A source of hope

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2 ESV).

Our Bibles are “bookended” with references to the Tree of Life. Near the beginning, Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22). Then at the end of the final book Heaven is depicted as the environment where the tree of life continually bears fruit. Earlier in that same book Jesus promised, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). Continue reading “A source of hope”

Rejoicing in hope

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God … Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-2, 5, NKJV).

Some years ago I was part of a group of Americans in another country who were stranded because of an uprising which caused our airline to suspend operations. For several days we stayed in a hotel trying to arrange travel on other carriers. Needless to say, we were anxious about the situation and frustrated at the delay in our return home. Continue reading “Rejoicing in hope”

Is evil universal?

There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one. Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues, the poison of asps is under their lips, their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18, NET).

During decades of travel in many parts of the world, I have frequently been shocked at the amount and intensity of corruption and violence which prevails in places I have visited. I have been tempted to rate locations as to which was most corrupt, or most dangerous. However I have come to the realization that those qualities exist everywhere I have been, and am now convinced that they are truly universal. Wherever people live there are bad people with evil intent. Continue reading “Is evil universal?”

A real man

“Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know; and seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth” (Jeremiah 5:1 NKJV).

For much of my lifetime American culture has sought to define, or redefine, what it means to be a man. Not only what it means to be human, but more specifically what it means to be an adult male human. What are the defining characteristics of that particular form of life?

Several decades ago the ideal man was, to many, something like a TV western hero (Matt Dillon or Wyatt Earp for us old timers), the actors who portrayed them (John Wayne or Clint Eastwood for example) or possibly the “Marlboro Man” of the old tobacco commercials. Muscles, an inscrutable attitude, and lots of fortitude were basic ingredients. Continue reading “A real man”

In praise of the builder

“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to him who appointed him, as Moses also was faithful in all his house. For this one has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who built the house has more honor than the house” (Hebrews 3:1-3, NKJV).

In a city near my home there is a house, designed almost 100 years ago by an architect of national prominence. Though it contains many impressive features, almost no one speaks much of them. Rather, the house is known almost exclusively because of its designer. Continue reading “In praise of the builder”

Preparing to go to God’s house

“God said to Jacob, ‘Arise and go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel’” (Genesis 35:1-3, ESV).

Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, had a history with the place called Bethel. It was there, on his way to Padan-Aram to seek a wife and to escape from the vengeful Esau, that he slept using a stone for a pillow. During the night he saw a vision of a ladder or stair case going into heaven, with angels ascending and descending and God at the top. When he awoke he declared the place to be “the House of God” (Genesis 28:16) and named it accordingly. In Hebrew the name was “Bethel” whose meaning is “House of God.” Continue reading “Preparing to go to God’s house”

Whose house is it?

“And again he entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that he was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And he preached the word to them. Then they came to him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where he was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying” (Mark 2:1-4 NKJV).

Some years ago while visiting churches in the mountains of Nepal I fell from the steps leading into the house in which I was spending several days. The floor level was two or three feet above the ground and the steps were makeshift at best – a few rocks stacked loosely on each other without mortar and without much level matching surface. My fall was not serious and I was uninjured, but as I sat on the ground catching my breath I saw one of the Church’s leaders taking apart the steps and beginning to level and relay them to be more secure. I thought at the time, “This is not his house (he was not actually even a resident of that village); what is he doing working on someone else’s house?” Continue reading “Whose house is it?”

Villains

“Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching” (2 Timothy 4:14-15, NASB).

Most modern readers of the New Testament are interested in heroic characters, or in the study of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church – in short we focus on positive things which lift us up. Yet we recognize that the Biblical writers also tell of less wholesome things and people, those whom we might call “villains.” Continue reading “Villains”

Born to hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NASB).

From a human, earthly perspective, when one stands outside the window of a hospital nursery admiring the newly born babies within, the highest hope for any one of those new lives which is experienced is that he or she will have a long and happy life. All in that position are fully aware that every brand new baby comes with the reality of ultimate death. All hope and expectation are tempered with that knowledge. No matter how many years may be granted, nor what wealth, honor, fame or other accomplishments may be gained, physical life is limited in duration and will always end in death. Continue reading “Born to hope”

Benefits from being born again

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NASB).

Occasionally news will come from South Asia of the birth of a child to one of the Christian couples (often a preacher and his wife) there. Almost always that will be accompanied by a request for me (or Brenda and me) to name the new baby. That is always an honor, as well as a means of keeping me humble. To provide a new child with the name by which he or she will be known for the rest of their life is a significant responsibility.

Several years ago I got a similar request but in a different context. An older man who had been a Hindu for all of his life was baptized into Christ. He asked me during a devotional in his home that night to give him a name suitable for a Christian. He stated that up until that day he had prayed to idols every night in his house, but on this night he was praying (and we with him) to the true, living God. He no longer wanted to be known by his Hindu name. He was beginning a new life of faith and wanted to be known for that instead. Continue reading “Benefits from being born again”