A Day to Remember

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A Day to Remember

 James R. Aist

We all have our “good days” and our “bad days.” Most days it seems to be a mixture of the two. And so it is with me, as well. However, there is one particular day in my life that stands out far above all the other good days I have had. This day came together for me in the Spring of 1971, while I was a Ph.D. student in Plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

As I was soon to graduate with a Ph.D., I had been busy preparing for the next logical steps in my career and my family. Applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, had been sent in. Job applications had been made to a couple of prestigious institutions with strong programs in Plant Pathology. My wife and I were trying for our first baby, as I was soon to be earning a suitable salary to support a family. Of course, I didn’t know either if or when any of these aspirations would be realized, but I did my best to make them all happen in the near future. I was optimistic, as is my nature.

After several months of anxious waiting, the unbelievable became reality, all in one morning: first, I got a letter in the mail from the National Institutes of Health, and they offered me a full-ride Postdoctoral Fellowship for Switzerland; next, I got a phone call from the Chairman of the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University offering me a tenure-track faculty position that was literally tailor-made for me (I kid you not!) at a starting salary of $11,000 per year; and finally, my wife walked into my cubicle and announced that she was pregnant with our first child!

Well, needless to say, I was truly amazed, overwhelmed and rendered mentally useless for productive work the remainder of the day, so I shared the good news with my Major Professor and went home to bask in the avalanche of good news that God had blessed me with that morning. It was hard to believe, but it really was true.

However, there was still one potential “fly in the ointment” that had to be resolved before I could benefit fully from all these blessings: my job offer and my Postdoctoral Fellowship were both scheduled to begin in September of that year. So, I called the Department Chairman at Cornell and asked if I could go ahead and accept the Postdoctoral Fellowship and start my job at Cornell in September of 1972 instead of 1971. “Sure”, he said, “Go ahead and get your postdoctoral training in Zurich first, and we’ll hold your job for you in the meantime.” Wow, I was delighted that it was all going to work out just as I had hoped! But, this fairytale-like adventure didn’t end there. When I returned to the U.S. to assume my faculty position at Cornell, there was a letter in my mailbox from the Department Chairman stating that he was including me in the salary-increase program for the year I was in Zurich, and my new starting salary would be increased from $11,000 to $12,000 per year; I got a salary increase before I even started work at Cornell!

I truly am a blessed man, and I give God all of the praise and all of the glory for the favor that had to come my way in order for all this to happen as it did. And His timing is impeccable!

(To enjoy more of my short stories, click HERE)

How Could Jesus be “Without Sin”?

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How Could Jesus be “Without Sin”?

James R. Aist

The Bible says that “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yet, Jesus Christ lived on the earth for 33 years as a man, was tempted to sin in every way that all other people are tempted, but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). How can this apparent contradiction be resolved, and how could Jesus be the only man who did not sin? The full answer to this question may surprise you, as it did me.

The Dual Nature of Jesus

Part of the answer to this question lies in the fact that Jesus was fully man and fully God, at one and the same time. He received His humanity from His mother, Mary, and He received His Divinity from His father, the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). With the Holy Spirit as His father, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception and always had the full power of the Holy Spirit available within Him to resist temptation. Moreover, as the Son of God, Jesus was God, and, as such, it was not in His divine nature to sin, but to be true to Himself as the “Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 43:3). But, there is another unique characteristic of Jesus that gave Him a “leg up” on the rest of us when it comes to resisting temptation, and it has to do with His humanity. Let’s see what that advantage is and how He came by it.

The “Sin Nature” of Man

When Adam and Eve chose, of their own “free” will, to believe Satan instead of God (Genesis 3), they took on a “sin nature” (Colossians 3:8-10), or a predisposition to sin, that has been passed down to all subsequent generations, including ours. We have inherited, so to speak, from Adam and all subsequent fathers, a “sin nature”, an inborn desire to reject God’s provision and follow our own path in life. This sin nature can also be aptly described as an ever present readiness to do evil (i.e., disobey God). This predisposition to sin is so pervasive as to render us, in our “natural-born” state, in rebellion against, and at enmity with, God. Thus, it is relatively easy for us to yield to temptations to sin; it’s part of the nature of fallen man to do so. Note that it is from (i.e., through) Adam, not Eve, that all subsequent generations of men inherited this sin nature.

Now, let’s “fast forward” to the time of Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), not by a male descendant of Adam, as were all the rest of us. Thus, the inheritance of the sin nature was not passed down to Jesus. This is huge, because it means that, unlike everyone else since Adam, Jesus was not born with a predisposition to sin, as were all of the rest of us. This is why Jesus could say, in all truth, that Satan has nothing in Him (John 14:30); He did not have the sin nature that Satan takes advantage of when we are tempted. And, I believe, that fact must have had a lot to do with how Jesus could live for 33 years without sin. The “virgin birth” of Jesus achieved even more than I was aware of, until now.

What’s In It for Us?

Well, this changes everything for us, and here’s why. Whereas the First Adam sinned, and from that sin death entered into man’s relationship with God, Jesus, the Second Adam, broke the curse of that original sin by offering up to God a sinless life that enabled Him to pay the price for our sins and restore our relationship with God. Jesus undid the damage that was caused by Adam’s sin! But, without having lived a sinless life, Jesus’ sacrificial death would have paid for His own sins, not ours, and we would still be dead in our sins without any hope of escaping God’s wrath. All we have to do is to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross and our sin problem vanishes; then we will have been made, in Christ, the righteousness that God requires (Philippians 3:9), and we will qualify for heaven. Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross yet? Why not let today be the day of your salvation?

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

Wait for It, Wait for It…OK, Now!

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Wait for It, Wait for It…OK, Now!

James R. Aist

This true-life experience happened when I was about four or five years old, and my family was living in central Indiana, near Marion. We were living in a large, stately, red brick farmhouse with tall, white pillars in the front and a long driveway lined with stately white pines. Daddy had been hired to manage this attractive farm property, which we called “the Love Farm”, after the original owner. Out back was a large barn used to store hay in the loft and to house animals and farm machinery on the bottom floor.

For some time I had been longing to climb up the ladder inside the barn and explore the hayloft, but I was forbidden to do so, because it was at least 10 feet high above a solid concrete floor. If I were to fall through the large hole that had developed in the hayloft floor, I would surely be seriously injured or even fatally wounded, according to Mama anyway. Then one day I came up with a brilliant idea: I would get my older sister, Carol, to accompany me in my adventure and make sure that I didn’t get close enough to the hole in the floor to fall through it. Voila! Problem solved. (For some reason, Mama agreed to this arrangement.) So out to the barn we went, where I promptly began to scale the ladder, with Carol watching closely. About half way up the ladder I began to get second thoughts about this adventure, because it began to dawn on me just high up 10 feet really is! And that hard concrete floor would not be a particularly hospitable landing pad should I, in fact, accidentally fall through the hole, Carol’s watchful eye notwithstanding. However, I was too far into the plot to quit now and have to suffer the embarrassment of returning to the house a failure, especially with an eye witness present to tell the story. So, I gathered my courage and scaled the rest of the ladder without further ado. At the top I crawled onto the hayloft floor, stood up victoriously, and began to walk around and explore the corners and edges of the hayloft to see what was really up there.

Nothing much of any real interest was there, so I approached the hole cautiously to look down at Carol and tell her I was done and ready to climb down. But, as I looked down over the edge of the hole, I got dizzy from the height, lost my balance and went hurtling down through the hole straight toward the concrete floor 10 feet below; “Carol can’t help me now!”, I thought to myself. As I was falling, I saw myself getting closer and closer to impact. It was terrifying. Then BAM, I hit the floor, landing perfectly flat, belly side down. By this time Carol was running toward me in a panic to see how badly I was hurt and console me until help could arrive. As it turned out, I had, miraculously, suffered only a slightly cut lip – no broken bones, no bruises and not even any scrapes from the impact!

I was so frightened by the fall that I was about to break down into full-blown bawling and crying, with tears, when Carol arrived to console and comfort me. But just then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mama running toward me calling out to us in fear of the worst. So, now I had a dilemma: do I start crying now and waste my tears on Carol, or do I hold off until Mama gets here so she can do the consoling and comforting instead. Well, that was a no-brainer. So I puckered up my face, held my breath and waited for Mama to arrive. Then I let-er-rip. Good choice; I was rewarded royally for my patience. After all, Mamas always trump big sisters when it comes to giving consolation and comfort. You just have to muster enough self-control to get the timing right!

Now, you may wonder, as I do, how I could have escaped such a fall with only a slightly cut lip. Think what you will, but I am convinced that, on that day, I put my “guardian angel” to the test, and he passed with “flying” colors (so to speak!).

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

What Is Man?

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What Is Man?

James R. Aist

“…what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You attend to him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Isn’t it amazing that the God who is so big that He created everything and rules and reigns over it, is mindful of “little old us” and attends to our every need and concern? Why is God so interested in us? I believe that answer lies in our peculiar nature and purpose and destiny, as God has established them. So, who are we, really, and how do we fit into the larger context of the fullness of God’s creation? Are we just another animal that God created, or are we uniquely special and set apart from the others for special purposes?

Like No Other “Kind”

The Bible says that God made all the animals according to their “kinds.” But, among all of these kinds of animals, we, alone, are the kind that was made in the image and likeness of God himself (Genesis 1:26). In fact, He created us “a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5), making us far above the other animals in the hierarchy of God’s animal kingdom. Moreover, Psalm 139:14 declares that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And it was not until mankind had been created that God looked at all He had created and said “It is very good” (Genesis 1:31).Thus, we are clearly a “kind” set apart from, and far above, all of the other animals. But, how else are we distinct from and superior to all other animals?

The Triune Nature of Man

The Bible speaks of God existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It also speaks of man as being comprised of three entities: spirit, soul and body. All three are mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:23b, “And I pray to God that your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the true and full nature of man as he was originally created in the Garden of Eden. Man is not complete without all three entities together, and that is the reason why the resurrection of the body is necessary: when God restores all things to their original, created condition, the body must be reunited with the spirit and soul for man to be fully restored to the original condition. In the Bible, the human spirit is often referred to as the heart, or the inner man, and it lives forever. This is the entity that is born anew (from above) upon conversion. The soul of man is comprised of the intellect, the emotions and the will, and it also lives forever. It is renewed after conversion in ongoing processes called sanctification and spiritual formation. The body is the physical entity, is under the direct command and control of the soul and does not live forever. However, its death is not natural, because death separates the body from the soul and spirit. Only the complete man, with spirit, soul and body together, is truly natural. The body of the born-again person will be transformed into an incorruptible, glorified and everlasting body upon resurrection from the dead.

Mental Abilities

While we may be amazed at how intelligent some mere animals seem to be, the fact remains that human beings are endowed with mental abilities that far exceed those of all other animals, including learning, analysis, reasoning, cognition and abstract thinking, among others. So, when God gave us “…dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26), we were well equipped for the task.

Language

Animals possess a number of impressive ways to communicate with one another, yet no other animal has been endowed with anything even close to the breadth, depth and communicative power of human verbal language.

Morality

Among the animals, human beings are uniquely endowed with a sense of right and wrong and the freedom to act on those moral convictions (free will). And, we are unique among the animals in being accountable to God for our actions, whether they be good or bad. With freedom comes responsibility, but only for mankind.

Only We Can Know God

This is, perhaps, the most important characteristic that sets human beings apart from all the other animals: only we have been created with the ability to truly know God. And it is precisely that ability that defines our true destiny and purpose; namely, to know and be known by God in close fellowship and communion with Him. Of all the animals that God created, it is only we – who are connected with God through faith and trust in Jesus – that He calls “friends” (John 15:15). It is from this knowing of God that our primary purpose for being flows, that is, to worship, praise and glorify our creator, who alone is worthy and deserving of all the credit for all that is good. Therein also lies our true destiny. It is only in a properly subordinate relationship with our Creator that we can know and experience our true purpose, meaning and destiny. And we get to enjoy this relationship forever!

Our True Identity

Next, allow me to share with you a practical and important application of knowing and being known by God in this way. Once we grasp the breadth and length and depth and height and know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:17-19), then we can know, with complete confidence and assurance, that we are deemed of great value and infinite worth in the eyes of our Creator, and that the opinions of mere mortal men to the contrary are no longer even relevant. Then, its goodbye low self-esteem and self condemnation; God says you are “to die for”, and that’s exactly what He did! Loved by God is who we are, it’s our true identity, and nobody can ever take that away from us! (NOTE: if you are sensing that this may be a word for you, then please take a moment or two and reflect on it until it sinks in. It can be both freeing and empowering.)

What Man Is Not?

Finally, it’s also of paramount importance that we keep in mind what man is not. Simply said, man is not God! He is the potter, we are the clay. Man is not to judge the ways of God, as many Christians are quick to do when they find in the Bible something that they find hard to believe about Him. You see, the problem here is that we try to understand God from a human perspective rather than a heavenly perspective, and doing that will, more often than not, lead us to false assumptions about God, such as “That would be cruel and unfair!” The God of the Bible operates in each and every way that the Bible says He does, and it is not ours to pass judgment on those divine operations. “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable are His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34). And, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). So, man is neither the judge nor the counselor of God, nor is he equal to God. It’s only when we have settled these matters in our hearts and in our minds that we can enter fully into our true destiny and purpose in life as God’s highest and most cherished creation.

Conclusions

Human beings are the only “creatures” that God made in His own image and likeness; we are fearfully and wonderfully made. In fact, we are the only “kind” of animal that can truly know God and purposely give Him glory and praise. That is the primary reason for our existence, and that is our true destiny. God’s opinion of us is that we are so valuable and precious in His sight that He, in the person of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, died in our place so that our sins could be forgiven; God thinks we are “to die for”, and no contrary opinion of us stands before God. That is who we really are. However, man is neither the judge nor the counselor of God, nor is he equal to God. It’s only when we have settled these matters in our hearts and in our minds that we can enter fully into our true destiny and purpose and identity in life as God’s highest and most cherished creation.

(To read more of my biblical articles, click HERE)