Well, It Could’ve Been A Bear!

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Well, It Could’ve Been A Bear!

James R. Aist

“Things aren’t always as they seem!” – Carl Hurley, Kentucky Humorist

The background for this short story is that, just a few weeks before this happened, a front-page article gave an account of a young woman who was camping in a national park out west when she was attacked by a large bear and partially eaten…alive! The report was gory and very frightening, so I’ll spare you further details. And, wouldn’t you know it, when we arrived at our campground destination in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, a forest ranger warned us that there had been a couple of bear “episodes” in this very campground within the past couple of weeks! So, it was with a bit of trepidation that we proceeded to pitch our tent and set up camp that evening.

Now, we were not yet fully apprised of the wiser ways of setting up camp when in the presence of hungry black bears that were accustomed to to being at the top of the food chain. So, we foolishly left a latched basket of our food on the picnic table, along with a locked cooler of meats and other goodies placed on the ground. But, just in case, I did make sure that I had a hatchet in the tent with me. The first night came and went without any troubling encounters, save for a few sounds of, apparently small, harmless night creatures pausing briefly to check out the possibilities for sustenance. But, that was about to change.

On the second night, we had just drifted off to sleep when we were awakened suddenly by much louder, and sustained, sounds of something trying to get at our food, something obviously much larger than a small, harmless night creature. Moreover, we were sure that we could even hear breathing and some muffled, snorting sounds, such as might be expected if it were a black bear! So, “What do we do now?”, we wondered out loud. At first, we were going to just ride it out and hope that, whatever it was, it would give up and go away. But, alas and alack, that was not to be.  The noises just kept on getting louder and louder, and, we surmised, more violent. Then, assuming it must be a black bear, I realized that I had no choice but to go on the offensive, as I was determined to go down fighting!

I don’t know how I thought I was going to fend off a black bear with only a hatchet in hand, but that was all I had in terms of weaponry. So, I firmly gripped the handle of the hatchet, took a deep breath, quietly unzipped the door of the tent, and then burst forth, hatchet held high, to confront this massive beast, with at least the element of surprise going for me. At first, I wondered if I had scared him away, because there was no such beast in sight. And that’s when I saw them: two, little, masked, ring-tailed, would-be bandits just trying to survive. One was trying to get into the basket, while the other was working on the cooler.

These darling little raccoons, quickly recognizing that they were out-manned, scurried off into the night, leaving us to have a good laugh at ourselves before retiring for the remainder of the night. Alright, laugh if you will, but hey, we both know it could’ve been a bear!

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

With the Peace of God Comes Joy Unspeakable!

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With the Peace of God Comes Joy Unspeakable!

James R. Aist

“…in whom, though you do not see Him now, you believe and you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory…” (1 Peter1:8)

In an earlier article (click HERE), I wrote about how the peace of God surpasses all understanding. One huge benefit of the peace of God is that we have an anchor for the soul that enables us to be at peace deep inside while storms of tragedy and tribulation rage all around us. The present article will focus on another benefit of the peace of God; namely, “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” It is my conviction that without this peace of God deep within us, we will never be able to fully experience this kind of joy.

The journey to “joy unspeakable” begins with the love of God, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Once God has saved us, we have “peace with God”, because our sins are forgiven. At that point, we are in a position to experience the “peace of God”, but that experience will not be fully realized until we settle with God several key issues of biblical doctrine, as delineated in the earlier article. When we agree with God about these things, without reservation and with the help of the Holy Spirit in us, then we are able to “rejoice with joy unspeakable.” And so, we have a progression of steps in our journey to this kind of joy: the love of God, peace with God, the peace of God and, then, joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of God, to which also you are called in one body, rule in your hearts…” This verse tells me that we are called, not only to be free from the law of sin and death, but also to have the peace of God ruling in our hearts. And, this is why, without this peace of God deep within us, we will never be able to fully experience joy unspeakable. When the peace of God actually rules in our heart, then the joy we have cannot be diminished, or even threatened, by storms of tragedy, tribulation or any other external circumstance; the God whose peace rules in our hearts will not allow it. The result is joy that is so glorious as to defy description!

Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…” So, let’s not forget one added benefit: that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). That’s exactly what we need to weather the storms of life victoriously!

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

The (Other) Lion That Roared

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The (Other) Lion That Roared

James R. Aist

Funny things often happen when you are vacationing, but they don’t always seem very funny at the time. This funny thing happened when we were passing through Germany while touring Europe in 1972. We were driving our brand-new White/Red Volkswagen Vanagon and going from campground to campground to save money. A two-person tent served as our bedroom.

We pulled into Munich after sunset and followed the road signs to a large campground. After paying the camping fee, we drove to our camping spot and began to set up our tent. That turned out to be no small task, as the tents were crowded so close together that there was not space enough to place the tent stakes properly (see photo). In fact, it was so tight that at one corner of our tent there was no choice but to connect directly to one of our neighbor’s stakes! Having secured the tent, we retired to our sleeping bags right away, so as to get an early start at sight-seeing the next day.

We slept relatively undisturbed until daybreak, when something very unexpected and troubling happened. We woke up to what sounded distinctly like the roaring of very hungry African lions nearby! So, we took a moment to share our thoughts on the matter: “How can that possibly be? We are in Munich, for goodness sake. How can there even be lions anywhere near here? But, just in case, maybe we should get out of our tent and climb into the Vanagon for protection.” So, out of the tent we scrambled and took a quick look around before seeking refuge. And that’s when we saw it: a very large, …… unlit sign just above the treeline that read “MUNICH ZOO.” Now that explained a lot, to our great relief and embarrassment.

After another quick look around to see if we were, perchance, the only ones expecting to be attacked by roaring lions at any time now, we had a good laugh at ourselves. Then we proceeded to break camp and move on as if nothing scary had happened. And, in actuality, it hadn’t!

By the way, Munich was very nice, as expected. Apparently, all of the hungry lions were still in the zoo!

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

Peace That Surpasses All Understanding

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Peace That Surpasses All Understanding

James R. Aist

“There is no real and lasting peace in living with the fear of an eternity in hell hanging over your head!”

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).” What, exactly, did Jesus mean when he said, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”? And what did Paul mean when he wrote, “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…” (Philippians 4:7)? I believe that if we can gain some insight into how the peace of God differs from the peace that the world offers, then we will be more inclined to seek peace from the true source of real peace, the God of the Bible. So, that’s what I will focus on in this article.

The Peace That The World Gives

The peace that the world gives comes in the form of various human creations: government, military, treaties, wealth and economic systems, to name a few. These worldly sources of peace may confer, for a season, a kind of peace that may best be described as the absence of conflict and war and a diminishing of fear, but the threat of war, poverty and tyranny is always there to disturb the experience of peace. Moreover, such peace is often attained at the expense of lost liberties. And, the peace offered by the world does nothing to address the universal and overarching problem of sin, for which we must all answer to God one way or another. There is no real and lasting peace in living with the fear of an eternity in hell hanging over your head! All of these promises of peace will fail in some way and at some point in time, because they are the products of the creativity and understanding of mere mortal men. Mankind longs for a peace that surpasses what the world is capable of providing with such limited and unreliable human understanding. We can say “Peace, peace”, but there cannot be peace that truly satisfies and lasts, apart from God.

The Peace Of God

When we were born again, we received peace with God, because our sins were forgiven, and our conscience was cleansed of the guilt of sin (1 John 1:9). And, we received also the peace of God, a peace that helps us to deal effectively with the trials and tribulations of living as Christians in a fallen world. However, in order to experience this kind of peace, we must first settle, once and for all, several key matters in our minds and in our hearts:

  • The Bible is God’s word. I can trust the Bible to be the authentic word of God to me. It is God-breathed (or inspired) by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16), not a fanciful invention of mere mortals (2 Peter 1:16). In the Bible, God says what He means and means what He says. This is where I should look first and foremost for answers to the important questions about truth, morality, myself, my future, suffering and God (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12).
  • God is sovereign. He is the creator of the universe (Colossians 1:16), and He rules and reigns over everything (Exodus 15:18). With God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).
  • Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus claimed to be the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), and God the Father identified Him as “…my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), and no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draw him (John 6:44). Jesus is the Messiah, the promised savior of the world (1 John 4:14). As a born-again Christian, I know that I have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
  • God loves me. I am created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) to be in personal relationship and loving fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3). My true destiny (i.e., the reason God created me in the first place) is to honor, praise and worship God and to obey Him in all things. He hears and answers my prayers (Psalm 143:1). I am so important to God that He sent His only begotten Son (Jesus) to die for my sins, making peace with me forever (John 3:16). He loves me with a steadfast, everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • God is on my side. Through His gift of faith in Jesus Christ, God has made peace with me (Romans 5:1); I am no longer subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Jesus calls me “friend” (John 15:15) and “brother/sister” (Mark 3:35), and I am His co-heir (Romans 8:17)! God actually takes pleasure in making me prosper (Psalm 35:27).
  • God is faithful. God does not change (Malachi 3:6), and He is not a liar (Numbers 23:19). He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). What He has promised me He will do (Isaiah 46:11 b; Hebrews 6:13-15).
  • God owns me. Since I am a born-again Christian, God owns me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). His claim on my life is His right, and my life is His to do with as He pleases. I am no longer living for myself, but for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). I am God’s servant. He always has a good reason for whatever He allows in my life, even if I don’t know what the reason is. I have made peace with these realities.
  • God will reward me. He has promised me that, as one of His chosen ones, my eternal destiny is an everlasting life in heaven with Him (John 3:16), a rightful inheritance that is full of glory, full of peace that passes all understanding and full of joy unspeakable (Ephesians 1:18). And, He has given me His Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He will, in fact, fulfill this, the greatest of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:22). The value of this glorious future reward far outweighs any trial or tribulation that God allows me to suffer in this life (Romans 8:18).
  • Witness of the Holy Spirit. God has not left us to our own devices to settle these matters with Him. He sent the Holy Spirit to abide within every born-again believer, and His Spirit testifies to us the truth of His written word, thus helping us to accept these things as settled issues (see Acts 5:32, 1 John 5:8 and Hebrews 10:10-18).

When these matters are settled in your mind and in your spirit, once and for all trusting God no matter what happens, then you are connected to God with an unbreakable bond, and the peace of God will rule in your heart (Colossians 3:15). When the storms of life assail you, your “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:13-20), — i.e., your trust in God — will hold, and, in your spirit, you will be able to live in peace and joy even as you are being buffeted in your soul/mind and body by the storms. Let me illustrate this point with an analogy. Picture a sailing ship anchored close to shore. When a storm arises, the wind will come with a fury and threaten to break the chain and set the ship loose from its anchor, driving it to a place where it shouldn’t go, the rocky shoreline. You are that ship. Your faith is the chain that keeps the ship connected to the anchor. Your soul/mind naturally does its best to resist and withstand the storm, but it is the anchor that enables you to stay put, in perfect peace, until the storm passes. Your trust in God is the anchor, and it enables your spirit to remain calm and at peace while the storm rages. And, you no longer have a need to ask “Why did this storm come?” You can simply trust that God has a good reason for allowing it, because you have already settled these matters with Him. You know Him, and you have the peace of God, the peace that surpasses all human understanding and reaches all the way to your very spirit.

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