In 1957, we packed the station wagon, created a romping place for our four children, 5 – 1 years, by folding down the seat and covering all the area with a thick blanket. This was BSB (before seat belts). We drove from New Harmony, Indiana to western Oklahoma. We drove for miles with our children and discovered the incredible variety of landscapes – rolling mountains, trees so thick, they obscured our vision, lakes brimming with water. Even the dirt changed color from a dark rich brown to a burnt red.
As we drove toward Watonga, Oklahoma, our eyes could suddenly see for miles, instead of the next curve. We felt our eyes stretching as we viewed the road ahead, much as we stretch after a good sleep.
It was as if we could see into the future – our vista widened. Now we live in the heart of a tree-laden town, and again, our vision is impeded. We miss the sun rise and the sun set, we miss watching the clouds changing shape and scudding across the sky. But there is another vista, a heavenly vista that is open to us.
When I was a child, I often said, “I can hardly wait for my birthday.” It would be a momentus time each year – an attainment of maturity – not gifts or birthday cake. Looking forward to the future of college, marriage, children and to experience life. Now a birthday is a time to reflect, remember God’s blessings in my life as I strive to reach maturity in Him.
During the past week, I have been reading and re-reading the Eugene Peterson’s introduction to I & II Thessalonians in the Message.
He begins with these words: The way we conceive the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly.
How do we look forward with hope and without hopelessness that causes us to descend in a spiral of despondency?
He continues: The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future, with belief in the Second Coming of Jesus as the most distinctive detail. From the day Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers lived in expectancy of his return. He told them he was coming back. They believed he was coming back. They continue to believe it. For Christians, it is the most important thing to know and believe about the future.
And I believe it. I live with expectancy of the return of Jesus. Now I know that every birthday draws me closer to the eternal home. I simply put my trust in Jesus, for under no other name is there salvation.
Does it change my life? Yes. Mother used to tell me how she woke up each day wondering what God had in store for her that day. What ministry would He call her to? Saying ‘Yes’ to God becomes an adventure – it changes the way I live.
Eugene Peterson says it this way. The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with hope. For if the future is dominated by the coming again of Jesus. It takes the clutter out of our lives. We’re far more free to respond spontaneously to the freedom of God.
When I was a child, we celebrated Christmas in our special way. We had a tree, with presents under it. When Dad came home from delivering mail on Christmas Eve, and had a chance to relax, we gathered around the tree. We began by singing Christmas Carols, had family prayer with each of us praying on our knees. Dad read from Luke 2. We children said the ‘pieces’ we had learned about Christmas. Then we opened the gallon jar of Peppernuts Grandma Suderman sent and began opening gifts.
Our attention was on the gifts – until the Christmas Mom apologized and said there wasn’t enough money for presents. She knitted each of us some mittens. The Chrismas celebration was not diminished for we learned that Christmas – Jesus is the Gift!
Our belief in Jesus prods us to continue to live FORWARD in joyful expectancy for what God will do next in Jesus. Stretch your eyes to see and stretch your faith to live in Him.
I Thessalonians 4:1-2 – One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance.