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HISTORY IS STORY OF UNFORSEEN
In the introduction to his A History of Europe, H.A.L. Fisher writes:
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discovered in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. But these harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following another, as wave follows upon wave--there can be no generalization. There is only one safe rule for the historian--that he should recognize in the development of human destiny the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
— Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations —
A few years ago there was a TV show called Early Edition. The main character in this program would receive a paper every day that showed what was going to happen the next day. He would then set out to correct the bad things before they happened. Through a series of events in which he often put himself in harms way he would accomplish his destiny.
If we as Christians new something bad was going to happen to someone we would try to prevent it – wouldn’t we? We know hell is real and certain for everyone who doesn’t know Jesus, so let’s gather in and pray for God to motivate us like the rich man to share the truth.
TALE OF TWO KINGS
Two of the greatest love stories ever told. The one, at Camelot; the other, at Calvary. Two of the noblest kings ever to live. The one, King Arthur; the other, King of the Jews. The one is adorned with a jeweled crown; the other, with a crown of thorns.
The comparisons and contrasts between Camelot and Calvary are many, but one scene from Camelot illustrates a great theological dilemma that only the cross could resolve.
Prior to His appointment with destiny on the brow of that fateful hill, Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Understand, on an emotional level, that this is the pleading of a son to his father. If your child came to you in such agony, wouldn’t you do everything within your power to grant the request?
But this Father, this time, didn’t respond as expected. And that’s the theological rub. He denied the request of His Son, His only Son, His beloved Son. In Gethsemane, that Son was asking:
"Is there no other way?"
The Son is betrayed, arrested, deserted, denied, beaten, tried, mocked, and finally crucified. Tacitly, the Father answers:
"No, there is no other way."
But why? Why was there no other way?
We find the answer to that question in a scene from Camelot, where the adulterous relationship between Queen Guenevere and Arthur’s most trusted knight, Sir Lancelot, has divided the Round Table. When the scheming Mordred catches them in a clandestine encounter, Lancelot escapes. Guenevere is not so fortunate. She faces a trial. The jury finds her guilty and sentences her to the flame.
As the day of execution nears, people come from miles around with one question in their minds: Would the king let her die?
Mordred gleefully captures the complexity of Arthur’s predicament:
Arthur! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let her die, your life is over;
Let her live, your life’s a fraud.
Which will it be, Arthur?
Do you kill the queen or kill the law?
Tragically but resolutely, Arthur decides: "Treason has been committed! The jury has ruled! Let justice be done!"
High from the castle window stands Arthur, as Guenevere enters the courtyard. She walks to her unlit stake, where the executioner stands with waiting torch. Arthur turns away, emotion brimming in his eyes.
A herald mounts the tower where Arthur has withdrawn: "The queen is at the stake, Your Majesty. Shall I signal the torch?"
But the king cannot answer.
Arthur’s love for Jenny spills from his broken heart: "I can’t! I can’t! I can’t let her die!"
Seeing Arthur crumble, Mordred relishes the moment: "Well, you’re human after all, aren’t you, Arthur? Human and helpless."
Tragically, Arthur realizes the truth of Mordred’s remark. Being only human, he is indeed helpless. But where this story ends, the greatest story ever told just begins.
Another Execution Scene.
Another time. Another place. Another king.
The setting: A world lies estranged from the God who loves it. Like Genevere, an unfaithful humanity stands guilty and in bondage, awaiting judgment’s torch.
Could God turn His head from the righteous demands of the law and simply excuse the world’s sin? If not, then could He turn His head from the world He loved? Would the king burn Guenevere?
Like the wicked Mordred, Satan must have looked on in delight:
God! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let them die, Your life is over;
Let them live, Your life’s a fraud;
Which will it be, God?
Do You kill Your world or do You kill the law?
Without even waiting for His Guenevere to look up in repentance, the King stepped down from His throne, took off His crown, laid aside His royal robes, and descended His castle’s polished steps into humanity’s pockmarked streets. Paul’s words in Philippians are thought by some scholars to be the lyrics of an ancient hymn, singing about the King of kings.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Phil. 2:6-8
That scene in the movie was an epiphany of understanding. Suddenly, it all made sense. We know now why He had to die, why there was no other way.
When love and justice collide, only the cross offers a happy ending.
Source: Abridged excerpt from Ken Gire’s book Windows of the Soul. Copyright © 1996 by Ken Gire, Jr. Zondervan Publishing Houses.
In May of 1846 an evangelist, now mostly forgotten, named “James Caughey” (pronounced “coffee”) visited a chapel in Nottingham England and preached a sermon on the words recorded in St. Mark, “Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Caughey preached that the key to this verse was to learn to desire God’s desires, and that God’s foremost desire was that we develop the character of a servant, to help the poor, and to spread the gospel that souls might be saved. A gangly young man was present at this service. He’d been saved for two years but had been drifting. But that day in May, God spoke to this gangly young man through evangelist James Caughey. The Holy Spirit gave the young man a passion for desiring servanthood. The you...
Once upon a time, in the heart of the Western Kingdom, lay a beautiful garden. And there, in the cool of the day, the Master of the garden was wont to walk. Of all the denizens of the garden, the most beautiful and most beloved was gracious and noble bamboo. Year after year, bamboo grew yet more noble and gracious, conscious of his Master’s love and watchful delight, but modest and gentle withal. And often when the wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would cast aside his grave stateliness, to dance and play right merrily, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon, leading the Great Dance of the garden, Which most delighted the Master’s heart.
Now, once upon a day, the Master himself drew near to contemplate his Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy. And Bamboo, in a passion of adoration, bowed his great head to the ground in loving greeting.
The Master spoke: "Bamboo, Bamboo, I would use you."
Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had come, the day for which he had been made, the day to which he had been growing hour by hour, the day in which he would find his completion and his destiny.
His voice came low: "Master, I’m ready. Use me as Thou wilt."
"Bamboo," - The Master’s voice was grave --- "I would have to take you and cut you down!"
A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo…"Cut …me… down ? Me.. who thou, Master, has made the most beautiful in all thy Garden…cut me down! Ah, not that. Not that. Use me for the joy, use me for the glory, oh master, but cut me not down!"
Beloved Bamboo,"-The Master’s voice grew graver still-"If I cut you not down, I cannot use you."
The garden grew still. Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. There was a whisper:
"Master, if thou cannot use me other than to cut me down.. then do thy will and cut".
"Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cut your leaves and branches from you also".
"Master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust; but would thou also have to take from me, my leaves and branches too?"
"Bamboo, if I cut them not away, I cannot use you."
The Sun hid his face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. And Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low: "Master, cut away"
"Bamboo, Bamboo, I would yet… split you in two and cut out your heart, for if I cut not so, I cannot use you."
Then Bamboo bowed to the ground: "Master, Master… then cut and split."
So did the Master of the garden took Bamboo… and cut him down… and hacked off his branches… and stripped off his leaves… and split him in two… and cut out his heart.
And lifting him gently, carried him to where there was a spring of fresh sparkling water in the midst of his dry fields. Then putting one end of the broken Bamboo in the spring and the other end into the water channel in His field, the Master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo… And the spring sang welcome, and the clear sparkling waters raced joyously down the channel of bamboo’s torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted, and the days went by, and the shoots grew and the harvest came.
In that day Bamboo, once so glorious in his stately beauty, was yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility. For in his beauty he was life abundant, but in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life to his Master’s world.
A. Todd Coget
[Good Won’t Get You There, Feda H. Babinski]
I’m standing there in front of gates like none I’ve ever found
They shine like golden ribbons as they glide across the ground
I see the stairs that never end how brilliantly they glow
I start to climb and realize there’s nothing down below
Then suddenly the two appear yes they must be my guide
They didn’t speak or show their face while they were by my side
We reached the top and I was placed in line with everyone
The two so quickly disappeared I guess their job was done
Such purity was all around so it just had to be
The day that would determine where I’d spend eternity
The line moved very slowly but since I’d been good and kind
I knew where I was going so I really didn’t mind
I watched so many walk away with wings as white as snow
The others were escorted out to where? I didn’t know
My turn had come to face the Lord but much to my surprise
I didn’t feel so confident when I looked in his eyes
I felt His power all around and nothing was the same
He opened up this golden book and asked me for my name
He said, "Where your name should appear there’s just a vacancy"
I said, But God I’ve been so good please look again for me"
God closed the book and tiny angels wiped his tears away
He said, "I hope you’ll understand what I’m about to say
Do you recall that poor old man who asked you for a dime?
You hurried passed and said to him that you did not have time
There also was a little child who wanted you to play
Again you didn’t have the time and pushed the child away
In line while at the grocery store she tried to hurry so
You grumbled as you passed her by because she moved too slow
You see, I came so many times but you turned me away
So now I don’t know who you are I’m sad for you today
If I’m not living in your heart you can’t be free from sin
So being good is not enough you must be Born Again"
The two appeared just like before they stood close by my side
This time I saw their faces and became so terrified
Through tears I was escorted to my final destiny
I had no one to blame at all except for one, just me
Then suddenly a ringing sound completely filled my head
I opened up my eyes and found that I was still in bed
Through sweat and tears I realized how real our dreams could be
And then I wondered just how long that God would wait for me
That night I gave my heart away I’m Born Again through prayer
God proved to me with so much love that "Good Won’t Get You There"
Quoting the English preacher John Daniel Jones: He lived from 1865-1942, this is from his sermon The Sovereignty of God
In our absorption in the thought of God as Father, we have almost lost sight of the fact that He is the Holy Sovereign, ruling the world in righteousness. The result has been that to a large extent, we have lost the sense of religious awe, of reverence, and of godly fear.
To make our religious life deep and strong we need to recover that lost sense of awe. We need to be taught afresh the fear of the Lord. And to recover that lost sense of awe, to create a feeling of reverence, we need a fresh vision of God as the Holy Sovereign. The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble. Why (should the nations tremble)? He is holy. We have only to realize that God is the Holy Sovereign, and the awe is bound to come back. The will that rules is a holy will. The power that governs is a holy power. All who sin bring themselves into collision with the sovereign will and power of the universe.
If the realization that a Holy God is sovereign fills us sinful men and women with awe and godly fear, that same realization of God as sovereign ought to fill those of us who love goodness and long for the triumph of Christ with a happy confidence.
Psalm 97:1 The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
The destinies of the world are not, for instance, at the mercy of fleets and armies. The Lord reigns. To know that God rules – to realize His sovereignty – is to be delivered from fear and despair.
"The Lord reigns." This is the ground of our confidence in the triumph of the church. The church has not, in recent years, been in a triumphant frame of mind. She has been depressed, nervous, harassed, and anxious. She has been conscious of strained resources and inadequate powers. My brethren, what we want for a recovery of our courage and confidence is the recovery of our faith in the sovereignty of God.
Our lives get broken and harassed just because we forget that it is the Lord who reigns.
WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS OF FREEDOM
"We in this country, in this generation, are by destiny rather than choice the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of peace on earth, goodwill toward men."
Illus.: “The Human Fly” (pp.18,19, A Treasury of Inspirational Illustrations, Earl C. Willer)
Some years ago, a so-called “human fly” went to Los Angeles. It was announced that on a certain day he would climb up the face of one of the large department store buildings. Thousands gathered to watch him perform this seemingly impossible feat. Slowly and carefully he made his way upward, now clinging to a jutting brick, again to a cornice. Up and up he went. At last he was near the top. He was seen to feel to right and left and above his head for something firm enough to support his weight. And soon he seemed to spy what looked like a gray bit of stone or discolored brick protruding from the smooth wall. He reached for it but it was just beyond him. He ventured all and leaped for it. But before the horrified eyes of the spectators, fell to the ground and was broken to pieces. In his dead hand was found a spider’s web! He had mistaken it for a stone.
What a lesson for those who will only stop and think. While human efforts We as a people need to stop grasping for things that are unstable and anchor ourselves to the God who has our destiny in His hands.
[All the Wrong Questions, Citation: Michael Scott Horton in Mission Accomplished. Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 7.]
The ultimate questions people of our day are asking are these: What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose behind my life and my destiny?
What questions are we evangelicals asking? Is dancing a sin? Should we immerse, sprinkle or pour? Who is the next logical candidate for Antichrist?
While we are busy at conferences and conventions, talking with ourselves about the need for Christian aerobics, or coming up with four new and painless steps to victorious Christian living, the world is taking its business elsewhere--to merchants who apply their philosophy to the deep, essential questions of human life.
Contributed by A. Todd Coget