1510) Now or Later?

Image result for 2 corinthians 4:18 images

By Rick Warren, at his Daily Hope blog, May 28, 2017 (www.pastorrick.com/devotional)


     We rarely evaluate our values or question our perceptions until we have a crisis.  Once we’re in deep pain, we begin to examine what we’re basing our lives upon.  Whether it’s materialism, feeling good, or looking good, we instinctively realize there has to be more.

     That’s why it’s so critical that we ask ourselves — before we’re mired in pain — what is going to last?

     Our culture encourages us to do just the opposite.  Our society values the here and now.  Tomorrow doesn’t matter.  Next year doesn’t matter.  A thousand years from today doesn’t matter.  Eternity and Heaven don’t matter.  Live for today.

     But the Bible says something different in 1 John 2:17: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

     Consider what happens when we’re tempted.  Temptation is not just a battle between good and bad, or, what’s best and what’s not best.

     Temptation is always a battle between now or later.  Will I do what God says and enjoy the benefits later, or will I do what I want and enjoy the benefits now?

     The Bible teaches us to “fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen.  What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18).


II Corinthians 4:16-18  —  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I John 2:17  —  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

I John 5:11b-13  —  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.



Hymn by James Montgomery, English poet, hymnwriter, journalist (1771-1854)

In the hour of trial,
Jesus, plead for me
Lest by base denial
I depart from thee.
When thou see’st me waver,
With a look recall
Nor for fear or favor
Suffer me to fall.

With forbidden pleasures
Should this vain world charm
Or its tempting treasures
Spread to work me harm,
Bring to my remembrance
Sad Gethsemane
Or, in darker semblance,
Cross-crowned Calvary.

Should thy mercy send me
Sorrow, toil, and woe,
Or should pain attend me
On my path below,
Grant that I may never
Fail thy hand to see;
Grant that I may ever
Cast my care on thee.

When my last hour cometh,
Fraught with strife and pain,
When my dust returneth
To the dust again,
On thy truth relying,
Through that mortal strife,
Jesus, take me, dying,
To eternal life.

1237) Tools for Remembering (b)

     (…continued)  This theme of remembering is also a big theme in the Bible.  God wants you to remember a few things about him and what he has done for you.  Not only that, he has even given you some tools to help in that remembering.  Consider just a few verses.

     Exodus 20:8 is a familiar one:  “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy.”  In this third commandment we are commanded to remember— to remember the Sabbath day– and use that day, it goes on to say, to remember your God who created this world and gave you your life.  

     In I Corinthians Paul retells the story of the first Holy Communion.  As Jesus first offered that Holy Sacrament that we still receive, he said twice: “Do this in remembrance of me (I Corinthians 11:24 & 25).”  

     One more verse, this one from the Easter story.  The women, you remember, went to the tomb of Jesus, and were surprised to find it empty.  But the angels say to them, “He is not here. He is risen. Don’t you remember; he said he would be raised on the third day?”  They had forgotten.  But the next verse says, “Then they remembered his words” (Luke 24:8).

     There is nothing more important in all of life than to remember the words of Jesus.  That is more important than anything, because the Bible tells us all else will pass away, but the Word of the Lord will endure forever (Isaiah 40:8).  And in that word there is a word for you and me, a word that says we can live again.  Jesus said, “because I live, you will live also.”  That is a promise well worth believing in, paying attention to, and remembering.  It’s a lot of fun to remember the past and talk about how things used to be.  But most of all, you want to remember that which will last forever and will never change.

     Look now again at the verse I began with, Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”  God has acted in the past, yesterday.  And God wants you to remember him today, and everyday.  And that is so you can be with God forever.  The old times and the old-timers disappear, and we disappear; but Jesus Christ and his promises for us are the THE SAME, yesterday, today, and forever.  Jesus is alive, and offers the promise of that same eternal life to all who will believe in him.  This is a promise, says Peter, “that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).  For you

     Faith comes by and is sustained by hearing that Word of God and remembering it, says Romans 10.  And where do we hear it?  Well, we hear it when we worship, if nowhere else.  That’s why the third commandment is to “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy.”  And that’s why we go to church– to hear God’s word and to remember who created us and why we are here and what God has done for us and where we are going.  The Sabbath Day is one of the TOOLS God has given us by which we will remember him.  The Bible, Holy Communion, and prayer are some of the other tools.  And in the life of the Spirit (just like in life on the farm) we need tools, and we need to make use of the tools we’ve been given.

     One old farmer put it this way (from a conversation recorded by Robert Coles in Harvard Diary, 1989):  

If it wasn’t for church, I’d just forget all about God.  We can’t be expected to be thinking about God all the time, you know.  I’ve got a lot on my mind.  I’ve got my animals to tend to, and crops to plant and harvest, and the weather to watch, and I’ve got to be wondering how I’m going to feed all my kids and make sure they mind their mother.  So half the time, I forget all about God.  But come Sunday, I do try to pay my respects to Jesus, and I do stop whatever I’m doing and go the church for that.  I’m there every Sunday to say ‘Thank you Lord, for another week of working my burden, and thank you Jesus for giving me the chance to do it– to work my land until you say enough is enough, and it’s time to come home.’  There in church is where I remember to say Thank You.  That’s where I stop doing everything else and go and remember God.

     That was a wise farmer.  He knew how to remember what is most important.  He knew he wanted to remember Jesus.  Amidst all the changes of life, “Jesus Christ remains the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”  And that’s what we need, and want, most of all– a promise that lasts forever.

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The Angelus, 1859, Jean Francois Millet  (1814-1875)

     I enjoy going out to Pioneer Power each year.  Much of what’s out there is from before my time, but there are many things I do remember and don’t see anymore.  So it’s fun to see it again, and think to myself, “I used to work with one of those.”  But such remembering is always a pleasure and a sadness all at once, because not only do we remember the old times, but those memories also call to mind the old-timers, those who we remember using all that stuff.  There is a whole way of life recreated on those grounds for a weekend— but it really is gone forever; along with all the people who lived it– also all gone.  But not forever, says the Lord.  Not forever.  “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said, “and he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live again.”  Remember that.


 From the ‘Angelus’ prayer (16th century):

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

1236) Tools for Remembering (a)

Hebrews 13:8–  Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today, and forever.


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Image result for le sueur county pioneer power images

     I spent Friday afternoon at the Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Show.  What started out 43 years ago as a small local Threshing Bee, has grown into one of the largest shows of its kind in the Midwest.  It has a little of everything of how it used to be on the farm:  grain threshing, teams of horses, giant steam engines, antique tractors, horse powered well-drilling, corn shredding and shelling– and a little village which includes a steam-powered sawmill, creamery, schoolhouse, church, and working blacksmith shop.  It is 120 acres of memories.

     And it’s fun.  People like getting together to remember the old times.  They enjoy looking at all that old machinery cranked up, smoking and snorting.  It is a whole weekend of talking about days gone by.  Sometimes, even oftentimes, we might long for those simpler days.  Now of course, we wouldn’t want to go back to doing everything like it used to be done.  For example, now that a lot of farmers are used to 24-row planters, could you imagine going back to planting corn with one of these– one seed at a time?

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     And now that we have combines bigger than the average pioneer’s log cabin, could you imagine going back to picking corn with one of these husking knives– one corn cob at a time?  Only 75 years ago most farmers were still using one of these instead of a combine or even a one row corn-picker.

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     Somebody once said, “What was difficult to endure, is sweet to remember.”  That could be the theme of Pioneer Power days, with all those tools, implements, machines, and other items of the good old days.  It is great fun to see it all now; but anyone who is old enough to remember using those old tools and machines can also remember how hard they worked when those were the tools of daily life.  It’s fun now to see it all going again, but when new and more convenient machinery came out, most folks were quick to park the old stuff out in the weeds behind the machine shed and go with the new.

     But “What was difficult to endure is sweet to remember,” so I enjoy going to Pioneer Power with my parents because everything they look at reminds Mom and Dad of something.  They’re both talking at the same time, recalling how their folks had one of these, or how they used to work with one of those, or a specific day when this or that broke down and what a miserable day that was, and so on.  What was difficult to endure is indeed sweet to remember.

     This two-part meditation will be about tools, and then about remembering, and then, about tools for remembering.

     First of all, about tools.  Humans have always been tool-makers, and tools are a big part of what folks go out to Pioneer Power to see.  From very simple tools, like the old corn planter, to the massive steam engines and threshing machines; tools are to make work easier.  So, I’ll picture some old tools and use them to illustrate my point.

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     This first tool was tied to a heavy stick and used as a club by the Sioux Indians in Minnesota.  It is amazing to think that a mere 180 years ago, most of the residents of Minnesota were still living in the Stone Age, and the best tools they had were hewn out of stone.  This club was primitive and crude, but you’d be much better off hunting or meeting an enemy with this in hand than without it.

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     The early settlers had iron tools, but they weren’t able to bring much from the old country in those old trunks that you now see in antique stores.  And in their first years here, the old pioneers weren’t able to afford much.  So a few metal tools were brought and used to make wooden tools, such as this old pitch fork.  The whole thing was carved out of a single piece of wood.  It makes me wonder about the story behind it.  Was this a particularly poor farmer who was forced to depend on this instead of buying a better one, or is this what all the earliest pioneers used at first?  Either way, I am sure the maker of this pitchfork told all his neighbors of his good luck in finding such a suitable piece of wood.

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     This is an item from not all that long ago. Before refrigerators and freezers, saws like this were needed to cut blocks of ice out of lakes and rivers over the winter.  Those blocks were then packed in sawdust for use in the ‘icebox’ throughout the rest of the year.

     Looking at these tools, and thinking about their use, makes me think about the hands that once held them, used them, and worked with them to make a life– we might even say, to stay alive.

     Think about the day that hand corn planter was bought new at the store.  The old farmer probably had to save up for it, and then all excited, brought it home and said to his wife, “Look at this ma!  Just think how much time this is going to save.  I’ll be done planting in no time at all this spring.”

     Or, imagine an old pioneer, out in the pasture getting the cows in for milking when he saw some tree branches, or roots perhaps, and could visualize a new pitch fork.  So he took it home, and then, that night by the fireplace in the house, started whittling away.

     Or think of who might have used that corn husking knife.  Maybe it was a teenage boy, spending all day in the brisk Fall air, going up and down the rows, harvesting one cob at a time, all day, all week, just looking forward to the family’s once a week trip to town on Friday night when he’d see his friends.  All the while, he’d be day-dreaming, thinking about when he would be old enough to leave that dumb old farm and get some other kind of work.  He had been hearing about something new in the big city– cars.  That’s what he wanted to do.  He wanted to work on cars.  And then he was going to live in town, not just go there on Friday evening.  Husking corn cobs was repetitious, not requiring any thought, and it left a young boy with lots of time to think and to dream.  And he knew he wasn’t going to be doing that boring work all his life.

     And I’d like to know the story of that old Sioux club.  Stone age technology did not change much over the centuries, and a rock like that would last a long time.  So I wonder when this might have been made.  It could be a thousand years old.  It may even have been made, used for a couple hundred years, then lost for a couple hundred years, and then found again.  What was it all used for?  Perhaps pounding the stakes in for the tepee, or for building the bracket over the camp fire to roast rabbits on.  Was it also used in hunting, or in defense against wild animals?  I wonder if it was it ever used on a human head.

     We can imagine all sorts of things about those who used these tools, and the other tools at Pioneer Power.  But of one thing we can be certain.  The hard working hands that first held these items are working no more, but are now still, dead and cold, and folded together in the grave, down in that black earth that they once walked on, till under, and fought over.  Another thing we can be certain of is that all of the hands that handle these items today will also one day be still and down in that same dark earth.  Our tools are made of stronger stuff than we are.  With a little care they can go on and on, to new owners to use or to display at a threshing bee.  

     But we are so much more fragile.  No matter how much we take care of ourselves, we won’t last.  The Bible says we vanish like a mist.  I think about that every time I go to an estate auction.  There, spread out over the yard, are the tools and furniture and possessions of a lifetime.  It is all still there; but the person who owned those items and used them and cherished them has vanished.  Our tools go on, but we don’t.

     People go to Threshing Bees and to museums to remember the past; and one of the ways we remember the past is by looking at the tools and possessions of those who lived before us and are now gone.

     This theme of remembering is also a big theme in the Bible.  God wants you to remember a few things about him and what he has done for you.  Not only that, he has even given you some tools to help in that remembering.  (continued…)


James 4:14b  —  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.


Time, like an ever rolling stream,
soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home.

–Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

1101) Not Yet Home

President Theodore Roosevelt addressing crowd from the back of a train in 1903


     After serving as a missionary in Africa for many years, Henry C. Morrison (1857-1942) became sick and had to return to America.  He happened to travel on the same ship as President Theodore Roosevelt, who was returning from a hunting expedition in Africa where he had shot a number of wild hogs.

     On the dock at New York thousands cheered.  Whom would you say they cheered?  Of course they cheered the killer of hogs, who was also president of the United States.  No one was interested in the man who had saved souls.  

     Then Morrison and Roosevelt traveled in the same train.  On the train station platform, there again were thousands cheering Roosevelt, and no one cheering Morrison.

     An evangelist is human.  Resentment seized Henry Morrison and he turned to God in anger, “I have come back home after all this time and service to the church and there is no one, not even one person here to welcome me home.”

     Then a still small voice came to Morrison and said, “But Henry, you’re not home yet.”

     Miserable are Christians who hope for recognition in this world for doing what is right.  Let us wait for our full reward in heaven.


I Corinthians 4:1-5  —  Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.  I do not even judge myself.  I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.  Then each one will receive commendation from God.

Hebrews 11:13  —  All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Revelation 14:12  —  This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

James 1:12  —  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Matthew 25:21  —  His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant…  Come and share your master’s happiness.”

II Timothy 4:8  —  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day— and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.


O Lord, grant us always, whatever the world may say, to content ourselves with what thou wilt say, and to care only for thine approval, which will outweigh all words.

–General Charles George Gordon, British Army  (1833-1885)


Keep us, Lord, so awake in the duties of our calling that we may sleep in thy peace and wake in thy glory.

–John Donne,  English poet and pastor  (1572-1631)

1018) Optimist or Pessimist?

By Randy Alcorn, January 22, 2016 blog at: http://www.epm.org 

     No Christian should be a pessimist.  We should be realists—focused on the actuality that we serve a sovereign and gracious God.  But because of the reality of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and His promises, biblical realism is, ultimately, optimism.

     If we build our lives on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ’s eternity-shaping redemptive work, we can be optimists.  Why?  Because even our most painful experience is but a temporary setback.  Our pain and suffering may or may not be relieved in this life, but will certainly be relieved in the next.  That is Christ’s promise—no more death, crying or pain; he will wipe away all our tears (Revelation 21:4).  Indeed, any other foundation is sand, not rock.  It will inevitably disappoint us

     Knowing that our suffering will be once and for all relieved and God will use it for our eternal good (Romans 8:28) doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it bearable.  So too does the promise, “The sufferings of this present time aren’t worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18); and, the profound truth that our present sufferings are light and momentary, but are achieving for us something weighty, glorious, and eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17).

     Locking our minds onto these truths allows joy in the midst of suffering.  Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you…  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23).  We who will one day enter into our Master’s happiness can front-load that happiness into our lives today.

     Paul said, “I rejoice in my sufferings” (Colossians 1:24), and James said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).  The apostles didn’t enjoy suffering, but they could rejoice in the midst of it, because they trusted their gracious God’s eternal plan.  They believed in His constant presence, that we are more than conquerors through Him, and nothing shall separate us from the love of Jesus (Romans 8).  They looked forward to Christ’s return, their bodily resurrection, and the redemption of God’s creation.

     Christ said to His disciples, who would suffer much, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  Our optimism isn’t “health and wealth gospel” wishful thinking which claims that God will spare us from suffering here and now.  Peter said, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).  Christ’s future glory, in which His children will participate, is the reason for our present rejoicing while suffering.

     As Christ’s followers, we know this world isn’t evolving into something better.  Still, even if bright spots seem few, we have much to be grateful for.  Thanking God and others feeds our perspective and helps us enter into our Master’s happiness today.  It then spills over to those around us.

     Understanding the biblical doctrine of Heaven and the resurrection will shift our center of gravity and radically change our perspective.  We don’t need a bucket list because we’ll live forever as part of a great adventure far better than anything here and now.  This realization is what the Bible calls “hope,” a word used six times in Romans 8:20-25, the passage in which Paul says that all creation longs for our resurrection and the world’s coming redemption.

     Don’t place your hope in favorable circumstances, which cannot last.  Place your hope in Christ and His promises.  Jesus promised He will return, raise us, and bring us to live with him and the Father in the place is preparing for us (John 14:1-6).

     I’m not optimistic about everything, but I am very optimistic about the future of all who trust Jesus.  Our glass is already half full and will one day, for God’s beloved children, be completely and eternally full to overflowing.

     King David wrote, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

     The night may seem long for God’s people, but the truth is that once morning comes, it will never end.  Neither will joy.  Every day will be better than the one before.  Jesus promises that we really will live happily ever after.


Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.  –Victor Hugo


Romans 5:5a  —  This hope does not disappoint us…

II Corinthians 4:16-18  —  So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Romans 8:18  —   I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

Luke 20:10b  —  (Jesus said), ” Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”


Psalm 30:1-5

I will exalt you, Lordfor you lifted me out of the depths...
Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

995) Those Were the Days

(from a previous post)



Hear it at:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyaTIXdN5fI

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And think of all the great things we would d0.

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the tavern
We’d smile at one another and we’d say…  Chorus…

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me?  Chorus…

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh, my friend, we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same.  Chorus…

     Those Were the Days is based on a Russian song written over 80 years ago.  It was translated by an Englishman Gene Raskin, and sung by Welsh singer Mary Hopkin.  It rose to #2 on the American charts in 1968.  I can still remember hearing that song at a party in 1968 and thinking, “Someday I will be looking back on these days, just like the songs says.”  Now I am.

     The song sings of the swift passage of years, the dying of dreams, and the sharing of memories with old friends.  You don’t have to be very old to begin relating to some of that.  I once heard of a 12-year-old saying how Christmas wasn’t as much fun as ‘when he was a kid.’  Twelve years old, and he was already missing the good old days.

     This is a sad song, and you have probably felt that same sadness.  She catches herself in the mirror; ‘in the glass I saw a strange reflection, was that lonely woman really me?’  I once saw the reflection of a chubby old guy in a store window, and then was unpleasantly surprised to realize it was me.  ‘Am I looking that old?,’ I wondered.  In the song she has abandoned her dreams and plans; ‘we lost our starry notions on the way.’  When you are in your 20’s you have big plans for the future, and then, before you know it, you find yourself thinking about how to wind it down.  You graduate from high school and think, ‘Oh boy, I am going to do this and that, and I am going to go here and there, and do a whole bunch of other stuff someday;” and then pretty soon it’s “Well, too late for this, and, no time for that, anymore.”

     We can all relate to this song because we all have the same basic frustration with time.   We never have enough of it, it goes by too fast, and, we are always so surprised by its passage.  “Was that two years ago already?,” we ask.  Or, “It still seems like 2015 was just beginning, and here it is 2016.”   Or on every birthday, “Wow, 61 years old!  Where did all that time go?”  We all know the feeling– even the 12 year olds.  We look back longingly on the good old days, we are irritated by the swift passage of time, and we have anxiety about the shrinking future ahead of us.  But WHY?, we should ask ourselves.  Why do we have such a problem with time?  Why does it surprise us and bother us and scare us?  Why can’t we just be content to live in the moment, like our dogs?  We fuss and fret about the past that is gone, and we are anxious and worried about a future we may not even be here for.  Why does our heart ache when we hear a song like Those Were the Days?

     The Biblical answer, which makes a lot of sense to me, is that we were not made for the confines of a few years.  We were not created to die at all.  And so our frustration with time is that our hearts were made for eternity, and we just cannot get used to the fact that time will end for us.  We can deny that fact, ignore it, and seek all sorts of diversions; but every once in a while the blinders come off and we grow sad.  We hear of a tragic accident, we lose a loved one, we get an unfavorable report from the doctor, or, we hear a song about the good old days; and we sigh and say “Is this all there is?– Can it really be going by so quickly?”

     In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve rebelled against God by eating from the one tree in the garden that was forbidden, and they were then cast out of the Garden.  But there was another, far better, tree in the garden from which to eat.  Genesis 2:9 says, “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  In verse 16 God says, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, (including that tree of life) but (God said) you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  But Adam and Eve did eat of that forbidden tree, and they were cast out of the garden with these words from God in 3:22:  “‘The man has now become like one of us knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take from the tree of life and live forever.’  So the Lord banished them…”  Did you get that?  God made us so we could eat from the tree of life and live forever.  We weren’t made for 80 years, we were made to live forever, so it is not going to feel right to live within such limits.

     Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.”  Eternity is in our hearts.  This longing points us beyond this limited life and this little world to the God that is above and beyond all time and space. We are made in the image of God, says Genesis; and we have eternity in our hearts, says Ecclesiastes; and that is why we can never reconcile ourselves to the swift passage of time.  The problem is we are homesick, homesick for Eden, a place we have never been, but the place for which our hearts were made.  And God invites us, by faith, into the new Eden he has prepared for us in heaven.  The tree of life from Genesis, the first book in the Bible, appears again in Revelation, the last book of the Bible.  It will be there that the eternal life we were created for will be restored.


Ecclesiastes 3:11  —  God has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.

Genesis 3:22-23  —  The Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

Revelation 2:7  —  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.


Teach us to number our days, O Lord, so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.  Amen.  (Psalm 90:12)

953) Guaranteed to Last (a)

Wells Fargo Center construction, Minneapolis, 1988


     Whenever I see the downtown Minneapolis skyline I think of my brother Larry.  When I was in college and he was in grade school, he would tell me of his dream of becoming an electrician.  Ten years later, he was an apprentice electrician, learning the trade by assisting in the wiring of houses.  In those days Larry would tell me of his dream of being a master electrician and working on skyscrapers.  A few years later, he had achieved that goal, and worked on some of the Twin Cities’ largest buildings.

     One day when Larry was working downtown I met him for lunch.  I arrived at the corner where he told me to meet him, and I looked up and saw the cranes and the half-finished building already reaching far up into the sky.  I also saw Larry waving as he was coming down the side of the building in an open-sided construction elevator.  When he got down, he was very excited to tell me about the construction of a skyscraper; about all the work, all the materials, and all the steps that went into it.  He was proud to be a part of it, and eager to talk about it.  I was impressed by the planning and knowledge and precision that went into such a massive structure, and, I was impressed by the strength of the end result.  Not even a tornado could move it, he said.  Windows might break, but the building would stand firm.

     In the first verse of Mark 13 the disciples were enthusiastically pointing out the wonders of the Jerusalem skyline to Jesus.  “Look Teacher,” they said, “what massive stones and what magnificent buildings!”  The main building they were admiring was the Temple, which was indeed a wonder of the ancient world.  Scholars today still do not fully understand how such a massive structure was built with the technology then available.  Huge stones were brought in from great distances and then lifted to incredible heights.  It would be a huge undertaking even today.  Therefore, the disciples were walking around in amazement and admiration.

Model of Herod’s Temple

     But Jesus did not seem to be impressed.  After all, it was he who, with the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit created the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls.  Was he going to be impressed by a little pile of building blocks like that?  That was like child’s play to him.  He could have put that whole temple into one small side valley in the Grand Canyon.  And not only was he not impressed, he told the disciples that it was not going to last.  In the very next verse Jesus said to them, “The time will come when not one stone will be left on another.”  And that great temple which so impressed the disciples that day, was within 35 years, almost completely leveled by the Romans.

     I will never again read this text without thinking about the 9-11 attack on America.  The Twin Towers of the New York World Trade Center were indeed among the most impressive structures of the modern world, each more than twice as high as the huge and strong buildings Larry worked on in Minneapolis.  Yet, in less than 90 minutes they were reduced to a pile of rubble.  And on that day many people were thinking about the very thing that Jesus went on to talk about in the rest of this chapter– the end of the world.  “Teacher,” the disciples asked, understanding for once what Jesus was getting at, “When will these things happen, and what sign will there be that they are about to take place?”

     Then followed Jesus’ famous and often misunderstood sayings about nation against nation and wars and earthquakes and famines and all kinds of other fearful and great signs from heaven.  Every age since Jesus has had all of those things, and every age since Jesus, including our own, has had many people saying, “See, the end of the world is just around the corner.”  Someday, somebody will be right, but in the meantime, I’m hoping those in Washington will keep working to keep the Social Security system solvent, because a lot of people might need to be drawing on it before the end comes.  (continued…)


Mark 13:1  —  As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher!  What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings!”

Mark 13:2  —  “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus.  “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Mark 13:32  —  (Jesus said), “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”


O Christ, you are the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to you, and all ages; to you be the glory and the power, through every age, forever and ever.  Amen.

640) Rust and Worms

     From Cotton Patch Sermons, by Clarence Jordan (1912-1969), pages 80-81.

     My daughter Eleanor used to be interested in Indian lore, and our farm is located on what was a former campground of an old tribe of Indians called the Cheehaws.  We found a lot of artifacts of various kinds there and Eleanor had always been wanting to find some burial ground.  One day, way down in the swamp, we were walking around and came upon a great mound of earth.  She got all excited, and I did too, and we ran to the house and got our picks and shovels and started excavating.  We had read that the Cheehaws always buried their dead near a creek.  This was near the creek, and it was a fairly small mound, but we were sure it would have some tremendous artifacts in it.  So we started digging.  We were carefully pulling things away, and finally, after a little while, her pick hit something hard.  I knew we had struck pay dirt then, and we went over and started brushing the dirt away.  The artifact had a curving effect to it, and we carefully unearthed it– and do you know what it was?  It was an old fender to a Model T automobile.  

      I do not know how those Indians get that Model T Ford way down there.

     The tin on that old tin lizzy was all eaten away.  Rust had gotten that.  But there was the big iron beam that outlined it enough to tell what it was.  And as I sat there (Eleanor was ready to cry at those Indians burying something like that) I got to thinking.  You know, there was a time when that old Model T fender was a pretty nice thing.  It was fastened to a nice swank automobile.  And I imagined that it was owned by some college kid, the only one of its kind on the campus.  And he would flit around all over the campus with the prettiest girl in the class by his side, going at the break-neck speed of twenty miles an hour.  He was the envy of all his peers.  

     Years passed.  The rust had eaten his fender and I presume the worms had eaten him.  

     Sooner or later, the rust and worms are going to get it all.   


Job 21:23-26  —  One person dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease, well nourished in body, bones rich with marrow.  Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.  Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both.

Matthew 6:19-21  —  (Jesus said), “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:  Increase upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

–Thomas Cranmer  (1489-1556)

617) Live for the Line

     By Randy Alcorn’s December 17, 2014 blog at:  www.epm.org

     Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23).  He makes it clear that our vision is faulty.  We need His help to see our life through different eyes—eyes focused on the eternal.  Physical vision is used here as a metaphor for spiritual vision, or perspective—the way we look at life.

     As believers in Christ, our faith gives us perspective.  It tells us that this life is the preface—not the book.  It’s the preliminaries—not the main event.  It’s the tune-up—not the concert.

     Just prior to this, in Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus speaks about storing up treasures in Heaven, not earth… something that requires an eternal perspective.  I think of our lives in terms of a dot and a line, signifying two phases.  Our present life on earth is the dot.  It begins.  It ends.  It’s brief.  However, from the dot, a line extends that goes on forever.  That line is eternity, which Christians will spend in heaven.  Right now we’re living in the dot.  But what are we living for?  The shortsighted person lives for the dot.  The person with perspective lives for the line.

     That’s the heart behind Eternal Perspective Ministries:  investing in the things that will last for eternity. To learn more about living for the line, not the dot, watch this 90 second video:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/112192201″>Live for the Line</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/randyalcorn”>Randy Alcorn</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Matthew 6:19-21  —  (Jesus said), “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

John 10:27-28  —  (Jesus said), “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

II Corinthians 4:16-18  —   Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Galatians 6:7-9  —  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good,for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

I John 5:13  —  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.


O Thou Creator of all things that are, I lift up my heart in gratitude to Thee for this day’s happiness:

For the mere joy of living;
For all the sights and sounds around me;
For the sweet peace of the country and the pleasant bustle of the town;
For all things bright and beautiful and happy;
For friendship and good company;
For work to perform and the skill and strength to perform it;
For a time to play when the day’s work was done, and for health and a glad heart to enjoy it.

Yet let me never think, O eternal Father, that I am here to stay.  Let me still remember that I am a stranger and pilgrim on the earth.  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.  Preserve me by Thy grace, good Lord, from so losing myself in the joys of earth that I may have no longing left for the purer joys of heaven.  Let not the happiness of this day become a snare to my too worldly heart.  And if, instead of happiness, I have to-day suffered any disappointment or defeat, if there has been any sorrow where I had hoped for joy, or sickness where I had looked for health, give me grace to accept it from Thy hand as a loving reminder that this is not my home.

I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast so set eternity within my heart that no earthly thing can ever, satisfy me wholly.  I thank Thee that every present joy is so mixed with sadness and unrest as to lead my mind upwards to the contemplation of a more perfect blessedness.  And above all I thank Thee for the sure hope and promise of an endless life which Thou hast given me in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

–John Baillie, Diary of Private Prayer, Day 21/Evening

469) Keeping an Eternal Perspective

Adapted from Randy Alcorn’s July 18, 2014 blog at:  http://www.epm.org

     Peter encouraged Christians to find joy by focusing not on the trial that will go on only “a little while” but on their heavenly inheritance that will never perish.  As missionary martyr Jim Elliot put it, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  Why put all our effort into that which has no lasting value?  Why put all our hope into that which in the end will not matter?

     God tells us, “We have a priceless inheritance; an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay” (1 Peter 1:4).

     In times of suffering, we must remember what is awaiting us in eternity with Christ.  Romans 8:18 says, “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”  II Corinthians 4:17 promises, “Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”

     Suppose I offer you $1,000 to spend today however you want.  Not a bad deal.  But suppose I give you a choice– you can either have that $1,000 today, or you can have $10 million if you’ll wait one year, and then $10 million more every year thereafter.  What will you choose?  Only a fool would take the $1,000 today.

     A year might seem a long time to wait for the payoff.  But after it passes, wouldn’t you be grateful you waited?  Likewise, won’t we be far more grateful in Heaven that we chose to forego earthly treasures in order to enjoy forever the treasures we sent ahead?

     This is delayed gratification.  Soldiers, athletes, and farmers all know that long-­term benefits justify short-term sacrifices (2 Timothy 2:3-6).  The same principle applies to those who live in light of eternity.  Only when we adopt an eternal perspective will we eagerly follow our Lord’s command to devote our brief lives on Earth to the pursuit of eternal treasure.


2 Corinthians 4:17-18  —  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

1 Peter 1:3-6  —  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 

Romans 8:18  —   I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

1 Corinthians 2:9  —  But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.


Father, help us to remember in the course of this day, when so much of our work and planning is intended for this life only, that we must also fix our eyes on the life yet to come.  May that which we say, think and do reflect kingdom principles that store up treasures for us in our heavenly kingdom even while we serve here below.  We anxiously await that day when we receive the crown of righteousness reserved for those who have fought the good fight, finished the race, remained true to the faith, and whose greatest longing is for the glorious appearing of Christ.  Amen.

–From:   http://www.adailyprayer.wordpress.com