I will never forget one night in Viet Nam. I was out on an operation with my platoon. We were always at less than half strength, so there were about 20 of us. It was night. No moon. A lot of stars. As usual, the monsoon had soaked us late in the afternoon so we were sleeping wet stretched out in a line on a rice paddy dike. Everywhere there was water and mud. We were wet and hot. My turn came to stand watch, which meant sitting for an hour scanning the darkness with a night-seeing device called a Starlight Scope, constantly searching for enemy that might be creeping up on us. I remember so well my thoughts as I sat there, far, far from home and my loved ones, lonely and in a dangerous place, not able to leave this hell-hole for months to come. I was what would be called today clinically depressed. But none of that was the worst of it.
The worst of it was the mosquitoes.
Huge swarms of them attacked us all night. And those vile suckers were monsters, their needles went straight through our uniforms and I am not exaggerating when I say that. Sitting there hot and wet, I had to wrap myself in my rubber poncho, covering every bit of me with just a hole to see out of and a hole to breathe. Even then I had to fight to keep the vampires from flying in the holes. I cannot describe to you how miserable I was. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to forget this. If I am ever miserable in the future I need to remember what real misery is like.”
Swarming insects that attack you are terrible. Depending on what they are, they can be physically dangerous. Covered with the filth of rice paddies every day, a single scratch on a mosquito bite guaranteed a serious skin infection that would ooze pus. After a couple of months, my legs were covered with open sores. Worse, there was the greater danger of malaria. We took pills every day to guard against that and they were effective. But I have come to believe there is something even worse than swarms of dangerous insects. It is swarms of lies. Swarms of insects attack your body. Swarms of lies attack your soul and many of us are covered with them without even knowing it.
King Solomon, considered one of the wisest men who ever lived, wrote mysterious words. He wrote that God has placed eternity in our hearts. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) What does that mean?
Deep in my memory lives the Ultimate Peach.
I absolutely love fresh peaches. But not just any peaches. I grew up in the 1950’s near Chicago. We didn’t have a lot of fresh fruit back then. So for years all I tasted were canned peaches. Then one summer my father took us down to Georgia where he had grown up. From a roadside stand, I tasted my first, fresh Georgia peach. I will never forget it. It was so delicious with the sweet juice running down. I thought it must come from Heaven. How could anyone call the canned stuff I had been eating peaches? From that moment, a hunger entered into me and I lost my taste for the canned pretension.
What did Solomon mean when he said God had placed eternity in our hearts? It means that He placed within us a hunger for the eternal, for something so perfect, so beautiful and so good that it will never disappoint us and never pass away. We can tell ourselves that such a hunger is just a fantasy, nothing like that exists, but it doesn’t do any good. The hunger is still there. Without even being aware of it, everything is measured against it. Every love, every ambition, every fulfilled desire ultimately fades away because it cannot fill that hunger for eternity. For those of us in the arts and sciences, this is the source of our struggle for perfection. We hunger to achieve it and never do. I believe it is the source of many broken hearts. The hunger for perfect love can never be fulfilled by another human being but over and over we search.
One writer asked the profound question, is it possible to hunger for something that does not exist?
If food did not exist how could you hunger for it? We were created to eat so food had to exist. How could the hunger for perfection be in us if the fulfillment of that hunger did not exist somewhere? Did the hunger for a perfect love only come from romantic novels and films? Or are the romantic novels and films just expressing a hunger that is always there, the whisper of eternity in our hearts.
The Bible teaches that God Himself is absolute Perfection and the source of all that is good. Our hunger for perfection is really a hunger for Him. That is what eternity in our hearts means. Maybe you don’t believe that. Maybe all of your experiences have led you to disillusionment, exhaustion, a broken heart, even anger and bitterness, and you have given up hope that anything else is possible. Maybe you are fighting swarms of despair. Can you imagine something with me for a moment? Can you imagine that there really is a perfect God who is perfectly in love with you? And this God wants you to know Him, because in knowing Him you will find the fulfillment of all your hungers and all you were created to be.
You might ask, “If He’s real, where is He? I don’t see him. All I see is darkness.” Is it possible that all you see are thick swarms of lies that have been blinding you your whole life? The God I’m talking about has been telling humanity about who He really is from the very beginning. But the greatest swarm of lies in history has been blinding us to what He has said and to His Presence.
Let’s take a look at some very strange information.
A wonderful book that should be in your library is entitled Eternity In Their Hearts written by the late missionary anthropologist Don Richardson. It tells the true story of God’s witness to some of the most primitive tribes on earth.
In 1867 a Norwegian missionary named Lars Skrefsrud and a colleague from Denmark were in India looking for new tribes that had never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. They discovered a huge group of 2 ½ million people, a single tribe, living north of Calcutta that had never had any contact with Christian or Jewish influences.
The Santal spoke a unique language, but Skrefsrud had a great ability to learn new languages. In a surprisingly short period of time he was able to speak their language fluently. As soon as he could speak it, he began preaching. The message that he preached absolutely electrified the Santal. One of the elders of the tribe stood up and said to the people, “What this stranger is saying proves that Thakur Jiu has not forgotten us after all this time.”
Skresfrud couldn’t believe what he was hearing. In Santal, the word Thakur meant genuine and the word Jiu meant God. The Genuine God. He began questioning them closely. “How do you know this Genuine God?” They replied, “Long, long, long ago our forefathers knew him.” “Well, if you know him, why don’t you worship him instead of the sun, and evil spirits?”
In answer they told him an ancient story that had been handed down through countless generations. That story was an amazing parallel to the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, the creation and the fall of the human race. But it didn’t stop there. It went on to tell how the founders of their race had started on a long journey. On this journey they came to a range of mountains and couldn’t find their way through them. The Santal said that when their ancestors came to this insurmountable obstacle they became discouraged. They stopped trusting in the Genuine God. They said, “The spirits of the mountains have blocked our way. We must bind ourselves to them if we are to get through.” And this is what they did. Soon they found a way through, probably what is now known as the Khyber Pass. Open before them were the plains of India.
From that time on, the Santal felt obligated to fulfill the oath that their forefathers had made to the Maran Buru, the evil spirits of the mountains, though for untold generations they had lived where mountains could not even be seen. The Santal believed that this oath and worship had created a terrible rift between the Genuine God and their tribe.
In time the name Thakur Jiu had been applied to the sun. But this is not what their forefathers had told them. In the ancient past the Santal knew that the Genuine God was distinct from His creation. Though He could see all, He was not to be seen with human eyes. He made all things. He set everything in its place and nourished all things from the great to the small, but their relationship with Him had been broken. They were overjoyed to know that the Genuine God had sent His Son to tell the world about His deep love, to die for their sins and make a way for them to come back to Him.
Skrefsrud and his colleague were overwhelmed with people who wanted Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. During those first decades, Skrefsrud personally baptized 15,000 people of the 85,000 who were baptized. Long, long ago the seed of Eternity had been planted in their Hearts.
When the British arrived in Burma in the late 1700’s they found as expected that the Burmese were devout Buddhists. But deep in the mountains of Burma there were other tribes. The Burmese hated them, considering them savages. Worst of all, these stupid people refused to accept Buddhism. They clung to their ancient folk religions.
The Karen people insisted on believing in a Supreme God whose Name was Y’wa. In a thousand villages there were teacher/prophets who constantly reminded them that way of Y’wa was entirely different than the ways of the nats – the evil spirits. In the folk religion of the Karen there were hymns to the One True God. Let me share several of them with you. These songs have come down from the most ancient generations:
Y’wa is eternal, his life is long. One aeon – he dies not. Two aeons – he dies not. He is perfect in meritorious attributes. Aeons follow aeons. He dies not.
Who created the world in the beginning? Y’wa created the world in the beginning. Y’wa appointed everything. Y’wa is unsearchable.
The omnipotent is Y’wa: him have we not believed. Y’wa created men anciently. He has a perfect knowledge of all things. Y’wa created men at the beginning. He knows all things at the present time. Oh, my children and grandchildren, the earth is the treading place of the feet of Y’wa. And heaven is the place where he sits. He sees all things and we are manifest to him.
Y’wa formed the world originally. He appointed food and drink. He appointed the “fruit of trial.” He gave detailed orders. Mukawlee deceived two persons. He caused them to eat the fruit of the tree of trial. They obeyed not. They believed not Y’wa. When they ate of the fruit of trial they became subject to sickness, aging and death.
Strangest of all, among the Karen there was a very ancient tradition – that someday a brother from far away would bring to them a book that had been lost that would tell them how to know the One True God.
The stories of God’s eternal witness to ancient humanity about who He really is come from around the world. Darwin’s theory of evolution, now being seriously challenged as mathematically impossible by leading scientists, has brought horror into the human race. What do I mean by that? I’m not talking about its teaching in the classroom. That is bad enough. I’m talking about the way it has been used to create swarms of lies that have attacked us all and hidden the truth. Let me explain.
After Darwin’s theory appeared many philosophers clamored to apply it to every area of human life. I want to focus in one area where the ancient truth about God has been consciously replaced with swarms of lies. That area is anthropology. Here’s the way early anthropologists tried to apply Darwinism to the development of a belief in one God. To them it was impossible to imagine that monotheism had been the original form and that belief in many gods had come later. So they created a hypothesis.
They said religion began with the idea of the human soul which meant ghosts.
Out of fear, early man thought he had to offer sacrifices to keep ghosts under control. This led to fetishes and nature gods, rising finally to polytheism. As human society evolved to the place of having rulers or an aristocracy, religion followed behind with the creation of a hierarchy or pantheon of gods. Finally, the idea of a king appeared in human government. This led to the religious creation of a Supreme Being or monotheism. This hypothesis was drawn up by an anthropologist named Edward Tylor.
In the early 1900’s dozens of young anthropologists spread out across the globe with the goal of proving his theory. Initially, it appeared that he was correct. These young researchers ran into thousands of beliefs in spirits, taboos, sorcery and magic. They came up with the term “animism” to describe this lowest stage of religious development. And all the great evolutionary philosophers were pleased. It was obvious that religion had developed mentally just as biological forms had developed physically.
But soon a problem began to arise, a tiny fly in their philosophical ointment.
As these young researchers continued their work, they started asking questions such as, “Who made the world?” So many of the primitive tribes had the same answer, a single Being who lived in the sky. “Is he good or bad?” “Oh, good, of course.” “Show me the idol that represents him.” “No, no, he must never be represented by an idol.”
The researchers came up with the rather denigrating name of the Sky God to describe this very ancient belief. The truth was they all knew that this belief would fly in the face of the leading Darwinian anthropologists. You don’t advance your academic career by disagreeing with the current wisdom, so they downplayed what they were discovering. Virtually the only man who was willing to write the truth was a researcher named Andrew Lang.
Then in the 1920’s a ground-breaking study began. An Austrian scholar named Dr. Wilhelm Schmidt decided to compile a list of every “alias of the Almighty” (as he called it) that had been discovered around the world. Schmidt was staggered. Can you guess how large that list was? It took six volumes totaling 4,500 pages to document them all. 90 percent or more of the primitive religions of Earth contain clear acknowledgement of the existence of One Supreme Being. Schmidt’s work was published in 1934. Since then at least a thousand more examples have come to light.
A later writer named Foucart gave a full scale treatment to this subject in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. This is what he says: “The nature, role and characteristics of this universal Sky God may be concealed under the most diverse forms, but he is always more or less recognizable to the historian of religions and always identical in essential definition…the Sky God has reigned everywhere. His Kingdom still covers the whole of the uncivilized world. No historical or proto-historical motive can be assigned as a cause, and neither the migration of races, nor the diffusion of myths and folklore affords the slightest justification of the fact. The universality of the Sky God and the uniformity of his essential characteristics are the logical consequence of the uniformity of the primitive system of cosmogony.” What do you think was the response of academic anthropology to all of that? It doesn’t take much imagination.
They preferred their swarm of lies.
What is God’s attitude toward all those who have fabricated such swarms of lies that have so misled and destroyed humanity, which is his creation? How would you feel if your name had been dragged through the dirt and endless lies had been told about you? What is God’s attitude toward those who insist on believing those lies even when they are told the truth?
St Paul in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans writes this:
But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
Stern and frightening words and they need to be taken very seriously. Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? The answer is here. As a race, we walked away from the truth about our Creator. Why has God allowed such evil and suffering to go on for so long? I don’t know, but I do know this. He has shown who He is and how much He loves us in the most amazing way. He came in the Person of Jesus, His Son, to suffer with us, to pay the penalty for our sins and give us citizenship in His eternal kingdom. But we have to want it. We have to stop believing the swarms of lies. There’s something else. Though it has gone on for thousands of years, the suffering and evil in this world will not go on forever.
A new world is coming.
This God who has been rejected has been proclaiming who He is and the coming of His Kingdom to earth for thousands of years. Here is a little of what He has said:
Isaiah 2:2-4 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
Isaiah 32:1-4 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice. A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. The eyes of those who see will not be dim, and the ears of those who hear will listen. Also the heart of the rash will understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly
Isaiah 65:17-25 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying. “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, “Says the LORD.
Jesus proclaimed that the beginning of God’s Kingdom of Heaven had arrived with His coming to earth. How did He describe the value of that Kingdom?
Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
What do those words mean? They predict the ultimate coming of Absolute Perfection into this world, the fulfillment of every beautiful hope and hunger and dream. What is Jesus saying? If you could see the Kingdom of God as it exists right now in Heaven, if you could walk in its majestic and beautiful streets, if you could hear the singing, if you could experience a single minute in God’s Presence as all people do in that wonderful place, you would do anything to get there. If it meant selling all that you had you would do it. If it meant suffering you would go through it. If it cost you your life you would give it. But that Kingdom is represented here right now by the people who have given their lives to its King. Eventually, it will arrive in the fullness of total power. Everything beautiful in this world is simply a whisper of that which is to come.
To be a citizen of the Kingdom of God is the greatest possession that a person could ever have. Anything less is going to pass away.
When I was running TV series I would get stacks and stacks of headshots, photos of young actors, beautiful women, and handsome men, all desperate to become stars. But along with them, very frequently, I would get other photos of older men and women who once had been beautiful with dreams of stardom. Many had given up their lives to that fantasy. Some had given up husbands, wives, children, homes, happiness itself. Finally, the dream had died and they were struggling to survive.
But even more lost are so many who achieved their dreams. Over my career as a Hollywood writer and executive producer, I have known many stars and extremely wealthy people. I have known people who have made fortunes, whose faces have been on the covers of magazines. With only a few exceptions they have been miserable human beings, angry, unhappy, unfulfilled, and damaging to themselves and others. The celebrity appearance of success and happiness was a complete fraud.
Why were they this way? They had believed swarms of beautiful lies that were full of poison. They had given their hearts and souls to the wrong kingdom. They thought they had found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price. But after they had sold everything to get it, they watched it turn to dust and vanish. What happens when you have attained it all and it isn’t enough? What happens when the terrible hunger is still there? Out of desperation flows anger. In each one of us there is a hunger that only God’s Presence in our souls can fill. It is a hunger for Him and His Kingdom.
To become a citizen of the Kingdom of God will cost you nothing. The price was paid by Jesus Christ on the Cross when He gave His life to pay for your sins. But there is more. To live as a citizen of the Kingdom of God in this world, to be a true follower of the Jesus, the King, will mean that you give up your right to worship yourself. You give up your right to be your own little idol. It means you stop believing the swarms of lies that are doing nothing but destroying you. It means giving your disillusionment, your anger, your sorrow, your broken heart into His Hands. It means giving your hopes and dreams into His Hands. When you repent of your sins, the things you know you are doing that are wrong, and ask Jesus to forgive you and be the Savior and Master of your life, the Kingdom of God is yours.
But most people prefer the swarm of lies.
A man named Jim Elliot who gave his life to tell others about Jesus wrote these words: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”