Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

(from beings are greater imaginers. They dream big. What young person has never aspired to great things? To make something of himself? To invest, invent, exceed and excel?

Mankind has dreamed it, developed it, and done it. We dreamed electricity, and the dark nights shone. We dreamed, and the Model T rumbled off. We dreamed yet again and took flight. And then we dreamed once more, setting foot on the moon. “One small step for man” – the incarnation of our wildest dreams!

Yet, man’s imagination is actually quite meager. Yes, it is amazing when it comes to science and technology, music and the arts. But when it comes to things much higher, it’s actually quite, well, unimaginative.

Little does man imagine what he and his world could have been before sin. He can’t imagine history uncrippled by disease, death, and disaster, or unmarred by jealousy, envy, theft, and murder. Nor does he think of what this world could be. He dreams, but he’s so short-sighted. A dollar here, a trust fund there, a wife and two kids. He simply can’t dream of anything bigger than his own miniscule bottle, while all along it drifts on the ocean of eternity.

Even when many think of heaven, yet its just the best of this world times ten. It’s the big pie in the sky. Or for jihadists, it’s an orgy of wine, women, and song. Is that the afterlife? Just a big frat house up yonder? If so, I’d hate to experience the hangover!

Paradoxically, it was man’s very imagination that paralyzed his mind. The Devil told him to dream. ‘Think of the possibilities!’ he suggested. If only he ate the forbidden fruit, he would truly see – just like God. Tragically Adam, the father of our race, listened. He dreamed of something much greater and larger than God allowed him, and so disobeyed. God punished this sinful dreaming. Yes, Adam’s eyes opened. But instead of beholding something great, he only saw evil in all its starkness. That evil descended like a cloud over him, so that he could no longer envision truly great things. The best he could envision was a world stricken with the thorn and thistle, groaning under God’s curse. And finally, he and his world would be consumed in the fires of holy anger.

But then God, full of grand thoughts, stepped into man’s sin-shrinked mental world. He proposed something new, something truly big. Here are visions of what can be . . . what will be. And those who believe these promises will one day enjoy them.

Those who believed after that fateful fall of Adam, those who embraced these ideas, began to dream again. Abraham believed in God’s promise, that he would be the father of many nations. All peoples of the earth would be blessed in him. He, though his body was old and impotent, looked up to the stars and dreamed. His seed, his offspring would be just as numerous, God said. Moses, standing before Pharaoh, dreamed of Israel freed from oppression to serve God, according to the promise. And on the brink of death, he stood looking upon the land, flowing with milk and honey, and envisioned what could be – what would be.

Throughout their history, they dreamed of greater, bigger, and more glorious things, as God unfolded His ancient promise. And each and every time, the fulfillment of the promise was far beyond what their little minds could have conceived. That was especially the case when the Christ child was born to a poor virgin in Bethlehem. Yes, they had dreamed that God would come to be with them. But could they have imagined this? Immanuel was literally Immanuel – “God with us,” God in the flesh (Mat. 1:23)! This was truly beyond their wildest dreams: and yet there He was, quietly nursing at his mother’s breast. “When the LORD turned back the captivity of Zion, we were like those that dreamed” (Psa. 126:1).

But when Christ came, that wasn’t all. That was great, but there was something greater yet. The early Christians were given even more “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4). The Christ who died, rose again (much to their initial disbelief!), and who visibly ascended into heaven, would one day come again in all His glory. He would come with fiery armies of angels, He would summon the dead from their graves, judge the wicked, acknowledge the righteous and usher them into the glorious and unending Kingdom of heaven on earth.

While Christians are reborn and can see things that others cannot (Jn. 3:3), yet still, they must admit that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). One writer has put it well, “Of these … promises we must have some intelligent apprehension. But the implications of his promises and the reaches of [God’s] mind and will surpass our understanding.” In that way, even believers after the coming of Christ are in many ways like those before them.

We dream like they dreamed, because the God who promised then still promises today.  But since the promise still awaits fulfillment, we yet dream of what shall be.  We are saved by hope unseen (Rom. 8:24).  While the believer must beware of wild speculation, yet he with pure longing, as a virgin anticipating her wedding day, wonders and imagines.  “Beloved,” writes the Apostle John, “now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2).

Reader, God’s thoughts are much greater than yours.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8, 9).  His thoughts for men and this world are truly lofty.  He has promised salvation to those who believe, beyond their wildest dreams.  Promised!  Deliverance from sin, both its guilt and power.  Promised!  The restoration of all things – of the body, of the world – and the very reunion of heaven and earth (Acts 3:21, Eph. 1:10).  On that day, under the reign of the Messiah, “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6).

How long will you think so small?  How long will you imagine nothing but life darkened by sin and misery?  How long will you refuse to accept the vision of things truly great?  Won’t you turn, won’t you believe, and imagine?  Won’t you join those of us who have by grace relearned how to dream?

All for Nothing?

Archaeologists in Denmark had had made amazing discoveries. In the middle of bogs and lakes, they were finding all kinds of ancient artifacts – precious jewels, swords, and even the hulls of finely crafted warships. Many of them belonged to the fourth century A.D., several hundred years before the Vikings went on their rampages throughout Europe and ventured into the New World.

(from amazing thing, however, is how they got there. These valuables were not lost, but thrown away. You see, in those days these people believed that powerful spirits lived in lakes, gods who controlled their lives. If they won a victory in battle, they would not ‘take the spoil,’ but would toss it all into the lake as an offering to the gods who lived there. It was all a kind of insurance policy. Toss in these valuables, and that respect earns you the good favor of the unseen water-dwellers. To pocket the goods just might seal your doom.

What a terrific waste, you might say! If, in fact, one of these ancient swords was worth, say, a new Camry in the modern day, then just imagine the power of that lie. Nothing demanded these costly jewels. Nothing was appeased by the enemies’ swords. And in return for these riches, nothing promised them protection from the next bloody raid.

We might laugh at such nonsense. And yet with all our education, degrees, careers, houses, cars, cell phones, and a thousand other trinkets of modern convenience, what is it all for? We’ve got to toss them away as we leave this life. Our earthly possessions will have to be left elsewhere for some other giddy archaeologist to dig up a thousand years later. So what is it all for? All for nothing?

And yet others  just might excuse these primitive folk with a polite, ‘Well, if it worked for them, it was worth it.’ We live in a time when everything is relative. Who is to look down on these ancient people for their beliefs? Everyone is entitled to his own opinions.

But did it really ‘work’ for them? Let’s not kid ourselves. These poor people wasted their hard-earned riches. And if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves, we are fast approaching the brink the next world only to toss – not just our goods – but our very lives into the abyss.

Beyond nothing, however, there is something. There is Someone. He has made you, given you “life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). But He does not ‘work for you,’ as those Danish lake gods worked for those who bought their protection. That’s the difference. With God, it is all a free gift. And He who has given you everything requires nothing short of your life. It is His!

So we don’t ask if God works for you; but do you work for God? “The LORD hath made all things for himself” (Prov. 16:4). Yes, to give yourself up to God is to lose everything.

But that loss is not a waste. It is a gain. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Mat. 16:25). Cast it all into the hands of God.

The Crisis on Wall Street

America may be on the brink of an economic collapse. Panicked experts tell Wall Street (from that we are staring into an abyss that can only be compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Wall Street is reeling from the effects of the housing slump and the resulting credit crunch. But it doesn’t stop there. Europe is struggling. Asia is struggling. We live in a global economy. What happens in New York affects New Dehli. The financial foundations of civilization as we know it are being shaken.

What will tomorrow hold? One can only guess. Are we going to see mass unemployment? Are we only witnessing the beginning of a tidal wave of foreclosures? Will we, in prosperous America, stand in bread lines again?
This, as all economists and politicians are telling us, is a true crisis. Bernanke and Paulson, President Bush and both candidates, Obama and McCain, are agreed.

But what is a ‘crisis?’ We throw the term around, but what are we really talking about? Usually, we talk of a ‘crisis’ in terms of a catastrophe in the marketplace that eventually impacts our everyday lives. A crisis triggers the vanishing our retirement accounts. It hobbles businesses and forces layoffs. It makes even the basics of life harder and harder to secure.

We need, however, to understand the word more deeply. In our minds, a ‘crisis’ is a blind, impersonal force that lays us to the ground. It is bad luck on a monumental scale. It is Fate – cold, unfeeling, uncaring. But the word originally (from the Greek, krisis) signified an action originating from heaven, expressing divine anger and outrage at the evil of men in society. Literally, it meant ‘judgment.’ A krisis is a judgment from heaven upon men for their sin.

The Bible took this term over from the Greeks and applied it to express the wrath of the one true God. The world before Noah was filled with violence, and God judged them with a flood that wiped away all but eight righteous souls (Gen. 6:5-8). Sodom and Gomorrah were filled with sexual deviance, and God judged them with fire from heaven (Gen. 18-19). Israel turned from God and worshipped idols, and so God judged them by a severe drought for 3 ½ years (1 Ki. 17-18). This world has witnessed crisis upon crisis. And each of them has been – as the word signifies – a judgment. The judgment of an angry God.

The Lord through His prophet Amos once prophesied against Israel that He would punish them for all their iniquities (Amos 3:2). Then followed a number of rhetorical questions, designed to convince the heart of Israel that this punishment was reasonable. “Can two walk together except they be agreed? Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing? . . . Shall a trumpet [an alarm] be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it” (Amos 3:3-6)? Judgments, Amos is saying, are not blind and senseless. There is reason to them. They follow as a matter of course. Where there is sin, there must be judgment. And where there is judgment, there must be God. Amos is telling us that nothing evil, no crisis, no economic catastrophe occurs in a city, unless God is behind it!

God is behind the crisis on Wall Street, America! He is stretching forth His hand to punish. Yes, there were many secondary causes. The banks too easily gave loans to people who shouldn’t have had them. The people bought houses that they should have known that they couldn’t handle once the rates adjusted. There is blame to go around – in Washington and right here in Warwick. But the ultimate cause is God. Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

There is ‘evil in the city’ – evil on Wall Street and evil on Main Street. And it is God punishing us for our sins. We have turned from Him; we have neglected His worship every Sabbath. We have hired slick-talking motivational speakers who tell us what we want to hear and have stopped our ears from faithful preachers of truth. We have corrupted ourselves, polluting our bodies with multiple partners and divorcing at the drop of a hat. We have created a culture of disrespect for all authorities. We have given ourselves over to greed and lust. And God is striking us at the place where it hurts us most – in the marketplace. It is only fitting that God should blight our financial system since we have, in greed, got in way over our heads in debt. We are only reaping what we have sown.

This crisis should open our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and our mouths.
Let us open our eyes! God is behind this catastrophe. “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezek. 13:8). ‘I am behind this, America! Look, and see me! Do not be blind! See my hand on Wall Street!’ What a tragedy, when we can identify all the causes of this economic collapse except the ultimate Cause!

Let us open our ears! God is speaking to us in this judgment. He is telling us that sin, disobedience to God, is the greatest evil of all. It is not our dwindling 401(k)s nor our jobs that we are losing. It is not any of these things. Better to lose all and be in the favor of God. But because we want to gain all without even a thought of God, God reverses everything. He is not only telling us that sin against Him is the greatest evil of all, but He is also in this crisis calling us to repent. Turn, turn back to me, America! Be taught – open your ears to hear the voice of God! “The LORD’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it” (Mic. 6:9).

Finally, let us open our hearts and open our mouths! Let us feel deep in our souls that we have brought this upon ourselves. “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled . . . therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us” (Dan. 9:5, 14). Let our hearts be broken for our wickedness. And so let us cry to Him for mercy! “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake” (Dan. 9:18).

And here is a ray of hope. Because this evil in the city is not blind fate, we can take heart. We are dealing with a personal God. A God who can be appealed to – One who can be begged for mercy. And “who can tell if God will turn and repent [change His mind], and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not” (Jonah 3:10)?