Category Archive: Obstacles

EDGE OF ETERNITY

As a writer working on her first novel, I’m fascinated by books that capture my mind, interest, and heart. EDGE OF ETERNITY, written by Randy Alcorn, is such a book.

My friend Susan MacKenzie loaned this to me. It took me awhile to get into the book. But the further I read, the more I was hooked. Alcorn writes of Nick, a man successful by the world’s standards but dealing with a family broken by his own choices. In this allegorical story Nick wakes up in another reality. All he had is gone. Now he has new choices.

In the far distance, he sees a glowing, shining light. Someone tells him that’s Charis (the Greek word for grace, the unmerited favor of God). We might call it heaven. It’s a place Nick wants to reach. There are many roads, and he tries several of them, hitting dead-ends or finding betrayal from those he called friends. He avoids the red road until he meets a group who invite him to travel with them on the red road. The old man leading the group is Shadrach. As they travel, Nick begins to see aspects of both Charis (heaven) and Erebus (hell), and to see the kind of man he has been.

Trials beset along the road as the evil one, disguised as a handsome, winsome young man named Joshua, tries to tempt Nick off the red road, promising him riches and power if he will follow Joshua.

At one point Nick thinks “I will never deny the King.” In his pride, he takes over leadership of the group, and plans to seduce one of the women traveling with them. Before that can happen, he is embroiled in a mighty battle between Marcus, his guardian angel, and the Usurper, battling for his soul. Here’s a sample of when Nick fights back against the Usurper, the Pretender.

I heard a terrible scream. Before my eyes fire consumed the Pretender and burnt off the remaining layers, mask after mask, until I saw evil unveiled, a putrid dripping mass of blood and pus. I smelled the stench of rotten flesh.

“‘I am royalty,’ he screamed hoarsely. ‘I was chief of all creation before your kind was made!'”

“The King is Lord of the cosmos,’ I cried. “You are lord of the flies!”

“At that moment I heard distant cheering, as if some crowd was rooting for me.

“‘I will drink your blood and skewer you like meat, miserable image-bearer!’ He shrieked the words, veins in his temples bulging. ‘I brought civil war to Charis itself…What mighty works have you done?’

Edge of Eternity, p. 278-279

And then one of my favorite lines:

“‘None. You are a fallen titan; I am but a reclaimed man. What you were makes what you are all the worse.‘”

If you and I are believers in Christ’s free gift of redemption, we are reclaimed men and women. Reclaimed by the King! What a glorious truth!

Want to find out what the red road is?

Want to know how the story ends (and it surprised me!)?

I highly recommend this book for expanding your view of Charis (heaven) and of the cosmic powers against which we fight until the Lord takes us home.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12, ESV

If you’ve read the book, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts about it.

Blessings, and may the God of peace go with us all this week.

Paradigm Shifts

What’s the paradigm behind your world view? I’ve been wrestling with this these past months. I wonder if you have been too.

In this time of tensions within and outside our nation, pandemic fears, destruction of life, property, animals, and finances through fire, flood and violence, we see different paradigms at work.

  • The paradigm that we are in control of our lives. (2020 has shattered much of that one, hasn’t it!)
  • That politics, OUR politics, whatever they may be, has the answers we need to right the wrongs in our world.
  • That we are subject to external circumstances that control our lives; or
  • That God is sovereign over our lives, nations, world. His Throne is still occupied! He gives us freedom to choose our behaviors and responses to the world around us. He loves us with an everlasting love, to which we must choose how we will respond.

It seems to me that if we go with either of the first three paradigms (and there are others), we lose hope when a) we lose control over our lives because of illness, election results, loss of loved ones; b) our politics fail to provide the answers we seek; or c) the external circumstances we believe control our lives are unfavorable to us.

Our paradigms, our belief systems, affect our lives. And we can’t change our lives until we change the paradigms. We come to faith through a host of life experiences, education, and belief systems we have learned from our childhoods. These help form the lens through which we see the world.

  • Think of the woman who hates men because her father abandoned the family when she was a little girl, pushing them into poverty and insecurity.
  • Or the one who was abused as a child and doesn’t trust anyone, always fearing the raised hand or voice.

Pastor Rene Schlaepfer spoke last night about the shape of the gospel–a bell curve from weakness to power. Christ’s death looked like an absolute tragedy, a picture of complete weakness. But it was in reality the ultimate in power because of His resurrection from the dead three days later.

A gospel shaped paradigm gives me a pattern for my life when I realize that I can expect both crosses and empty tombs (perhaps figuratively, perhaps literally). If I expect only crosses, I can’t rejoice in the empty tombs. If I expect only graves, I fall into despair.

It changes how I see my future, because my future is in the hands of my loving Father who has promised never to leave nor forsake me. The apostle Paul said it this way.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 

II Corinthians 4:7-11

And, changing my paradigm gives me power for life, because God is strong when I am weak!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

II Corinthians 12:9

Pastor Rene said one way to get this gospel shaped paradigm into our heads is to expose myself to a new idea over and over, for example:

  • “God loves me and has already given me eternal life.”
  • “I know life has its crosses but they lead to resurrection.”
  • “I can trust the God who loved me enough to send His Son to die in my place, who knows my past, present and future. And one day I will worship at His feet, rejoicing in the grace He’s given me.”

Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

I’m working on my paradigms. How about you?

Like a Tree

As we drove home the other day I saw this striking live oak tree – arms and elbows all akimbo. It struck me as very beautiful.

How did those branches twist and turn as they did?

I read that oak trees don’t usually have a single, straight leader after branching begins, but spread out into several large branches. Given enough room, they tend to be as wide as they are tall, but growing conditions have a larger effect on this than species alone. An oak growing in the forest will be tall and thin like its neighbors, while oaks growing in large, even spacing along a planted row are short and wide.

The reason oak branches are not very straight is because the leading bud rarely grows. Instead, stems grow out around that leading bud in an alternate or spiral pattern, with no two branches coming from the same node. The result – a crooked shape.

Obstacles–those single buds that don’t grow into straight branches. But what those obstacles do is create a shape that is artistic, unique, and quite beautiful.

Isn’t that what God does in our lives? He desires that our roots go deep into the soil of his incomprehensible love; that we trust him in every circumstance of life; and that we continue to bear fruit for his kingdom.

Obstacles change us as we work through or go around them with God’s help. Most of us carry battle scars of one kind or another. But in His love, our God molds us more into His image. He promises that…

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:8 NLT

Let’s encourage each other in this time of turmoil. Rather than worrying, let’s trust the God who will always be with us. Let’s continue to bathe our roots in the water of His love and care.

I encourage you to build connections with others who will encourage and strengthen you. Join a small group to study the Bible and pray together (even if on Zoom, as we’re doing!). Find a church with safe options where you can be fed with the rich abundance of God’s Word. These are some of the ways that help us not to be bothered by the heat or worried by drought, and to keep producing good fruit.

I just found a cute children’s song whose lyrics express this well.

I’m gonna be like a tree, planted by the water. Trusting in the Father to keep me strong. I’m gonna be like a tree, planted by the water. Trusting in the name of the Lord.

The deeper the roots grow. The better the fruits grow. The blessings bloom out for all to see. The deeper the roots grow. The more of my life shows That Jesus is the Lord of me, Lord of me.

Integrity Kids

How can I encourage you this week? Pray for you?