Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Our Plans (Advent, Day 11)

For the past two days I have been on a sort of mini-vacay with a friend and both our moms in Sevier County, TN.  Several weeks ago, we younger ladies had planned this brief get-away with our moms, to enjoy them amid the local festivities of the season.   The Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area is in the Great Smokey Mountains, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  Over the past several decades it has been a favorite tourist destination.  When I was a child, it was sort of a secret.  Not many folks outside of the South knew about it, nor did they travel to the area because there was not a lot to do except to relax, fish, talk to the natives, etc.  Today, driving down Parkway, I marveled at all the entertainment options available in Pigeon Forge.  In fact, I made the comment that you could stay here for a week and still not see all the shows or enjoy more than a smidgen of the restaurants, see all the fancy exhibits, etc.  It reminds me somewhat of Vegas (a place I visited once and never plan to see again), though on a more wholesome scale.

We had a bit of an adventure getting to Pigeon Forge yesterday.  We attempted to gain access by driving "over the mountain" - - which is the route folks from my mother's area have taken for many years.  The GPS exhorted us over and over again to take a different (longer) route.  We glibly ignored her.  (Mother said later that we should apologize!). Eventually, at the base of the mountain, we encountered flashing signs telling us the road ahead was closed.  What a bunch of dummies we were!  Despite the signs given, we were determined we knew better!  Our stubbornness and pride lengthened our trip by an hour and a half, as we were forced to take the "around the mountain" route, which eventually brought us into the Sevier county area from the other direction.

The New Testament is full of stories where folks misread the signs, ignoring God by making their own selfish plans.  King Herod is one example of this.  He did his best to manipulate the wise men and, later, to attempt to manipulate the will of God by murdering all infant boys under 2 years of age.  He was sure he "knew better".  Another example is the Jewish teachers and leaders of Jesus' day.  They were absolutely certain they "had Jesus pegged".  They could hardly have been more mistaken.

The cynics of this world who say with disdain, "Who cares about the fables and fairy tales of the Bible" are falling into a similar pit.  Tozer describes these as "big, challenging words" from "puny, empty hearts and minds".  Folks who puff out their chests and (figuratively speaking) shake their fists at God fail to see that all of us human beings are in the hands of God, in the final analysis, whether we are willing to admit it or not.  

There's a striking, appalling juxtaposition currently in this local area.  Less than 10 miles from where we are staying, amid the glitz and glamour, the bright lights and man-made monuments, lie ruins of blackened buildings, charred woods, smoldering ashes of the now-crippled town of Gatlinburg.  Just a few days ago near this bustling tourist destination conditions were ripe for "a perfect storm".... foliage that had not seen rain for several weeks and high winds.  Wildfires were started (by arson, it is believed) and the high winds quickly had them raging out of control.  Much of the town and surrounding area was devastated, lives and millions of dollars worth of property destroyed.  

We were turned back from crossing the mountain as we drove to Sevier county yesterday, for this very reason.  Today, we again tried to drive into Gatlinburg, but this time from Pigeon Forge - - - same result.  The town is blocked off all around, until the residents and business owners can begin to recover from the disasters they have endured and continue to endure.

Tozer tells a story about the ruler of Germany during World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm.  The Kaiser heard a sermon on the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.  Greatly offended, Wilhelm spoke to the minister after the service:  "I never want to hear that kind of a sermon again!  Such an event is not at all in keeping with the plans we have for the future and the glory of our Fatherland!"

Oh!  How we tend to make ourselves big....and God small.

The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, 
and He will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 11:15

He came once as a baby, over 2020 years ago, born into the humblest of circumstances.  He lived a perfect life, allowed his own excruciating death and then defeated Death by rising from the dead, despite all the hordes of Hell brought to bear against Him.  He is God.  He is flawless.  He is coming again.  On that changeless fact we can depend.  When that day comes, we had better be ready, because it will come more suddenly than a forest fire raging out of control.  And, there will be absolutely nothing we can do to stop it.

Father, during this time of terrible tragedy for the people of Sevier county and especially Gatlinburg, TN, please restore what the Destroyer has taken, replenish what the locusts have eaten, what the fires have taken.  Show Yourself mighty in this, Lord!  Be very near and precious to them, bind up the broken-hearted and do the miraculous among them, for Jesus' sake.  Amen.


Tozer, A.W. From Heaven, pp. 49-522016. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.

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