Monday, March 25, 2013


Do you remember the Charlie Brown Halloween special? Linus, Lucy’s little brother spends the entire program going on about the Great Pumpkin. He tells everybody he meets about how the Great Pumpkin will appear. He even convinces Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally to wait in the pumpkin patch with him, while all the other kids make fun of him. Throughout the night he repeats his belief of how the Great Pumpkin will appear and reward those who have waited for him for his loyalty. (Sound familiar?)

He and Sally spend the whole night in the pumpkin patch but the Great Pumpkin doesn’t come. Sally gets furious with Linus because she missed all of the Halloween fun. Charlie tried to console Linus by reminding him that everybody does stupid things sometimes. Linus gets mad when Charlie characterizes his sincere belief in the Great Pumpkin as stupid. One more time he repeats what he believes about the coming of the Great Pumpkin.

Ouch! That plot line could be Charlie Brown’s The Great Disappointment. I never noticed that before. Anyway, Linus found out something that many of us already know. It’s hard to build up and maintain anticipation for something we don’t really understand.

When we talk about the New Earth or Heaven, it’s sometimes hard to build up some lasting excitement or anticipation of those places because of our very limited frame of reference.
“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
On top of that, Satan has done a great job of dumbing down what Heaven will be like. Just this week, one of my clients asked me what we would be doing in Heaven. His picture of eternity was baby angels sitting around on clouds play harps. That’s not an eternity that looks very interesting. In fact, it looks downright boring!

On top of that, lots of folks don’t see the New Earth as anything different than Heaven because the New Earth doesn’t make much sense alongside the widely held beliefs of the immortal soul and eternal hell. What I found out this week when I tried to explain it to my client, is that I had to deal with those other concepts before we could make any sense of what the New Earth was all about.

That’s a whole lot of ground to cover to answer a simple question about eternity. One thing I realized was, without the New Heaven and the New Earth, the story of Salvation has no ending. The New Heaven and the New Earth are the period at the end of fallen humanity’s sentence – our “happily ever after.” It’s where God finally is able to permanently reverse the effects of that bite of fruit in the Garden of Eden. It’s a guarantee that we will never have to deal with the effects of sin ever again. It’s confirmation to all of the universe that God does play fair and Satan lied.

Can you imagine living with the realization that the Great Controversy is over? Take a minute and try to see if you can get a taste of what that might feel like. It’s really hard! It’s probably like having lived all of your life in an active war zone and trying to imagine living in peace. Imagine trying to explain to a child in Israel, whatever their religion, what living in peace is like. It would sound nice, but they wouldn’t really have any frame of reference for such a concept.

What do we do with all our time in the New Earth? When my client and I were talking about it, he had a hard time understanding that having streets of gold wasn’t about greed. Think about it, with our sinful minds, if someone isn’t greedy, why would they show off all their gold by paving the streets with it? Can you imagine living without always wanting something more? without needing to sleep? without deadlines?

My father was 48 when I was born so I was still in high school when he retired. He was interested in so many things that once he was free of necessary work, he finally had time to do just what he was interested in doing. He was busier in retirement than he had been when he went to work every day.  I can imagine that! Can you? So, can you imagine spending eternity gardening and not having to worry about bugs, fungus, drought, freezes or (in my case) so much heat that the tomatoes and green peppers practically cook before you can pick them?

For those of us who aren’t gardeners, what will we spend eternity doing? I know I want to spend time singing and not worrying about being on pitch. I’ve always enjoyed Sandi Patti and when I was younger, I remember praying for her so that I’d be able to spend eternity being one of her backup singers.

Do you like history? Wouldn’t it be amazing to study the entire history of the earth, not just as we know it now, but with the added insight of being able to study God’s hand in historic events? What about being able to interview people who were actually there? How fantastic would that be?

Do you like sports? You’d be able to run any kind of scenery you choose – and not get tired or dehydrated. Skiers could ski without having to worry about falling and breaking something. Swimmers, what would it be like to swim with dolphins and not have to worry about sharks or jelly fish? Do you think you could hold your breath for a really long time? Or maybe you wouldn’t have to come up for air at all. Can you imagine deep sea diving without any scuba gear?

Can you think of something(s) that you love to do that you could happily spend eternity doing? How do you think that thing that you love will be better, more fun, more interesting without the effects of sin to make it harder? Do you think that quilters and other stitchers will be able to find some way to do that activity? What about mechanics? Architects? Is there something that you love to do that you would love to have unlimited time to do? Ok, those of you who would love to sleep for about 3 weeks, wouldn’t it be wonderful to not feel that tiredness – to feel like you have the energy to do whatever you wanted to do?

There will be an infinite number of things available for us to do in the New Heaven and the New Earth. Some of the things we love to do now and think we would love to spend eternity doing, we won’t even care about. It doesn’t matter. We will never run out of things to do.

Most important of all, no matter whatever else we do or don’t do, we will have unlimited contact with Jesus Christ, our Savior. Actually, can you imagine wanting to do anything else ever, if you could spend time with Jesus whenever you wanted and for as long as you want?

Come to think of it, that’s really all I need to think about to start getting excited about the New Earth. I want to spend eternity living from Jesus.

“We are living in a most solemn period of this earth’s history. There is never time to sin; it is always perilous to continue in transgression, but in a special sense is this true at the present time. We are now upon the very borders of the eternal world and stand in a more solemn relation to time and to eternity than ever before. Now let every person search his own heart and plead for the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to expel all spiritual darkness and cleanse from defilement.
“To us who are standing on the very verge of their fulfillment, of what deep moment, what living interest, are these delineations of the things to come—events for which, since our first parents turned their steps from Eden, God’s children have watched and waited, longed and prayed!
“Fellow pilgrim, we are still amid the shadows and turmoil of earthly activities, but soon our Saviour is to appear to bring deliverance and rest. Let us by faith behold the blessed hereafter, as pictured by the hand of God.” (E.G. White, The Adventist Home, page 549)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Difference Does It Make?

Several years ago, when we were all much younger, I was taking my older son, KC to his first cello lesson with a new teacher. I think he was in the third or fourth grade. That puts my younger son just a year behind him in second or third grade. If this hadn’t been the first lesson with this teacher, I would have just dropped him at the curb and waited outside, but because it was his first lesson, I walked him up to the door. I left Justin in the car. It was a typical day in San Antonio, hot and humid, so I left the engine running and the air on, and locked the car doors. (I know, I’m a terrible mother.)

Well, we got to the door and the teacher, by whom I was totally intimidated because he was the first chair cello in the San Antonio Symphony, asked me to step in so that I could give him some contact information and such. I turned and gave Justin the “stay-put” signal and stepped inside.

As this initial “interview” grew longer and longer, I was getting more and more uncomfortable about having left Justin in the car. And then, the doorbell rang. It was Justin who had become worried about me when I didn’t come right back out. I quickly apologized, finished giving the teacher the information and hurried outside.

I asked Justin for the keys and he indicated that they were still in the car. With sinking heart, I rushed to the car to find not only the keys still in the ignition, but the car still running…and all the doors carefully locked, even the back hatch that had saved us from being locked out on a couple of occasions before, because it had to be locked separately. Justin was very proud of himself because he had especially climbed over the backseat to make sure it was locked before he got out of the car.

So, at one end of the sidewalk, my car, keys in ignition, car running, air conditioner on high, and my purse/cell phone safely locked inside. At the other end of the sidewalk, the door to the cello teacher’s house with KC and his brand new teacher having their first hour lesson. In between, me and my seven or eight year old son, trying to figure out how much gasoline was in the tank and which was less scary, breaking a car window or ringing that scary man’s doorbell. (All these years later, I really don’t remember why I was so intimidated by that guy, but I was. As I recall, KC only had like two more lessons with him)

Anyway, there are so many ways a parent could handle a situation like that. What would you have done?

In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve some instructions and left them on their own for a little while. They didn’t follow those directions, so when God came back, there was a problem. What was God going to do? Adam and Eve knew they were in trouble and hid.

God could have essentially hit “control-alt-delete” and completely rebooted the whole world. He could have zapped the serpent, Eve, Adam or any combination of those three. God could have come storming into the Garden, raging and angry, telling them how they’d messed everything up. He could have shrugged and told everybody it was no big deal, accidents happen. Or, He could have done what He did -- take the consequences of their disobedience on Himself.

What difference would it have made to the Universe if God had just wiped out Adam, Eve and the serpent and started over? It seems like that would have been the least troublesome way to clean up the mess that they had made of God’s Creation.

If, as many folks believe, Creation took place over an extended length of time through the process of stronger species surviving while weaker ones died off, then it would have made perfect sense for God to just let things be and let the process continue. Humans really aren’t the strongest species.

A raging, terrifying God would certainly have scared Adam and Eve straight, don’t you think? Lots of people portray God that way anyway – ready to punish us whenever we step out of line.

So of all the ways that God could have handled the Fall, why did He choose the one He did? Why would He come looking for Adam and Eve when He already knew where they were? Why would He have asked them questions to which He already knew the answers? Why would He give us the freedom to reject everything He’s done for us?

“The death of Christ upon the cross made sure the destruction of him who has the power of death, who was the originator of sin. When Satan is destroyed, there will be none to tempt to evil; the atonement will never need to be repeated; and there will be no danger of another rebellion in the universe of God. That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. …  Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God. The plan of salvation, making manifest the justice and love of God, provides an eternal safeguard against defection in unfallen worlds, as well as among those who shall be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Our only hope is perfect trust in the blood of Him who can save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him. The death of Christ on the cross of Calvary is our only hope in this world, and it will be our theme in the world to come. … The gift of God in his beloved Son was the expression of an incomprehensible love. It was the utmost that God could do to preserve the honor of his law, and still save the transgressor.  … There are many who will be lost, because they depend on legal religion, or mere repentance for sin. But repentance for sin alone cannot work the salvation of any soul. Man cannot be saved by his own works. Without Christ it is impossible for him to render perfect obedience to the law of God; and heaven can never be gained by an imperfect obedience; for this would place all heaven in jeopardy, and make possible a second rebellion. (E.G. White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889)

Our perfect God picked the perfect response to the first sin and it makes all the difference. He picked the only sure way to keep sin from happening ever again and guarantee us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.

Did I pick the perfect response to Justin locking my keys inside my running car? Probably not, I remember it took a couple of hours for the guy to come unlock the car and cost more than I thought a minute and a half of work was worth. I remember the inside of the car was practically frosty by the time we got back in. And, it’s made a great story to tell and laugh about.

Disobedience makes a mess of God’s plans, but He has a perfect plan for cleaning it up. God is good.c

Monday, March 4, 2013

To Protect and To Serve

“And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and guard and keep it.” Genesis 2:15
A few years ago, when we were hearing quite a bit about lowering our carbon footprints, my kids and I had an ongoing joke. Because there seemed to be such a push to do away with all carbon output, taken to its logical, albeit extreme, conclusion all the earth’s animals would have to stop breathing and if there was no carbon at all, the earth’s plants would all die. Realizing the impossibility of that, whenever we heard someone talking about shrinking their carbon footprint one of us would call out, “Save the trees -- exhale!”

All that is to make a point and ask a question – the first is that sometimes in our zeal to correct one problem we create at least one other one, and second, to what lengths should we, as Christians who believe in a literal 7 day creation go to take care of the planet that God created as our home?

Sometimes it seems like those who believe in evolution are more interested in saving/protecting the planet than many Christians. That seems backwards to me. If someone believes that the entire basis of nature is “survival of the fittest” why should they expend any thought or effort on protecting the snail darter or any other endangered animal? Jesus clearly told us to look after those who are the least in the world’s eyes.

What is the extent of our responsibility when it comes to looking after our planet? Do we go as far as the president of Bolivia did on April 20, 2011? That day, “marked the International Day of Mother Earth with a ceremony in the Plaza Murillo, the center of political power. An ancient ritual shared center stage with speeches in which authorities in this Andean nation extolled the Law of Mother Earth - the world's first legislation that grants to all nature rights equal to humans.
“The [Bolivian] Government intends to establish a Ministry of Mother Earth to implement the Law of Mother Earth, which will establish new rights for nature, including:
  • the right to maintain the integrity of life and natural processes
  • the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered
  • the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration
  • the right to pure water
  • the right to clean air
  • the right to balance, to be at equilibrium
  • the right to be free of toxic and radioactive pollution
  • the right to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”[1]
That all sounds great, except I think it’s a bit late for the “free from human alteration” bit. That ship has already sailed. So how would the Bolivian government go about implementing these rights? Is that what God intended when He put Adam in the Garden of Eden to “tend and guard and keep it.”?

Of course, tend, guard and keep do not mean that we have the freedom to exploit nature in any way. That kind of thinking has created events like the Dust Bowl and hunting the bison to near extinction. Far from allowing people to exploit nature, we are asked to be wise stewards of all that God has placed under our care.

As stewards our job is to carefully shape and cultivate nature to produce the very best results – to benefit the most people and to glorify God. I think one of the ways in which the “Law of Mother Earth” and other secular earth protection movements, go wrong, is they make man 100% of the problem – Earth would be better off without people. Whereas, according to God, man is His crowning achievement. He put man in the garden to take care of it, even before there was sin to destroy it.
“Will we consider this? In its human wisdom, the world knows not God. Its wise men gather an imperfect knowledge of God in His created works, and then in their foolishness exalt nature and the laws of nature above nature’s God. Nature is an open book which reveals God. All who are attracted to nature may behold in it the God that created nature. But those who have not a knowledge of God in their acceptance of the revelation God has made of Himself in Christ, will obtain only an imperfect knowledge of God in nature. This knowledge, so far from giving elevated conceptions of God, so far from elevating the mind, the soul, the heart, and bringing the whole being into conformity to the will of God, will make men idolaters. Professing to be wise men, they become fools. Those who think they can obtain a knowledge of God aside from the Representative whom the word declares is “the express image of His person,” will need to become fools in their own estimation before they can be wise. Christ came as a personal Saviour. It is impossible to gain a perfect knowledge of God from nature, for nature itself is imperfect. A curse and blight is upon it. Yet the things of nature, marred as they are by the blight of sin, inculcate truths regarding the skillful Master Artist. One omnipotent in power, great in goodness, in mercy, and love, has created the earth, and even in its blighted state much that is beautiful remains. Nature’s voice speaks, saying that there is a God back of nature, but it does not in its imperfections represent God. Nature cannot reveal the nature and character of God in His moral perfection.” (E.G. White, Manuscript 86, 1898, p. 348)
Do you remember the first time your parents left you “in charge” of your house while they ran an errand or went out for an evening? No matter how long your parents were away, you felt the responsibility for taking the best care you could of your home. You were very careful to maintain it in the way your parents had left it.

God has left us “in charge” of our home until He comes back. We have a responsibility to take the best care of Earth as we can, not because we worship it, but because we love and worship the One who created it.

[1] “Bolivia Celebrates Law Granting Rights to Mother Earth,” Environmental News Service,, accessed 3.1.2013