Realities – Old and New – by Greg Albrecht
Friend and Partner Letter from June 2023
Two friends had been drinking at their local bar most of the night, and now they were finishing their evening by watching the 11:00 news. The lead story was about a despondent man standing on the side of a bridge threatening to jump. As viewers watched footage of the main poised to jump, the newscaster promised to get back to the story after a short commercial break.
Don, thinking that his friend Gary had not seen the 6:00 news which showed footage of the man eventually jumping off the bridge, said to Gary “I’ll bet you $20 that he is going to jump!” Gary enthusiastically replied, “Deal! I don’t think he will. It’s a bet.”
When the 11:00 news resumed after a “short break” the same footage shown on the earlier 6:00 newscast of the man jumping was replayed. When Gary reached into his pocket, his friend, Don, thinking better of his subterfuge, refused to accept the $20 bill, confessing it wasn’t really a fair bet because he had seen the earlier newscast of the man jumping.
Gary, whose thinking was a bit blurred by his consumption of alcohol said, “No, you keep it. I saw the 6:00 news as well. I knew he jumped then. I just didn’t think he would do it again.”
Here’s the question for you and me: Will the same thing as we saw on the 6:00 news (or read in our newspaper ten years ago – or read in our history books about events 100 or more years ago) will those same things, or at least similar things, happen again?
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – George Santayana (1863-1952)
Not long ago my wife and I were having dinner with two new friends, who told us of their escape, as young children with their parents, from totalitarian communism. The husband was taken to Thailand by his parents from Cambodia, where Pol Pot (depicted in the 1984 movie “The Killing Fields”) killed millions of educated and professional people, purging all who might oppose him. The eventual wife of this young man was living as a young girl in a Chinese community in Saigon, as the North Vietnamese invaded and conquered South Vietnam.
Both husband and wife, who would later meet in the United States, marry, attend university and enjoy productive professional careers and raise a family, were young “boat people” – desperate refugees who, were taken by their parents and barely escaped with their lives from these tyrannical and despotic regimes. Sponsored by Christians, they and their families came to the United States, with nothing … and now, given the self-sacrifices of their parents and their willingness to work hard, have achieved the “American Dream.”
When I asked them what they thought, given their real and life-threatening experiences, about the love affair many in this country (to which they relocated for safety and security) now have with “cancel culture” they both shook their heads. They said it seemed like many, particularly young people in our world today, have not read recent history, or if they have, they apparently do not realize how quickly life can change. They are saddened because the same or similar rhetoric of radical socialism is receiving such an enthusiastic response…with apparently little understanding about where it can all lead … and where it did lead in the recent past.
Things do happen over and over again—and they are endlessly replayed in history books much like the video footage of the man jumping off the bridge, aired during the 6:00 news and then again at 11:00.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9
Others today, seeing what is unfolding in our society, our media, our universities, our courtrooms and on our streets are saying, just like so many others before them have, that what we are seeing is fulfilled prophecy and that the Second Coming of Jesus is “nigh” (apparently using King James English makes some feel more spiritual and “special”).
Others ventured into the controversy about government enforcement of vaccinations in the midst of the COVID pandemic by suggesting those who submitted to a vaccination received the “mark of the beast” (Revelation 13:16-18). Such a subjective interpretation suggests that there are folks who believe anything (particularly in the political arena) with which they disagree is the “mark of the beast.” Some people are fond of wrapping their mind around something they already believe – creating their own reality. But thinking about something does not make it true. Thinking something is true does not make it real.
Prediction addiction – consumed with anxiety about “current news” and how it allegedly relates to the Second Coming is yet another fatally flawed human endeavor, one that has destroyed the lives of people just as surely as has totalitarian communism. For the past 200 years especially, since the days of a man named John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) people have been getting “hooked” on the highs of “knowing” the “true” meaning of Bible prophecy – “true” meanings which have failed over and over again. Thus, it would seem logical it is blatantly obvious these speculations are far from the truth! But sadly, many are unwilling to read this lesson of history and learn from it.
Let us learn the lessons of history:
- Let us realize that governments and societies in the kingdoms of this world endlessly repeat the same old flawed ideas, over and over and over again. Let us realize that what we are seeing is not new, it’s the same old, same old garbage that keeps people as far away from Jesus as possible.
- Let us realize that wringing our hands, endlessly addicted to predictions, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will eventually return – but of that day and hour knows no man or woman. Our life in Christ does not consist of identifying “signs of the times” that will help us know how near the Second Coming is. Our life in Christ is all about following Jesus Christ, living out our lives in service and self-sacrifice to others, whether Jesus returns tomorrow or 10 or 20 or more years from now!
- Let us realize that truth and reality absolutely reside in and through Jesus Christ.
A Christ-centered focus will help us “see” foibles and pitfalls, errors and mistakes with greater clarity (not perfectly, however) … and learn from them. A Christ-centered focus helps us learn from our own past, and rather than be filled with shame and regrets, resolve to move forward, in Christ, and follow him.
As Christ-followers we are on the road – the sign on the side of the road identifies it as the “Jesus Way.” We are going somewhere, with Jesus. He is the leader of our life. He is the pioneer who blazes the trail. He is the captain of our salvation.
As we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) we are continually learning and maturing in Christ. We are gradually and continuously being converted from who we have been and where we have been to who we are now in Christ and where we are going as we follow him. We are being transformed, by God, into a new creation in Christ. “The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Some old spiritual maps are still accurate – other spiritual maps need to be redrawn. Nothing at all regarding the kingdom of God and our journey toward it is absolute other than Jesus Christ. Nothing. Only Jesus. All Jesus all the time!
Nothing in this world is more difficult or beautiful or real than love. God is love.
I am particularly fond of a passage from “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck:
What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn. The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is ignore the new information… We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Sadly, such a person, may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than it would have required to revise and correct it in the first place.
Thank you for your part in this ongoing ministry, as we seek to point people to Jesus Christ, as we seek to serve others in Jesus’ name. We all, as we collectively travel and move forward in Christ, are dedicated to Jesus, the author and finisher of our salvation, our beginning and our end, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
Until next time, I am yours in Christ, your brother in Christ,