Passing of Time

The older you are, the more your memories invade your thoughts during the holidays.  You recall family and pleasant moments.  The finality of the passing of time brings a sigh.  How fleeting is this life!

Seasonal songs set the context for reflections about time.  That glorious song of old came upon the midnight clear, yet here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore.  Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?  Not if all is calm, all is bright when you think of them.  You see what I mean.

God created you to think about time, and the ability to remember is meant to be a gift. It is indeed a gift when you learn from the past, and when you retreat to pleasant moments that make the present sweeter.  You should find it no surprise that God has spoken into that space where we think about time.  One concise collection of such inspiration is Psalm 90.  Let me share these with you.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations, before the mountains were born” (v.1,2).  God has always offered a place of rest and refuge.  You work and wander in this life, but Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28).  When guilt about the past or worry about the future exhaust you, you can find rest.

“You turn man back into dust.  For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by” (v.3,4).  Your time in the flesh is limited like grass when “toward evening it fades and withers away” (v.6).  This recalls one of life’s ultimate questions, “Why am I here?”  The most satisfying answer you will ever find is rooted in this: “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is” (Col. 3:1).

“Soon (life) is gone and we fly away.  So teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (v.10,12).  The farmer counts the days from planting until his crop presents its harvest and the chaff blows away.  Jesus likened your life to a seed.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).  Paul elaborated, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  Your life yields a wise harvest when Christ lives in you.

Your life might be measured in years, but you live it one day at a time.  This year, may each of your days be full of rest, purpose, and harvest.  I cannot think of a better way for you to pass the time.

The Wait

When I was a child, it was so hard to wait for the grand reveal of gifts on Christmas morning! Those happy times blended with our family’s celebration of the birth of the Savior.  When we started singing Christmas carols in church services, I knew the gifts would soon follow.

During Hezekiah’s rule, the people had little to anticipate. The brutal Assyrians oppressed them because they had turned away from God.  But a gift of hope arrived, the miraculous defeat of the dreaded enemy.  Then God told them, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness’…Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together” (Isa. 40:3,5).  Chasing King Sennacherib away was one thing; but wait, there’s more!

John the Baptist was that voice calling. Like Hezekiah, he understood the need to repent and turn to the Lord.  John’s message signaled the wait was over for “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  The long-awaited One had made a humble entrance in the little town of Bethlehem.  He was announced by the angels, sought by shepherds, and worshiped by the Magi.  He was the glory of the Lord revealed.  God with us, Immanuel, had come to minister to the people!

In the carol, “O Holy Night,” you can hear the yearning and waiting, then the realization and response. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.  A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!  Fall on your knees!  Oh, hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born.”  The destiny of that Child in the manger was Calvary’s cross, to deliver you from sin and error by His sacrificial death.  Those who receive that gift by faith worship Him as God the Son.

But wait, there’s more! Jesus promised that one day people will “see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30).  In the final chapter of the Bible, He repeats three times, “I am coming quickly.”  Though we wonder what “quickly” means, His second Advent is as certain and physical as the first.

My childhood understanding of the true meaning of Christmas became my faith that Christ’s coming was for my sake. The story is believable as a historical event, full of personal and spiritual meaning.  If God can deliver His people and send the promised Messiah once, then He can deliver you from sin and Jesus will surely come again.  Oh, glorious day!  The promise is fulfilled yet the wait continues.  Reflect on that hope, and have a Merry Christmas!

Marginalized No More

She was a prostitute and conveniently offered lodging at her house. Two young men found their way to her place, but they weren’t looking for paid favors. They had a job to do. They were spies and staying there would be a convenient cover.

Her name was Rahab. She confided to the men that she knew who they were. She knew God had brought their people out of Egypt and had given them the land. In return for information and secrecy, she asked that she and her family be spared. This woman helped make history and became part of God’s providential plan for all mankind. Dr. Amy Orr-Ewing explains, “It is powerful and prophetic that Rahab ends up in the genealogy of Jesus; her son Boaz goes on to marry Ruth. This shows us something profound about the nature of God’s love: He works through kings yet also through those at the very margins of society.”

The Bible revisits that theme over and again. Once, there were men working the midnight shift out in a field. Their job was to watch for predators and thieves who might take the livestock in their care. But this was no ordinary night. First one, then a multitude of angels appeared to them with the message that the Savior, Christ the Lord, had been born. After the shepherds found Mary, Joseph, and the Child, “they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:17-18). This news was not given to wealthy businessmen or influential leaders, but to humble and courageous men. They acted on it and told it.

Not many of us can lay claim to prestige or influence. You may not be that person who, when entering a room, all faces turn to you and smile waiting to hear what you have to say. You may be like the unnamed shepherds. You work hard to survive and save what you can. You may be like Rahab, who started off on the wrong road in life. Maybe you endure the lonely consequences of past choices. But you are never alone or unnoticed if one Person knows you. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know me…and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:14).

In Christ, you are marginalized no more. He knows, loves, and values you regardless of your past, or your present status. When by faith you exchange your life for His, you become part of God’s providential plan. You have your own news to tell of forgiveness and reconciliation. The Christmas story began in the heart of the Father in eternity past, but the peace on earth and good will announced by the angels is for you today!

Place in Time

When is the next election for U.S. President? When is the baby due?  When did the U.S. declare its independence?  The assumption behind these questions is that important events are marked by their place in time.

We humans are wired to understand things by their place in time. Demographers use a person’s birth year to explain common characteristics, hence the labels Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennial.  Disney recently began using this disclaimer to warn that some of its content is marked by its place in time: “This program is presented as originally created.  It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”  If you don’t know what a beehive hairdo is or if you can’t figure out your smart phone, then style or technology hints that you may be of a different time.

The fact is, we are creatures limited by time, at least in this life. That is surely why God chose to reveal Himself within the confines of time, even though He exists outside of time.  In this way we could truly know Him.  Otherwise, humanity’s thoughts about religion, philosophies of life and death, and attempts to make sense of the world are speculations at best.  But when God intervenes in history, well that has gravitas.

Christians are not the only ones who explain the world though encounters with an incarnate god. But there’s a big difference.  Dorothy Sayers mentions the Egyptian god Osiris and the Greek god Zeus, then writes, “But in most theologies, the god is supposed to have suffered and died in some remote and mythical period of pre-history.  The Christian story on the other hand, starts off briskly with a place and date: ‘When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King’ (Mat. 2:1).  St. Luke, still more practically and prosaically, pins the thing down by a reference to a piece of government finance.  God, he says, was made man in the year when Caesar Augustus was taking a census in connexion with a scheme of taxation.  Similarly, we might date an event by saying that it took place in the year that Great Britain went off the gold standard.”

We celebrate Christmas because God chose that place in time to take on human flesh. He then spoke to us in a way we can comprehend.  “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:1-2).  What He has spoken to you is, “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25).  The gift of Christmas is that by faith, you are no longer limited to a place in time.


A Simple Thing

Someone invited Phillip Johnson’s daughter to attend Vacation Bible School at a local church. Though an agnostic at the time, he became interested in what she learned.

He was raised in a Christian home but had never considered the evidence for faith. He graduated at the top of his class at Harvard and clerked for U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren. He was a professor at UC Berkeley law school when, prompted by his daughter, he investigated and found the gospel credible. He believed.

Some year later he became bored with his career. But he reacted with interest after seeing Richard Dawkins’ comments about evolution. Johnson said, “The rules of argument seemed to be structured to make it impossible to question whether what we are told about evolution is really true. The very persons who insist on keeping science and religion separate are eager to use their science as a basis of pronouncements about religion.” One of Dawkins’ pronouncements was, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet someone who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, insane, or wicked.” Johnson described that sentiment as the “zeal of Darwinists to evangelize the world by insisting that even non-scientists accept the truth of their theory as a matter of moral obligation.” Johnson perceived that the basic problem with the argument for Darwinism was that it relied on the assumption of blind and purposeless origins of the universe, rather than on scientific evidence.

So he set out to spotlight the problems with that logic in his seminal book, Darwin on Trial (1991). Critics harshly panned the book, but it helped launch the intelligent design movement in academics. Casey Luskin explains, “The idea of intelligent design became a magnet for scholars from a variety of fields: biology, chemistry, physics, philosophy, theology, law. All of whom saw Darwinism’s fatal reliance on naturalistic thinking.” Notable proponents of intelligent design include Luskin (geology, law), Michael Behe (biochemistry), William Dembski (mathematics), Ann Gauger (zoology), and Stephen Meyer (geophysics, philosophy).

John Lennox, mathematics professor at Oxford, summarizes their cause. “The more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.” Whatever we come to know about our universe, some humbling questions from the Creator will always remain. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who has given understanding to the mind?” (Job 38:4, 36).

Phillip Johnson passed away in November 2019. His legacy is not just his own work, but that he helped spark a movement to answer questions about the origins of our complex universe. And to think, it happened because someone invited a little girl to VBS. What a simple thing.