This is the Way Walk in It: Till We Meet in That Better Kingdom

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This is the Way Walk in It

Till We Meet in That Better Kingdom

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It's been five years and 50 columns since I first started writing "This Is the Way." I selected the title for this column from a fondness for a verse I had often heard in church services as a young boy. Its use by the speaker was always offered in a positive and stirring sense about how those in the wonderful world tomorrow under Jesus Christ would have responsible teachers guiding them towards proper living.

Breaking into the thought, Isaiah 30:20-21 affirms: "But your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.'" In a sense, it is a prophecy and a promise to give all of us hope.

"I would plant a tree today"

As I became a man, I came to recognize that while I longed with all my heart for the Kingdom of God to come to this earth, I had to also live fully for today, as well as yearn and prepare for a better tomorrow under Christ. As one person once said, "If I knew the Kingdom of God was coming tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today." There is always that incredible positive tension that pulls between the present and the future in the heart of a Christian.

While God uses the Holy Spirit to guide His children into wise decisions and offers marvelous examples in the Scriptures, I also firmly believe that God would ask for us to take note of those around us in everyday life or in human history who have "made a difference." While they may not be believers, some part of their lives can serve to illustrate what Christians need to be doing.

For five years now you and I have been on quite a journey in this column as we have spent time with kings, mountain climbers, jungle explorers, doctors in trauma wards, dynamic crusaders for global causes and people who were gifted in word and tongue to be able to capture the essence of the moment and grant people a hope beyond their present despair.

My favorite subjects have been "the little people," those without famous names, those behind the scenes—who in a quiet way implore you and me to stand up and "see our teachers" in the here and now and, like them, do what we can.

Some of the individuals I have chosen to write about in this column over the years are the kind of people you would love to have over for dinner night after night, and some, you would want to rescue you when you were in need. Still others, well, at first glance, you might not want to be in the same dark alley with them.

All offered us a lesson, a word or an encouragement by their actions. As the moment came to them, they rose to the occasion. Perhaps in all of this there is an important lesson. Ultimately it can affect how we understand history, read the headlines of today or grasp the prophecies of the Bible. The lesson is simply, "Be careful how you use the scissors."

Be careful with the scissors

Many years ago, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson had problems accepting a certain person for what he was. So Jefferson took some scissors to the person's life story and reduced the individual to his own level of acceptability. That individual was Jesus Christ. Jefferson, a well-known deist, cut out all the miracles of Jesus' earthly ministry, and thus transformed "the Son of Man" simply into a "good man"—one that Jefferson could respect on his own terms as an enlightened human teacher. Jefferson daringly, or should I say, foolishly, censored another man's life without any basis other than his own opinion.

At times, all of us have reached for those "scissors" and gone to work trying to tidy up someone to our liking.

In the Bible you discover an incredible honesty about people of all backgrounds, persuasions and beliefs. God, who certainly could have "sanitized" the lives of His characters, held back His scissors and allowed us to see both their strengths and weaknesses.

God is calling a spiritual people today to become kings and priests to reign on this earth (Revelation 5:10). One of the main functions of a priest is to teach. "Teach what?" you might be saying. Ezekiel speaks of the role of priests. Ezekiel 44:23 states, "And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean." Discerning, at least the way God does it, is a process, not just a clean snip of the scissors.

Consider how Scripture openly declares the Assyrian king's bold proclamation towards repentance in Jonah 3. Or King Nebuchadnezzar's extolling prayer regarding the Most High in Daniel 4. There is also King Cyrus's kindness towards the Jews by allowing them to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem as described in Ezra. There are no scriptural qualifications neatly surrounding these men to make them better or less than they were. These men were tyrants and rulers, who conquered great portions of the earth with ruthless armies. Each had an agenda. To the best of our knowledge, none of them totally forsook his own gods and solely worshipped the God of heaven. Nonetheless, God caused their actions and words to be recorded in the Bible. Why? Sometimes He shows us why, and other times we are left with only the historical record, from which we need to be able to discern its value.

Using spiritual perception and the rest of the Bible as a guide, we can learn worthwhile lessons from the lives of people who decidedly were not "saints."

Learn from the story; don't tidy it up

Jesus often used instances in the lives of sinners to teach His disciples a spiritual lesson. He didn't try to present every example as a saintly life. He never tried to tidy up the story of the centurion with the sick servant (Luke 7). The man was the leader of a hundred, an officer in the Roman army, helping to rule a conquered people. It never says whether the man ever became a member of the early Church. Christ focused on the man's faith to teach us a lasting lesson (Luke 7:9).

Another example of Jesus' approach to instructive encouragement is discovered in the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10. Samaritans were a people who were on "the outs" with the religious folk of Israel. Seemingly, they were almost akin to a caste of untouchables. They worshipped God on a different mountain in a different city, as mentioned in John 4:20. But we should appreciate how Jesus never sanitized the central character of His story. He spotlights what the Samaritan does right. He does not qualify or disqualify him for what he is or where he worships—only that he stepped up to the plate in the moment of need.

A great loss

If God left out of His Word all people who were not saints, the Bible would be devoid of many pages. More importantly, we would lose the benefit of many lessons illustrated in the lives of people less than saintly. Imagine, if you will, if we used "Jeffersonian scissors" on the stories of Rahab, Samson, Peter or Paul at any given stage of their spiritual journeys—or even on Nebuchadnezzar. One could surely make a case for his life being excised from the Holy Writ, due to his obvious carnality. But if we did, we would miss out on seeing what he was able to grasp when he gave voice to a profound truth, that God is the one who sets up and removes heads of state (Daniel 4:37). Let us be grateful that God wrote these lives into His Word, setting aside His scissors to allow us the chance to discern the full magnitude of the individuals: What they did right. What they did wrong. And why we should remember them.

The full scope of the Scriptures loudly blares forth the reality that God's saints at times do sinful things, and sinful people at times act godly, if but for the moment. God puts His scissors away when it comes to what He shares with us and does not tidy up the picture, be it saint or sinner. Rather, in the wisdom that comes from above, He allows us to render to God what is God's and to man what is of man. He encourages us to learn to exercise good judgment.

Jesus said: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

I am under no illusion that man, of and by himself, can save himself from himself. The many pages of World News and Prophecy testify by current events and prophetic assurances that Jesus Christ is going to have to come to this earth to rescue humanity from its penchant for self-destruction. But until then, I would offer you an important point to consider. What can we learn from those around us and those who went before us? Are there yet spiritual lessons to be gleaned from the lives of people who aren't wholly spiritual? I believe there are—untold thousands of them.

What can we take note of in the here and now? Can we admire the good that people are doing, rather than shutting them out entirely because of their errors? I believe their examples can and should prod us, push us, elevate us—we who have been granted so much—to gird up and get back into the game of life.

Perhaps the essence and purpose behind the "This Is the Way" column may be found in the example shared by Leroy Brownlow in his journal, Today Is Mine. In a section titled, "Do What You Can," he wrote: "In a roaring and flashing thunderstorm, a family gathered into what they thought was the safest room. They huddled in fear. One of them was a little girl who folded her hands, closed her eyes and prayed. Then she confidently said, 'O Mama, I have done what I could.'" Brownlow poignantly adds, "Oh! How it would add to life if we could say, 'I have done what I could.'"

That should describe what Christians need to be about, till we meet in that "better Kingdom," when each of us will be more than we have been in this life. We can learn from saint and sinner in order to do what we can in the here and now.