Cuzzin Al, our popular Bay Area Blue Grass announcer, sometimes closes his shows by saying, "That's all for this week, folks. And always remember, 'Time flies Like an Arrow, But Fruit Flies Like Bananas.'" I grew up on the Grand Ole Opry; so this sort of corn has a place in my soul. It does seem to me that life is short and time does fly like an arrow. (I don't know anything about fruit flies, however. To balance the picture of who I am, I also like classical music, good art, and the Antiques Road Show).
At the close of the year, an editorial in Time magazine reminded me how people today are becoming numb to the daily news:
MAYBE 2002 WAS A BIG YEAR FOR YOU. BUT WHO WRITES headlines about you? In the news this was a fake year, a retro year, a year when new ideas were kicked to the curb like some dorky futuristic scooter. If someone came to you 10 years ago and told you that one of the biggest news stories of 2002 would be the rescue of a bunch of guys who work in a coal mine actually mining coal, you would tell Future Boy to get back on his dorky scooter and go home.
Maybe were living in the past because we feel all freaked out about the future. Turned off by coverage of terrorism in Bali and Israel, unrest in Venezuela, nukes in North Korea or arms laundering in Yemen we gobbled up huge scoops of comfort news. Reading the newspaper this year was like reading paper they hand out at Colonial Williamsburg, the one with headlines like SILVERSMITH THROWN IN GAOL FOR STEALING GO SMITH'S PEANUT SOUPE RECIPE. O.K., I've never read the paper. But in the New York Times which I occasionally read during boring meetings, I found out that the Dow slipped to 1997 levels and swept away all those confusing new companies I never bothered to understand in the first place, with their energy trading and e‑tailing and telling people they've got mail. None of the news seemed at all fresh this year: Attacking Iraq? Jimmy Carter getting a peace prize? Smallpox vaccinations? Droughts plaguing Western farmers? Liza Minnelli getting married? Axis of evil? Airline bankruptcies? Ozzy Osbourne? It's like CNN was replaced by CNN Classic. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're rerunning old infrared shots of Baghdad...
Even weirder were our public debates. Last year we were arguing about cloning and stem‑cell research. This year we pretended to argue about things we agreed upon long ago. The Times used its new front‑page editorial section to lead our country into a brave fight over whether women should be allowed to join golf clubs... It's a little late to take a stand on this when we've already got women reporters in the male golf‑club locker room...
I know were worried about dirty bombs and biowarfare and it's comforting to agree, but were not going to get anywhere if we spend 2003 debating the ethical dilemmas of debtors' prisons and how many fifths of a person a slave is and whether the Stones have gone disco. We need to get back to facing the difficult, finely nuanced, real moral dilemmas facing us today, like J. Lo's wedding. (Joel Stein, TIME, December 30, 2002-January 6, 2003)
I think it is a phenomenon of aging that when we grow older life seems to speed up to fast forward. As we have grow older we have seen it all, done it all. Nothing is really new under the sun. Carl Jung said that the first half of life was like a young tree growing vertically as fast as it could, sending out new branches and roots in all directions. Everything is fresh and new and green, full of possibilities, when you're young. In the second half of life the tree thickens its trunk, rounds out its leafy growth, and strengthens its roots so as to stand strong in the later storms of life.
When I was a boy, one single boring day in school was an eternity. Summer vacation was in the infinitely distant future. As I grew up, it felt like events in the past could only be remembered by playing the tapes backward in a linear fashion. But my later life seems subjectively very different. Long forgotten events of childhood suddenly come to mind with vividness and clarity. It seems to me now as if any event in my own past is to be found adjacent in the next room, to be recovered by merely opening an invisible door, the taking a short step back in time into life as it was perhaps 50 years ago.
God is of course recording our entire lives in multi-dimensional polymorphic living color and pentaphonic sound for His cosmic library of History-As-It-Really-Happened. He has special angels (with laptop computers?) appointed for this purpose. One sees them at work in Ezekiel's vision of Jerusalem-about-to-be-destroyed, AD 586. (See Ezekiel 8-9, http://ldolphin.org/Destr.html). A Day is coming when all the books will be opened and be made public.
"As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire... I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed... And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.'" (Daniel 7:9-27)
There are many things I do not understand now, so many questions the Bible leaves unanswered I find I have a certain wonderful anticipation of eternity in my heart as I grow older. Once upon a time I thought I knew a whole lot, now I how that I really know very little! "Not only do we not know God except through Jesus Christ; We do not even know ourselves except through Jesus Christ." --Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:11-13)
Part of me resists change of any kind. Occasionally I'll visit a "small" town I haven't been to in thirty years. But, everything is frighteningly different. Smalltown, USA is now a huge city with traffic and freeways, and it's more and more like the place I just came from.
One of the really ominous things to me about our century is the way world population is exploding. It is generally assumed that the total population of the world was about 200 million when Christ was born. Almost nineteen hundred years elapsed before it reached a billion. Earth's population today--6.3+ billion--was only 4 billion people in 1972. The web site http://www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop features a handy clock recording the current growth rate before your eyes. If you'd like to see the future, a little window will show that we can expect 10.3 billion people on earth only 34 years from today. I'm old enough to remember the WPA, Rural Electrification and hand-cranked wall telephones. (I think I still have my old log-log-decitrix engineer's slide rule around somewhere). The technological explosion of the last hundred years amazes me. I wonder, did something like this happen to our planet immediately preceding the flood of Noah? (See http://ldolphin.org/popul.html, http://ldolphin.org/flood.shtml)
Jesus spoke of a number of characteristics of the entire age we live in, between His two advents. Among other things he said was "... because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12) I can't help but feel a growing insensitivity in my own heart when I read of a famine affecting a million people, or a war in which "mere" thousands perish. If there is a shooting down the street it will be old news in 24 hours and thus easily forgotten. I am supposed to love my neighbor as myself, but when my neighbor is a now great crowd of strangers, (most of whom seem to have been born only yesterday when I wasn't looking), where do I start? How can I recover my own sense of an individual life to be held in high regard? Is my own love for God and my fellow-man growing cold? I think it probably is.
The Information Age tells me far more than I want to know, and certainly much more than I need to know. I do have to shut off the TV, ration time surfing the Net, put aside Time and Newsweek, and shut off the noises on the car radio. Are the things that concern the Father heart of God still at the top of my priority list or have I succumbed to the siren calls of the world pressing in on all sides? Where do I go to hear the still, small voice of God? How can I build quality friendships in frantic, stress-filled Silicon Valley where a "close-friendship" means merely a 20 minute coffee break at Starbucks? I feel pressed in upon my depersonalizing forces which discourage me from really loving, caring, giving, bonding--even with my fellow Christians.
"It is during the times of stress that the real character of human beings comes to the surface, that raw ugly sores open in society and the situation becomes dangerous and violent. Astrologers would describe such times as arising from most unfortunate aspects of the planets all lining up at once." (Archbishop Trench 1807-1886)
Not to be talking all gloom and doom as I often do, I'm surviving nicely and I still have joy and hope--because when I call out to our Lord Jesus for help, He is always there to quiet my heart, calm my fears, and renew my spirit. Endurance is a great Christian quality which comes with putting up with pressure and stress for the long haul. (Greek: hupomene, "to remain under"). Nor should we be alarmed when the world falls apart around us on all sides. We've have been told this in advance by Jesus Himself. It will get much, much worse.
"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near... Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:25-35)
What matters most in these short earthly lives of ours? The quality of a relationship with God, the cultivation of our daily, personal interactions with our Lord and with the Scriptures. After that comes other people—the people God has asked me us pray for, to be involved with. What should I get done today as if this were the last day of my life? How can I invest in things of eternal value?
Life is short. What an incredible gift it is to be alive, to know the Lord Jesus, to be "in training" for service in the coming kingdom of God. Each new day is really the first day of eternity, not a last day in the mythological world of what might have been. As Moses wrote in Psalm 90, "Teach us to number our nanoseconds that we may get a heart of wisdom... "
LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God. Thou turnest man back to the dust, and sayest, "Turn back, O children of men!" For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. Thou dost sweep men away; they are like a dream, like grass which is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are consumed by thy anger; by thy wrath we are overwhelmed. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days pass away under thy wrath, our years come to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of thy anger, and thy wrath according to the fear of thee? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on thy servants! Satisfy us in the morning with thy steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as thou hast afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let thy work be manifest to thy servants, and thy glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands upon us, yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. (See http://raystedman.org/psalms/0386.html, http://www.ldolphin.org/nanos.html).
Classes. My week-night Palo Alto Bible class is taking our time in the Gospel of John. Ray Stedman's commentary is superb and of great help to us. The Wednesday Brothers of Thunder men's group is nearing the end of Deuteronomy. We are finding Moses both profound and arresting. Sundays I am currently teaching Genesis 1-11 in the Forum Class at PBC, Palo Alto. This is an exciting class with a good number of solid and well-informed Christians coming regularly. Several younger students have joined and they seem to ask the best questions. I'm putting the MP3 audio files on my server for your edification, amazement, or amusement, http://ldolphin.org/audio.html, near the bottom of the page.
New or revised articles on my web site will usually be found at the top of my library page, http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml. Archived newsletters are found at http://ldolphin.org/news/. To be added to or removed from my mailing list, please send an email to email@example.com.
As best I can, I answer all my email myself. This involves many hours each day of very challenging, very rewarding work. In addition I work closely with The Paraclete Forum -- a team of PBC-related evangelical Christian Cyperspace men and women. We respond to email from folks searching for God and we seek to help people with their theological and apologetics questions. Email to our team will get a personal answer from one or more of us. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Our web site, http://paracleteforum.org features a bulletin board and archived lively email discussions. I got started in Christian apologetics on Internet back in 1995. The opportunities to serve God in this world-wide instant communication medium are vast. Let us know if you'd like to get involved.
Contributions: I am supposed to be retired but in fact have never been busier--nor happier--in my entire life. I am very grateful for the financial help of friends who help me stay actively answering email, growing my web site, teaching the Bible, and spending lots of time with individuals. Your contribution can be addressed to Peninsula Bible Church (include a note that it is for my ministry support). 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. I do not receive a list of contributors so I am not able to write thank you notes. Your prayers are highly valued above all else.