As I write this, Linville Gorge is on fire.
The wildfire that presumably started by careless campfire practice has brought a lot of attention to Linville Gorge, and to online groups (such as the Linville Gorge Facebook Group, which I help moderate). This wildfire and the back fires set to contain it, it has consumed more than 2,200 acres of Table Rock, The Chimneys, NC Wall, Spence Ridge, Chimney Branch, and was heading towards Shortoff. A lot of people love Linville Gorge and consider it their sandbox and playground. As people are passionate about something they love, their opinions and feelings are often passionate to follow. Aired on the internet in placing of social networks, forums, and discussion boards, those words that are felt and let out seem to become just as ferocious as the wildfire itself. Which I’m not really surprised by.
What I’m surprised by is my own reaction to this fire. People have often joked and lovingly suggested to me that hiking in Linville was an idol (read: false god) to me, and I think that those suggestions were valid observations. What surprises me is that I am not more upset than I am. I’m really not upset at all. Am I sad to hear the Gorge is burnt crispy? Absolutely. So what am I getting at?
I believe this wildfire is a lesson in eschatology. If you aren’t familiar with that term, it’s a fancy way to the study of the last things. But let’s back up, and start hoping I don’t rabbit trail here.. I’ll try.
Christians especially – if not more than anybody – should be considerate of being environmentally conscious as stewards of God’s creation. This planet should be cared for and fought for so it doesn’t end up looking like…quite frankly…a lot of our lives. But in all honesty, just as our lives are messed up and we haven’t been good stewards of all that we’ve been given, so also will that fault translate into the world around us. Relationships are destroyed, finances ruined, health fails, wildfires start, resources are squandered, nature is devastated, people are lied to, and so much of everything just falls apart. I mean, really, look at the world around you. Can any of us say with integrity that we never look at the world around us and hopelessly feel like this is not the way it’s supposed to be???
There’s a reason for that. It’s because this is NOT the way the world is supposed to be. God created man (Adam & Eve) and he rebelled against God. That rebellion against has translated down the gene pool all the way to me and you, and it’s called sin. We choose our ways, make them god ways, and reject the true God’s ways. This sin of Adam not only translated us, but essentially knocked all of creation off its axis as sin entered the world and devastation began. The world was not as it was supposed to be.
But there is hope.
From that moment of the Fall, God spoke of his rescue plan. These are the words God has for Satan after tempting Eve in Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Satan may strike a blow to God (the cross) but God would make that same blow crush Satan forever.
We are living in the now but not yet.
Satan and sin have been defeated on the cross, where the fully-God and fully-man Jesus was crucified, and took the penalty that we deserve for all of our sin. That means what we have coming to us from not obeying all the law, God poured out on Jesus. On the flip side, the Christian gets what Jesus deserved! After Jesus was dead for 3 days, he was resurrected to newness of life and ascended to heaven. Not myth. Not lore. Fact. His resurrection validates his work on the cross, and gives all those who hope in Christ hope for their own resurrection from death into eternal newness of life!!
As if this was not exciting enough, once the “not yet” finally gets here, once death is dealt its final blow and claims no more victims, once the final chapter in sin-marred human history closes… it will all begin. Zion. New Jerusalem. Heaven. However you want to call it. To those who have rejected that they can stand righteous in front of God on their own behavior and accord, and trust wholly in the grace and mercy that is in Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection… THEN, not only will we be made new, but so will all creation. That includes the Linville Gorge, which exists to and for the glory of God.
One day, Linville will see its full glory again. We cannot go to the Gorge, or anywhere else for that matter, to find God. God is fully displayed in his revealed word to us, the Bible. We cannot find God in nature, but because of God, we can find more joy in nature. We can see the fire scars, fallen rocks, and devastated landscapes and know that one day, Jesus will return, and all that is crooked will be made straight. All that is wrong will be made right. It will all be held together by Jesus, who is the glory of it all.
So fight the fires, however you choose. Keep a clean camp. Educate others. Leave no trace. Be a good steward of our natural areas. These are all good things, unless we make mini-gods out of them, then they become bad things. Hold them, but hold them loosely. We aren’t in control. God is. He is bringing a hope, a future, a kingdom to those who wait for him. Only in Christ can we find true satisfaction. We are not God. We are not sovereign. One day, God (and only God) will make everything right.
This is a pretty big topic, obviously larger than one post can cover. In January 2014, I plan to begin to study the book of Revelation in the Bible, as well as the broader topic of eschatology and future grace. I hope to post my notes on this blog.
In the meantime, I recommend this reading to you:
– The Bible. It is the anvil that has worn out many hammers.
– Heaven, by Randy Alcorn
– The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler