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When God Shut the Door  

The lighting is dim and the thunder is loud.  An eerie way to board a ship.

Though you know it’s “just” a replica, it’s impossible to avoid the sensation that you’re standing on the real ark that the real Noah built.  The biblical boat in Williamstown, Kentucky is the largest timber frame structure in the world, constructed of 3,300,000 board feet of wood. In fact, the ark is so large, you could plop three NASA space shuttles nose-to-tail on the roof, while storing the equivalent volume of 450 semi-trailers below decks.  That’s a lot of boat.

The team at Answers in Genesis has done a masterful job of creating not just the ark, but detailed models of systems that might have been used for water collection and storage, food distribution, waste management and more.

Hiking the three decks of the ark, you see for yourself that eight people (Noah and his wife, along with their three sons and daughters-in-law) really could have managed the care of the thousands of animals on board.

Along with a camera card full of pictures, we left the Ark Encounter with two takeaways.  First, there’s Noah’s long obedience in a single direction.  Imagine decades of sawing, lugging, pounding—and waiting.  All of this while skeptical neighbors jeered and mocked.  Remember—no one had ever seen a single drop of rain, let alone a storm.

The other takeaway snuck up on us.  On a wall was posted the text of Genesis 7:16, “…Then the Lord closed the door behind them.”  Consider: some of the skeptics may have been hard core, even vicious.  But some of them might have secretly wondered if straight-as-an-arrow Noah was actually right. 

Then God shut the door. And thunder blitzed.  And lightning blazed.

No more chances.

No more warnings.

No more opportunity for rescue.

God shut the door (see photo for what that door may have looked like). 

What a metaphor for God’s offer of salvation.  Today, the “door” is still open.  There’s still time for people to be rescued from sin.  But there will come a point when once again, God will shut the door—and it will be too late.  Are we courageous with this message?  Or are we cowards?

Noah was faithful in his generation.

You and I must be nothing less.

 
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

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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