The Timeline of Eternity

I LOVE TIMELINES!

A carefully constructed timeline can communicate a massive amount of information

T2-Mu-065-History-Of-Music-Timeline_ver_2

in an easily digestible format that will 

engage,

bible timeline

enlighten,

us history timeline

and entertain.

timeline of pens

A timeline can bring history to life for the person who might not be inclined to read about the same series of events if they were simply described on the printed page.

We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Purchase Line Church of the Brethren this year, and since 2012, I have been thinking about the timeline that will represent that century and a half for our congregation and for our neighbors and friends who may stop by during our open house in August.

The folks at PLCOB will help me create the timeline that has yet to be transformed from thought to reality.  Most of my willing helpers just have servant hearts; only one or two share my passion for history, but I am confident that in the end we will all enjoy following the story of our church in a pictorial and graphic display of fifteen decades.

We are using a relatively large scale for our timeline.  With three inches to represent each year, it will surround the sanctuary with symbols to mark births, marriages, and deaths.  Many beloved saints will have their entire lifespans charted out on our anniversary scroll.  For example, my father’s life which began in 1928 and ended in 2016 will extend through more than half of the history of Purchase Line Church of the Brethren.

The timeline will be a valuable part of our celebration, but it will also present a somewhat distorted impression of the duration of life.   Fortunately the Bible makes it possible for us to step back far enough to see the timeline of eternity.  Our perspective changes dramatically when we see the brevity of life illustrated for us again and again in vivid metaphors and striking similes.

We are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Life on earth is a shadowa breath, a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  We are told that our days pass swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, or a runner, or an eagle swooping on the prey.  All flesh is like the grass withers, and the flower that falls, and we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

I had already determined the length and chosen the location for our 150th timeline in January when I got another reminder of the approaching portal with the news about my elevated liver enzymes.  My favorite kind of history project took on a deeper spiritual dimension, as I thought of one more metaphor for life in this world: a stroke on the timeline of eternity.

Does a stroke on a timeline, a breath, a vapor, or a shadow hold any lasting meaning?  That’s the same question that the author of Ecclesiastes ponders.  It’s the same question asked by people from all belief systems, in all lands, through all ages.

It seems that in our current culture far too many people believe the answer to the question is “no.”  Missing the meaning of life has tragic consequences that can be seen in the legalization of abortion, the growing acceptance of euthanasia, and the rising rates of suicide.

If life were just the result of random particles colliding, then it would make perfect sense to simply opt out whenever circumstances become difficult or painful.  In fact, it would make little sense to endure any kind of hardship in what is ultimately only a decades-long march to the grave.

But our meaning doesn’t come from biological life: our meaning comes rather from the God who is LIFE!

My life is not just a breath: my life is a breath in God’s lungs,

a shadow of God’s Spirit,

a flower in God’s field,

a sigh of God’s voice.

And with that knowledge, I am content as my life draws to a close even when

many dreams haven’t come true,

many hopes remain unfulfilled,

and many plans never materialized.

I rest in the certainty that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, because I know that all the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.

My years are not just a stroke on the timeline of eternity: my years are a small but glorious portion of the masterpiece God is using this world to complete.

Advertisements

Peterson and Parables

parable of the sower 3

Some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up.

Jordan B. Peterson’s talks on The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories have tamed a wild thought that has been taunting me on and off for decades.

One day while I was vacuuming, two unconnected snippets of scripture merged in my mind to form a question.

The snippets: “I speak what I have seen with My Father” and “without a parable He did not speak to them”.

The question: Does Jesus see His Father using parables?

Instantly I began thinking of history, all the times, all the places, all the people, and all the stories that were told and retold, remembered or forgotten.  I wondered if God were using history itself as a perpetual parable for humanity, and in that moment two of my favorite thought streams merged into one.  The first stream is the way God interacts with the many people in the many places that are beyond the boundaries of the biblical narrative.  I often think of God’s dealing with people who are neither Jew nor Christian. It seems obvious to me that He is always interacting directly with every people group, even if they are unaware of His character or deny His existence.  It seems just as obvious that He has always interacted with all people, in all places, at all times.

The second thought stream is the marvelous selectivity of the scripture. It originated as I considered John’s claim that if everything Jesus did were written down, the world could not contain the books that would be written.  Whether or not John uses hyperbole, he made me appreciate that the Bible is a masterpiece of editing.  Whenever I think of about the millennia of human existence and activity, I am still amazed that fewer than 800,000 words are needed to tell us everything we need to know to have a deep and meaningful relationship with the Almighty Creator of the Universe.  If you compare the length of the Bible to the endless volumes of commentaries on the Bible, you will see what I mean. God’s editing skills are truly supernatural:-)

The Lord alone knows how many hours I have expended over the years considering all histories of all peoples as God’s ever-growing collection of parables. I have long been convinced that God uses the stories each people group preserves to give them truth and moral lessons.  That is the essence of a parable.  The day that wild, elusive, taunting thought sprang to life, my perspective of history transformed forever.

Then just four years ago, the power of myth joined my on again off again contemplation of history and parable. I considered creation myths with enough care to write about it in Grammas’ Guide, but subsequent liver surgery distracted me from the series I had envisioned.  Now at last, thanks to Jordan Peterson’s examination of the biblical narrative through a psychological lens, I am once again seeking to understand the mingling flow of history, parable, and myth that makes up so much of our knowledge of the world that was, that is, and is to come.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 part series on the biblical narratives is fascinating and inspiring.  As I listened to him compare Bible stories with the stories of other cultures, my two little thought streams suddenly hit the current of a mental Amazon.  I can’t remember experiencing this level of excitement about the Bible since I first discovered apologetics nearly forty years ago.  It seems to me that Peterson is building a foundation for a stronger line of evidence than any of those we currently have in our apologetic toolbox.

If someone is genuinely seeking the truth and honestly asks the question whether or not there is a God, then the cosmological argument is sufficient evidence for the existence of God, the manuscript evidence is sufficient evidence for the reliability of scripture, and the historical evidence is sufficient for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But that is one very big IF.   We can easily live our lives without studying cosmology, archaeology, or history, and understanding any of those three lines of evidence requires intentional investigation.  Sadly, far too many of our species choose to follow our natural proclivity to dismiss without investigation anything that challenges our biases.

BUT (and it’s one very big but) we can’t escape psychology! Of course few of us will do formal work or research in the field, but day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute we all encounter the subject psychologists study: the human mind and behavior. The problems in our minds and in our relationships bombard us constantly.  Far too many people are far too consumed with the issues of daily living to ever even fleetingly wonder if there is a substantial case to be made for the existence of God, the reliability of scripture, and/or the resurrection of Christ.  But, with rare exceptions, people want solutions to their problems.

Jordan Peterson taught me that understanding the psychological significance of Bible stories will prepare me to share the good news of the kingdom just the way that Jesus did.