We took this shot in a butterfly house in Texas a while back.
Guess when the following quote was written:
"There are others of us who are discontented...with the world. The time is out of joint, and we are sick at heart because no one seems to be wise or strong enough to set it right Government is corrupt; the church seems dead or dying; the home is a failure or scandal; society is superficial and tainted; the social order is ready for the burning; the economic system is a burden and curse; the whole framework of the world needs to be reconstructed, and, alas, who is sufficient for such a Herculean task? The men with the antidotes are loud-mouthed and confident; the prophets of reform are vociferous and ubiquitous, but unfortunately they do not agree among themselves, and the remedies, when applied, are impotent to cure. The medicines do not seem to be powerful enough, and the doctors stand by the beds of feverish and delirious humanity, outwitted, discredited; dumbfounded. Modern civilization has become a tower of Babel, and the air is so filled with theories of social revision and programs of industrial reorganization that the clearest headed are bewildered by the din and tumult, not knowing in which direction deliverance must be sought."
I've been reading blogs, listening to conversations, and hearing news reports all of which voice similar sentiments. No matter what are one's political convictions or one's philosophy of life and government, it seems that many of us find our world to be confusing, disappointing, disordered, in trouble, and in need of a savior. Well, it is.
Yet, the quote above was not written today, this week, or even this year or the last. It was written by Charles Edward Jefferson in....imagine a drum roll here...1908. As Solomon says, there is nothing new under the sun.
Fortunately, Mr. Jefferson does not stop with his dismal observations of the pain felt by people of his day (and ours). He goes on to tell us that God has sent a true Savior, and he speaks of him this way:
"If His ideas have in them the force of dynamite, and if His personality has power to change the policy of empires, and even the temper of the human heart, it may be that This Man is the very man the "modern" world (quotes mine) is looking for in its wild quest for a way of deliverance from its miseries and woes. Surely all of those who are sick of the world as it is and who long for the coming of a world which shall be better, must, if they are wise, come to Jesus of Nazareth for his secret of pulling down the strongholds of iniquity and establishing righteousness and peace on the earth.
"...We discover that his supreme concern is for the rightness of heart of the individual man. This molder of empires gives himself to the task of molding individual men. This arch revolutionist starts His fire in the individual soul. He draws one man to him, infuses into him a new spirit, sends him after one brother man, who in time goes after a third man, and this third man after a fourth...
"When we speak of the environment, we think of the physical surroundings: the paving in the street, the sewerage, the architecture of the houses and the lighting of the rooms. We are convinced that with better sewerage and better ventilation and better lighting the plague of humanity would be speedily abated. But, this reformer of Nazareth acts and speaks as though environment is not a matter of brick and plaster, but rather of human minds and hearts. Men are made what they are, not by pavements and houses, but by the men among whom they live.
"If you would change the environment, then begin by a transformation of men, and if you would transform men, then begin by a transformation of some particular man. It is by the changing of the character of a man that we change the character of other men; and by changing the character of many men, we change the character of institutions and ultimately of empires and civilizations. When Jesus says, "Behold I make all things new" he lays his hand on the heart of a man. It is out of the heart the demons proceed which tear humanity to pieces, and it is out of the heart that the angels come which restore he beauty and peace of Paradise."
Mr. Jefferson sites numerous examples where human kingdoms and nations have been altered for the better by the values of the gospel. For that, we are all thankful!
Of course, we have to note that, ultimately, the kingdom of the world has been, is now, and will be until the final day opposed to the kingdom of heaven, for the kingdom of heaven turns the values of the world upside down. When I say kingdom of the world, I'm thinking of the way the fallen world operates and the value system held by those who resist God's beautiful and perfect will. It is only in the kingdom of heaven that we find true love, peace, and everything ordered as it should be.
Wherever Christ truly reigns in the hearts of men and women now, we see the kingdom of heaven breaking into the stronghold of the kingdom of the world. Our citizenship, as Paul says, is already in heaven. One day, we will see the fullness of the heavenly kingdom in all of its glory. Mr. Jefferson's point is well taken that the present advancement of the kingdom of heaven happens heart by heart by heart, and this total transformation of people's hearts is made possible through our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr. Jefferson makes another point that is also well taken: Dealing with the externals of our lives does not solve our deepest need for redemption of the heart and soul. Of course, we do want to improve people's environment and circumstances. It pleases the Lord when we serve the poor, help the sick, and treat others with love and justice. In fact, James 1:27 says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Yet, in doing that, we also want to share the glory, majesty, and love of Christ with others.
Jesus gave his apostles the radical, world-changing, life-transforming mission, which has been passed down to us. "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.' " Matthew 28:18-20.
This mission was urgently needed in Jesus' day, in Charles Edward Jefferson's era, and in 2010 today.
A woman whose heart is truly surrendered to the Lord and whose heart has been infused with His Spirit has many opportunities to touch the hearts of others. What an exciting thing it is when the Lord uses our lives to help others know Him and to fall in love with Him! What could be a more exciting endeavor than to be Christ's disciples, maturing each day in doing our Father's will on earth as it is done in heaven? What could be more satisfying than to help others become disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey the wonderful commands of Jesus?