The Gateway

St. Louis, Missouri, boasts the Gateway Arch which stands at the Mississippi River as a testament to the pioneering spirit of the people approaching the eve expanding West.

the Gateway Arch rises up behind the new glass entrance
Gateway Arch National Park. Photo courtesy of StudioBrookes.

Founded by the National Park Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a transcontinental United States, the Gateway Arch National Park (formerly known as the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial”) stretches from the Old Courthouse to the steps overlooking the Mississippi River. In between, the Gateway Arch rises high, a bold monument to the pioneering spirit.

Today, the Gateway Arch celebrates the diverse people who shaped the region and the country. The dreamer, Thomas Jefferson, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. The explorers, Lewis & Clark, and their Shoshone guide Sacagawea, scouted the new territory and mapped a route to the Pacific Ocean. The challengers, Dred and Harriet Scott filed suit at the Old Courthouse for their freedom from slavery, and St. Louis suffragette Virginia Minor sued for women’s right to vote. The Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed the stainless-steel monument that honors them all.

gateway arch 1
Picture taken while I was visiting the arch.

The graceful arch is based on the catenary curve, that is the shape made by a free-hanging chain when held at both ends. When speaking of his design, Saarinen said, “The arch symbolized the gateway to the West, the national expansion, and whatnot.”

A view of the Gateway Arch reveals over 43,000 tons of concrete and steel that arc 63 stories high into the Midwest sky. Since its completion in 1965, the tram ride in the monument has taken millions of visitors on the trip to the top to enjoy stunning views stretching up to 30 miles to the east and west.

Much more information about the arch is available at the National Park Service website. (www.nps.gov/jeff/index.htm)

The Gateway Arch, of course, is not the only way to the West. It is certainly a wonderful monument to those who made the trek through difficult terrain with less than ideal circumstances and comforts.  But, today, there are many ways to get to the West from the East, in addition to going through the Gateway Arch.

Such is not the case in a matter of significantly more import than physical travel.  I am speaking of our ultimate destination for eternity. 

We know that we are finite creatures, born in space and time, and that we were created from dust and, given enough time, we will return to dust after our death. 

In Scripture, the Holy Bible, Jesus says that He is the gateway to heaven.  That is, that no one can come to the Father Almighty, God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, except through Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

Unfortunately, today there are many who assert that there are a variety of “ways” to get to heaven or to please God.  However, Jesus’ words do not equivocate.  There is no quibbling.  There is no suggestion that any other “way” is possible or effective if we want to go to heaven where the Father resides.  Jesus simply and clearly said that He is the only way to the Father.

Good works are not sufficient.  Giving money is not sufficient.  Being hopeful that the balance will tip in your favor is not sufficient.  Nothing is sufficient because everything other than what Christ did on the cross is based on our own abilities.  The problem is that we are all sinners and we are dead in our sins.  We can do nothing to aid ourselves or to move ourselves toward heaven.  We are dead.

If a person is dead, he cannot do anything for himself.  If he is to have life, an outside force must operate to give him life again.  He can’t summon up the strength to get life, he is dead.

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Praise God.  He loved us even though we were sinners, we had been disobedient to His law.  While we were sinners, before we could do anything to assist in our salvation, Christ died for us.  He accomplished all that was necessary to pay for our sin.

Jesus Christ, however, rose from the dead.  He conquered death and sin. 

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

Romans 6:9

Because He died and rose again, He is capable to rescue us from our sins, and He will do so if we have faith in Him.

“because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

If is for this reason that Jesus could tell His disciples, that He was THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life … there is none other

There are many gateways to the Western part of the United States, but there is only one way to heaven, no matter where you live or who you are. 

The Way is Jesus. He is the way to eternal life. Come to Him if you have not already done so and claim Him as your Savior and Lord of your life.   If you have already come to Him, praise His name. Thank Him for the life that He has given you, now and forever more.

Father, we praise your name for the love that was expressed to us through Christ’s life and death, and for your mighty power in raising Him from the dead so that we could claim Him as our Savior and Lord.   Thank you Father, thank you Lord Jesus, and thank you Holy Spirit for quickening our hearts and bringing us to yourself.

ARE YOU IN A CAVE?

I dare say that most of us live above ground, we don’t live in caves.  Sometimes in the high heat of the day, I have wondered about finding a cave and living in it since the temperature is always significantly cooler than the ambient temperature above ground.  But, needless to say, I use air conditioning and I am not a cave dweller. 

However, I have been in a number of caves throughout my lifetime.  In fact, a dear friend grew up on a farm on which there was a huge cave, and she played in it long before anyone realized how big and complex the cave system was.  Later, Sequoyah Caverns, Valley Head, Alabama, was opened for public visits and we had multiple opportunities to see the inside of her childhood playhouse.  Unfortunately, it has recently been closed to the public once again! 

We know from early church history that believers resorted to caves and catacombs to escape from the intense persecution and to bury their dead.  In fact, the catacombs in Rome show the inscriptions made by those early Christians.  

How about you?  Have you ever been in a cave?  It is quite an experience to walk hundreds of feet down into the earth, to see the formations and underground lakes. I have not gone cave-exploring, spelunking, other than in commercial tours of well-mapped caves.  The Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Missouri are some such well-known caves. 

Meramec Caverns in Stanton MO

Each cave I have visited always includes the time when the guide tells you to hold hands and don’t move, then BLACKNESS.  Such darkness that you cannot even see your hand inches in front of your face.

It is difficult to comprehend darkness like that, until you experience it.  It reminds me of the description of one of the plagues in Egypt:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.’” 

Exodus 10:21. 

Can you imagine, darkness that was so pervasive and so intense that you could feel it?   God is the Master Creator of all things.  He is sovereign.  He caused this darkness over the land of Egypt and it occurred at His command. 

The Psalmist wrote of the scope of God’s knowledge of him, of God’s love and of God’s power in Psalm 139. 

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,”  even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. 

Psalm 139:11-12

In modern parlance, we might consider these verses as saying “God sees you even in pitch black darkness.  No matter where you go, God is there and He sees you.”

We often think of darkness and light as equal counterparts, the flip side of the same coin.  But that analysis is vastly mistaken, I believe.  Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.  Thomas Kinkade, the artist known as the “Painter of Light” (thomaskinkade.com), said:

You have to expect spiritual warfare whenever you stand up for righteousness or call attention to basic values. It’s just a matter of light battling the darkness. But the light wins every time. You can’t throw enough darkness on light to put it out.

Scripture puts forth this concept in this way from the Gospel of John:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

Praise God, the Father Almighty, that Jesus Christ is the Light from heaven that shines in this dark old world. 

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

John 8:12

It is blessed comfort to know that the darkness of the cave cannot remove us from the Father’s sight.  The darkness of our sin will not eliminate our relationship with the Father if we are found in Christ Jesus, His Son. 

Praise God, and praise His Holy Son through whom we have forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. 

Father, Your word tells us that we are never out of Your sight.  We cannot run so far or descend into the earth so deep that You cannot find us, that You cannot see us, that You cannot hold us in Your hand.  Such comfort is too marvelous for us to comprehend, but for the eyes and heart of faith.  Thank You for Your word and for your marvelous love for Your children.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

We have just returned home from a trip through 5 different states – Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.  We did not “tour” throughout all these states, we did drive through them on the interstate highways.  It is easy to see the incredible variety of landscape that our country exhibits:

Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina make the driving scenic and sometimes scary.

fall-colors-in-east-tennessee
The mountains of East Tennessee.

Florida is significantly flatter than the mountains but there are beautiful beaches and palm trees, and fruit stands with fresh fruit even in March (we were there during the Strawberry Festival, yum!)

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Coral Gables, Florida Intricate detail in palm tree
A beautiful palm tree in Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Coral Gables, Florida.

 

Whether or not the terrain was hilly or flat, there was one feature that was the same throughout all the states.  It was pervasive.  It was ubiquitous!  It is the orange road construction barrel.

Orange road construction barrel
Orange highway construction barrel. Some say it is our state flower, but I think it is all over our country!

Construction – it is good for the highways. 

We know that there are potholes, uneven lanes, torn up pavement, all sorts of problems with the roadways and construction to repair such problems is good.  You simply cannot get away from the barrels.  They are put up when no construction is in sight, yet.  They are put up when the grading equipment is alongside the lane of travel.  They give evidence of the upcoming improvement in road conditions, which is good even if they cause some congestion and delay at the present time.

USED Crane visible from interstate in Nashville
Crane hovering over construction in downtown Nashville.

Construction – it is good for the cities.

When there is construction, there is growth.  There is change and there is development.  Sometimes people differ on how or where construction should occur, but there can be no dispute that construction changes things. 

christ-of-the-ozarks-missouri-1968-3
Christ of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA (circa 1965)

                Construction – it is good for US.

Seeing the construction in each of the states we traveled reminded me of the construction that is going on in each one of us, every moment of every day. We don’t have red barrels to tell others of the ongoing construction in our lives, but we are “under construction” nonetheless.  

Scripture teaches us that God loves us and that He gave His Son for us as an atonement for our sin.  This enables us to have confidence that we will be with Him now and forever if we have faith in Jesus Christ and trust Him alone for our salvation. 

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Romans 5:9-10 ESV

“[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:9-10 ESV

But, salvation is not the end of the story.  Once we have received Jesus Christ into our heart through faith, we then become “under construction” as the Holy Spirit does His work in transforming us into the image of our Lord.  I have heard it said “God loves us as we are, but he doesn’t want us to stay this way!”  In other words, He desires that we be changed into the image of His Son. 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2 ESV

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

Praise the Lord that we are “under construction”.  We are lovingly being transformed by God from our sinful, earthly desires, impulses, thoughts, actions and words into the image of our Lord.  But it takes time!  While we are justified with God immediately upon our receiving the Lord Jesus as our Savior,  the transformation into the image of the Lord is not an instantaneous occurrence.

A song written by Sim Wilson entitled “Please be patient with me” captures the concept well:  

Chorus:

Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet.

Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet.

When God gets through with me, when God gets through with me,

I shall come forth, I shall come forth like pure gold.

Verse:

If you should see me and I’m not walking right,

And if you should hear me and I’m not talking right;

Please remember what God has done for me, 

When He gets through with me, I’ll be what He wants me to be.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yjsTLpo_vQ

This transformation does not occur through our own efforts.  It does not come about through our own strength by struggling to keep all the commandments or by trying to copy good things that we see others doing. 

This construction comes from the Holy Spirit’s work inside of us.  It is an inward change.  It is a change of our heart and of our will. In fact it is a total surrender of our own will to that of our Father.

Praise the Lord that He is transforming us as we live our life in grace through the Holy Spirit.  Rest in Him and He will perform His good work in you.

Please be patient with me! 

When He gets through with me, I’ll be what He wants me to be!

 

Father, I thank You for sending the Holy Spirit into our world so that He would work in the life of each of Your children, transforming them into the image of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

UNITY – THE CALL FOR ALL CHRISTIANS

In these post-election days, it seems to me that, especially with the polarization in our country even among those calling on the name of the Lord, we need to be reminded of the fact that, as Christians, we all have just one Lord. 

Some people may look to the law as their god.

law-courts-building-winnipeg-manitoba-canada
The Law Courts Building in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (circa 1960)

Some people may focus on liberty, particularly their own personal liberty to do as they wish.

statue-of-liberty
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, USA.

For some, their god is fame and fortune, amassing financial wealth.  For others, their family is their god.  All these gods, and many more, have been around in various personas for centuries, yea millennia.

But for the Christian, there is one God, and only One.

Paul addresses this when he writes in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6:

For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 

christ-of-the-ozarks-missouri-1968-3
Christ of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA (circa 1965)

 

He is one Lord who is God Almighty, the triune Godhead in three persons, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 4:4-6, Paul states:

There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptismone God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

For those who belong to Jesus Christ, He is the Lord of each one of us.  There is one Body of Christ, and each person naming the name of Christ as Savior is part of that same Body.  While we may have various forms of worship, of baptism, of missions, there is one Spirit dwells within each Christian, and each Christian has that same Spirit.

I don’t think unity in Christ means that we lose our individuality or that we must be clones of each other.  If we think of the body analogy that Paul often uses, the thumb is not the same as the knee, and the eyes are not the same as the ears, yet it all is one body. 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  For the body does not consist of one member but of many. …  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. … If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 20, 26-27.

 

So, the Body of Christ is composed of very different persons, of various ethnicity, and divergent life experiences but we are united into the Body of Christ. 

Now, if you know anything about me, you will know that I don’t like confrontation, violence or argument (not exactly the temperament you would expect in an attorney, but the Lord facilitated that career!).  I don’t do movies with violence to people or explosions coming out of the blue, even if they are award winning productions.  I just would rather not watch that kind of thing.

But, give me talking animals, animation, or musicals, I’m all in!  For example, the movie Babe, or The Incredibles, or Shrek, or Ice Age, or Sound of Music, those are high in my repertoire.  

When we became grandparents, we wanted to have something that taught Christian values in a unique way, and we heard about VeggieTales.  So, we looked at them and before long we were VeggieTale aficionados! 

One of the songs that the creators of VeggieTales wrote for the album entitled “Oh Veggie, Where Art Thou?” in which the characters are broadcasting Grandpa Bob’s Old Time Radio Show, is a song entitled “One Lord”.  According to the story line, a missionary comes to tell the VeggieTale characters, and their radio audience, of his life on the mission field, and in so doing he sings this song.  The studio audience participates in the song as it provides an hilarious litany of Protestant Denominations in which names are combined in a mixed up form, all in an attempt to illustrate that while we are many, we really are just One in Christ.

 

I pray that you will enjoy hearing this song and that its message will encourage all of us to come together as one in the Body of Christ.  We don’t need to lose our identity, but we need to keep our focus so that the world will see One Lord in ministry to those around us.

 

Father, help each of us to be your hands and feet as we minister to others in these days of unrest and fear.  Help us to come together in unity as we serve as the Body of Christ in this world.  Help us to honor our differences and unique perspectives even as we unite in love through the one Spirit that indwells each of your children.  Bless us as we serve in your name, through the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.