On the morning of October 25, a few years ago, Harry made a decision that not only would tremendously affect his life but would also tremendously affect the lives of hundreds of other families.
He got up before dawn that day, sat down at his desk and penned this letter to his fiance:
In the years to come do not ever doubt how much I loved you.
I am filled with much sadness as I write this letter. Sadness because I will never hold you in my arms again. Sadness because we will not enjoy our wedding day. Sadness because we will not have a family or grow old together.
No doubt by the time this letter reaches you you will have heard of my death. I hope that you will remember me as a courageous and honorable man who was willing to die for a cause he desperately believed in. I do not regret my decision – my only regret is that I cannot look into your eyes, tell you again how much I love you, and kiss you one last time.
One day all this craziness will be over and life will be normal again. My hope is that you will find love again and enjoy your life knowing that you were very very loved.
“The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.”
“For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure but a doorway from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, to a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.”
Last week Nona and I took a few days and went to the western part of NC and did some waterfall chasing. We saw 15 waterfalls in 2 days, put 40,000+ steps on our fitbits, and had a great time exploring some of the beauty of God’s creation.
We visited Skinny Dip Falls, Lower Graveyard Falls, Soco Falls, Mingo Falls, Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Glen Falls, Upper Whitewater Falls, Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, High Falls, Triple Falls, Hooker Falls (these last 3 were all at Dupont State Park) Pearson’s Falls, and Catawba Falls. Nine of those included hikes to get to them which made the experience richer as we got away from the more touristy falls and out into nature.
One of the things that we marveled at was the amount of water that came over the falls we visited – that just kept coming and coming and coming. An unceasing flow of thunderous water that provided a majestic, awe-filled spectacle of nature that was wondrous to behold. It was in many ways a spiritual experience. When author Charles Dickens first visited Niagara Falls in 1842 he made this statement, “When I felt how near to my Creator I was standing, the first effect, and the enduring one—instant lasting—of the tremendous spectacle, was Peace.” There is very much a sense of enjoying God’s nearness while marveling at His creative genius.
Here is an interesting story about Niagara Falls. It is estimated that about 30 million people visit Niagara Falls each year. I was one of those people when I was about 10 years old. (And a bit of an adventurous daredevil as you can tell from the picture). It really is an amazing sight even if it is so touristy. But if you happened to be a visitor to the Falls on March 30, 1848 you would have been very disappointed. The mighty Niagara had slowed down to a mere trickle. The bed of the river was exposed. Fish died. Turtles floundered about. People were able to walk on the river bottom. For about 30-40 hours the waterfall ceased to exist.
So what happened? Well, it turns out that huge chunks of ice had formed at the northeastern tip of Lake Erie blocking the lake’s outlet into the head of the Niagara River. The ice jam had become an ice dam and the bottleneck effectively stopped the flow of water over the Falls.
There is a lesson to be learned here. Psalm 42 says:
1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?… 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. 8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
When the love of God washes over us like the rejuvenating waters of a refreshing waterfall then our souls are nourished and we can almost literally hear God singing over us. But when we choose sin over obedience, our ways over His ways; when we walk a wayward path and turn our face away from His; when the things of this world become more important to us than the things of His Word – then the music stops. The Lord seems far far away. And the refreshing waters cease.
I hope you will take this lesson to heart – and whenever you find yourself chasing waterfalls stop and ponder the deep deep love of God and let it wash over you and nourish your soul.
“We need to cultivate in our own hearts the same hatred of sin God has. Hatred of sin as sin, not just as something disquieting or defeating to ourselves, but as displeasing to God, lies at the root of all true holiness.”
“God wants us to walk in obedience—not victory. Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self.”
OK, let me explain. This is another lesson in your Jewish heritage.
Today is the last day of the Jewish Festival known as The Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot or The Feast of Ingathering.) It was one of the three festivals on which the Israelites were commanded to perform an annual pilgrimage to the Temple and it commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.
It was a seven day festival. And there were several rituals that had become a part of the celebration. One involved building make shift tents to live in for the week. One involved the waving of palm branches. But another one has special significance in relation to Jesus.
By the time of the first century, a water pouring ceremony had become part of the tradition of the festival. The priests would go down to the pool of Siloam and they would fill a golden vessel with the water there. They would then go up to the temple, through the Water Gate, accompanied by the sound of the shofar, and would pour the water so that it flowed over the altar, along with wine from another bowl.
John 7:37-38 records…
“On the last day of the feast, the great day (Hoshana Rabbah), Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Jesus used the symbolism of this ritual at The Feast to identify Himself as the Messiah – the One whom the Jewish people were watching, waiting, and praying for. Some people believed. Some did not. (John 7:40-44) For those who did – it was indeed a “great day”! The Hebrew words Hoshana Rabbah literally mean “the great salvation.” And that is exactly what Jesus is.
There are many many people that you will see this week who are spiritually thirsty – whose soul’s are parched and are yearning to be refreshed. Perhaps the Lord will use you to offer them a drink of “living water.” Perhaps the Lord will use you to make it “a truly great day” for someone today.
“When a worldview exchanges the Creator for something in creation, it will also exchange a high view of humans made in God’s image for a lower view of humans made in the image of something in creation. Humans are not self-existent, self-sufficient, or self-defining. They did not create themselves. They are finite, dependent, contingent beings. As a result, they will always look outside themselves for their ultimate identity and meaning. They will define human nature by its relationship to the divine—however they define divinity. Those who do not get their identity from a transcendent Creator will get it from something in creation.” (Nancy Pearcey – Finding Truth)
In just a few minutes I am going to hit a button on my computer and this blog post is somehow going to be available for you to read almost immediately. There are no wires connecting our devices. You might be in the room upstairs or you might be on the other side of the world. It won’t matter – you will still have instant access to what I write.
I have absolutely no idea how this is even possible. It certainly was NOT possible when I was growing up. But technology has made the impossible possible.
I have read that in order for this communication to happen that there are “protocols” that have to be place – some of these include hypertext transfer protocol (http), transmission control protocol (TCP) and the Internet protocol (IP). Protocols are sets of rules that machines follow to complete tasks. Without a common set of protocols that all machines connected to the Internet must follow, communication between devices couldn’t happen. The various machines would be unable to understand one another or even send information in a meaningful way.
But again, I am clueless how this is even possible.
What I am not clueless about is that there are protocols that must be in place if communication is going to happen between us and God. These protocols are spelled out in Scripture. Here are a few for you to ponder:
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (Jeremiah 33:3)
Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. (John 8:47)
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (1 Peter 3:12)
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (Psalm 66:18)
We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. (John 9:31)
If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
God has made the impossible possible. We are able to communicate instantaneously with the Holy God of the universe. But we have to pay attention to the protocols that He has put in place. God does not answer the prayers of everyone. But His Word does tell us how we can be confident that He will hear our prayers. One more protocol to leave you with: “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will he hears us.And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5: 14-15)
When you read this, take a minute and pray a prayer of thanks to God for enabling us to communicate with Him. And ask the Father to give you a desire to always follow the prayer protocols so that you can be confident that He is not only listening but also ready to answer your prayers.