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Pessimist or Optimist?

Are you a pessimist or an optimist? I consider myself an optimist because I know Jesus will win in the end!

In the meantime, though, there are always apparent reasons for "doom and gloom." Like the Shakespeare soothsayers who declared, "Woe, woe, and thrice woe!", or Eeyore the donkey who said, "Could be worse; not sure how, but it could be," many people believe the light at the end of the tunnel will be an approaching train.

But the Lord says all things work together for our good. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field. The most frequent Biblical commandment is "Fear not!"

Once upon a time Elisha (1 Kings 6) had a servant who awoke one morning to see his city (Dothan) surrounded by Syrian troops and chariots. "Woe, woe, and thrice woe," he told Elisha. But Elisha said simply, "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Subsequently the servant's eyes were opened to see another army, "horses and chariots of fire," filling the mountain behind the Syrians!

In our brief history as a church we have had reasons for pessimism: no home, little growth, limited resources, a pandemic. But as the hymn writer says, "All I have needed Your hand has provided." Today we enjoy a new home, a steady stream of visitors, and many new opportunities.

No doubt more challenges lie ahead. And there is no doubt that God will take care of us!

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Earth's Crammed With Heaven

In his sermon on Psalm 8, Jim commented that he never noticed the sky was blue until he became a Christian. My story is similar, but different. When I was seventeen, two years before I became a Christian, I went on the most exciting duck hunt of my life. But it wasn't the duck hunt that was exciting. It was the boat ride to the duck blind.

We had to break ice to get our boat in the water. It was around four in the morning. My best friend was working the motor that day, so I was lying on my back, looking up into the dark delta sky. I'd looked into that same sky many times, but I'd never seen anything like this—a ticker tape parade of stars falling; dozens of them, shooting back and forth like laser beams in a video game. I thought the sky was falling. This might be the end of the world.

I later figured out that these weren't stars. Thanks to Google, I now know it was the Geminid Meteor Shower of December 1998. At its peak, it produced 600 meteors per hour. And, by chance, so to speak, I 'happened' to be out at four in the morning, in the middle of nowhere, without a cloud in the sky.

In my mind, this was the first time in my life I experienced a deep sense of awe. I knew nothing of God at that point. But I had a nagging sense that I needed to thank someone, though I didn't know who, for allowing me to see something so beautiful. I've been fascinated with the sky ever since.

Years later, as a believer, I read The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis and Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. I learned that C.S. Lewis was more fascinated with the sky than I've ever been. When he looked at the heavens, he saw the gospel. I don't have the space to get into the subject in detail, but let me share a couple of Lewis' observations.

Lewis loved the planet Jupiter. In Greek mythology, Jupiter was the kingly planet, represented by Zeus. Lewis was struck by the fact that there is a large red spot on Jupiter's side. This red spot is nearly exactly the size of Earth. Our planet could fit into that spot like a golf ball into its hole. How fitting, Lewis thought, that the kingly planet bears a red mark on its side, reminiscent of the wound given to Christ by a Roman spear as He hung on the cross.

Lewis also pointed out that, twice in Scripture, Jesus is called the "Morning Star" (2 Peter 1:19, Rev. 22:16). The morning star is Venus, the planet that classically represented love. Venus is the first 'star' we see at night (the evening star) and the last 'star' we see in the morning (the morning star). How fitting, therefore, that Jesus should be described as the Morning Star. He is love incarnate. And He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.

It feels like we're on a bumpy boat ride these days. I've found great comfort in the beautiful, Sahara-dust-inspired sunsets we've enjoyed before the recent rains. I've also found joy in watching fireflies with my daughters. In some weird way a group of fireflies along a tree line reminds me of that meteor shower years ago.

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, 

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote,

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

The glory of the heavens and the glory of this world are meant to point us to the One who made them all. At seventeen I didn't know who to thank. Now I know the One I say thanks to as the wounded King, the descendant of David, the bright Morning Star, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We can say thanks to our Creator in many different ways. But the primary way He calls us to do so is by gathering on the Lord's Day. He set this day apart for us to celebrate and proclaim His resurrection. The wounded King didn't stay in the tomb. He rose like the morning star. And on Sundays we give our "amen" to that fact as we worship the triune God. We see His glory as we gather in His presence; and so, figuratively speaking, each Sunday, we take our shoes off instead of picking blackberries.

Posted by Heath Cross

Hanging On For the Ride

This past Sunday we sang one of my favorite hymns: Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun. Isaac Watts wrote this hymn as a paraphrase of Psalm 72 with specific application to Jesus as the true King of Israel.

Years ago, I heard an atheist mocking this great hymn. He also mocked Psalm 19. Why? Because they picture the sun as "running." Psalm 19 speaks of the sun as an athlete running a race (v. 5), making its track the edge of the heavens (v. 6). That's quite a racetrack. This, the man said, is the view of a borderline Neanderthal–a geocentric view of the universe. The sun doesn't run. This would mean that the sun is orbiting the earth. And, of course, we modern folk know that's wrong. It's the earth that is running, not the sun. Right? In the words of Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend." We need to consider the scientific discovery of "solar orbit."

Here's how it goes. The earth is orbiting the sun at about 67,000 mph. That's Mach 88 (and somehow, we're not even dizzy; think about that for a minute). And it gets more amazing. Do an internet search for the phrase "galactic year." Here's a summary of what you'll find. Scientists are now telling us that the sun is orbiting the center of the Milky Way at a speed almost eight times faster than the earth is orbiting the sun—514,000 mph. That's Mach 675. And the sun is "running" this race so fast, with so much mass and force, that it is dragging along the planetary system with it in perfect step. It's like a cosmic dance near the speed of light. It's a race that's hard to imagine. But we're living in it every day, not even sweating most of the time.

There is so much symbolism in the sun. Genesis 1 records God creating it: "And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness" (vv. 16-18). The sun is a servant-ruler. It rules the day. And in so doing it serves us by giving us light. Christ, the Son, is a servant-ruler. He is our King. But He comes not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).

As Jesus hung on the cross, paying the ransom for our sin, "there was darkness over the land" for about three hours (Mark 15:33). For light to shine on us, Jesus had to suffer in darkness. The glory of the Son of God had to be eclipsed by sin and the wrath of God so that we could appear in heaven "bright shining as the sun." On the cross, the sun set. In the resurrection a new morning dawned. We are living in that morning, knowing that Jesus shall reign where'er the sun doth it's successive journeys run.

The idea of solar orbit gives new dimension to how we imagine the reign of Christ. Abraham Kuyper said, "there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry 'Mine!' But Christ's reign goes even beyond the realm of human existence. Jesus isn't simply going to reign in the orbit of the earth. The sun's orbit is far beyond that. It extends to every inch of the Milky Way. It all belongs to Christ. And Jesus, like the sun drags the planets, is dragging us along in this great race of life by His power, calling us to center our orbit around Him and hang on for the ride.

Like much of our nation during the pandemic and present social unrest, you may be feeling some turbulence right now. Life's a bumpy ride. But I'm glad we have Jesus hanging on to us. And I'm glad we're hanging on to each other. 

Posted by Heath Cross