A Kindness Impacting Eternity

 

Middle class in 1954 meant something different than it does currently. It meant that the town grocer might live two doors down from a Ph.D. in Chemistry who has worked on the Manhattan Project. That same grocer might live across the street from a mechanic and in the same block as the family doctor, for whom house calls would be a short walk with his little black bag. A single mom, a tragic oddity in 1954, lived next door to the doctor and across the street from a World War 2 hero who was now Adjutant General of the State Air National Guard.
In the Spring of 1954 that neighborhood learned that the grocer’s wife, pregnant with their second son, was diagnosed with melanoma. After the baby was born, the grocer was determined not to lose another wife to cancer, so he took this, his second wife to the best cancer hospital in the world, Sloan-Kettering in New York City. The two sons, the infant and the four-year-old spent that summer with relatives while doctors, the grocer, and the wife tried desperately to save her life. But on the first day of Fall, she passed away. The infant stayed with relatives while the four-year-old came back to live with his father.
God, in His great mercy, caused an emotional coma to fall over that older boy and he remembered almost nothing for the next eighteen months. But sometime during that time of refuge from the world, the Fox twins came into his life. They were his age and in the years to follow they became fast friends. Through most of their elementary school, the three played together and went to birthday parties together. But toward the end of their fifth-grade year, the Foxes moved away to Washington, D.C. Their father, the World War 2 hero and Adjutant General of the Air National Guard had rejoined the regular Army and was to become an administrator of the Selective Service System—the military draft—at the Pentagon.
The grocer’s son was also on a different trajectory. Having begun band, he was passionate about music and became quite proficient. By now the reader has surmised that I am that grocers son. While I was in college as a music major the Selective Service System instituted a lottery system for young men to be drafted into the military. I drew a low number, meaning that I would almost certainly be drafted and go to Viet Nam to fight in the war there. But I found out that there was an opening in the U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C., so I auditioned and was accepted into that elite organization. Of course, Army Basic Training—boot camp—came first. Amazingly, near the end of Basic Training, I contracted the measles and was confined to the base hospital. Each day the nurse took my temperature and each day I was told I could not go back to my company until I had no fever. If I was in the hospital longer than 5 days, I would be “recycled”, that is, assigned to another Basic Training company. The Army would no longer be obligated to honor the contract sending me to the Band. They could send me anywhere they wished. Finally, on the fifth day, I was released. I graduated from Basic Training and was transferred to Ft. Myer, Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C. where my MOS was “bandsman.”
Shortly after arriving in the D.C. area I got a call from my old friend, Neill Fox, one of the twins. Could I come out to his parents’ house in Maryland for homemade ice cream? When I got there General Fox gave me, an enlisted man, a hearty welcome as he cranked the ice cream. He proceeded to tell me about his calls to the Army Band while I was in Basic Training. The Band, in turn, would call my Basic Training Company in South Carolina. Some Pentagon general was asking about one of the privates in Delta Company. I am convinced that I was released from the hospital perhaps a little early because that general was looking for me in Washington D.C.
Because of General Fox’s kindness, I spent 3 years in Washington, D.C. in the Army Band. In D.C. I met another old friend who recommended me for a job at a summer camp when I separated from the Army. At that summer camp, I met the man who led me to faith in Jesus Christ and I met the woman who would become my wife.
But I have not told of General Fox’s greatest kindness. It was the act that first established his relationship with my family and my relationship with his sons. When my mother was gravely ill in New York City in 1954 she wanted to come home to West Virginia to die. She was too ill to fly commercially, so General Fox, who lived in our neighborhood, requisitioned an airplane from the West Virginia Air National Guard to fly to New York and bring her and my father home.
From the kindness of a war hero, to his oversight of my time in Basic Training, to my time in D.C. where I met a friend who recommended me for a job at which I would meet my future wife and the man who would lead me to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that character quality of kindness has loomed large in my life. It has impacted my eternity and all those who I have been able to lead to faith in Christ.

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Vestiges of Eden–Fafner

Throughout my life, at various times I have enjoyed running. Some years ago–we’ll call it 2005 or 2006–I was running one day when a little dog decided he would join in the fun. This little dog looked like he had been designed by Picasso. He had the head and tail of a Beagle, the legs and color of a Dachshund, and the bone structure of a small English Bulldog. But he loved to run and so did I. Morning after morning he would join me for my run. Even though he seemed to “belong” to a certain house along my route, he was a street kid. Sometimes he would show up with a bloody ear from a fight, or a scrape on some other part of his body.  One day he came out with a limp, gingerly holding up one of his back legs. But it hardly slowed him down. He seemed to enjoy running with me just as much as before.

But after a week or two, I noticed that the limp was not getting better. I also noticed that at the end of my runs this little dog would hang around my house instead of going back to his own. Then I made the fateful mistake. I gave this little hotdog a hotdog. After discussing it with my wife, I went to the house where the dog lived and asked the owners if they would be willing for me to adopt the little guy. They consented and I took him to the veterinarian where his dislocated hip was set and he was neutered.

When he got home, I thought this epic little animal needed an epic name. Fafner it was. Fafner was a dwarf/giant/dragon in operas by Richard Wagner, and this dog had the heart befitting his new name. But, as with all the living, that dragon heart became diseased as Fafner grew old, and a few days ago we had to have our little buddy euthanized.

Our wonderful veterinarian told us, in keeping with the policy of the clinic for which he works, that for a fee we could have Fafner’s cremated remains put in an urn and sent back to us. We respectfully declined. We have become an increasingly animal-centered, pet-centered culture. But, according to brittanica.com, humans have had pets (the first pets indeed seem to have been dogs) since the earliest recorded civilization in Mesopotamia. By 2000 BC horses were used for chariot battles, and it is well known that by around 1600 BC, cats were kept as pets in Egypt.

As I was showing affection to our other dog, I wondered what it was that has made this almost instinctive bond between humans and certain animals. I believe that we have been given a little glimpse of what life was like for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. God said that man was to “rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So part of God’s mandate to man was to rule the animals. That meant to domesticate some and use them for man’s purposes. There was evidently some interaction between humans and animals. When the serpent came to Eve, it was evidently not unusual that there was a conversation between them. (Incidentally, it should be noticed that although the woman was to have authority over the serpent, it was the serpent who was directing the diabolical discussion.)

The bond that humans have with their pets in all likelihood had its roots in Eden. But, as the evil one was able to convince Eve that she was not a queen, but a servant, we in 21st century Western culture tend to treat our pets as equals if not superior to us. Man was to exercise benevolent dominion over the earth, but that has been flipped.

The day is coming when King Jesus will rule on earth, and because He is sovereign, and because death itself will be defeated, right relationship between those who follow Him and the animal kingdom will be restored.

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.
The cow will graze near the bear.
The cub and the calf will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,
for as the waters fill the sea,
so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD.  Isaiah 11:6-9

So as I observe the little path that Fafner wore in our back yard begin to fill in with grass, I see another day closer to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, when all relationships will be made right.

There Is No Christian Argument Against Overturning Roe v Wade

Must read!

Letter & Liturgy

The news that Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy will retire next month has immediately conjured up images of a pro-life judge’s taking his place and becoming the crucial fifth piece to strike down Roe v. Wade, the Court’s 1973 affirmation of a universal right to abortion. For pro-life activists and observers, this is a historic opportunity to challenge the bloodiest injustice in America for the past 50 years. While overturning Roe would not itself criminalize abortion, it would blow away the barrier against state-based laws and almost certainly result in at least 20 states outlawing abortion in most circumstances. All it takes is five justices to intervene on behalf of the lives of millions of unborn Americans. It is very close.

It is close because Donald Trump won an astonishing election the same year that Justice Antonin Scalia astonishingly died, denying the Democratic Party an opportunity to solidify Roe via…

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Was Jesus the First Church Planter?

It is so important to make sure when we look at the scriptures that we are drawing out truths that are actually there. When a teacher of God’s word takes a presupposition–a template if you will, and tries to whittle orthodox Bible doctrine to fit into that template, it is called eisegesis. The example of this that I have heard most recently, and that prompted this post is that Jesus was the first church planter, that the church existed in the gospels and that Jesus was right there bringing people into the church. “If you teach this,” this teacher said, “people will stone you.” Now, this is a dangerous statement. It creates us versus them mentality in the church and sets adherents to this incorrect teaching up to consider themselves martyrs. It hardens them to correction, a correction I intend to make in this post, if nowhere else.

Was Jesus Himself the first church planter?

Jesus was not the first church planter. He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 15:24). He came with an offer of the Kingdom to the nation of Israel. He told the woman at the well in John 4 “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), and in Galatians 4:4-5, Paul says, “Christ was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law”. Jesus came in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. When Jesus entered Jerusalem “riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9) He was offering Himself as King to Israel. And when Jesus gave the parable of the sower in Luke 8, when Peter made his great confession in Luke 9, and when Jesus sent the seventy-two out in Luke 10, He is using Kingdom language. The call is to advance His Kingdom. This is why Jesus could condemn entire towns for rejecting the message of the Kingdom, “‘The kingdom of God has come near you.’” (Luke 10:9b). Church planters have neither the call nor the authority to condemn entire towns. When the high priest tore his garments in Matthew 26:65, the human priesthood ended (Lev. 21:10). When the veil of the Temple was rent, the Kingdom was temporarily torn from Israel and placed on “hold”.

The New Testament church is not in the gospels. Jesus twice uses the word that we translate “church”, ἐκκλησία, or ekklēsia. The word, in its literal sense, means “an assembly.” First, He uses it in Matthew 16:18 when He tells Peter that He will build His church on Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. This ekklesia is the coming New Testament church. The other use is only two chapters later in Matthew 18:17. In speaking of discipline, our Lord tells His disciples that if a sinning brother will not listen to two or three who rebuke him, “Tell it to the church”. Here, ekklēsia almost certainly means an assembly.

When did the church begin?

The church did not begin when Jesus was born. It did not start when Jesus began His public ministry, and it certainly didn’t begin when God chose Israel in the Old Testament and worked in and through that covenant people. The church began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

When we read Ephesians 2:11-3:13, it is clear that the church began after the cross. This overarching theme of this passage is that those who were near to God and those who were far from God have become one people, one body in the family of God.

         Gentiles were those who were far from God. (V. 12) Here are the factors of their lamentable position: 1) without Christ, 2) excluded from the citizenship of Israel, 3) foreigners to the covenants of promise (Abrahamic Covenant), 4) without hope, 5) without God in the world. The Gentiles were brought near by the blood of Christ. (v. 13). After the cross. But the Jews, who were near to God were still not saved. They were not “in Christ” until after the cross when individuals (like individual Gentiles) by faith trusted Christ.

Vv. 14-15 of this Ephesians 2 passage make it clear that at the cross Jesus became peace for all who would trust Him. He tore down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. He made the law (Mosaic law) of no effect (thus the end of the priesthood when the high priest tore his garment-Leviticus 21:10), “so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death” (v. 16). All these things happened at the cross. The language used is that of a family, not a kingdom. “So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household (oikeios)” (v. 19).

But why is this not using the word “church”? Were there not groups that existed in family-like relationships in the gospels? Could this not just be speaking of another of those family-like groups, but now including Gentiles? No, this is speaking of the church. In Ephesians 3:1-13 we have three references to the “mystery”. In scripture, a mystery is an open secret. It is something that was not revealed in the Old Testament but is now revealed in the New Testament. This mystery is also called “the mystery of Christ”. This mystery is described as the “multifaceted wisdom of God” that is now manifested through the church. (V. 10).

Some may say that in the gospels we have a shadow of the church…a prototype. I would argue that God has done something entirely new and entirely different in the church. We see this in Ephesians 3:5. “which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;”  There have been two different understandings of the phrase, “as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.” One understanding says that “as” is a comparison of degree. That is, adherents of this understanding say that the mystery of the church was partially revealed in the Old Testament, but is now fully revealed in the New Testament. The other understanding says that “as” is a comparison of kind. No revelation was given in the OT, but it is now fully revealed in the NT. Hoehner gives five reasons why the latter is the better understanding.*

  1. Though the restrictive sense for “as” is more common, the descriptive sense is used sometimes (Acts 2:15 for example.)
  2. The context supports this view for Paul wrote that this mystery was hidden in the past (Eph. 3:9)
  3. Colossians 1:26, parallel to Eph. 3:5, does not use the comparative adverb “as” but clearly states that the mystery was “kept hidden for ages…but is now” made manifest to the saints.
  4. The position of the temporal adverb “now” agrees with Colossians 1:26 in marking the contrast between the two Ages. In the past the mystery was not known but “now” it is.
  5. “Revealed” means “to uncover or unveil” something that has previously been completely covered or hidden. Therefore it would be wrong to say the mystery was partially uncovered in the Old Testament.

What or who is the church

The church, sometimes called “the universal church” or “the catholic (small ‘c’) church”, is made up of every person since the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin. (Acts 8:3; 9:31, for example). The local church is an extension of the universal church and is a specific body of believers who 1) meet together on a regular basis for fellowship 2) study the Word of God together 3) pray together 4) take Communion together 5) practice believer’s baptism 6) share their material wealth with one another 7) have Biblically qualified leadership. (Acts 2:41-47)

Nowhere in the scripture is a building referred to as the church except in the case of Eph. 2:19-22 where Paul is obviously using a metaphor. Churches are sometimes said to meet in houses (Philemon 2 for example), but the building itself is not the church. People are the church.

Why is this important? A summary

In January 2018 I had the privilege of working in a South Sudanese refugee camp in Uganda. My work was to give the gospel, disciple believers, and plant churches. The training that our team received prior to going to Africa was hazy on the difference in a small group and a local church. Nearly all our training came from the gospels and the words “group” and “church” were used interchangeably. (I have even heard it erroneously stated that when Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him and met with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, He was having church!) The local church is, by definition, an extension of the Universal Church, which began after the cross. So when we were speaking to an established church in a Nuer refugee village and one of my team members said, “you can all establish churches, you can all be pastors”, this created tremendous problems. It seems that an elder of this local church was present and he happened to also be THE village elder. He thought we were there to take people away from his church to start new churches. During our time there, we were not able to repair the damage that had been done when this dear brother who had suffered so much as a refugee thought these North American brothers were now coming to steal people from their village church.

Finally, though Jesus was not a church planter, Jesus is the head of the body, the Church. He is the bridegroom. Just as there can be no bride without the groom, just as there can be no operative body without the head, there can be no church without Christ at the center. There is no attempt to remove Christ from the church in saying that Jesus was not a church planter. He was not a planter. He is the Savior of the church. He is the redeemer of the church. He is the great High Priest of the church. He is the shepherd of the church. He is the firstborn among many brethren, our Advocate, our Mediator. And by His Great Commission and promise to be with His church in His authority, WE are to become church planters.

 

*Harold W. Hoehner, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, published by Victor Books in 1983, says that this point is important because when we come to OT passages such as Isaiah 2:1-4 and Isaiah 61:5-6, if we understand the Ephesians 3:5 passage as being a comparison of degree, we will see Gentiles and Jews together, the church,  in those scriptures. However, scriptures in Isaiah speak of the Millennium, not the church. (p. 629)

    

A Sheep’s Thankfulness

On Thanksgiving, the animal we think of is the turkey. Today, however, I am thinking of sheep. We are often characterized as sheep in God’s Word, the Bible. And two of the most beautiful and comforting passages in the Bible are Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Psalm, and John 10 where the Lord Jesus Christ characterizes Himself as the Good Shepherd.

I’m looking at Psalm 23 today.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Thank You, God, for supplying all I need.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. Thank You for supplying this sheep’s “manna” which never perishes.Thank You for the living water, which is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

He restores my soul: He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. (Thank You, Shepherd, for bringing about restoration, repentance, a turning, in my life. Thank You for imparting Christ’s righteousness to me. I have none of my own. Thank You for keeping me in that path, in those “ruts” in the practical righteousness of everyday life…(ruts of righteousness) according to Your righteous character.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.  Thank You that, even though my race brought about death, and it is my nature to fear it, fear is gone. Christ conquered death for me, and He is with me always, even to the end of the age. Thank You for rescuing and protecting me.

Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Thank you for the abundance of Your grace to me, even in the presence of a world that is hostile toward faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Thank You for your great faithfulness to me; that I shall abide with the One that saves, shelters, satisfies, eternally.

Colombia Notes 3

We had a great day yesterday. Went to Ilana’s church via Transmilenio (the bus system here, roughly equivalent to the subway system in New York City.) Someone told us that riding the bus here was like getting a full body massage. That was certainly the case! Like the NYC subway, just when you think they couldn’t possibly squeeze another person aboard, five more squeeze in! From what I could understand, and from what Ilana translated for us, it was a wonderful worship service. As the whole service was focused on God’s grace (“solo gracia”) we sang songs of His Amazing Grace. It was obvious to me that my Colombian brethren were as in awe as I was that God’s amazing grace saved a wretch (not a well known nor popular word these days) like me and like them. The pastor spoke of God’s grace in revealing Himself through His Son and through His word. The grace of a perfectly holy God condescending to overturn the catastrophe of the Fall for all who would come in His one and only Way.

     After church we went to a marketplace called Usaquen. Very colorful and very fun. Got to know more of Ilana’s friends, colleagues, and, at the church, a couple of her little students. Many thanks to Ilana for being such a wonderful hostess this week. Thanks to Sarah and Ed Trussel (Ilana’s principal and husband) for allowing us to crash at their house nightly. It has been a great time!

Ilana and her teacher’s aid, Monica, after church.

Colombian Notes 2, 2017

Bogotá is like no place I have ever been. Because it is only 4° north of the equator, the sun rises and sets within a few minutes of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm year round. Because Bogotá is at 8200 feet above sea level, it is temperate year round…really only one season. One can expect some rain and some sunshine nearly every day. 

     We have enjoyed our time here with Ilana and her roommates and colleagues. Though “coffee country” is a 5-hour bus ride away and we will not get there on this trip, I have felt it my responsibility to drink more coffee than usual in this, the coffee capital of the Western Hemisphere. 

We went to the beautiful mountain that overlooks Bogotá, Monserrate, yesterday. Clear, clean air at 10,400 feet! Then we went down to downtown Bogotá, where the most desperate and poverty-stricken live. What serious needs.

Another interesting thing about Bogotá is the accent. Even though I am not a Spanish speaker, I can hear the accent as being different from Mexican Spanish. For instance, “calle”—“street” in Spanish—pronounced in English “ca-yay.” But here it is pronounced “ca-zhay.” All double “l” sounds are “zh”. 

All in all, a fascinating experience!


Here is “Lama” with a “Zhama”!

Colombian Notes, 2017

OCTOBER 10, 2017

      We flew in to Bogota last night and were met at the airport by Ilana and her two roommates, Amy and Allie. They are really sweet girls and God blessed Ilana by giving her two wonderful roommates who are also good friends. These young women are serious Christ-followers who are called to teach children at El Camino Academy. Amy teaches kindergarten, Ilana teaches 2nd grade, and Allie teaches 6th grade. 

      Even though schools across Colombia are closed this week, ECA had teacher training yesterday and today. Pat and I sat in on some of the training today. It was very good. We had an opportunity to meet some of the other teachers, administrators, and aids at the Academy and are impressed with the level of commitment to the gospel and to the highest standards of education here. We had a Colombian specialty, hot chocolate and arepas. Really amazing!

Bogota is situated at about 8200 feet of elevation and our first impression is that it seems to have a somewhat European flavor. While public transportation seems to be very good, so far it has been all taxi and Uber. More to come soon.

Warning!

We live in a rural area of Hays County in the Texas Hill Country. Texas State University, where I taught for 33 years, is nine miles away and I used to drive daily into San Marcos to go to work. Over the years I saw changes to the road itself and in drivers on the road.  For instance, the county straightened the road in several places. In the old days, it was hard to break the speed limit without running off the road (as at least one of my students found out!) Further, as Texas State University has grown exponentially, more and more 19-to-25-year-olds have moved out our way with the result that traffic moves faster than it should. (OK, maybe more faculty members too!)  Recently, the Hays County Sheriff’s office got very creative with speed control. They parked a well-marked police car with a dummy behind the steering wheel along the road. I remember the first day the car was parked on Lime Kiln Road. Passing cars would flash their lights at me in that universally recognized semaphore, “slow down, police car ahead!” Sure enough, I reflexively tapped the brakes (though I wasn’t speeding!) When I noticed that the same car was there later that day, and the next, and the next, I was onto them. I even slowed down enough to admire the dummy’s police uniform. They moved the car to a couple of different locations, including, most recently, the volunteer fire station just a couple of miles from our house! I laughed and said to my wife, “Just wait, one of these days a real police officer will be in that car!”

Well, they did me one better. Today as we were on our way home from church, there was our police car in the same location…still with the dummy behind the wheel. But as I looked more closely, hiding close by was an identically marked car, with a real police officer in it! No doubt, some of our neighbors got a real surprise as they whizzed by the “dummy car” at 55mph in a 40 mph zone and then heard a siren and saw lights behind them from an identically marked car. They became desensitized to the warning. This mistake could cost a driver a speeding ticket.

But recently in the news, the mistake of not heeding a warning was much, much more costly. On September 19, 1985, Central Mexico was pummelled with an earthquake of historic proportions. 5000 bodies were recovered in Mexico City, and it is estimated that at least 5000 more were never recovered. Since then many precautions have gone into place, from early warning systems to more stringent building codes. Additionally, each year on September 19, Mexico City conducts earthquake drills. This year on September 19, the drill was barely over when the sirens began wailing again. “Oh, it must be a malfunction”, some people thought, barely back to their homes or workplaces. Others, with a heightened sense of earthquake awareness because of the drill, were out of their buildings even more quickly than they otherwise would have been. And it was a good thing. This time it was a slightly smaller, but still deadly earthquake–more buildings collapsed, more people killed. How many of those killed thought they did not need to vacate their buildings, assuming the alarm system had simply failed? We will never know how many died simply because they ignored the warning designed to save their lives.

The Bible is full of warnings about the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself warned people. The 24th chapter of the gospel according to Matthew is full of warnings from the mouth of the Savior himself to be ready for His return. “But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:43-44) Those who have believed in Christ alone as the Propitiation for sin are clothed in His righteousness and ready for His return. (Romans 5:10). Jesus spoke of this when He said, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” (John 5:24).

Yet many who read this will not heed the warning of the above paragraph. As many said of the police car, “Oh, this has been there for ages”. We know what this is.” They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” (2 Peter 3:4). When the earthquake alarm sounds and it is not a drill, will Jesus return and find you trusting in a righteousness of your own before a perfect and holy God?

Deadly.

Warning!

We live in a rural area of Hays County in the Texas Hill Country. Texas State University, where I taught for 33 years, is nine miles away and I used to drive daily into San Marcos to go to work. Over the years I saw changes to the road itself and in drivers on the road.  For instance, the county straightened the road in several places. In the old days, it was hard to break the speed limit without running off the road (as at least one of my students found out!) Further, as Texas State University has grown exponentially, more and more 19-to-25-year-olds have moved out our way with the result that traffic moves faster than it should. (OK, maybe more faculty members too!)  Recently, the Hays County Sheriff’s office got very creative with speed control. They parked a well-marked police car with a dummy behind the steering wheel along the road. I remember the first day the car was parked on Lime Kiln Road. Passing cars would flash their lights at me in that universally recognized semaphore, “slow down, police car ahead!” Sure enough, I reflexively tapped the brakes (though I wasn’t speeding!) When I noticed that the same car was there later that day, and the next, and the next, I was onto them. I even slowed down enough to admire the dummy’s police uniform. They moved the car to a couple of different locations, including, most recently, the volunteer fire station just a couple of miles from our house! I laughed and said to my wife, “Just wait, one of these days a real police officer will be in that car!”

Well, they did me one better. Today as we were on our way home from church, there was our police car in the same location…still with the dummy behind the wheel. But as I looked more closely, hiding close by was an identically marked car, with a real police officer in it! No doubt, some of our neighbors got a real surprise as they whizzed by the “dummy car” at 55mph in a 40 mph zone and then heard a siren and saw lights behind them from an identically marked car. They became desensitized to the warning. This mistake could cost a driver a speeding ticket.

But recently in the news, the mistake of not heeding a warning was much, much more costly. On September 19, 1985, Central Mexico was pummelled with an earthquake of historic proportions. 5000 bodies were recovered in Mexico City, and it is estimated that at least 5000 more were never recovered. Since then many precautions have gone into place, from early warning systems to more stringent building codes. Additionally, each year on September 19, Mexico City conducts earthquake drills. This year on September 19, the drill was barely over when the sirens began wailing again. “Oh, it must be a malfunction”, some people thought, barely back to their homes or workplaces. Others, with a heightened sense of earthquake awareness because of the drill, were out of their buildings even more quickly than they otherwise would have been. And it was a good thing. This time it was a slightly smaller, but still deadly earthquake–more buildings collapsed, more people killed. How many of those killed thought they did not need to vacate their buildings, assuming the alarm system had simply failed? We will never know how many died simply because they ignored the warning designed to save their lives.

The Bible is full of warnings about the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself warned people. The 24th chapter of the gospel according to Matthew is full of warnings from the mouth of the Savior himself to be ready for His return. “But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:43-44) Those who have believed in Christ alone as the Propitiation for sin are clothed in His righteousness and ready for His return. (Romans 5:10). Jesus spoke of this when He said, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” (John 5:24).

Yet many who read this will not heed the warning of the above paragraph. As many said of the police car, “Oh, this has been there for ages”. We know what this is.” They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” (2 Peter 3:4). When the earthquake alarm sounds and it is not a drill, will Jesus return and find you trusting in a righteousness of your own before a perfect and holy God?

Deadly.