandmother. Yet, in heaven, the angels of God rejoice (Luke 15:10).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Public Reading of Scripture

One of the commands which the Apostle Paul gave to his young, fellow minister Timothy is found in 1 Timothy 4:13:

Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture

In an age in which the text of the Bible is available in multiple formats (paper text, software, IPhone and IPod applications, etc), one might think that the need for the public reading of Scripture was a need for a bygone, illiterate age but not a need for English-speaking Christians in the early 21st century. I think we miss something when very little of our intake of Scripture comes from hearing rather than reading.

While private reading of the Bible remains a great opportunity and blessing for us, we might forget that the first recipients of the Scriptures were mostly hearers, not readers. In many evangelical churches today, the amount of time spent in the reading of Scripture is remarkably short. Conservative evangelicals have a reputation of defending the Bible. However, that reputation does not follow to its extended use in worship or other Christian gatherings. Michael Spencer, the "Internet Monk", refers to this as "the Bible-waving, but not Bible reading evangelical church." See the article on the Internet here

I find the public reading of Scripture intriguing. It is biblical (remember 1 Timothy 4:13). It is also something that my godson Anthony has helped to start on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Except for Thursday nights (when other ministry functions are taking place), there is a public reading of Scripture for one hour between 10:30pm to 11:30pm every night. This is not a Bible study. This is not a prayer meeting (both are valuable and crucial but this hour from 10:30-11:30 is dedicated to something else). Started around the beginning of this year, the reading has started from Genesis 1:1 and is moving forward through the books of the Bible. A few days ago, the group was reading from the book of Ezekiel.

I highly recommend this practice if you are perhaps looking to start a biblical ministry and don't know where to start. There is tremendous biblical illiteracy...within the ranks of the Christian church. How better to overcome that than to take in Scripture as our first century counterparts hearing it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Prayer To Glorify God

This prayer is taken from the Morning reading for February 15th from C.H. Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening"

“Lord, help me to glorify thee;

I am poor; help me to glorify thee by contentment;

I am sick; help me to give thee honour by patience;

I have talents; help me to extol thee by spending them for thee;

I have time; Lord, help me to redeem it, that I may serve thee;

I have a heart to feel; Lord, let that heart feel no love but thine, and glow with no flame but affection for thee;

I have a head to think; Lord, help me to think of thee and for thee;

thou hast put me in this world for something; Lord, show me what that is, and help me to work out my life-purpose:

I cannot do much; but as the widow put in her two mites, which were all her living, so, Lord, I cast my time and eternity too into thy treasury;

I am all thine; take me, and enable me to glorify thee now, in all that I say, in all that I do, and with all that I have.”

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Job Review

Imagine that you work for a large corporation. In the course of the year, you get your annual job review. This time, your review results come to you directly in an envelope marked "from the office of the founder." They are on company letterhead and written personally by the founder John Smith from his offices on 20th floor of headquarters. You begin to read the results written personally to you. It says:

From John Smith, the founder, who sits on the 20th floor,
"The remarkable work you have done for the company has not gone unnoticed. You have worked very hard and put in many long hours. In the course of your duties, you have successfully unmasked outsiders who have disguised themselves as members of our company and exposed them publicly. I know that you have defended my reputation against malicious and false rumors about me. You've shown remarkable stamina in the performance of your duties."

Reading up to this point, you would have no reason to expect something other than a glowing review. But read on. Founder Smith continues:

"However, I know that the affection you had for me and for the company when you first hired in has somehow left you. REVIEW RESULT - Think through how this happened. Remember what it was like when you hired in. Re-think your current attitudes. WARNING - If you don't do this, I will personally remove you from your position." Granted, in early 21st century America, affection for the company you work for is not a pre-requisite. However, using this scenario, we would think that the first part of the review was so genuinely good that the second part really shouldn't matter. If you're being such a great worker, why would having a strong affection for the founder and the company be so important? After all the phenomenal work you've done for the company, why would not having an affectionate/loving attitude toward the founder and the company be so important that without it, you'll be fired?

While not a perfect analogy, I thought this scenario would be a good parallel to a passage of Scripture which has been in my thinking over the last week. My reflection on it was triggered by a great article by Pastor Francis Chan in PUBLIC PASSION VS PRIVATE DEVOTION .

It comes from looking at Christ's letter to the Church of Ephesus as found in Revelation 2:1-7.

The letter reads:
1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:2 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.4 'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.5 'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.6 'Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.7 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'

I realized that I had forgotten just how important love is to our God. It makes up the top two commandments of the Old Testament Law (see Matthew 22:34-40). It is considered the greatest of three great Christian virtues (Faith, Hope, Love; see 1 Corinthians 13:13). The subject is so important that the Apostle Paul wrote a long section of his first letter to the church in Corinth to re-inforce this (see 1 Corinthians chapter 13). In Corinth, the issue was apparent pride in possessing certain spiritual gifts and a looking down on others whose gifts seemed less important. An attitude of love was needed to resolve this mess in Corinth. It was obvious that a problem existed in Corinth. But what about the church of Ephesus at the time Jesus gave them His letter? Look how genuinely hard they worked for Him.

In our very down-to-earth American culture, I think we may have a hard time taking to task someone who genuinely works very hard for God and for the faith yet whose attitude of love is diminished or even missing. We might think that such a person has earned God's favor by their hard work so their lack of a loving attitude should simply be overlooked. Or worse yet, we might rationalize away what we see by thinking that hard work for God MUST be an indicator of true love for God. If that were true, the Lord Jesus would have had no reason to address the Church of Ephesus how He did. But He did. In God's mind, there is a difference.

The problem with cases like that of the church of Ephesus is that people can defend the true things of the Christian faith but do so for very wrong reasons. You might perhaps be in a discussion with an atheist about the simple question as to whether or not God exists. You might be very familiar with arguments for natural theology (i.e. the very universe reflects God's hand of creation), with arguments about biblical sufficiency, history, logic, etc. In terms of WHAT is being said by you, you would be correct. However, if you looked to your motives, you might need to ask WHY you're doing what you're doing. Is it to prove to yourself that you're right? Or, is it being done with a sense of love and concern for the condition of the soul of the person with whom you're debating?

The Pharisees of Jesus' time on Earth provide a good example. We know of the numerous instances that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees. Yet, of the major religious groups in Israel at the time of Jesus, the Pharisees' stated theology was way closer to Jesus' than any other group. Jesus and the Pharisees had a lot in common theologically (i.e. belief in the resurrection of the dead; the longer list of Old Testament Biblical books). The Pharisees seem to have been driven by the desire to be right. What is painful to realize in their case is that they could give the right answers but do so for the wrong reasons.

One last thing. This is something I am trying to reflect on and work through. When the Lord Jesus addressed the church in Ephesus, He doesn't say that their hard word for Him was wrong. It was done with a mindset that forgot the basics of the faith. So, in our time, how to we correctly and strenuously defend the Christian faith, work for the service of Christ AND do so with a proper mindset of love. What I have witnessed of others is an either/or approach, not both/and. How do we do all of these things commanded of us, including love, well? Much prayer is going into the answer which I need to apply to myself.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Audio of New Year's Day Message

The audio of my New Year's Day message at Troy Christian Chapel is now on the church website. You can access the page by clicking on the title of this blog entry or simply go to

and download the January 1 2010 sermon.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year 2010

Happy New Year 2010!!! The blog took a back seat to some events going on in late 2009. Those are over now so the blog will be getting more attention in 2010.

Over this last New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, our home church of Troy Christian Chapel conducted its' fourth annual 24 Hour New Year's Prayer Time. We had a watchnight service and I had the privilege of being able to deliver the message for the service. I have posted the text here.

Revelation 21:1-8
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

We are about to embark on a new year, the year of Our Lord 2010. It is seems ironic that our culture, which is very oriented to the present-moment and is easily distracted by every shiny object placed in front of it actually takes time for reflection as we move from one year to another. In addition, if you count years the way many do today, we shift from not only one year to another but from the first to the second decade of the 21st century.

It is rather common for the media to look at the year which is ending year in a summary review. We look back at the most newsworthy items and remember those who died during the prior year. Individually, this is a time to “take stock”. It is a time for New Year resolutions.

In looking to the year which has just past, I think we also need to look at and focus on the future. Consider how we are all being drawn into the future with the passage of time. The flow of time can be compared to a quickly moving stream or river. On many of our recent family summer vacations in northern Michigan, Zack, Rocky and I have gone “tubing” on the Indian River in the northern Lower Peninsula. This kind of tubing is not the one where you tie an inner tube to the back of a fast moving boat. Instead, you simply sit down in the tube, wince at how cold the water is, even in August, push off from shore and simply float down the river for a few hours. Sometimes, to have us stay relatively close to each other, one of us might try to grab the branch of a tree from the shore and try to stay in place while the others catch up. Trying to stay in place in that fast moving river is not easy. It is tiring and takes a bit of effort. In the same way, in the flow of the stream of time, trying to hold onto the past is also difficult.

I am not talking about simply remembering the past. That is definitely a good thing to do, especially if you are trying to avoid repeating past mistakes. What I am talking about is how some people, in their hearts and minds, live in the past. I think there are three ways this happens.

1. Failing to recognize the passage of time; We often treat the time given to us by God on this Earth as an infinite resource rather than one which is most definitely fixed by death. It is living opposite of what the Psalmist tells us in Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” One who fails to recognize the passage of time does not number his or her days aright. The value of time as a FINITE resource is lost on this person.

2. Obsessing over what is perceived as better times. Such “better times” might be thought of in terms of the economy, relationships in family, dating, marriage, etc. The American Christmas experience can fuel this type of living in the past. Pastor Paul Edwards pointed out on his talk show in November how many of the sappy, sentimental Christmas songs of today can actually bring about a sense of depression as we might do more than just remember Christmases past but perhaps long to somehow re-create or go back to a Christmas in times past. Time’s arrow points only one way and such a re-creation or idealization simply cannot be done.

This mindset is not confined to the Christmas season. In our materialistic, youth-oriented culture, there is a temptation for us as we get older to look back and yearn for days in the past in which we had youth, optimism, strength, good looks, a better-paying job (or even simply a job). Our body might be living in 2010 but our heart and mind is living (and chained to) a bygone time.

3. Obsessing over past faults, failures, regrets, errors and sins. I am not talking about imagined faults or a sense of false guilt. I am speaking about unpleasant things which really happened, some of which were out of our control, in which we were, in a sense, a victim, as well as those instances in which we had full control of a situation and still purposely erred or sinned, perhaps even victimizing someone else.

Keep these three points in mind. I’ll be dealing with them again in a few moments. Remember earlier that I compared the flow of time into the future as a quickly-moving stream. I need to stress that those who are believers in Christ have the Lord Jesus Christ as a traveling companion as we go “tubing” into the future.

To push this analogy just a little harder, it can be said that Christians first encounter Christ at different points in the stream of time. Whenever that encounter happens in our personal history, we find that Scripture shows us that when people first encounter Christ, we encounter Christ in a way which may seem strange to our hearing and jar our thinking. When Christ first becomes manifest to a person or persons, a crisis occurs. In John 3:19, we read:

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

The word that the NIV translates as “verdict” and the NASB translates as “judgment” is the Greek word “CRISIS”. Listen to the passage again in this light of this:

“This is the CRISIS: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

One definition of the word CRISIS is
“A stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.” Doesn’t that describe so well what the presence of Christ does in our lives?

We see this in the parable of the 10 Virgins found in Matthew 25. You might recall the basics of the parable. Five are wise and five are foolish. However, a close reading of the parable will show that if one could be an observer of the events of this parable, no distinction can be made among the virgins until the appearance of the bridegroom, the symbol for Christ. It is only then that a foolish virgin can be distinguished from a wise virgin. The arrival of the bridegroom precipated the crisis of whether provision was made ahead of time or not. Simply put, Christ brings CRISIS. He brings separation and division. When we first met Him, He too brought about a CRISIS for us as well.

To continue the analogy of time as a stream moving toward the future, Christ, the Crisis bringer, can be compared to a channel marker which controls and separates traffic on a river. In the case of Christ, the channel marker indicates a type of “fork in the road”. Just as Christ divides humanity into a type of sheep or goat, (see once again Matthew 25 for this parable of division as well), Christ splits our stream of time into two different directions. We are going to the future. However, the stream is then split into two. One stream of time, the one in which Christ is not a part, empties into a lake. It is not a placid, peaceful lake such as a Houghton or Higgins Lake up north but rather into the Lake of Fire.

The other stream takes us to the new heavens and the new Earth. It is that which is spoken of in the text I read at the beginning. Allow me to re-read a portion of that text:

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

What wonderful promises await us in that future time and place. Note also that the separation of God’s people from evil is from this point a permanent one. Thus, we are moving not only toward the future, we are moving toward the HOLY FUTURE. Holy in both senses which the Bible applies to the term. Both moral purity as well as separation to God away from evil. We will be living in God’s dwelling because God will be living with us.

With all of this in mind, how should we respond?

Lay aside guilt over past sins, errors and failures. If you are believer in Christ, remember that Christ died for your sins, ALL OF THEM. Ask God to forgive you. Trust that He has in Christ. If necessary, forgive yourself. Don’t remain chained to the past any longer. Ask forgiveness of God, if needed, for misusing the finite gift of time which He has allotted to you. Lay aside unrealistic expectations from your past. Trust God that though your outward circumstances may have suffered over the years, your best days are not behind you. Nor are you going to be having your best life now. Unfortunately, having your best life now is true only for hellbound unbelievers, not for a Christian. For a believer in Christ, your best life awaits the time of the holy future.

2. ABIDE IN CHRIST – Please be more concerned about abiding with Christ than with living the Christian life. Hopefully, that got your attention. Should we be living the Christian life as Christians? Absolutely. Yet, in the attitudes of our hearts and minds, we may find it more comfortable to do Christian things rather than spend time and our lives in the presence of our companion who travels with us into the holy future. If you abide in Christ, simply staying with Him, living a genuine Christian life will flow naturally. Will it take effort? Yes. However, that effort will not seem incredibly burdensome to you. Rather, it will flow from the joy of being in the abiding presence of the Lord in your life. As Psalm 16:11 says: “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy;” and Nehemiah 8:10 concludes the thought: “The joy of the LORD is your strength.”

3. BE A MIGRANT TO THE FUTURE – In the Detroit area, it is not uncommon to see or know individuals who have migrated from a foreign culture to American culture. Sometimes, these migrants will reflect the cultures from which they came. This can happen by way of such things as language, food or clothing. In these cases, the place from which they came has a strong influence on their present moment.

In what way should Christians be migrants? We know we are pilgrims in an alien word. We get a further hint from Saint Paul. In Romans 6.11, Paul tells us that we need to “consider ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Being actually dead to sin and outside its reach is a mark of the life we will have in the new heavens and the new Earth, in the holy future. So, for a Christian, the way in which we conduct ourselves is not the past influencing the present, but rather the future influencing the present. Our migrant culture, as foreigners in this world, is based on future experience, not the past experience. We can live the life of the land to which we are going and do so now. Live as one who knows the time and place to which you are migrating and where you will eventually spend eternity.

4. DON’T PUT OFF THE THINGS YOU ARE CALLED TO DO & WISH TO DO- If we are not chained to the past but know we are being called into the future, we can live life in the present moment with a confidence that God is with us. Ask God to give you the wisdom to know what He is asking of you. Keep in mind that Scripture tells us that God gives us the desires of our heart. I understand this not as God fulfilling our personal whims but actually supplying to us the desires for the things He wants us to want. My counsel is that unless you are stopped by circumstances outside your control, follow through on what God has put on your heart. It might be something such as going to seminary or taking a missions trip. Perhaps it is something which may not seem as outwardly noble as what I just mentioned but are still important things nonetheless. Such things as taking that once-in-a-lifetime cruise with your family, telling someone close to you that they are loved and so important in your life. Perhaps, it is even something as simple as the joy of learning to play a musical instrument like an Irish Tin Whistle. It could be any number of seeming small things. Use these opportunities wisely and well.

I need to conclude. In October of 1964, Ronald Reagan, 16 years away from being elected President of the United States, gave a speech called “A Time for Choosing”. In that speech, Reagan stated he believed that the American people had a rendezvous with destiny. While that may very well be true, I know that the Bible indicates we have a rendezvous with the future.

This rendezvous with the future was portrayed graphically in a set of paintings which make up the altar piece of a cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. In this painting done by the Van Eyck brothers in the 1420s, we see in symbol the gathering of God’s faithful from all of history. These people from every language, tribe and nation gather around the throne of God and of the Lamb, Christ Jesus. This is where we are being drawn. This is where we belong, with all of the saints of all history who also met Christ the Crisis Bringer in their voyage down the stream of time. Standing shoulder to shoulder with them, we will rightfully be worshipping God forever. As believers in Christ, that is our destiny.

With God’s help, will you choose to sever the chains holding you to the past so that you can live that life of the holy future, both then and now?