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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas, The Stairway to Heaven and the one kind of evolution I believe in!

Christmas and why I am a Christian

In the United States:  Retailers of all kinds make all sorts of commercials proclaiming how they have the best prices and assert that Christmas is about buying presents and Santa Claus, or even out-doing Santa Claus.  Not in my family though, we get presents for the children but it is all about family and celebrating the birth of Christ.  Yes, even if it is unlikely that Jesus was actually born on the 25th of December.

Virtually every person will have a holiday of some length, if even only one or two days...and so many of them with pay, at that.   We call it Christmas.  Atheists all around the nation gladly take the time off and the money.  I believe in Canada and Great Britain and Australia and New Zealand they celebrate Boxing Day on the first or second day after Christmas.  Also Jews celebrate Chanukah at this time of year.   So Atheists all over are getting a holiday and probably with pay because a God they do not believe in was born.   I do not begrudge them at all.   Whether they "get it" or not, the fact that they get a holiday is EXACTLY the point!   No one earns salvation, it is a gift given freely to all.   It is a matter of whether or not you take it.   Now you are pretty sure to take the holiday and the money.   Will you take the Reason for the Season?  His love and grace is free for the taking. 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NIV

I have never met Robert Plant and it is unlikely that I ever will.  I cannot ask him if the "stairway" is an allusion to Jacob's Ladder from the Bible?   But I will tell you the steps that led me to Jesus, the real Ladder or Stairway to Heaven.

Genesis 28:12
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!
 
Led Zeppelin's iconic song -

There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for

Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven


There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure

'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings

In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings

Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven

Ooh, it makes me wonder

Ooh, it makes me wonder


There's a feeling I get when I look to the west

And my spirit is crying for leaving

In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees

And the voices of those who stand looking

and it makes me wonder

really makes me wonder


And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune

Then the piper will lead us to reason

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long

And the forest will echo with laughter


If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,

It's just a spring clean from the May Queen

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run

There's still time to change the road you're on

Ooh, it makes me wonder

Ooh, Ooh, it makes me wonder


Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know

The piper's calling you to join him

Dear lady, can't you hear the wind blow, and did you know

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind


And as we wind on down the road

Our shadows taller than our soul

There walks a lady we all know

Who shines white light and wants to show

How everything still turns to gold

And if you listen very hard

The tune will come to you at last

When all is one and one is all, yeah

To be a rock and not to roll.


And she's buying the stairway to heaven


The song means many things to many people.  It is supposedly the most requested AOR song of all time, contains arguably the greatest guitar solo of all time and was to the band both their finest song and the one they truly became weariest of in time.  I'm not even presenting a YouTube version of the song, because you have surely heard it and more than once.  There were some Christian preachers who claimed that the song was a back-masked song to Satan!   Argh!!!   Some of the most ungodly people in the world are television preachers and showy so-called miracle workers like Robert Tilton, blackguards whose real goal in life is to use God to coerce people into sending their money to them.   I detest fakers like Benny Hinn who put on circus acts to fool innocent folks into giving him a life of luxury and to give him a sense of worldly power on stage as a so-called man of God.   Some of the worst people on the planet are fake men and women of God!

Back to Stairway.  It was a song that the band worked hard to get right, a very difficult song to put together and yet their story was that part of it was absolutely inspired.  Robert Plant begins the song with a thought which is counter-intuitive.  No one buys a stairway to Heaven.  But as the song builds the meanings change as Plant and his bandmates sought to say something spiritual.  They were reaching for the eternal with words and music.  Many artists and writers and singers - pretty much all creative people - will tell you that sometimes they are simply inspired and things just FLOW.   As a musician I admire the song greatly for its fantastic composition and the way it builds perfectly to a crescendo of words and music and then ends in a hushed echo of its start, it is a fantastic song and beautifully performed and is perhaps the most perfect of classic rock songs ever composed and performed.

Jesus is truly the Stairway to Heaven.   But in my life there was a stairway to the stairway and I can tell you how and why I did come to know Jesus despite the odds against me.   Most college-educated adults who have not become Christians do not ever do so...So I was saved against the odds.   How I came to come to know Jesus against the odds was something of a stairway with the steps all made of different "materials"


Oft times I have presented the Gospel in this blog.  To simplify it all today, we are sinners and God is a God of perfection.  He is Light and He is Love and because of that love, He made a way for us to spend eternity in His presence.  Jesus Christ had to come to Earth to live a perfect life as a man and die as the Sacrifice for our sins - not simply to be beaten and tortured and killed shamefully on a cross, but also to bear all the sins of mankind and suffer separation from His Father.   The Son, the Spirit and the Father had always been together, even when Jesus was born as a man He was in continual harmony and contact with the other Persons of the Godhead.   Jesus was the Son, the Word of God and according to the first verses of John it was the Son Who did the actual creating of the world in harmony with Father and Spirit. 

Now is not the time to discuss the Trinity (saving that for another post) but try to imagine that you are God and have only known perfection and now you voluntarily come to the very existence you created and confine yourself within it.  You detest sin, unlike all other men, and only desire to do good.   You are in constant communication with God with His Spirit within you and the Father guiding you at every second.  You are a man on a mission.  At the crucial point in that mission you are in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and you are asking to not have to take the "cup."   That cup was the totality of all sins of all of mankind for all time, past, present and future.   Also, in becoming sin Jesus would be separated from God.  He would be alone as He entered into death.  This is what He detested and what caused Him to be so upset that He literally sweated blood!  As a man I am sure Jesus didn't want to be beaten and spat upon and scourged and tortured and killed but the cup...that was the part He despised.   But His love for mankind exceeded His hatred for sin and his grief at being apart from God.  So to the cross He went purposefully.

There is a mystery to it all, which is this:  God knows who will call on Him and be part of His family and knows who will not.  We read the Bible and discover that all men have free will and that God would prefer that all would come to Him and be saved.   Yet we also read that God is sovereign and has made some of us for Himself and some for destruction.  God transcends time, so has He indeed made some of us who will tend to seek God and some to prefer a selfish trust in themselves?  Or is it all entirely up to us and do we hold our own fate entirely within our own hands? 

Now as a Christian since 1978 I cannot really remember what it is like to be alone.  I am so used to being in God's presence and His presence being within me that I can only remember what the old me was like theoretically.   It is like watching a movie with someone else playing the part of me.   But let me tell you the steps:
  • There was the Sunday School I attended with a kindergarten friend in which we made a Noah's Ark over the course of two Sundays.   I had to come back to finish my own Ark.  They gave us cookies and we had fun.   I never went to church but for two weeks I went and probably absorbed something?
  • My Dad used to like to sing, "Tell Me Why" on nights when the skies were clear and we could see the stars and he would teach me the various constellations.  He never told me about Jesus but he did assert to me a belief in God.
  • Grandpa Wesner used to always preach to us about Jesus.  Marc and I even prayed the "Sinner's Prayer" with him once so he would quit doing it, but then that just caused him to bug us to go to church with him so we just couldn't win!   We didn't really mean it because we didn't understand it but I knew that he absolutely believed, because he would talk about Jesus to the point his wife and children would roll their eyes.   Some people are just evangelists!  He gave me a leather-bound Bible and I did try to read it but got bogged down in the story partway through Genesis and put it down to gather dust.
  • A grade school friend got me to come to church with him and I thought the Sunday School was okay, but in the main service the preacher was scolding people for not giving enough money and that turned me off of church after that.
  • I was good buddies with lots of Greeks in high school and I was declared an honorary Son of Pericles by some of them.  I dated a Greek girl, had three great friends who were all Greek and so I went to a Greek Orthodox service with them once.   There was incense being burned and lots of ceremony.  It wasn't unpleasant, it was just a bit confusing.
  • The first girl I ever actually loved was a Catholic and I went to church with her once.   There was a lot of standing up and sitting down and kneeling and none of it meant anything to me at all.  It seemed like a lot of ceremony and not much else.   Greek Orthodox part two?
  • Once when I was hitchhiking in California, I was picked up by a couple of guys who wanted to pray before they broke out their marijuana to share with me.  So we got out of the car and prayed out loud and then we started driving again and passed the doobies around.   That was kind of strange, admittedly.
  • In the Army, I was for a time working in the Pentagon (hated the place) and there was an Air Force guy who targeted me for salvation.   There was also an Army Major who was pretty sure I was possessed by the Devil (I was pretty wild back then) and took me to see some priest to determine whether I should be a candidate for exorcism.  No, I am not kidding!   The Major meant well.  The priest gave me a few verses from the Bible I should read and think on but they didn't mean anything to me and I kept on being a party animal in my private life.   
  • One of my old Greek buddies continued to try to tell me that God was real after I got out of the Army and came back "home."   I dismissed him with the various arguments against God and the Bible I had learned from my college classes. 
  • My wife had gone to a church and had "gotten saved" as she told me.   Frankly I was planning on abandoning her and only the fact that we had a daughter together had kept me around.   It was only a matter of time in my mind because she had changed a LOT after having our daughter, becoming a complaining and whining pain in the butt who I was getting sick of and fast!   Suddenly she was being sweet instead of sour and I found myself wondering if it was real or a temporary aberration?
  • Then the pastor of that church came to talk to me and somehow the Spirit of God spoke to me during our conversation and in an instant of time I had belief in this Jesus Christ as real, the actual Savior of mankind and I immediately wanted to know this God I had rejected my entire life!   Pastor Wood prayed with me but frankly I know I was born again the very second I believed.   The transformation was immediate and dramatic.   It took just a few weeks to turn me from a wild party animal with a reputation that actually caused that pastor to fear me (found this out years later) into a guy who was going to church and reading the Bible incessantly and wanting to do God's will no matter what!
Looking back now,  I realize what began the change in me and it was even before my wife became "unshrewed" and the pastor shared the Bible with me.    It was a moment that I will never forget.  You see, my daughter Sara was born prematurely and had to be put in a specially sealed crib in the intensive care unit of the hospital.  There was a little door in the side and the nurses let me get on a gown and a mask and scrubbed up and then I was able to reach in and touch my little daughter.   She was so tiny but I stuck my little finger in her hand and her tiny hand grasped that finger.   She had not yet opened her eyes (they said) but when she grasped my finger she opened her eyes and the first thing she saw in her life (poor thing) was her very furry father.  I saw those eyes open and look up at me and I was hopelessly hooked on being Dad.  Maybe I saw eternity in the eyes of my newborn baby?  Maybe that was the catalyst that caused me to allow thoughts of a real God to enter in? 

To everyone who told me about Jesus when I didn't want to hear it, to all who invited me to church, to all who called themselves "Christian" who actually seemed different from other people...even the "church ladies" who used to come to my door and invite me to church and the couple across the hall (almost forgot this) who tried witnessing to me and my wife without success.   To all of you who tried to plant a seed and water it, well, guess what, it worked!  This seed became a tree with six kids and three grandkids and I am expecting that my children and grandchildren will not only be believers, but they will spread the word.   My wife and every single one of my children have been or are involved in ministry in churches - singing, acting, teaching, helping others, going to nursing homes, all sorts of things.  We are children of God now (Well, my little granddaughter may not quite yet understand the Jesus she talks about) and we are all out there bringing our crosses with us when we go!     I guess there is one kind of evolution I DO believe in...





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