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Chasing Eden  

The crowd was thick as we ambled down the pathway of the Creation Museum snapping pictures and connecting the dots of Scripture with the visuals before us. So much to see: fossils, animals, life-sized dinosaurs (they move and make noise) and Disneyesque animated Bible characters.  As we made a turn, we entered a recreation of the Garden of Eden. 

Pristine vegetation was densely populated by animals of all kinds.  In a cluster of critters sat Adam himself, giving names to these furry friends.  We noted several creatures that you and I would be terrified to meet in a forest today.  But in Eden, they were calm and friendly.

Around another turn, we saw Adam talking with Eve in the shade of the garden.  They looked so relaxed, so real, so perfect.   All was well in Eden.

Still another scene showed the first couple splashing in a brook, thick with water lilies.  High above them—but not too high—coiled a serpent secretly despising their unbroken happiness, perhaps brooding over his planned offer of forbidden fruit. 

Finishing up this portion of our tour, it was time for lunch, after which I confessed to Diana I felt like I had rushed through the Garden of Eden and really wanted to go back. 

This time I savored every second, every view, entirely immersed in the scene. And once again, I left Eden, reconnecting with Diana at Noah’s Cafe. 

As she was comfortably reading a book, she was more than happy to oblige my request for a third walk-through.  It was as if I was chasing Eden.

Somewhere in that recreated perfection, I stumbled on to the truth. I want the real Eden.  I want to splash in the unbroken happiness of God’s presence, hanging out in a place entirely free of selfishness or greed or pride or sin of any kind. I long to hear the footsteps of God walking in the cool of the Garden.

But what’s next for Christ followers is better than a restored Eden.  It’s heaven.  Unbroken fellowship with the King of the universe in an untainted land where no serpent will ever tempt again.  

Perhaps, like me, you hunger for Eden.  May I encourage you to set your sights higher?  “Set your minds on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:2).  As Spurgeon put it, “Christian, anticipate heaven…Within little time you will be rid of all your trials and your troubles.”

How great will that be?  Better—much better—than Eden!

 
How long does a witness for Christ last?  

Question: How long does a witness for Christ last?

Answer: Years.  Decades.  Maybe forever.

This is part two of a story my friend Jack experienced when he met Tahir.  I’ll let Jack tell it in his own words.

“Tahir’s a cab driver from Pakistan working hard in the Windy City.  When he heard I wanted to be driven to the corner of Chicago and LaSalle (Moody Bible Institute), he blurted out, ‘That’s the Moody Bookstore!’”

But how does a Muslim cab driver born in Pakistan know about the Moody Bookstore? Naturally, Jack had to ask (Jack sometimes pushes boundaries and makes me a bit uncomfortable!).  He continued.

“Tahir says to me, ‘Back in the 1980s, I was in Chicago with a Christian girl from Pakistan. She wanted to get some Christian literature, so I offered to go with her to the Moody Bookstore.  Once inside, I was greeted by a man who spoke my language, Urdu, absolutely perfectly.  It was fantastic!’  This Tahir guy appeared blown away, decades later.”

But neither Jack—nor Tahir—were finished.  The cab driver recounted his conversation with the American who spoke Urdu.

“I said to the man, ‘You speak my language more clearly than I do!  No accent whatsoever.  How can this be?’  He told me that he had been a missionary in Pakistan for more than 20 years.”

Jack doesn’t know the full extent of the missionary’s conversation with this Muslim.  But as the missionary was polite enough to engage Tahir, I’m certain that gospel seeds were sown.

And apparently, God has seen fit to water those seeds.  On two separate occasions—by “pure coincidence”—Jack has ridden in Tahir’s cab, declaring himself to be a follower of Isa (Jesus).  On the second ride, Tahir gave Jack his hand and let him pray a simple blessing over the guy’s life.

It is not for Jack—or me—to project the end of this man’s story.  But to my simple way of thinking, the Holy Spirit of God appears to be hovering around Tahir.  There are believers in and out of his life.

But consider that this all began when a missionary who was no longer in Pakistan, served a Pakistani who had come to the U.S.  Who knows what God might do as you reach out with the love of Christ to those from distant lands who now live near you!

 
Daring God  

“So I was feeling….I dunno…restless.”

“What do you mean, ‘restless?’ I asked my friend, Jack.

“Like…I’ve been stuck in a spiritual rut.  Not really doing anything for the Kingdom.  No spiritual passion.  No hunger to witness.  Just…stuck.”

Jack tends to be brutally honest.  He also tends to be right in the middle—or just done with—a story worth hearing.

“So I gave God a dare.”

“You what?” I asked Jack, now more than a little curious.

“I admitted that I wasn’t really doing much of anything spiritually significant.  Admitted that I hadn’t been witnessing and seemed to have lost the passion.  While praying, I told God, ‘Tomorrow morning, I have to take a taxi from the train station to my downtown office.  I’m daring you to make sure the taxi driver is somebody who needs to hear about Jesus.  In fact, I dare you to line up a Muslim cab driver.’”

Jack’s in-your-face style made me a bit nervous.  But also a bit jealous. I had to know what became of his dare.

“I got off the train and headed straight for the first cab in line.  But as I was about to get in, the driver rolled down his window and said, ‘Take the second cab in line, not this one.’  I had no idea why."

“And so…?”

“So I got into the second cab, told the driver where I wanted to go and a lightbulb went off in my brain.”

“Why so, Jack?”

“Because I recognized the guy’s voice.  I was pretty sure I’d ridden with him before. The more we talked, the more both of us realized this was not our first ride together.”

“But was he a Muslim?”

“From Pakistan!” Jack smiled. “The cool thing is, rather than argue about Islam (which I’ve done in the past) I offered to pray with him before I got out of the cab.”

“This guy didn’t agree to that did he?” I asked.

“Agree?  He turned around in his seat and reached for my hand!  I prayed that God would bless him greatly, bless his family greatly give him good health, and give him good honest money.   I also prayed that He would come to know God…in Jesus’ name.”

“You were really with a Muslim and you really prayed in Jesus’ name?”

“I really did,” Jack mused, eyes sparkling and his voice tone considerably more reverent.

In the economy of God, it would appear some prayers—like prayers for lost people—may get priority over others.  Why not prove it yourself?  Jack dares you!

 

P.S.  There’s a “Part Two” to Jack’s story that will astonish you…next time.

 
Hell  

I just put the finishing touches on a sermon focused entirely on hell.

Not exactly my idea of fun.  But as I have complained about the paltry attention hell is given in today’s pulpits, I felt compelled to “search the Scriptures” and focus on this awful eternal destiny.

It didn’t take long to arrive at what may be the most disturbing story in the entire Bible.  Luke 16 takes us to the gates of hell itself where a formerly rich man is now doomed to unending agony.   What we encounter in this passage is the closest thing we have to a video clip of hell.

Scripture notes discomforting details about the man’s experience.   Verse 23 records, “In Hades he lifted up his eyes….”  So the man was fully conscious and able to see.

He was also able to feel.  Verse 23 goes on to describe him as “being in torment.”  In verse 24 he virtually screams, “I am in agony in this flame.”

In verse 28 this terrified man begs, “I have five brothers…warn them so that they will not come to this place of torment.”

Some try to minimize the literal eternal flames and the literal eternal agony of hell by saying this story of Jesus is a parable, not an actual historical account.  And it may well have been a parable. But that doesn’t mean hell is somehow different than what we read about in Luke 16.

At no point before or after this parable does Jesus say anything that would contradict the details of this story.  The many scriptures that speak of Hell consistently support the personal eternal agony of the Luke 16 passage.

Which takes me to a comment I heard from 99-year-old Art Rorheim.  Standing before a crowd, this venerable soul-winner paused, drew a breath and checked his emotion as he boldly asserted, “There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are headed for heaven, and those who are headed for hell.”

Where will you go?

 

If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God was raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  –Romans 10:9

 
Sound and Fury  

Smoke….flash…bang! 

The impact rattled in my chest as much as it rumbled on the field. I’m speaking of the Cantigny Revolutionary War Reenactment we witnessed, courtesy of the North West Territory Alliance.

Envision more than 400 Revolutionary War actors in full costume.  Mix in cannons, muskets and rifles blasting away and history definitely came alive.  Period blacksmiths and shopkeepers offered wares of all kinds, including leather goods, wooden ladles, pewter mugs, knives and bonnets.

Of particular interest to me was a writing desk where you could scratch out letters with a period quill and ink.  The guide even provided hot wax and a stamp to seal your letter. 

But the biggest and loudest event, of course, was the mock battle staged in the open field.  Redcoats and American patriots recreated war at the time of Washington as hundreds of spectators looked on.

One take-away for me: the gap between opposing forces was shockingly small—a colonial musket being accurate only up to 50 yards.  To describe the sound as merely intense would not do justice to the afternoon.

Through the lens of my camera, I saw flashes of fire and smoke, the monstrosity of war spewing shock and awe over the entire field.   And because this reenactment was about truly sensing the impact of combat, there were “casualties” in the form of simulated deaths.  Before long, a number of “corpses” lie still on the green lawn. I was entranced.

And then it was over.  

The smoke cleared.  The conflict done, the crowd began to leave. Soldiers who appeared stone dead a moment previous stood up and began walking and talking and laughing.  Honestly, it was a bit of a mind bender.

In the sound and fury, I think I may have encountered a portrayal of the end of days.  When the last battle has finally been fought and the smoke clears, our God will raise His children back to life! 

We shall see then that fatal accidents, cancers, heart attacks, old age and wars were only a pause. In the splendor of heaven, where war will never enter, we will pick up conversations and laugh with our believing brothers and sisters as if the death that separated us was nothing more than a short drama played out on a grassy field one Saturday afternoon.

Come, Lord Jesus!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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