Strangers in a Strange Land

Christians truly are a strange lot. In a sense we’re a bit like Moses, who fled into the land of Midian, after killing an Egyptian slave-master. We are, as Moses then declared himself, strangers in a strange land (Exodus 2:22).moses kills egyptianWe don’t really fit snugly into the modern world, but then it’s understandable that Christians have always been out of step with the rest of the world. Even when the western world was nominally Christian, those who believed in Jesus and His message of loving their enemies (Mat 5:44) but hating sin, were never in the majority.

It may appear difficult to hold love and hate together harmoniously, but that’s what Jesus tells us is the hallmark of a Christian. Once we step over into belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His biblical message, we are a people filled with contradictions. Yet everything makes perfect sense because our new life is in Christ. Jesus once said:

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)

Christians understand these words of Jesus to mean, “We are in the world, but no longer of the world.” We live within our human communities on planet Earth, but now our focus is on the Greater Reality and the things of this world are no longer as they once were to us. Although we live in mortal bodies and dwell in a finite world, we now have an eternal perspective.

As Christians we have learned that it is wise to fear God (Psalm 111:10), but we are never afraid of Him. When we spend time with God we are in awe of His great majesty and blessed by His overwhelming reality. There is nowhere else we would rather be than in His presence.worshipOur first and greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ, even though we have never seen Him with our human eyes. And although we understand how spiritually poor and lowly we truly are, we can talk freely about the most insignificant details of our lives with the One who is King of all kings, Lord of all lords and Creator of heaven and Earth, without ever feeling any incongruity in doing so.

Christians believe that in Christ we died, yet we are more alive than ever before and fully expect to live forever (Romans 6:8). We base this belief on the sure and certain knowledge that, because we have accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, the second death will never touch us (Rev 2:11).

When we come into the presence of our holy God we are painfully conscious that in our sinful nature dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18) and yet we understand that we are cleansed from sin. We are at peace knowing He accepts us completely because we are now in Christ and covered by His righteousness. And so we live our new and wonder filled lives surrounded by contradictions. Paul told the Corinthians that as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17):

We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. (2 Cor 6:10)

We have not been miraculously transformed into supernatural beings, yet we live our lives in the presence of the Heavenly Father and are filled with wonder at His awesome power and everlasting love. We understand that in our own right and our own strength we are undeserving and have nothing of any merit to offer, yet we know without question that we are the very apple of God’s eye (Deut 32:10) and that for each one of us the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of Calvary.

© Carlos Lozano /Licenced from Dreamstime.com

© Carlos Lozano /Licensed from Dreamstime.com

When we look at that cross we are completely pessimistic, because we know that the same judgment that fell on the Lord of glory condemned in that one act all nature and all of humanity. We are heartbroken as we contemplate this truth, but we reject every human hope that is not centred on Christ, because we know that all of humanity’s noblest efforts are only dust building on dust.

Yet we are calmly, restfully optimistic. If the cross condemns the world, the glorious resurrection of Christ guarantees the ultimate triumph of good throughout the universe. Through Christ all will be well at last. Thus the Christian confidently awaits the consummation of all things through Jesus Christ who died and victoriously rose again. The great love and mercy of God will be manifest throughout all the world and He will ensure justice and mercy prevail. It is with absolute assurance that we watch and wait for His return.

© Marinv | Dreamstime.com

© Marinv | Dreamstime.com

When we think about what Jesus did for us on that cross we remember that, as Paul put it:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. (1 Cor 1:18)

Paul goes on to explain:

As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters?

God makes the wisdom of this world look foolish because God, in His wisdom, saw to it that the world would never know Him through human wisdom and He has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven and it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews find it an offensive obstacle and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (1 Cor 1:19-23)

School of Athens by Raphael

School of Athens by Raphael

God knew the spin the “philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters” would put on the knowledge of this world, but He ensured we could all have access to His Truth (John 14:6). And this Truth has nothing to do with the amassing of knowledge; it has nothing to do with having the IQ of a genius – this Truth is a Man like no other that has ever walked the Earth. But we are easily caught up in the wisdom of this world, it’s seductive.

However, in God’s universe it is His wisdom that is true wisdom. The wisdom of this world is a poor relation. Paul declared that:

….. if anyone thinks they know anything, they know nothing yet as it needs to be known. (1 Cor 8:2)

After reading some of Nietzsche’s works, he appears to me to be the epitome of a person who has become so enraptured by his own intelligence and the wisdom of this world, he is completely deaf to the things of God. The pure irony, and one would have to say the absolute tragedy of Nietzsche’s life, is that he lost his mind. His great treasure slipped away from him and he was reduced to insanity and died when he was only 56 (as I’m about to turn 65 this seems awfully young to me). All our greatest intellectual achievements cannot give us what we were truly destined to become – eternal people living in a loving relationship with our merciful Father.

When we take our place in God’s eternal family we are no longer Earth bound, our values, our hopes and our beliefs are not those of this world, they came by revelation and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our new life in Christ can be difficult to navigate at times, but we also know that when we are weak, then we are at our strongest, because Jesus said:

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

God created a universe filled with opposites and unredeemed humanity wants to reject this reality. It seems today people want a universe that is filled with 50 shades of grey. We don’t want anyone to tell us that something is wrong and something else is right. We demand the right to decide these things for ourselves. We don’t like the fact that God created life and death, light and darkness, good and evil, we want everything to be somehow naturally neutral.

shades of greyGod knew this would be the case. He knew we would want to be our own gods and decide our own destinies. And He has allowed us to do just that. We must each decide for ourselves whether we want to be part of God’s eternal family and take our place in His new universe after He destroys sin and death. No person is capable of creating an entirely new universe that will run along the lines they think God should have set in the first place. Instead, doubters have created a myth which pretends nature made this present creation without supernatural agency and people are therefore free to live their lives exactly as they choose.

Some people actually like to think that one day humanity will be able to control light and dark, good and evil and life and death. No matter how much people want to believe this they cannot change God’s program now and they never will be able to, because this is God’s universe and we are His creation. God designed the universe to run according to His laws and we must either accept His Way or forfeit our eternal destinies.Jesus preachingIn the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus explained to His listeners that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven. He likens Himself to the miraculous manna that God gave to Moses and the Israelites to sustain them as they traveled through the wilderness.

For 40 years the children of Israel fed on the heavenly bread, or manna, in the dessert; it gave them life and strength for that day. Once they’d collected the manna they could not store it up, they had to gather it afresh every morning and it was sufficient for that day’s needs (Exodus 16). Christians are like the Jews following Moses and the signs God set before them around the Sinai Dessert. As each new day dawns for the followers of Christ we go to Him for our life and strength. He has directed us to “feed on Him” as we sojourn in this wilderness world.

mannaThis is the basis of the Christian otherworldliness and the reason our understanding of life, our worldview, is foolishness to those who reject Christ’s message. Our focus is on the Man who is like no other man. He was born into the human community, but He was unlike any other person who has ever lived.

  • He came from heaven,
  • lived a sinless life for 33 years on Earth,
  • preached a new commandment,
  • introduced a new covenant,
  • was judicially murdered,
  • rose to life after three days in the grave,
  • walk and talked throughout Israel for 40 days,
  • then ascended to heaven to take His place with the Father in a transformed human body.

Once a person knows, understands and accepts the message Jesus came to impart to humanity, an entirely new awareness of human destiny fills their being. It is as if a door opens up that shows us a different world. This other world sits alongside the natural world but it is a Greater Reality; it is the eternal world that can only be perceived and entered through the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father by the Holy Spirit. There is no way to comprehend this eternal world through the physical senses and human reason. God has limited access to this Greater Reality to those who have their eyes on His Son.

For the Christian, while we walk on this Earth, we are seated with Christ in heaven (Eph 2:6) and though we were born on Earth we find that since being born again we are no longer completely at home on this beautiful planet. We are indeed strangers in a strange land awaiting the return of our Lord.

©Review & Herald Publishing/ Licensed from GoodSalt.com

©Review & Herald Publishing/ Licensed from GoodSalt.com

He will come again and He will deal the final blow to death, pain and suffering, ultimately bringing about the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan and purpose for humanity. He is reaching out to each and every person born onto this benighted world (John 12:32; Romans 8:20-23), graciously offering each one a place in His new, eternal creation (Rev 21:1). Can you see Him? Can you hear Him? He’s calling you!

infinity1
The inspiration and some of the words in this post came from INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN! by A.W. Tozer

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Choice Is a Fine Thing

Our ability to make choices is a powerful part of what it is to be human. Every day each one of us makes numerous choices about a range of different issues, some are relatively trivial, while others can have far reaching ramifications. Raising children is an area in which we must make momentous choices, as the alternatives we examine and select, can – and often do – affect the sort of person they will become.

baby sleeping

Teaching children how to make wise choices for themselves is also a vital part of good parenting and part of this process is helping them to understand that it is always prudent to examine a range of alternative positions, so that they can have a full picture of just what they are choosing between.

The very concept of choice presupposes this process of analysis. Without examining alternative possibilities we are actually forfeiting our ability to choose. We are simply either selecting the dominant or most widely used choice in the culture surrounding us or defaulting to something that happens to take our fancy at the time, and admittedly, in many situations this is all that is needed.

Image from wed

Image from web

These less important choices might involve food, clothing, or even aesthetic taste and for these choices many of us would simply go with our gut feelings or individual predilections. Historically, for many people, availability of alternatives or the dominant culture of their geographical location dictated many of their personal choices for them. However, in today’s world, our dominant culture is shaped by new processes. We live in the era of the sound bite and the newspaper headline. Many people go no deeper in thinking about the more important choices they make than basing their beliefs on 30 seconds of on-line video or a half hour TV program that presents a neat, no-questions-needed package.

With the advent of world media and ease of travel, the formation of a dominant culture has taken a new direction. Instead of traditions and military might being the most powerful drivers of national culture, we now have new forces in play. We have international media empires and political parties, controlled by strong philosophical biases and economic theories, working to narrow our range of perceived choices to those that will benefit their own set of preferred options.

satellite

Apart from all the choices we each must consider as we make day to day decisions, we also have one life-changing choice to take into account that will affect many of our other choices. This choice is not bound by personal preferences or national culture, it is something that is relevant to every human being on the planet and it is the most important choice any person will ever make. This is the only choice we will ever face that doesn’t just affect the time we have in this life. This choice will reach out beyond death and the grave; it will not only impinge upon how we live our lives in the here and now, it will also have a powerful influence on our eternal destiny.

The Creator had a plan and a purpose when He designed and produced the universe and all of the life-forms within it. One of His most powerful gifts to humanity was allowing us to choose whether we accept this truth, or whether we reject it and choose to believe the rather simplistic alternative, that is, that the universe created itself and it has no true purpose, it simply exists. This would mean that all of the intricate, clearly designed systems that make up our cosmos merely bear the appearance of detailed design and our brains are nothing more than the product of unplanned chemical reactions.

We know these brains are so incredibly complex that even after thousands of scientists have spent hundreds of thousands of hours working on designs to duplicate them, they have only managed to scratch the surface in creating a machine that can do what our brain does, let alone make one that can maintain and renew itself, while at times rerouting signals and neurological (digital) pathways when necessary. And our brain is only one component of a larger body that can, with the help of a uniquely designed sexually complementary partner, actually produce a new, but different version of itself.

Image from web

Image from web

Using this ingeniously designed organ, we might choose to believe the universe made itself. If this is the case, then we must also choose to believe that each and every minute detail of everything that exists came into existence, from nothing, by pure, blind chance. This process would entail literally billions of incidents of blind, random chance miraculously working together to create this mind-bogglingly interrelated, interactive, interdependent system, which functions with precise timing and perfect order.

Any scientist worth his or her salt would have to admit the universe is a superbly fine tuned system, with incredible interdependencies that could never function as individual, independent applications. As more evidence comes to hand some scientists have actually been forced to admit just that. However, over the years evolutionists have created an elaborate set of just-so stories to explain the series of random happenings they claim worked together to produce our universe and the life forms that inhabit it. But these stories are actually just that, elaborate stories carefully crafted by carefully crafted human brains.

To accept that these billions of random incidents happened at exactly the right time in exactly the right order, by chance, involves nothing more than blind faith, because this belief system is based entirely on incidents people choose to assume happened millions or billions of years in the past which means, naturally, that no one has ever observed a single one of these incidents as they occurred.

What we have observed in the world today are catastrophic geological events rapidly reshaping the surface of our planet. The Mt St Helen’s volcano, which erupted in 1980, produced 7.6 meters of finely layered sediment in a single afternoon. Thus we realise that deep layers of rock sediment do not need millions of years to form. We have also observed life forms adapting to new environments, but this is not evolution, this is part of God’s original design that enabled creatures to fill new environmental niches as they filled the Earth (Gen 8:17).

We are told evolution involves natural selection acting on random mutations that have added new genetic information to an existing life-form. What we actually observe, over and over again, are mutations that decrease genetic information within organisms and reduce genetic variability within populations. We also know that the vast majority of mutations cause harm to organisms and even though a handful have benefited populations, they have also been the product of information loss, not gain.

In other words, we have only ever observed a reduction in genetic information. Therefore this mechanism has never been observed or proven to do what evolutionists claim it can do. It is simply pure speculation that lies behind this powerful modern myth.

Many well educated people consider a far more reasonable faith is founded on belief in the God who has continuously revealed Himself to humanity throughout history – through His people, His Spirit and His Word. This alternative story was brought to its climax when Jesus Christ was born into the human community to deliver His Good News and save humanity from destruction. It is also scientifically reasonable to accept His account of God’s special creation as the most viable explanation for the origin of the universe.
nativityIt appears many people never consider looking objectively at the choices they make concerning why we are here, where we came from and where we are going; that is, the choices we make about the very meaning of our lives. Instead, they take the path of least resistance; they simply accept the dominant cultural paradigm as though they were selecting a new pair of shoes. The latest fashion is to accept the evolution story of origins. This is incredibly short sighted, when one considers how much time some people spend deciding what to eat or what they should wear.

It takes a determined effort to objectively examine the popular belief that our gloriously complex universe simply created itself out of nothing. In our postmodern culture, progressive thinking outside the dominant cultural paradigm risks ridicule on a grand scale, as we have taken pseudo-intellectual arrogance to new heights when it comes to evolution. Almost everyone with a TV has seen David Attenborough, Stephen Fry or Professor Brian Cox describe how life came into existence and changed over time. We are brainwashed with philosophical naturalism and educated into blind acceptance of a theory that has well concealed, but gaping holes in its credibility. And despite the fact that naturalist scientists boast about their field being founded on questioning and examining evidence, we are actively discouraged from questioning evolution or examining the evidence for creation. They prefer us to believe there is no choice when it comes to the question of origins.

no choiceAlthough many people have been convinced by 21st century popular culture that there is no choice when it comes to the question of origins, and social and cultural pressures often steer people away from examining the evidence for creation, The Bible tells us there is yet another very powerful reason why people choose to believe in this questionable theory. From the pages of God’s Word we learn that ever since The Fall (Gen 3) humanity has had an innate tendency to oppose the Creator’s rule over their lives. For me, Stephen Fry is the epitome of a person who has taken this reality to new heights, as he broadcasts his version of truth to the four corners of the world. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans:

God shows His abhorrence from heaven against all the ungodliness and wrong things that people do. Their unrighteous lives hide the truth God has revealed to them; they have been clearly shown what He is like by their own existence. Yes, God has made it clear to them that He is their Creator. Although there are things about God that people cannot see – His eternal power and all that makes Him God – they really have no excuse for ignoring Him, because ever since the beginning of the world, those things have been easy for people to see and understand. They have been made clear in what God has created. So people have no excuse for their unrighteous lives.

People know God, but they do not honour Him as God, and are not thankful towards Him. Their ideas are useless as they have left the path of wisdom. There is not one good thought left in their foolish minds. They claim to be wise, but they became fools. Instead of honouring the divine greatness of God, who lives forever, some of them traded it for the worship of idols – things made to look like humans, who get sick and die, or like birds, animals, and snakes. Some people wanted only to follow their own lusts so God left them and let them go their own sinful ways. And so they became completely immoral and used their bodies in shameful ways with each other. They traded the truth of God for a lie. They bowed down and worshiped the things God made instead of worshiping the God who made those things. He is the one who should be praised forever. Amen. (Rom 1:18-25)

Paul has put his finger on the reason people deny creation right here. The creation story reveals the reality of a Creator. People who deny God need to have an explanation, not only for the miracle of their own lives, but for the very existence of the universe. The explanation that it all made itself was just one of many ideas the Greek philosophers toyed with well before Jesus was born. The modern theory of evolution is just another version of this ancient myth.

Despite our innate tendency to reject God’s way, a growing number of people in the world today are realising we do have a choice when it comes to the scientific evidence for origins. There is a constantly expanding body of robust scientific evidence that can be examined and analysed, and once we strip away the philosophical naturalism and look objectively at the data, the evidence reveals a very strong case for special creation. And if creation is a reality, then the next choice we need to make is whether we want to listen to our Creator and follow His guidance. He has given us choice and He won’t take this gift away. It was because of this great gift that mortality and suffering entered our world, but He also tells us that they are not a permanent part of His great creation project. He has a plan to eliminate them.

Image from web

Image from web

God allowed death, pain and suffering to enter His creation at the very beginning of human history and we can only speculate on why He did so. Although one reason that has been put forward is that He did so for there to be the possibility of true love between the Creator and the people He made in His own image. Humankind was created with free will; God gave us the ability to make our own choices and He does not manipulate our choices, but He has prescribed the consequences of those choices.

We can actually reject God’s love, but this will mean we will never have a relationship with Him. True love is only possible if this is the case. Love that is not voluntary is not love at all and as God has determined that love will be the foundation of the relationship we have with Him now and throughout eternity, only those who choose to love Him and accept Him as their Creator and Redeemer are given the gift of eternal life and can be part of the new creation the Father has described in the final chapters of His great revelation to humanity.

God is constantly reaching out to those who have not as yet seen and understood His great love for them. People who open-mindedly take the time to think through the issues and examine the alternative choices fully, often choose to become part of God’s eternal family, but even when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem He warned His listeners that few were finding the path to life. He said:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The road to destruction is broad, its gate is wide and many people are choosing that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few are finding it. (Mat 7:13-14)

The Father wants to pour out His Spirit into each human life (2 Peter 3:9) so that everyone might receive the gift of eternal life. However, unless we make the choice to accept His truth we will remain mortal and be destined for the final destruction that is coming upon this broken, fallen world. He has revealed to us that it is the simple minded who scorn His Word and choose the path to destruction. As Solomon said:

How long will you love simplicity, simple ones? And will scorners delight in their scorning? And will fools hate knowledge? Turn at my warning; behold, I will pour out my Spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. But I called and they refused; I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; instead they have despised all my advice and would have none of my warning. Therefore I also will sneer at their trouble and I will scorn their fear; when their fear comes as a wasting away and their ruin comes like a tempest, when trouble and pain come upon them, then they will call upon me and I will not answer; they will seek me early, but will not find me. They have hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would have none of my counsel; they despised all my correction, and so they will eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own desires. For the turning away of the simple kills them, and the prosperity of fools destroys them. But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. (Pro 1:22-33)

This crucial choice is in our own hands and the Creator God has clearly explained what this choice involves. Will you be part of the new creation God is going to bring into existence when He destroys death, pain and suffering and the broken creation we now inhabit? It may not be tomorrow, it may not be in the next 100 years, but it will happen, and when it does, all those who have ever lived in this fallen world will have had the opportunity to be part of an eternal creation where there will be no more pain, suffering or death. God’s righteousness will reign supreme in this new creation (Rev 21).

It seems like a no brainer to me, but I know many extremely intelligent and compassionate people who appear to believe they have made the right choice in rejecting God’s Way to eternal life. What I always wonder is whether they have actually made any choice at all, or whether they have simply accepted the dominant cultural paradigm and gone with the popular notion of reality, instead of taking the time to examine the alternative, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and He wants to give eternal life to each and every person on His planet. He died to make this possible but He has left it in our own hands to choose which road we take.